Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Deliberately Rejecting God’s Warning

Jeremiah 43:8-44:19

“Then came the word of the LORD unto Jeremiah in Tahpanhes, saying, Take great stones in thine hand, and hide them in the clay in the brickkiln, which is at the entry of Pharaoh's house in Tahpanhes, in the sight of the men of Judah; And say unto them, Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will send and take Nebuchadrezzar the king of Babylon, my servant, and will set his throne upon these stones that I have hid; and he shall spread his royal pavilion over them.
And when he cometh, he shall smite the land of Egypt, and deliver such as are for death to death; and such as are for captivity to captivity; and such as are for the sword to the sword.  And I will kindle a fire in the houses of the gods of Egypt; and he shall burn them, and carry them away captives: and he shall array himself with the land of Egypt, as a shepherd putteth on his garment; and he shall go forth from thence in peace.  He shall break also the images of Bethshemesh, that is in the land of Egypt; and the houses of the gods of the Egyptians shall he burn with fire.” (Jeremiah 43:8-13)

The Jews had gone to Tahpanhes, in Egypt to escape the Babylonian forces under Nebuchadnezzar, in defiance of God’s command.  After they arrived, God sent another warning through Jeremiah.  As an object lesson, he was to take some large stones and bury them in the clay at the base of the brick kilns next to the palace with everybody watching.  He was then to tell them that Nebuchadnezzar would send forces and establish his government offices right where those stones were. 

When he came, he would destroy the ancient temples, killing many and carrying the others away captive.  According to Ezekiel this control of Egypt would last about forty years.  Israel’s attempt to escape would only put them more at the mercy of Babylon. 

“The word that came to Jeremiah concerning all the Jews which dwell in the land of Egypt, which dwell at Migdol, and at Tahpanhes, and at Noph, and in the country of Pathros, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Ye have seen all the evil that I have brought upon Jerusalem, and upon all the cities of Judah; and, behold, this day they are a desolation, and no man dwelleth therein, Because of their wickedness which they have committed to provoke me to anger, in that they went to burn incense, and to serve other gods, whom they knew not, neither they, ye, nor your fathers.

Howbeit I sent unto you all my servants the prophets, rising early and sending them, saying, Oh, do not this abominable thing that I hate.  But they hearkened not, nor inclined their ear to turn from their wickedness, to burn no incense unto other gods.  Wherefore my fury and mine anger was poured forth, and was kindled in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem; and they are wasted and desolate, as at this day.”  (Jeremiah 44:1-6)

God reminded all of the Jews who had spread through Egypt, how he had brought destruction on Judah and Jerusalem because they refused to obey, worshipping other gods and violating his commands.  He had repeatedly sent prophets to warn them and ignored the prophet’s warnings.  As a result god was angry and caused Judah and Jerusalem to be destroyed. 

“ Therefore now thus saith the LORD, the God of hosts, the God of Israel; Wherefore commit ye this great evil against your souls, to cut off from you man and woman, child and suckling, out of Judah, to leave you none to remain; In that ye provoke me unto wrath with the works of your hands, burning incense unto other gods in the land of Egypt, whither ye be gone to dwell, that ye might cut yourselves off, and that ye might be a curse and a reproach among all the nations of the earth?

Have ye forgotten the wickedness of your fathers, and the wickedness of the kings of Judah, and the wickedness of their wives, and your own wickedness, and the wickedness of your wives, which they have committed in the land of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem?  They are not humbled even unto this day, neither have they feared, nor walked in my law, nor in my statutes, that I set before you and before your fathers.” (Jeremiah 44:7-10)

Having just seen what happened to Judah and Jerusalem, God asked how they could think the same thing would not happen to them in Egypt when they began to worship the Egyptian gods?  Obviously they have not learned from the mistakes of their ancestors,  In their pride they will not ask forgiveness and change their actions or obey the commandments God had given. 

“Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Behold, I will set my face against you for evil, and to cut off all Judah.  And I will take the remnant of Judah, that have set their faces to go into the land of Egypt to sojourn there, and they shall all be consumed, and fall in the land of Egypt; they shall even be consumed by the sword and by the famine: they shall die, from the least even unto the greatest, by the sword and by the famine: and they shall be an execration, and an astonishment, and a curse, and a reproach.  For I will punish them that dwell in the land of Egypt, as I have punished Jerusalem, by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence: So that none of the remnant of Judah, which are gone into the land of Egypt to sojourn there, shall escape or remain, that they should return into the land of Judah, to the which they have a desire to return to dwell there: for none shall return but such as shall escape.” (Jeremiah 44:11-14)

Because they refused to learn or listen, God would set himself against them.  All of the people who have made up their minds to go to Egypt to escape his judgment will die there, either as result of warfare, or by starvation, and will be hated by those around them.  The only survivors will be those who were forced to go against their will. 

“Then all the men which knew that their wives had burned incense unto other gods, and all the women that stood by, a great multitude, even all the people that dwelt in the land of Egypt, in Pathros, answered Jeremiah, saying, As for the word that thou hast spoken unto us in the name of the LORD, we will not hearken unto thee.  But we will certainly do whatsoever thing goeth forth out of our own mouth, to burn incense unto the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her, as we have done, we, and our fathers, our kings, and our princes, in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem: for then had we plenty of victuals, and were well, and saw no evil.  But since we left off to burn incense to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her, we have wanted all things, and have been consumed by the sword and by the famine.  And when we burned incense to the queen of heaven, and poured out drink offerings unto her, did we make her cakes to worship her, and pour out drink offerings unto her, without our men?” (Jeremiah 44:15-19)

 Almost twenty five years before the Egyptians had conquered Judah after the death of Josiah and made Jehoiakim king and introduced the Egyptian gods.  Over the years, many Jews had moved to Egypt, adopting the gods of the Egyptians.  The women were especially drawn to Isis, the Queen of Heaven.  They flatly refused to give up worship of her, looking back to the period between the Babylonian defeat of Egypt and their invasion of Judah, when the Jews worshipped the Egyptian gods.  Since the Babylonians had invaded they had been in constant warfare, and they insisted it was because they had quit worshipping the Egyptian gods at the insistence of God’s prophets.   Somehow, they never seemed to register that even then they had been controlled by the Egyptians, but that when they had served God under Josiah they had been free.  

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