Life is often not what we expect. The last few days we have read about the Jews who went into exile to Babylon under King Nebuchadnezzar. This was punishment from God for turning their backs on Him and following after their own selfish interests – false gods. No doubt it would be very difficult to be uprooted from your homeland and all you have ever known to be taken to a foreign land – with a strange new language, foods, neighbors, rulers, homes and customs. It would be easy to think that the ones left behind to stay in Judah were the lucky ones. But, that would depend on how they acted. After having just witnessed their brothers’ and sisters’ tragic deportation, you would have thought they may have learned their lesson and stuck a bit closer to God’s guidelines. But….then you would read today’s Bible reading (Jeremiah 41-45) and find out mankind doesn’t always do the wise thing.
When Babylon invaded Jerusalem the foreign commanding officer released Jeremiah from prison and gave him the option of going to Babylon and being well cared for in a foreign land, or staying with those left behind. He (or God) chose for him to stay behind – perhaps knowing how much the people still needed a word from the Lord – if they would listen. Before the Babylonians left town with their captives they set up Gedaliah as governor of the land. But just 3 months later he is assassinated by Ishmael who also kills several Babylonian soldiers, some Judeans who were loyal to Gedaliah, as well as 70 travelers who had come to worship at the burned down temple. Next, Ishmael kidnaps the king’s daughters and others that had been under Gedaliah’s care. Violence, treachery and strife are still rampant in the land.
It seems like a bright new start when Johanan saves the day and Ishmael runs away and the people ask Jeremiah to ask God what they should do. The people want to head to Egypt as they are scared Babylon will hear that the governor they left was killed and come to punish the whole tribe. But they sound so brave and upright when they say, “May the Lord be a true and faithful witness against us if we do not act in accordance with everything the Lord your God sends you to tell us. Whether it is favorable or unfavorable, we will obey the Lord our God, to whom we are sending you, so that it will go well with us, for we will obey the Lord our God.” (Jeremiah 42:5,6).
Ten days later, Jeremiah tells them God says stay and He will protect you. It should have been good news, and not too hard to follow. But, suddenly their eloquent words mean nothing. Because they were really hoping and thinking God would say to go. That’s what they wanted to do – so that’s what they would do – regardless of a good speech about following God. Suddenly, it was more convenient to call Jeremiah the liar and continue packing their bags in defiance of all God said, thus shattering the promise they had just made.
Jeremiah tells them that war, strife, famine, persecution and death will follow them to Egypt. There is not a safe place to go to disobey God. But off they go. Totally disregarding God, they turned again to their false gods that would give them the answers they wanted to hear and let them go where they wanted to go and let them do what they wanted to do.
They thought they had won. But they were actually destroying themselves (Jeremiah 44:7a NLT). Just as Jeremiah foretold, Egypt was not a safe place.
It still happens today. People who commit to follow God anywhere – until they decide they would rather make the rules and the map. And, if you listen carefully to God and His Word, you can still hear Him say, “Why are you destroying yourselves?”. Examine yourself and see if there are any ways you are breaking your commitment to God, and thus destroying yourself. He has offered protection and hope for those who rely on Him and follow Him with their whole life.
Today’s Bible reading passage can be read or listened to at Jeremiah 41-45.
Tomorrow’s reading will be Jeremiah 46-48 as we continue on our 2020 Chronological Bible Reading Plan