False Gods in a Foreign Land.

The word that came to Jeremiah concerning all the Judeans who lived in the land of Egypt, at Migdol, at Tahpanhes, at Memphis, and in the land of Pathros, “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: You have seen all the disaster that I brought upon Jerusalem and upon all the cities of Judah. Behold, this day they are a desolation, and no one dwells in them, because of the evil that they committed, provoking me to anger, in that they went to make offerings and serve other gods that they knew not, neither they, nor you, nor your fathers. Yet I persistently sent to you all my servants the prophets, saying, ‘Oh, do not do this abomination that I hate!’ But they did not listen or incline their ear, to turn from their evil and make no offerings to other gods. Therefore my wrath and my anger were poured out and kindled in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem, and they became a waste and a desolation, as at this day. And now thus says the Lord God of hosts, the God of Israel: Why do you commit this great evil against yourselves, to cut off from you man and woman, infant and child, from the midst of Judah, leaving you no remnant? Why do you provoke me to anger with the works of your hands, making offerings to other gods in the land of Egypt where you have come to live, so that you may be cut off and become a curse and a taunt among all the nations of the earth? Have you forgotten the evil of your fathers, the evil of the kings of Judah, the evil of their wives, your own evil, and the evil of your wives, which they committed in the land of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? They have not humbled themselves even to this day, nor have they feared, nor walked in my law and my statutes that I set before you and before your fathers. 

“Therefore, this is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says: I am determined to destroy every one of you! I will take this remnant of Judah—those who were determined to come here and live in Egypt—and I will consume them. They will fall here in Egypt, killed by war and famine. All will die, from the least to the greatest. They will be an object of damnation, horror, cursing, and mockery. I will punish them in Egypt just as I punished them in Jerusalem, by war, famine, and disease. Of that remnant who fled to Egypt, hoping someday to return to Judah, there will be no survivors. Even though they long to return home, only a handful will do so.” Jeremiah 44:1-14 ESV

Evidently. significant time has lapsed between the events recorded in chapter 43 and those revealed in chapter 44. God’s promised judgment upon Johanan and the rest of those who fled to Egypt, has not yet taken place. And it seems that God’s apparent delay had left them feeling a bit cocky and sure of themselves. By the time the events recorded in chapter 44 take place, the people of Judah had become immersed in the Egyptian culture and were even worshiping their gods. So, through His prophet, God speaks to those Jews living in the land of Egypt and asks them:

“Why provoke my anger by burning incense to the idols you have made here in Egypt? You will only destroy yourselves and make yourselves an object of cursing and mockery for all the nations of the earth.” – Jeremiah 44:8 NLT

Then He gives them a not-so-subtle reminder of the sins of their ancestors, ending with a recap of what had happened to Judah and Jerusalem because of the unfaithfulness of the people. The whole reason they were in Egypt was because they had disobeyed God and had repeatedly refused to listen to His prophets.

“You saw the calamity I brought on Jerusalem and all the towns of Judah. They now lie deserted and in ruins. They provoked my anger with all their wickedness. They burned incense and worshiped other gods—gods that neither they nor you nor any of your ancestors had ever even known.” – Jeremiah 44:2-3 NLT

They had been eye-witnesses to those very events. They had been a part of the idolatry and unfaithfulness that had led to God’s judgment and the eventual fall of the nation to the Babylonians. And yet, here they were living in exile in Egypt and following the same pattern of rebellion and disobedience. Once again, given the opportunity, they had turned their backs on God and were pledging their allegiance to false gods. And God hurls some stinging accusations against them.

“To this very hour you have shown no remorse or reverence. No one has chosen to follow my word and the decrees I gave to you and your ancestors before you.” – Jeremiah 44:10 NLT

And God let’s them know that He is not going to tolerate their behavior. They may have been hundreds of miles away from the promised land, but their actions would still be held accountable by God. They were His chosen people and their collective lifestyle as His children was unacceptable and worthy of His wrath. So look at what He says:

“I will set my face against you…” – vs 11

“I will take the remnant of Judah … and they shall all be consumed…” – vs 12

“From the least to the greatest, they shall die…” – vs 12

“I will punish those who dwell in the land of Egypt…” – vs 13

No survivors. No mercy. No one would escape, survive or return to the land of Judah. All because they had refused to obey the word of God. Whether by sword, pestilence or famine, they would all receive the same reward for the sin against God: Death.

It seems that, in the short time the Jews had been in Egypt, they had forgotten all about Yahweh. He had become out of sight, out of mind. There were so many other gods from which to choose in their new homeland. And they had made themselves right at home. No longer did they live as the people whom God had set apart of His use and in order to bring Him glory. They were God’s people in name only. In fact, their choice of lifestyle actually denigrated and defamed the name of God. And that was not something He was willing to tolerate.

They were His people and they were expected to live as such. He had not sent them to Egypt. That was not the land He had promised Abraham. And even the great patriarch’s brief and ill-advised foray into the land of the Pharaohs had not turned out too well. Egypt had not been an option. God had commanded that they stay in the land and submit to the rule of King Nebuchadnezzar. But that had not appealed to them. They had better plans. They preferred their solution over that of God. And now they were going to have to pay the piper. Their sin debt to God had come due. Their little respite in Egypt was about to come to a dramatic and deadly end. Their false gods would prove of no help. Their new homeland would become anything but hospitable. Their search for safety and security would end in tragedy. All because they refused to trust God and obey His command. Disobedience among God’s people always begins with doubt, which leads to disbelief. They doubted God’s word and refused to believe that their best option had been to stay right where they were in Judah – in spite of the destruction and the presence of the Babylonians. And their disbelief led them to disobey. That is always the pattern. A lack of trust in God will always lead to a lack of subjection to God.  If we don’t trust Him, we will never obey Him.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

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