In this episode – Jeremiah 42:7-17 covering the closing days of pre-Babylonian exile Judah – we see the similarity to the people flirting with godliness without Christ’s flavour and people’s desire to have fish without the fishy smell.
At the end of ten days the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah. Then he summoned Johanan the son of Kareah and all the commanders of the forces who were with him, and all the people from the least to the greatest, and said to them,
They were still seeking divine help.
Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, to whom you sent me to present your plea for mercy before him:
The message was not what they wanted to hear.
If you will remain in this land, then I will build you up and not pull you down; I will plant you, and not pluck you up; for I relent of the disaster that I did to you.
If fear of God was the beginning of wisdom then Israel was all folly. They were afraid of the Babylonian king even after the memory of the Exodus. This is similar to Christians being afraid of policemen and creditors after the memory of salvation from sin. It bore repeating.
Do not fear the king of Babylon, of whom you are afraid. Do not fear him, declares the Lord, for I am with you, to save you and to deliver you from his hand. I will grant you mercy, that he may have mercy on you and let you remain in your own land.
People tend to do what their ancestors did. Egypt was good for Abraham, Joseph, the whole Hebrew family, and infant Yeshua, but with Babylon breathing down Judah’s neck Egypt was not on the destination list. Jeremiah was again apparently on the wrong side. Nobody should be thinking of Egypt as a refuge.
Choices are a part of the human problem. Our knowledge can be useless. Our faith can be misplaced.
But if you say, We will not remain in this land, disobeying the voice of the Lord your God and saying, No, we will go to the land of Egypt, where we shall not see war or hear the sound of the trumpet or be hungry for bread, and we will dwell there, then hear the word of the Lord, O remnant of Judah.
There is no escape from the divine decree. Judah’s humiliation was going to happen, no matter where the Judeans were. Famine – remember what drove Jacob to Egypt – would pursue them.
Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: If you set your faces to enter Egypt and go to live there, then the sword that you fear shall overtake you there in the land of Egypt, and the famine of which you are afraid shall follow close after you to Egypt, and there you shall die.
NO SURVIVOR, NO REMNANT, ONLY DISASTER
All the men who set their faces to go to Egypt to live there shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence. They shall have no remnant or survivor from the disaster that I will bring upon them.
Jerusalem, in New Testament times, became a pitiful victim of the same kind of misplaced confidence.
Consider Christ’s expression of apprehension over Jerusalem.
And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation. Luke 19:41-44.
When God is intervening we, like the ancient Judeans, are not exempt from seeing his provision for our welfare as destructive. May our experience of our visitation be pleasing to God and glorious.