Jeremiah receives a request to inquire of God concerning the proposed
Emigration of Johanan and Jezaniah with all the people that followed
them and a “word of the Lord” follows.
1 “Then all the captains of the forces, and Johanan the son of Kareah,
and Jezaniah the son of Hoshaiah,” – For “Jezaniah,” the Septuagint
has “Azariah,” the name given in the Hebrew text of ch.43:2 - “and all the
people from the least even unto the greatest, came near,”
2 “And said unto Jeremiah the prophet,’ - Jeremiah, we have been already
told, was one of the refugees at Mizpah (ch.40:6), and consequently was forced
into the train of Ishmael (ch.41:16) - “Let, we beseech thee, our supplication
be accepted before thee, and pray for us” - This petition has been accused of
hypocrisy, but the prophecy of Jeremiah assumes throughout that it was made in
earnest (v. 20 proves nothing to the contrary). The “captains” never supposed
it possible that Jeremiah could direct them to stay in Judah; the only question
with them was as to the best direction for flight – (in 1985 I planned to have a
booth at the local fair – although I had already made up my mind as to what I
was going to do, I asked the Lord for guidance as to what I should do. It
reminds me of this situation, although not as serious in nature. I would have
been better off asking the Lord to bless what I planned to do. The end result
was that things didn’t work out very well but God in His mercy, over time,
blessed the endeavor. CY – 2011) - “unto the LORD thy God, even for all
this remnant; (for we are left but a few of many, as thine eyes do behold us:)”
3 “That the LORD thy God may shew us the way wherein we may walk,
and the thing that we may do.”
Divine Guidance (v. 3)
Ø It arises out of our obligation to do the will of God. We are not
left to carve out a career for ourselves, but to fulfill a Divine
vocation. With this definite end before us, our life must fail
unless we are directly making for it. A harmless life, following
its own whims and fancies, is a wasted life. But only God
knows His own will. Therefore we need that He shall reveal
this to us, to show us, not only the path of safety, but the way
He wills us to go. The most clear sighted need this guidance.
As servants, we wait for our Master’s orders; as soldiers, we
are to follow our Captain’s commands. Without these, how
can we do the one thing needful?
Ø It arises out of our own ignorance and blindness. We do not
know all the circumstances which surround us; we cannot
predict the exigencies of the future; the ultimate issue of our
actions is beyond our reckoning; (“O Lord, I know the way
of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to
direct his steps” (ch. 10:23); the limits of our powers are not
known to us; our future requirements and capacities cannot
now be gauged. Yet we must decide and act at once in
relation to all these unknown quantities. Therefore only a
higher wisdom and a larger knowledge can secure us from
prophet. We have no Jeremiah. Yet we have essentially the same means
of guidance, now broken into two parts, for the higher education of our
Ø The revelation of God’s will and truth in Scripture. There we
have God’s guidance in the words of the prophets, and in
addition to that in the higher thought of the apostles of the
New Testament and of Christianity. Above all, we have the
great example, the speaking lessons, of the life and character
of Christ, who is the “Light of the World” who has left “us
an example that ye should follow His steps” – (I Peter 2:21).
In all this we have larger, clearer views of God’s will and of
man’s duty than were given to the Jews under the earlier
Ø The light of the Spirit of God in our mind and conscience.
It may be urged that, while the instructions of the prophets for
the guidance of Israel were definite and particular, the lessons
which we may gather from revelation are general; and that,
though the ideas of conduct thus communicated to us are higher
and larger than those of the Jewish economy, they are
nevertheless so abstract that we may make great mistakes in the
practical application of them. This is true; and therefore, with the
less particular revelation, God gives to us more light for the
interpretation of it. We live under that dispensation of the Spirit
wherein all Christians are, in a measure, prophets, and God’s Spirit
is poured out upon all flesh (Acts 2:17). By God’s light in our
souls, interpreting God’s revelation in Christ, we may know
God’s will concerning our lives; and, no longer slaves to the
letter of unintelligible precepts, we may carry out the broad
principles of the spiritual life by a thoughtful and conscientious
application of them to the details of daily life.
walk therein. (“And thine ears shall her a word behind thee, saying,
This is the way, walk ye in it, when ye turn to the right hand, and
when ye turn to the left.” (Isaiah 30:21) - The direction may be so clear
that he who reads may run, yet he must run. (Habakkuk 2:2) - The sign
post is not a carriage to convey the indolent traveler to his journey’s end.
God reveals His will; He leaves it to our free choice and effort to obey it.
He does not guide us, like the horse or mule, with bit and bridle. We are
not forced to follow the revelation, but we are bound in moral obligation
to do so. The main object of the revelation of truth is to guide us in
practice. God enlightens our darkness that we may gird up our
loins and walk in His ways
4 “Then Jeremiah the prophet said unto them, I have heard you; behold,
I will pray unto the LORD your God according to your words; and it shall
come to pass, that whatsoever thing the LORD shall answer you, I will
declare it unto you; I will keep nothing back from you.”
5 “Then they said to Jeremiah, The LORD be a true and faithful
witness between us,” - rather, against us. If they broke their promise,
Jehovah was to “witness against” them by punishing them - “if we do not
even according to all things for the which the LORD thy God shall send
thee to us. 6 Whether it be good, or whether it be evil, we will obey the
voice of the LORD our God, to whom we send thee; that it may be well
with us, when we obey the voice of the LORD our God.”
Implicit Obedience (vs. 5-6)
There is a conflict of our wishes, inclinations and worldly desires
with God’s commands. True obedience only begins when it
leads us to do what our own wisdom or desire would not have
prompted. We must submit our will and opinion to God’s will and
wisdom. Now, not only is this implicit obedience obligatory, but it is a
certain fact that God will put it to the test. His higher will and larger
wisdom must often conflict with our foolishness and self-will.
Faith is essential to obedience. In so far as we can trust God, we shall
be able to obey His counsels.
Taking counsel with God (vs. 1-6
people, from the least even unto the greatest,” sought help from God
through the prayers of Jeremiah. In deep distress there are common
wants of humanity, which touch alike the prince and the peasant. Then
one common cry will burst from all lips to the God of all flesh. The
beggar and the king in their agony utter the same moan, “My God!”
There was but “a remnant” of the Jews left in the land. All these united
to seek counsel of God. United prayer is prevailing prayer. If we are few,
the more reason we should be united, and the more reason that each of
us should come forward and do his part. If a congregation is small, it
can the less afford that any one member should be prayerless or idle.
His Spirit is a Spirit of light. We have a right to expect guidance because
we have Divine assurances of this (Psalm 32:8). God will guide us,
however, through our own thinking, and not by audible voices, nor
should we look for the direction in mystic inward impressions, the
origin and character of which we cannot test (Isaiah 8:19-20). God
has given us eyes, and he expects us to use them. His guidance is
the purging of our vision, that we may see the better with our own
organs of sight; the rectifying and strengthening of our intelligence
and conscience, that we may use these as right instruments
for discerning truth.
Christian has now the privilege of being a prophet (Joel 2:28) and a
priest (Revelation 1:6). Every Christian, therefore, has the responsibility
which accompanies his privilege, and is required to act as the intercessor
for others. Are we not too selfish in our prayers? Nevertheless
it must be remembered that men gain little good from the prayers of
others unless they will also pray for themselves. The worst man is not
left dependent on the intercession of good men. Through Christ he
may approach the heavenly throne with his own cry for mercy.
PAINFUL AS WELL AS PLEASANT ADVICE. Jeremiah warned the
people that he would “keep nothing back.” The seeming kindliness that
restrains the utterance of unpleasant but important home truths is really
only a cloak for selfishness. The preacher must not shun to declare the
whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27) - the hard sayings of Scripture, the
unpopular doctrines of Christianity, the unflattering truths of human
OBEY HIM. Otherwise our prayer is a mockery; for God is not an
Oracle, but an Authority. What He reveals is not merely hidden mystery,
but obligations of duty. He guides us to His will. It is our place to follow
the guidance and do what is thus not only declared, but commanded.
7 “And it came to pass after ten days, that the word of the LORD
came unto Jeremiah.” - Why this delay? Perhaps it was for the sake
of the people, who needed time to collect themselves and listen calmly to
the revelation. Ezekiel once waited seven days (Ezekiel 3:16); but this
was owing to his own disturbed state of mind. The answer of the Lord
extends to v. 18, the last four verses being an epilogue enforcing the
Divine declaration. It consists of the promise (vs. 9-12) that, if the people
will remain quietly in the land, they will be protected; and of the threat
(vs. 13-18) that, if they presume to migrate into Egypt, they will perish
there by sword, famine, and pestilence.
The Answer to Prayer Delayed (v. 7)
answer to the people. When Christ was asked to give His aid at the
wedding feast where the wine ran short, He refused to do anything
immediately (John 2:4); and when summoned to the sick bed of
Lazarus, “He abode at that time two days in the place where He was”
(John 11:6). We must, therefore, expect that a similar delay may
sometimes attend the answer of our prayers. Perhaps the interval will be
much longer. We have cast our bread upon the waters, and it will not
appear till after many days (Ecclesiastes 11:1). We should learn,
therefore, that prayer does not fail because the response is not
immediate. Whatever be the delay, we may be sure that to a true prayer
in Christ’s Name the right answer will come at the right time. God is
not dilatory. He will never wait beyond the very best season for acting.
the mysteries of Providence with faith in the unfailing love of God. But
some grounds for the delay of God’s answers to our prayers may be
discerned and should be considered to check our impatience.
Ø There is a season for every thing. God will watch for the fitting
opportunity, and send His blessing when it will be most profitable.
Ø The fitness of God’s answer to prayer depends on our condition.
There are things which would injure us as we are. God waits to
be gracious, waits till we are in a fit state to receive His grace.
Ø Some things given as the answer to prayer require time for
development. At the beginning of Daniel’s prayer the angel
was sent, but some time elapsed before the prophet received his
message (Daniel 9:23). God may set in train the actions which
are in answer to our prayer immediately the prayer is made, and
we may only be waiting for that result which could not come
Ø Meanwhile God tests our faith by delaying the answer to our
prayer. The time is not lost. It is profitably spent in the trial and
culture of our own souls. So it is with the greatest blessing of the
heavenly reward and with many lesser good things; God
withholds them for a time that we may learn to walk by faith.
8 Then called he Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the
forces which were with him, and all the people from the least even to the
greatest, 9 And said unto them, Thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel,
unto whom ye sent me to present your supplication before Him;”
10 “If ye will still abide in this land, then will I build you, and not pull
you down,” – Some of Jeremiah’s favorite phrases (see on ch. 24:6) –
“and I will plant you, and not pluck you up: for I repent me of the evil that
I have done unto you.” I repent me. And yet in I Samuel 15:29 we read that
“Israel’s Trust… is not a man that he should repent.” The key to the discrepancy
may be found in Psalm 18:25-26, “With the pious thou showest thyself pious...
and with the froward thou showest thyself froward.” There is no change in the
nature or purpose of God, but only in His conduct towards man. The term
“repent” is, therefore, only used analogically.
11 “Be not afraid of the king of Babylon, of whom ye are afraid; be not
afraid of him, saith the LORD: for I am with you to save you, and to
deliver you from his hand. 12 And I will shew mercies unto you, that he
may have mercy upon you, and cause you to return to your own land.”
As if the journey to Bethlehem were a virtual Exodus, But it is far more
natural to read the consonants of the text in a slightly different manner,
rendering, “and cause you to dwell in.” So the Syriac, and the Vulgate.
The Blessedness of Patient Endurance (vs. 9-12)
In answer to the appeal of the people for guidance, Jeremiah has to tell them that
good will attend them so long as they stay in their land, but curses if they flee to
Egypt. Hardships crowd upon them at present, and dangers threaten for the future.
But if they will but endure these patiently, God will save and prosper them.
Ø It was the will of God. When we know His will, if we know
nothing more, that alone should be a final answer to all
questions. Because He is our King we are bound to obey,
and because He is our Father His will must be for our good.
Ø It was the course of faith. Flight to Egypt was always regarded
as a sign of distrust in God and reliance upon the arm of flesh.
Repeatedly had the people been warned not to trust “upon the
staff of this bruised reed, even upon Egypt, on which if a man
lean, it will go into his hand, and pierce it: so is Pharaoh King of
Egypt unto all that trust on him” (II Kings 18:21). When Pharaoh
takes the place of Jehovah, when any earthly judge is trusted
rather than God, it will surely betray us.
Ø It was a safeguard for purity. Egypt was a heathen power. An
asylum in Egypt would bring temptations to immorality and
unfaithfulness to the God of Israel. It is always unwise and
wrong to run into temptation in order to escape from trouble.
Ø It was a sign of contentment. It is happiest for a man to do his
duty in that state of life into which it has pleased God to call
him, though if God calls him out of one state to a more
prosperous one, he may enjoy the greater comfort thus gained.
(Let us bloom where we are planted! – CY – 2011)
IN THEIR LAND.
Ø Prosperity would be restored. The troubles of God’s people are
transitory. Patient endurance will see the end of all of them. Then
God will bring, not bare deliverance, but happiness and prosperity.
The Jew looked for this in temporal concerns; the Christian
expects it in eternal things. (“Lay not up for yourselves treasures
upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves
break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in
heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where
thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure
is, there will your heart be also …….. But seek ye first the
kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things
shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the
morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of
itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” [Matthew
Ø The people would be delivered from danger. God would save
them from the King of Babylon. And if this salvation was
possible, shall we not believe that all other deliverances are
possible, and rest calmly assured that to those who patiently
and obediently submit to God no real harm can come?
Nebuchadnezzar may triumph insolently; but God can cast him
down to the level of the brutes (Daniel 4:30-33). The lions may
roar, but they are chained, or God wilt send an angel to shut
their mouths. (Ibid. ch. 6:22)
THUS WELL WITH THEM IF THEY REMAINED IN THEIR
Ø They were assured of the presence of God. “I am with you” (v. 11).
If God is with us, we can dispense with the patronage of a Pharaoh,
even though a Nebuchadnezzar is thundering at our gates.
Ø They were assured of the active help of God. “I am with you —
to save you.” The very object of God’s presence is His people’s
good. He does not only observe; He acts, saves, delivers.
Ø They were assured of the continued mercy of God. “I will
procure you mercy” (v. 12).
Ø They were assured that God would overrule their enemy and
Convert him into their friend. Nebuchadnezzar should be made
to have mercy upon the people. Thus what we most fear is led by
God to work our good when we are obedient and submissive.
13 “But if ye say, We will not dwell in this land, neither obey the voice
of the LORD your God,” 14 Saying, No; but we will go into the land of
Egypt, where we shall see no war, nor hear the sound of the trumpet,
nor have hunger of bread; and there will we dwell: 15 And now therefore
hear the word of the LORD, ye remnant of Judah; Thus saith the LORD
of hosts, the God of Israel; If ye wholly set your faces to enter into Egypt,
and go to sojourn there;”
16 “Then it shall come to pass, that the sword, which ye feared,” – rather,
which ye fear. The calamities mentioned were precisely these of which the Jews
were apprehensive in their own country. So afterwards, “whereof ye are afraid.”
“shall overtake you there in the land of Egypt, and the famine, whereof ye
were afraid,” - For a further explanation, see ch.43:8-13 - “shall follow close
after you there in Egypt; and there ye shall die. 17 So shall it be with all the
men that set their faces to go into Egypt to sojourn there; they shall die by
the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence: and none of them shall
remain or escape from the evil that I will bring upon them. 18 For thus
saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; As mine anger and my fury
hath been poured forth upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem; so shall my
fury be poured forth upon you, when ye shall enter into Egypt: and ye
shall be an execration, and an astonishment, and a curse, and a reproach;
and ye shall see this place no more. 19 The LORD hath said concerning
you, O ye remnant of Judah; Go ye not into Egypt: know certainly that I
have admonished you this day.”
20 “For ye dissembled in your hearts,” - rather, for ye have gone astray
(from the right path) at the risk of your lives; or, another possible rendering,
for ye have led yourselves astray. Hypocrisy is certainly not the accusation
which Jeremiah brings against the people - “when ye sent me unto the LORD
your God, saying, Pray for us unto the LORD our God; and according
unto all that the LORD our God shall say, so declare unto us, and we will
do it. 21 And now I have this day declared it to you; but ye have not obeyed
the voice of the LORD your God, nor any thing for the which He hath sent
me unto you. 22 Now therefore know certainly that ye shall die by the
sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence, in the place whither ye desire to
go and to sojourn.”
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