The people came near “and said to Jeremiah the prophet, ‘Please, let our petition be acceptable to you, and pray for us to the Lord your God…that the Lord your God may show us the way which we should walk and the thing we should do.’” (Jeremiah 42:2-3)
Following the Babylonian conquest of Judah, some of the Jews were left in the land. King Nebuchadnezzar appointed Gedaliah to be the governor over these people. As is often the case in such situations, intrigue and insurrection came to pass. Ishmael and his band assassinated Gedaliah at Mizpah. They also killed some of the Jews who were with Gedaliah as well as some Chaldeans. The assassins took the rest of the people of Mizpah captive and fled. Johanan and his band chased Ishmael to take retribution against them. They freed the captive people, but the murderers escaped to the Ammonites.
After these things took place, Johanan and all the people, came to Jeremiah. We see what they said to him in the scripture above. It was good that they came seeking to know and do God’s will. But, red flag, notice they said to Jeremiah, your Lord and God, not, ours? The Bible also tells us that these people had their minds made up to go to the land of Egypt. The intent was to avoid more violence and possible famine if they remained in Judah. Does that not seem reasonable? Surely, that was the best way to go, and the best thing to do.
Jeremiah met with them ten days later with the Lord’s answer: “If you will still remain in this land, then I will build you and not pull you down, and I will plant you and not pluck you up.” (v.10) The prophet also told the people that God promised them protection from the king of Babylon, “…for I am with you, to save you and deliver you from his hand. And I will show you mercy, that he may have mercy on you and cause you to return to your own land.” (vs.11b, 12)
Jeremiah continued – “If you wholly set your faces to enter Egypt, and go to dwell there, then it shall be that the sword which you feared shall overtake you there in the land of Egypt; the famine of which you were afraid shall follow close after you there in Egypt; and there you shall die.” (vs.15, 16)
What was the people’s response? “You speak falsely! The Lord God has not sent you to say, ‘Do not go to Egypt to dwell there.’” (43:2b)
The people went to Egypt. They intended to do so from the very beginning. The show of inquiring of the Lord occurred because the people convinced themselves God would rubber stamp their way. Sadly, the sword and the famine did track them to Egypt – they died there.
This is a cautionary episode for us. We may determine the best way for us to go. We are sure it is the best thing to do. We might even make a show of conferring with God on the matter. All the while, we are determined to go to our Egypt. What will our outcome be? I think we know the answer.