Jeremiah 42

 

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

hasAzariah,” 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)

 

  • THE NEED OF DIVINE GUIDANCE.

 

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

fatal blunders.

 

  • THE METHOD OF DIVINE GUIDANCE. The Jews appealed to a

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

spiritual nature.

 

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

dispensation.

 

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.

 

  • THE USE OF DIVINE GUIDANCE. God reveals the way; we must

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.”

 

 

 

 

                        Inquiring of God in Great Crises (1-6)

 

I. THE RIGHT AND DUTY OF IT.

 

1. Because of His claim to respect and obedience. It was a traditional

custom in Israel. Jehovah was their national God. He had delivered them,

created them into a nation, and laid them under eternal obligations.

 

(a) There is a general obligation upon all so to do. Even those who do not

recognize any special relation existing between God and themselves have

reason for drawing nigh to Him. There are moments when the things of life

assert their sacredness and awful mystery, when God besets them behind

and before. His providence is a continual appeal. And the sense of sin, of

helplessness, and of indefinite hope leads them to His footstool.

 

(b) It is specially incumbent upon those who are related to him through

grace. Judah represented ancient Israel, and, although now but a remnant,

was still privileged with the presence of a true prophet of God. Christians

should be eager and ready to call upon Him, as they have the promises

reaffirmed in Christ, and the witness of His Spirit in their hearts that they

shall not ask in vain. Their whole position is due to His grace, and it is but

right that this should be acknowledged.

 

2. Because of helplessness and danger. The petitioners were “left but a

few of many.” They knew that it was through their own folly for the most

part that they had been brought to such a pass. We know that in the great

crises of life we are unable to guide ourselves. The future is dark and full of

trouble.  It is not in man that walketh to direct his steps”.  (ch. 10:23)

 

3. Because of God’s wisdom, power, and love. He knows all things, and is

able to deliver from all evil; and He has assured us of His willingness to

guide and protect. The larger, grander policy of life is only possible with

His inspiration.

 

II. THE SPIRIT IN WHICH IT SHOULD BE ENTERED UPON.

 

1. Humility. In external attitude and language they left little to criticize

(v. 2). Consciousness of our own need and weakness.

 

2. Confidence. We must believe that He is, and that he is a rewarder of all

them that diligently seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6)  Their requesting Jeremiah

to pray to the Lord his God, and their expression of willingness to do as

he should advise, showed a measure of faith.

 

3. Obedience. This they professed (v. 6).

 

4. Sincerity. (ibid.)

 

III. THE DANGERS TO WHICH IT IS EXPOSED. Notwithstanding all

their profession, we can detect:

 

1. Signs of systematic neglect of God and religious ordinances. The

expression “came near suggests a previous habitual distance from

Jehovah. They appear more anxious to conciliate the prophet than Him

whom he served. There is no confession of sin. Probably Jeremiah had been

all but ignored up to that time. What a strange phrase, “the Lord thy God”!

The prophet seeks gently to lead them to a better standing — “the Lord

your God;” which they seem to adopt. To whom we send thee” still

betrays the absence of filial love and intimacy. Their subsequent behavior

showed that:

 

2. They were unreal and hypocritical in their whole attitude. They had

made up their mind as to what was best for them to do, as the resort to the

habitation of Chimham already proved. With one foot in Canaan, as it

were, and another out of it, they pretended to inquire of God. This is a

very common practice, but it is one which not only robs prayer of its

meaning and efficacy, but also brings upon the head of those who are guilty

of it a grievous curse, as in this instance. A portion of their prayer was

answered, but in a way they little expected: “The Lord be a true and

            faithful witness between us.” (v. 5)

 

 

 

 

 

                                    Waiting on the Divine Ordinance (vs. 1-6)

 

I. THE REQUEST OF THE PEOPLE

 

1. The apparent unanimity of it. All the people come, from the least to the

greatest. Certainly there were not very many of them. They were but a

remnant to begin with, and now still further reduced. But such as they

were, an outward unity obtained among them. Outward unity is often

obtained with comparative ease, but it must not be forgotten that it may

cloak indifference, discord, opposition, and may be followed by

contradictory conduct, even on the part of those who make the largest

professions of submission.

 

2. The profession of submission to Jehovah. The request described was a real

want, whether the people meant all they said or not. And there is no reason

to suppose that they did not mean it at the present time of asking. Men ask

sincerely enough for Divine guidance, not being able to see at the time how

hard it will be to follow it up. They want to be shown a way in which to

walk, and then, when the way is shown, it looks too hard and perplexed to

be God’s way. They want to be shown the thing to do, and, when it is

shown, there appears to be no use in it, no obvious relation of means to

ends. Here is a result of prophetic teaching. The people had learned from

many prophetic utterances what they ought to ask for.

 

3. Their dependence on the prophet. Here is man showing his need of

mediation. The people had come to know at last that Jeremiah was the

faithful and accepted servant of God, This is the best way of recognizing a

good man — to ask him to help those in need. And they wished also to

commend their desires to the prophet. They wished him to pray a prayer

that should be his as well as theirs.

 

II. THE PROPHET’S ANSWER. That he complies with the request is

little to say. The prayer was one he could pray with all his heart. Well

would it have been if he had been asked to offer it years before. That which

taxed him was to tell them that he would faithfully report the answer. For

he knew that God’s message would go deep into the necessities of the

case; that God’s answer could not be comprehended by the limits of man’s

desires. This is the temptation of messengers, to keep something back

through fear, or expediency, or mistaken kindness. Now, Jeremiah was

well assured from a long experience that Jehovah never said a word too

many or too few. The genuine promptings of the Spirit of God are the very

best guide as to what we should tell men in the hour of their need.

 

III. THE PROMISE OF THE PEOPLE. They seem to hint that they are

ready for difficult and painful requirements. History is not lost upon them

so far as their professions are concerned. They hint how they have learned

that disobedience to God brings the worst of evils. One thing, however,

they had not yet learned, and that was the difference between knowledge and

power. When men are in great straits they will make large promises in the

hope of deliverance; not at all insincerely, but meaning all they say. It was

with the people here as it is with people in dangerous illnesses — the way

of restored health is to be the way of obedience and piety. That people

make such promises shows that the promises are right; the wrong thing is

that they lack in strength, persistency, and inward purpose to keep them.

God has to make this lack plain before men will humble themselves to have

it supplied.

 

 

 

Implicit Obedience (vs. 5-6)

 

The people swear to obey the voice of God before they know what

injunctions it will lay upon them, They contemplate the possibility of

receiving unpleasant commands; but they leave the decision in the hands of

God, undertaking to follow it, whatever form it may take. Thus they bind

themselves to implicit obedience. Let us consider the obligation and the

limitation of implicit obedience.

 

  • THE OBLIGATION OF IMPLICIT OBEDIENCE

 

This requires us to obey the voice of God when He calls us to do anything

within the range of right and possibility; i.e. anything which a wise and good

God would ever command. It implies a possible conflict with our inclination,

our opinion, or our worldly interest. Otherwise the obedience becomes a mere

form. If we only obey when we like to do the thing required, we are not really

obeying a higher will, but simply following out our own will in accidental

coincidence with the will above us. True obedience only begins when it

leads us to do what our own wisdom or desire would not have prompted.

It must, therefore, be prepared to run counter to these private tendencies.

It must be the submission of 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. Moreover,

amid the trials of life, God will certainly sometimes require us to do what

seems evil to us, i.e. what is painful and contrary to our wish. Therefore

faith is essential to obedience. In so far as we can trust God, we shall be

able to obey His darker counsels

 

·         THE LIMITATION OF IMPLICIT OBEDIENCE. The highest

obligation is to do right. If, therefore, we could be required by a supreme

being to do what we knew was wrong, it would be our plain duty to

disobey his will. The being who laid such a mandate upon us could not be

God. He would be an almighty demon. Were such a monster to exist, it

would be the duty of all creatures to resist him, though they became

martyrs for their fidelity to righteousness. Our obligation to obey God

rests on the fact that He is supremely good, and not merely on His infinite

power and greatness. Let us suppose that we received a seemingly Divine

mandate requiring what we felt to be wrong — what should we do? Three

courses would then be open to us. We might believe that it emanated from

a supreme being who was wicked, and should therefore be disobeyed; we

might conclude that we were mistaken in supposing it to come from a

supreme being — that we were suffering from a hallucination; or we might

feel convinced that it was sent by the holy God, and that we were wrong in

our impression of its unrighteous character. To Christians who believe in a

perfectly good God, only the two latter alternatives could present

themselves. But here the choice lies between the inward and the outward

voice. If, then, the inward voice is clear and unmistakable, we are bound to

give the preference to this. The outward voice claims to come from God;

but so does the inward voice. If the two conflict, we must choose between

them, and then we should feel that it is more likely we are suffering from a

delusion in our external perceptions than that what we firmly believe in our

conscience to be wrong is yet right. Loyalty to God will lead us to obey

God’s voice in the conscience above all things. At all events, so long as we

believe — though even erroneously — that a thing is wrong to us, it is

wrong, and no prophet’s or angel’s words should lead us to perform it

without first convincing us that it is right.

 

 

 

 

Taking Counsel with God (vs. 1-6

 

  • TROUBLE DRIVES MEN TO PRAYER. In their trouble “all the

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.

 

  • IN PERPLEXITY WE SHOULD SEEK LIGHT FROM GOD.

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 MEN SHOULD PRAY FOR OTHERS. Every

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.

 

  • IT IS THE DUTY OF THOSE WHO ARE CONSULTED TO GIVE

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

nature.

 

  • IF WE TAKE COUNSEL WITH GOD, WE MUST CONSENT TO

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. 

 

 

 

 

            Divine Comforts for Those in Doubt and Fear (vs. 7-12)

 

I. THE MEANING OF THE INTERVAL. There are ten days to wait

between the prayer of Jeremiah and the answer of Jehovah. Why this

waiting? It must have been in some way for the sake of the people. They

had said very emphatically they would be obedient; would they be obedient

to begin with, to the extent of waiting ten days for God’s answer? It had

also to be seen whether they would continue in the spirit of obedience at

all; and would they all continue in the same spirit?

 

II. EVERYTHING DEPENDS ON THE DISPOSITION OF THE

PEOPLE. God will do great things for them if only they do not destroy the

effect of His actions by their self-will and instability. They were to show

their trust in God by abiding in the land. Nothing could be done without

this. God uses, to indicate His work for them, two words which imply fixity

— building and planting. Let us also recollect the greatness of God’s

power to them that believe. If we take no trouble to furnish the occasion,

we must not complain.

 

III. THE GREAT WORK GOD IS DISPOSED TO DO. It is indicated by

these two not infrequent figures of building aud planting. God was willing

to make these people His husbandry, His building (1 Corinthians 3:9).

He had been lately engaged in a great pulling down and rooting up; and

why? Because His people had been putting up the wrong buildings, planting

the wrong plant. Every plant not planted by God must be rooted up. God is

the Builder, not a mere helper in building. We may be said to be fellow

workers with God, but it can never describe Him rightly to call Him fellow

worker with us. The work and the glory are His of building up the holy

character, the perfect manhood, the everlasting home. He it is who makes

His people fruitful in every good word and work. And the way for all this

building and planting was now clear so far as God Himself was concerned.

All the pulling down and rooting up was done. Only let the people give the

needed opportunity and all else would prosper.

 

IV. CAUTION AGAINST NEEDLESS FEAR. The temptation here, as

so often, was to fear man too much and God too little or even none at all.

“The fear of man bringeth a snare.” (Proverbs 29:25)  The people feared the

King of Babylon, forgetting the limits of his power and the way in which

he was controlled by Jehovah.

 

 

 

The Answer to Prayer Delayed (v. 7)

 

  • THE FACT. Ten days elapsed before Jeremiah was able to give an

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 CAUSE. Much of this is mysterious, and we must learn to accept

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

quicker.

 

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

repentis, 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.

 

  • WHY THE PEOPLE WERE REQUIRED TO REMAIN IN

THEIR LAND.

 

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)

 

  • WHAT PROMISES WERE GIVEN TO THOSE WHO REMAINED

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

6:19-21, 33-34]

 

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)

 

  • WHAT ASSURANCES THE PEOPLE HAD THAT IT WOULD BE

THUS WELL WITH THEM IF THEY REMAINED IN THEIR

LAND.

 

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.”

 

 

 

                       

                        Man’s Utter Dependence upon God (vs. 7-18)

 

These verses plainly show this much forgotten but never failing truth. They

tell how the land of Judah, desolate, unprotected, and oppressed, could be

and should be made a happy land for them. Whilst Egypt, the land they

hoped so much from, should bring on them all the sorrows which they

thought by going there to escape. Thus we are taught that it is according to

God’s favor our lives are blessed or unblessed, bright or dark. Mere

circumstances are unable to ensure either the one or the other, but the

presence or absence of God’s favor alone. Now:

 

I. MEN DO NOT THINK THIS. See their frantic endeavors to make

their circumstances pleasant. And how they struggle against adversity, as if

all evil were contained in that! Their opinion is very clear.

 

II. BUT YET IT MUST BE. For:

 

1. Our happiness or unhappiness depends entirely on the way in which we

regard these circumstances. That is to say, it depends upon our mind,

upon that which is within us rather than that which is without. Hence what

gives great pleasure to one yields none or even the reverse of pleasure to

others. The merry laugh of children, e.g,, to one in deep sadness, or

irritable, or discontented. And vice versa. But:

 

2. God has constant access to the minds of us all, and He has made their

satisfaction to depend upon Him. “Nostrum cor inquietum est donec

requiescat in te” (You have fashioned us for yourself [O Lord] and restless

s our heart until it rests in you.” Augustine). He can flood them with joy

in the darkest hour — Paul and Silas in the dungeon at Philippi (Acts 16);

and He can make the most favorable circumtances powerless to render

a man happy Haman because of Mordecai (Book of Esther);

the conscience stricken,  those from whom for any cause He hides

His face, are illustrations. And abundant facts prove the

powerlessness of mere circumstance over the minds of men.

 

III. THE INFLUENCE THAT THESE CONSIDERATIONS OUGHT

TO HAVE UPON US.

 

1. Not to lead us to despise circumstances, and so to be careless as to the

outward lot of either ourselves or others. For though they have not all

power over the mind, God has given them very much power — a power

that they lose only when He pleases.

 

2. But to estimate them rightly. This we can only do as we bring into view

the unseen and the eternal, which can only be as we live in view of it by the

habit of prayer, thought, and practical regard to God’s will as expressed in

conscience and His Word. So shall our balances be adjusted, and we shall

rightly judge. There is a machine employed at the Mint of such perfect

accuracy and finish that, when a number of sovereigns are tested by it, it

will automatically and instantly and infallibly reject every one that fails in

the least degree to come up to the proper standard of weight. So if we thus

bring into view the unseen and eternal, all the crowd of facts and events

that come before us day by day will each one spontaneously, promptly, and

infallibly be judged, and we shall neither under nor over estimate them but

as we ought.

 

3. To seek above all things THE FAVOR OF GOD; for “in His favour

     is life (Psalm 30:5) and “.....His loving kindness is better than life itself.

     (Psalm 63:3)  (Along with “God is love.”  - I John 4:8, these lasttwo verses

      cited, are the most profound concepts to which I have been ever exposed!

      CY - 2024)

 

 

 

 

                        A Land to be Avoided (vs. 13-18)

 

How solemn and urgent this warning! Let us ask why it was needed, why

God seemed thus to cast doubt on the power of the people to obey Him.

 

I. THE PERILOUS LAND WAS NEAR. They were right in the way to

Egypt, having, indeed, moved towards Egypt rather than in any other

direction (ch. 41:17).

 

II. IT HAD OBVIOUS ATTRACTIONS.

 

1. It seemed to be a land of peace. Egypt had been locked to as a friend

and ally. The desolation of Jerusalem had come from the north. When

people have been going through a time of war and siege, peace is naturally

the blessing put in front of their thoughts. And is not this a good thing, it

may be asked? Yes, surely, if peace be desired on high grounds, and from a

horror of discord among men. But men may seek it simply to escape from

disturbance and from loss of life and property. Their seeking of peace may

be a sign of cowardice and altogether groveling aims. Danger may be

escaped by the outer man, only to be concentrated more effectually on the

man within.

 

2. It would be a land of bread. Another recommendation of a land which it

was unquestionably right, for men to attend to. Egypt was one of the great

granaries of the ancient world. But it did not therefore follow that it was a

land to live in. Israelites, in particular, needed to recollect how their

fathers, beginning by going to Egypt for bread, ended by sinking into most

oppressive bondage. Besides, even the land of bread was at times a land of

famine.

 

3. It consequently looked a land to dwell in. God is the God of His people

only when they are in their proper place. He was God of the exiles in

Babylon, because their going into Babylon was of His operation. But those

who went to Egypt in search of mere immunity from toil and inglorious

ease could not expect to have the Divine favor. They wanted to get the

great ends of life without discipline, sacrifice, and endurance.

 

III. THE VAIN PURPOSE TO ESCAPE FROM EVIL. God tries to

make the people understand that they take the germs and principles of evil

with them. What we find in any place depends on what we bring; and what

we bring we must, in process of time, inevitably find. What had there been

to hinder the land of Israel from being a land of peace and a land of bread?

Nothing but the faithlessness and general wickedness of the people. We

cannot sow wickedness in one place, and then hope to go and reap only

good things in some other place. God can turn any place, however fruitful,

into a wilderness; and, on the other hand, we know how Jesus made a

wilderness a place to feed five thousand men. Jehovah spoke with all this

severity to these people to make them understand how hard a thing real

obedience was.

 

 

 

 

                                    Contradictory Requirements (v. 19)

 

The Jews were here required not to flee into Egypt. Joseph was warned by

an angel in a dream to “arise, and take the young child and his mother, and

flee into Egypt(Matthew 2:13). The Scriptures represent both

commands as coming from God. Yet they are contradictory. This is but

one instance of a discrepancy often to be met with. Let us consider the

meaning of it.

 

I. DIVINE REQUIREMENTS MAY BE OUTWARDLY

CONTRADICTORY AND YET CONSISTENT IN PRINCIPLE. In

general principle what is right once is right eternally; what is right for one

man is right for all men; what is right in one place is right everywhere. The

moral laws of God are eternal, immutable, universal. They are as true in

Sirius as on the earth, to angels and to demons as to men. But the

application of these principles necessarily varies.

 

1. The same act has a different character under different circumstances.

Egypt was an imposing heathen power in the days of Jeremiah; it was but a

Roman province in the time of our Lord. Flight to Egypt at the earlier time

meant distrust in God and reliance on the arm of flesh; no such alternatives

accompanied the decision of Joseph. Thus it often happens that consistency

to principle will permit and require great variations of conduct according to

the changing necessities and dangers of life.

 

2. The same act may have a different character with different persons.

Identical general moral obligations apply to all of us equally. But men have

different duties in the carrying out of those principles, according to their

constitutional differences of capacity and disposition. One man can stand

on the verge of a precipice without a tremor, another turns giddy as he

approaches it. For the one to be there is harmless, but it is most dangerous

for the other. The first man may do what is no risk to him, but the second

will be foolish and wrong if he follow his example. So there are scenes

which afford temptation to some temperaments and none to others. The

duty to avoid them must vary with this variation of danger.

 

3. The same act may have a different character according as it is

performed with a different motive. Flight may denote cowardice or prudent

caution. Passive endurance may be determined by weakness and indolence,

or it may result from submissive trustfulness.

 

II. THE OUTWARD CONTRADICTION OF DIVINE

REQUIREMENTS WARNS US TO ESTIMATE ACTIONS SOLELY

BY THEIR INNER CHARACTER.

 

1. We should be careful not to condemn others because their behavior

strikes us as superficially opposed to what is right from our own point of

view. Their circumstances, character, and motives may be quite different

from what we suspect. The man who is condemned as a miser may be

wisely thrifty. He who is regarded as a meddlesome busybody may be

conscientiously discharging what to him is a public duty. The seeming

devotee of pleasure may be generously laying himself out to brighten the

sad world with ministries of happiness to others. The apparently ambitious

despot may be an enthusiast for the regeneration of humanity.

 

2. We must beware of the slavish imitation of the best examples. What was

wise and right in them may be positively wrong in us. Even our imitation of

Christ must be spiritual rather than external. Surely in calling us to follow

Him, He does not require us, like St. Francis, to become homeless

wanderers, because the Son of man had not where to lay His head. Because

He drove out the desecrators of the temple with violence, it may not be

right for us to use similar violence, when what was done by Him from pure

zeal might only be followed by us with angry passions.

 

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.”

 

 

 

 

                           Carnal Predispositions (vs. 19-22)

 

I. THEY ARE THE GREAT SOURCES OF UNREALITY IN RELIGION.

In sending Jeremiah to God they did not mean what they said.

There was no honest willingness to do as the prophet might reveal. The

only hope for them in their forlorn condition is thus tampered with and

destroyed. It is possible that at first they may have meant well, but as they

proceeded with their inquiry through the prophet they must have known

that they had only one intention, which they had not laid aside or even held

in abeyance. Yet such is the subtlety of the hypocritical heart that it

continues in its hypocrisy until it deceives itself. “They inquire not to learn

what is right, but only to receive encouragement to do what they wish.”

 

II. THOSE WHO INDULGE THEM ARE THEIR OWN WORST ENEMIES.

 

1. They deceive and injure themselves. “Ye dissembled in your hearts”

(v. 20); literally, deceived yourselves; “used deceit against your souls”

(margin). Thinking they were taking counsel of God, they were really

obeying their fears and lusts. Can a greater wrong be done to one’s self

than this — to think one’s self religious and obedient to the heavenly will

when one is only selfish and sinful? Safety and happiness lay in following

simply the Divine guidance; but this they could not do, for they knew not

God’s message when it came. “Thinking themselves wise, they became

fools.”  (Romans 1:22)  Their spiritual nature is henceforth unreliable,

and their greatest perils will be encountered in their most religious hours,

and when they think themselves most in agreement with God’s will.

 

2. The curse of God is denounced against them. What they choose will be

their destruction. The very things they sought to avoid by going to Egypt

are met there. And there is no mitigation; the position is one wholly wrong,

and consequently the wrath of God is unceasing until they cease to occupy

it. To remain in Egypt, with its idolatries and abominations, was virtually to

annul the covenant. Soon every trace of true religion would disappear, and

they would become like their neighbours, and be absorbed into the nations

in whom God had no pleasure. He cannot tolerate falsehood, pretension,

the form of godliness without the reality. And this severity is true mercy.

Many a one “plucked as a brand from the burning” (Zechariah 3:2)

has had reason to thank his Saviour that:

 

            (a)  the way of transgressors is hard.”  (Proverbs 15:13)

            (b) “Let a man examine himself.” (I Corinthians 11:28)

            (c)  “Be not deceived: God is not mocked for whatsoever a man

                    soweth, that shall he also reap.”   (Galatians 6:7)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

                                    Searching the Heart (vs. 19-22)

 

There is here a very sudden and striking turn away from the tone of the

previous part of the message. God looks into the future, and, seeing what

actually will happen, seeing that Egypt will maintain its attraction, He warns

the people they are going towards a certain doom. Their present state was

one of undue, overweening self-confidence; and God will not allow people

to remain under deception as to their own weakness, if a startling and

abrupt message will serve to arouse them from it. Perhaps we shall not be

far wrong in assuming that the changing tone of the prophecy is occasioned

by the changing mood of the audience. While the prophet is speaking of the

dangers of Egypt, their deep desire after Egypt is half revealed. The one

gate into which they wished to enter is peremptorily closed against them.

All at once there may have been a sort of awakening to the fact that God

knew their hearts better than they did themselves We must recollect, too,

that Jeremiah spoke out of no short or imperfect experience. He saw that

the people were disappointed; that, instead of a word pointing them

towards Egypt, there was sentence upon sentence warning them against it.

How hard it is to be sure of knowing the will of God! How easy to mistake

for it the impulses of indulgent human prudence! God tells the people

plainly they are going to seek for things they wilt never find. Instead of

living in peace, they are to die by the sword. Instead of getting abundance

of bread, they are to die by famine and by the pestilence that accompanies

lack of bread. Here altogether is an example of the need of that prayer in

Psalm 139:23-24 - “Search me, O God, and know my heart:  try me, and know my

thoughts:  And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me  in the way

everlasting.”

 

 

 

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