Jeremiah 41-43

We’ll Obey As Long As It’s What We Want To Do.

“May the Lord your God be a faithful witness against us if we refuse to obey whatever he tells us to do! Whether we like it or not, we will obey the Lord our God to whom we are sending you with our plea. For if we obey him, everything will turn out well for us.” ­– Jeremiah 42:5-6 NLT

Judah has fallen. The Babylonians have taken the majority of the people as captives back to Babylon and appointed a governor to rule over those who are left. But Ishmael and his followers decide to rebel against the Babylonians by killing Gedaliah the governor. But Ishmael’s little coup doesn’t last long. He ends up getting overthrown as well and goes into hiding. But the people who are left decide to pack their bags and run away to Egypt, out of fear for what the Babylonians will do once they find out their governor and all of his officials have been murdered. But before they go, the people ask Jeremiah the prophet to pray for them. They want him to ask God for His direction in the matter, and they pledge to do whatever he tells them to do, whether they like the answer or not. Sounds great, right? It all appears to super spiritual and pious. But the problem is, they didn’t mean it. They had no intention of doing what God wanted. They simply wanted God to bless what they wanted. As long as God’s answer affirmed their own decision, they would be happy. But if God somehow decided to disagree with them, all bets were off. And that’s exactly what happened.

God warned them that they were not to go to Egypt. They could run but they couldn’t hide from what was going to happen. It would simply follow them there. Egypt was not a refuge from the rebuke of God. It was not a safe haven and could not be used as a substitute for trusting in God. While their fears of retribution at the hands of the Babylonians was real, God wanted them to stay right where they were and trust Him. Fear and flight were natural responses to their situation, but God said, “Stay here in this land. If you do, I will build you up and not tear you down;  I will plant you and not uproot you” (Jeremiah 42:10 NLT). God assured them that if they stayed, He would be with them and rescue them from the hands of Nebuchadnezzar. Rather than punish them, God would cause Nebuchadnezzar to be kind to them and allow them to stay in the land. God was trying to assure them and show them that His power was greater than Nebuchadnezzar. God wanted them to see His power first hand, but if they ran away to Egypt, they would be running away from God, not just their problems!

But isn’t that what we’re so often prone to do? We come up against what appears to be an insurmountable, unsolvable problem. So we begin to fear and doubt, then we determine a course of action that makes sense to us. And that course of action usually includes some form of flight. We try to avoid or run from the situation. Then we decide the spiritual thing to do is pray. So we ask God to bless our decision. We want His divine seal of approval on our plan. Sure, we may pretend we want to know His will, but what we really want is for His will to come alongside ours. And when it doesn’t, we rationalize it away, refusing to listen to God and stubbornly following through with our own agenda. So often, God’s answer doesn’t include removing our problem, but encouraging us to remain in it and to wait for Him to reveal His power in the midst of it. Logic tells us to run. God tells us to stay!

The people of Judah listened to logic. They rejected the word of God and did what they had always been planning to do. “The people refused to obey the voice of the Lord and went to Egypt” (Jeremiah 43:7 NLT). They sought refuge in something other than God. They put their hope and faith in some man-made institution, rather than in God. They feared. They fled. And they failed to see God work.

Father, that is too often the story of my life. I find myself in difficult circumstances and come up with what I believe to be the perfect solution. Then I pray, asking for you to bless what I have decided to do. And when You don’t, I go ahead with my plan anyway. The problem rarely goes away. It usually gets worse. And I never get to see Your power revealed in the midst of my problems. Help me to stop running away to Egypt. I want to learn to trust You more and have the joy of watching You work on my behalf. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

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