Monday, September 14, 2015

Asking God With Their Mind Made Up

Jeremiah 42:1-43:7

“Then all the captains of the forces, and Johanan the son of Kareah, and Jezaniah the son of Hoshaiah, and all the people from the least even unto the greatest, came near, And said unto Jeremiah the prophet, Let, we beseech thee, our supplication be accepted before thee, and pray for us 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:) That the LORD thy God may show us the way wherein we may walk, and the thing that we may do.” (Jeremiah 42:1-3)

Several years ago I read a joke about pastor who was offered the pastorate of a larger church at significantly higher salary.  Returning home he told his wife about the offer then told her he needed to pray about it and find out what God wanted.  While he was praying, she should start packing their stuff.  Obviously, he had already decided what they were going to do, but he wanted to give the appearance of being spiritual. 

Because Ishmael had murdered the governor, Gedeliah, and the Babylonian officials, the Jews were afraid Nebuchadnezzar would retaliate and made plans to go to Egypt.  They had already packed their stuff and assembled the congregation at Chimham.  To give the impression of spiritual leadership and get god’s support they stopped to ask Jeremiah what God said about the move.  It really wasn’t any different than what eh pastor was doing, and far too often it is exactly what happens when people ask God for leadership.  They aren’t really asking for His leadership but for his approval. 

“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.

Then they said to Jeremiah, The LORD be a true and faithful witness between us, if we do not even according to all things for the which the LORD thy God shall send thee to us.  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.” (Jeremiah 42:4-6)

Jeremiah agreed to pray and see what God wanted and assured them he would tell them what God said.  The leaders promised they would do whatever God said he wanted, whether good or bad so they could be blessed.  It all sounded so very spiritual.

“And it came to pass after ten days, that the word of the LORD came unto Jeremiah.  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, And said unto them, Thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel, unto whom ye sent me to present your supplication before him; If ye will still abide in this land, then will I build you, and not pull you down, and I will plant you, and not pluck you up: for I repent me of the evil that I have done unto you.  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.  And I will show mercies unto you, that he may have mercy upon you, and cause you to return to your own land.” (Jeremiah 42:7-12)

God didn’t reply for ten days.  Undoubtedly, they were getting impatient at the delay. Finally, Jeremiah called the together, but not just the leaders.  He called all the people so they would all know what God said and make their own decision.  He told them that   God said if they would remain in the land, god would bless them, causing them to grow and become strong.  They were not to be afraid of Nebuchadnezzar because God was there to save them from him, and would cause him to let them have back their lands. 

“But if ye say, We will not dwell in this land, neither obey the voice of the LORD your God, 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: 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; Then it shall come to pass, that the sword, which ye feared, shall overtake you there in the land of Egypt, and the famine, whereof ye were afraid, shall follow close after you there in Egypt; and there ye shall die.

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.  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. ” (Jeremiah 42:13-18)

If they chose not to obey God and went to Egypt in the belief they would be better off there, they needed to understand that they wouldn’t.  The Babylonian army they were running from would conquer Egypt and as fugitives from Babylon they would be especial targets.  The Egyptians would need their food for themselves and the Jews would suffer starvation, and  die there. 

Any person who deliberately went to Egypt would be killed there.  God would punish them for their refusal to yield to Babylon just as he had the people of Jerusalem.  Their entrance into Egypt would cause them to be hated by the Egyptians because it would bring Nebuchadnezzar’s wrath on the Egyptians. 

“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.  For ye dissembled in your hearts, 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.  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.  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.” (Jeremiah 42:19-22) 

God had plainly forbidden them to go to Egypt, and he knew they had already decided what they were going to do before they asked.  They were being deceitful when they asked for guidance with no intention of changing their plans.  Jeremiah had clearly told them what god said and they could not escape the consequences of their decisions.  They were going to die where they thought they would be safe. 
“And it came to pass, that when Jeremiah had made an end of speaking unto all the people all the words of the LORD their God, for which the LORD their God had sent him to them, even all these words, Then spake Azariah the son of Hoshaiah, and Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the proud men, saying unto Jeremiah, Thou speakest falsely: the LORD our God hath not sent thee to say, Go not into Egypt to sojourn there: But Baruch the son of Neriah setteth thee on against us, for to deliver us into the hand of the Chaldeans, that they might put us to death, and carry us away captives into Babylon.

So Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces, and all the people, obeyed not the voice of the LORD, to dwell in the land of Judah.  But Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces, took all the remnant of Judah, that were returned from all nations, whither they had been driven, to dwell in the land of Judah; Even men, and women, and children, and the king's daughters, and every person that Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard had left with Gedaliah the son of Ahikam the son of Shaphan, and Jeremiah the prophet, and Baruch the son of Neriah.  So they came into the land of Egypt: for they obeyed not the voice of the LORD: thus came they even to Tahpanhes. “ (Jeremiah 43:1-7)

The leaders were men who had encouraged Zedekiah’s rebellion against Babylon, and they blamed Jeremiah and Baruch for trying to get the people to surrender.  They accused Baruch of telling Jeremiah what to say in an effort to ingratiate himself with Nebuchadnezzar.  They forcibly took Jeremiah, Baruch, and others with them when they led the rest of the people into Egypt. They settled in Tahpanhes in northeastern Egypt near the location of the Suez Canal.   

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