The Scriptorium

"Don't Go to Egypt!"

That wasn't what they wanted to hear. Jeremiah 42.1-22

The Fall of Jerusalem: Jeremiah 39-42 (6)

Pray Psalm 77.1-3.
I cried out to God with my voice—
To God with my voice;
And He gave ear to me.
In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord;
My hand was stretched out in the night without ceasing;
My soul refused to be comforted.
I remembered God, and was troubled;
I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed.

Sing Psalm 77.1-3.
(Leoni: The God of Abraham Praise)
My voice to God shall rise; I seek Him on His throne.
In days and nights of trouble I seek God alone!
When I remember Him, then am I sore distressed!
My spirit faints and longs to find in Him its rest.

Read and meditate on Jeremiah 42.1-22.

1. What did Johanan and the other leaders want from Jeremiah?

2. What did Jeremiah tell them?

One gets the impression that this approach to Jeremiah was something of a formality. Johanan and the other leaders probably expected that Jeremiah would have “seen the light,” now that Gedaliah and his Chaldean keepers had been murdered. He would understand that remaining in the land and waiting for the king of Babylon’s retaliation just wasn’t the thing to do.

So they came to Jeremiah asking for a word from the Lord (vv. 1-3). Jeremiah was willing to accommodate them, although he undoubtedly understood that what they were seeking from him was confirmation of a decision they had already made (41.17). Jeremiah assured them he would seek the Lord on their behalf.

“Good,” the leaders and people replied. Because they were ready to do the Lord’s will. They would obey whatever the Lord told them, whether it pleased or displeased them (vv. 5, 6). Well, we’ll see about that.

So after ten days of waiting on the Lord, He finally gave Jeremiah a word for Johanan and the others: “Don’t go down to Egypt” (vv. 19). Instead, they were to remain in the land and get to work preparing for the restoration to come (vv. 7-10). God promised to be with them, so that they need not fear the king of Babylon (vv. 11, 12). But if the people refused, and insisted on going to Egypt rather than stay in the land and prepare for the restoration, that which they feared the most – the sword, famine, and pestilence (v.17) – would catch up to them there and destroy them all.

The problem was twofold: The people feared Nebuchadnezzar more than they feared the Lord; and they trusted their own best ideas rather than the clear and concise Word of God through Jeremiah. But if they would not trust the Lord, to live according to His promises, they would surely die – the reasonable outworking of their own misguided plans, ideas, and fears.

We face this same choice every day in every situation of our lives. Whom will we believe? Whose counsel will we embrace and obey? Whose promises will we trust?

1. What are some ways we are tempted not to trust the Word of God?

2. What can we do to help ensure that, when choices and decisions need to be made, we will follow the Word of the Lord rather than our own best ideas?

3. How can believers help one another stay within the bounds of God’s Word in all things?

They came to the Prophet to ask counsel; nay, that he might be to them God's interpreter, and that thus they might know what to do; and they promised to obey, as we shall hereafter see. However this may have been, they sought an oracle in which it was their duty to acquiesce, except they resolved openly to shake off the yoke and to show themselves to be gross and profane despisers of God. They came to the Prophet, when yet it was their fixed purpose, as we shall see, to go to Egypt. John Calvin (1509-1564), Commentary on Jeremiah 42.1-3

Keep me grounded in and obedient to Your Word today, Lord, especially as I…

Pray Psalm 77.4-20.

Pray that God will renew your resolve – and that of all believers – to wait on Him and to obey His Word.

Sing Psalm 77.4-20.
Psalm 77.4-20 (Leoni: The God of Abraham Praise)
I scarce a word can speak, so troubled is my soul;
yet I recall Your grace to Israel long ago.
I sing Your praise by night; my heart will meditate;
my spirit ponders all Your grace and wonders great.

O Lord, will You reject Your people without end?
Has favor ceased, are You no more our heav’nly Friend?
Your promise and Your love in anger are obscured;
my sin has turned Your hand away, Your beauty blurred.

Now let us call to mind Your deeds and wonders, Lord,
and meditate on all Your works and praise Your Word.
Full holy is Your way, great God of earth and heav’n,
to You, O God of strength and pow’r all praise be giv’n!

The waters and the deeps all tremble ‘neath Your hand.
The clouds give forth, the sky resounds across the land.
Your lightning flashes forth and lights the earth around;
we feel beneath our feet the trembling of the ground.

Your way leads through the sea; Your path the waters parts.
Your footprints are to us deep mysteries in our hearts.
As then by Moses’ hand and Aaron’s law-filled voice,
You led Your sheep, lead us that we may all rejoice!

T. M. Moore

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Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. All quotations from Church Fathers from
Ancient Christian Commentary Series, General Editor Thomas C. Oden (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006). All psalms for singing are from The Ailbe Psalter (available by clicking here).

T.M. Moore

T. M. Moore is principal of The Fellowship of Ailbe, a spiritual fellowship in the Celtic Christian tradition. He and his wife, Susie, make their home in Essex Junction, VT.
Books by T. M. Moore