DISSEMBLING IN SEEKING GOD’S WILL REVEALS A HEART SET ON PURSUING ITS OWN DESIRES
This passage represents a perversion of that famous hymn “Have Thine Own Way, Lord!” For here we see God’s remnant in Judah already on the way down the forbidden road to Egypt – thinking that they know best how to protect themselves against possible reprisals by the King of Babylon. They put up a good front and seem to be sincerely seeking the Lord’s will as they solicit the intercession of the revered prophet Jeremiah. But their motivation is to try to manipulate God into allowing them to pursue their own independent desires. Despite their oaths of allegiance, they choose their human wisdom over God’s revealed will.
Parunak: These two chapters [42-43 regarding disobedience and idolatry] confirm the pervasiveness of the sin for which Judah was judged [by the destruction of Jerusalem and captivity in Babylon]. They show us that the people really were wicked. The conventional logic (cf. Jer. 24) was that those left in the land must be more righteous than those taken captive, since at least they get to stay in their land. These chapters highlight the sin of that remnant: a fortiori, the sin of those taken captive is even greater.
DISSEMBLING IN SEEKING GOD’S WILL REVEALS A HEART SET ON PURSUING ITS OWN DESIRES
I. (:1-6) TESTIMONY OF THE REMNANT THAT THEY WILL ACCEPT THE WILL OF GOD
A. (:1-3) Panic Approach to Seeking God’s Will
1. Approaching the Prophet After They Have Already Started Down the Wrong Path
“Then all the commanders of the forces, Johanan the son of Kareah, Jezaniah the son of Hoshaiah, and all the people both small and great approached and said to Jeremiah the prophet,”
Parunak: Earlier in Jer, this phrase points to all social levels and the pervasiveness of their sin (6:13; 8:10), and is a keynote of the new covenant promises, showing the extent of the spiritual rejuvenation that the Lord promises (31:34). When we encounter the phrase here, we naturally ask, “Which will it be? Are the people all still corrupt, as in ch. 6 and 8? Or have they been restored, as in 31:34?” We’ll see the answer in 44:12, but our introduction has already anticipated it. This is the same sinful nation that merited the fall of Jerusalem.
2. Abdicating Their Relational Responsibility to Seek God’s Will
“Please let our petition come before you, and pray for us to the LORD your God,”
Dangerous to fail to embrace a personal relationship with God and to instead trust in some type of intermediary relationship – shown in the reference to “the Lord your God.”
3. Acknowledging Their Desperate Situation
“that is for all this remnant; because we are left but a few out of many, as your own eyes now see us,”
almost sounds like a pity party; exaggerating their isolated condition instead of claiming the protection offered by their covenant-keeping Sovereign
4. Appearing to Sincerely Desire God’s Will
“that the LORD your God may tell us the way in which we should walk and the thing that we should do.”
As if all God has to do is say the word and they will instantly hurry to obey
Thompson: There was some degree of panic among the refugees as to what should be their next move. An oracle from Yahweh would cut short their perplexity.”
Meyer: It is useless to profess our desire to know God’s will, whilst in our secret heart we are determined to follow a certain course, come what may. How often do believers ask for prayer that their course may be made clear, when in point of fact they have already decided on it, and are secretly hoping to turn God to their own side!
B. (:4) Prophetic Commitment to Fully Reveal God’s Will
“Then Jeremiah the prophet said to them, ‘I have heard you. Behold, I am going to pray to the LORD your God in accordance with your words; and I will tell you the whole message which the LORD will answer you. I will not keep back a word from you.’”
C. (:5-6) Peoples’ Commitment to Fully Embrace God’s Revealed Will
“Then they said to Jeremiah, ‘May the LORD be a true and faithful witness against us if we do not act in accordance with the whole message with which the LORD your God will send you to us. Whether it is pleasant or unpleasant, we will listen to the voice of the LORD our God to whom we are sending you, so that it may go well with us when we listen to the voice of the LORD our God.’”
Mackay: The strength of the people’s commitment given here makes their subsequent lack of compliance an even more heinous transgression.
II. (:7-18) TWO CHOICES – LIFE VS. DEATH
A. (:7-9) A Delayed Answer
“Now at the end of ten days the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah. Then he called for Johanan the son of Kareah and all the commanders of the forces that were with him, and for all the people both small and great, and said to them, ‘Thus says the LORD the God of Israel, to whom you sent me to present your petition before Him:’”
Constable: Perhaps the Lord waited this long to respond, to see if the people would wait for His answer, or proceed on to Egypt without it.
Adam Clarke: All this time he was waiting upon God; for it is evident the prophets could not prophesy when they pleased, any more than the disciples of our Lord could work miracles when they wished. The gift of prophecy and the gift of miracles were both dependent on the will of the Most High, and each of them was given only for the moment; and when the necessity was over, the influence ceased.
B. (:10-12) A Reassuring Promise
1. Based on Obedience
“If you will indeed stay in this land,”
2. Planted in the Land
“then I will build you up and not tear you down, and I will plant you and not uproot you; for I will relent concerning the calamity that I have inflicted on you.”
Parunak: Generally, God will build and plant them. The verbs are drawn from 1:10, Jer’s original call, which gave him responsibility for building up and pulling down, for planting and for uprooting. They have seen what God can do in the way of uprooting and tearing down. Now his wrath has been soothed, and he is prepared to build and to plant, if they will stay there to be built and planted.
3. Protected From the King of Babylon
“’Do not be afraid of the king of Babylon, whom you are now fearing; do not be afraid of him,’ declares the LORD, ‘for I am with you to save you and deliver you from his hand. I will also show you compassion, so that he will have compassion on you and restore you to your own soil.’”
Parunak: Application: This is an amazing promise. The captivity could have ended right here, if only this small remnant had obeyed! For a brief moment, they hold the fate of the entire nation in their hands – and they fumble it. Are we good stewards of the opportunities God gives us?
Guzik: God asked the leaders and common people to trust Him that the season of judgment had now been replaced by a season of mercy. Before the final Babylonian conquest, the message was, surrender to exile. Now in the season of mercy the message was, trust Me and remain in the land. If they did, God would bless them with protection and goodness in your own land.
C. (:13-18) A Severe Warning
1. Based on Stubborn Rebellion
“But if you are going to say, ‘We will not stay in this land,’ so as not to listen to the voice of the LORD your God, saying, ‘No, but we will go to the land of Egypt, where we will not see war or hear the sound of a trumpet or hunger for bread, and we will stay there’; then in that case listen to the word of the LORD, O remnant of Judah.’”
Thompson: The mind of the refugees seemed to be made up. Their immediate fears could not be removed by Yahweh’s promises. Egypt seemed far from war, the sound of the trumpet, and the shortage of food. They could dwell there in peace. Jeremiah anticipated their reply.
2. Disaster in Egypt
“Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, ‘If you really set your mind to enter Egypt and go in to reside there, then the sword, which you are afraid of, will overtake you there in the land of Egypt; and the famine, about which you are anxious, will follow closely after you there in Egypt, and you will die there. So all the men who set their mind to go to Egypt to reside there will die by the sword, by famine and by pestilence; and they will have no survivors or refugees from the calamity that I am going to bring on them.’”
Ryken; Disaster would follow the remnant right down to Egypt. Everything that had happened in Jerusalem would happen on the Nile – sword, fear, famine, death, plague, disaster, wrath, cursing, horror, condemnation, and reproach.
3. (:18) Divine Wrath Exposing You to Shame and Ridicule
“For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, ‘As My anger and wrath have been poured out on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so My wrath will be poured out on you when you enter Egypt. And you will become a curse, an object of horror, an imprecation and a reproach; and you will see this place no more.’”
Parunak: This collocation of the twin tragedies of death and shame is found elsewhere in 24:8-10 and 29:17-18 (which relies on ch. 24 and its rotten fig imagery). Thus these verses are an echo of the paradox of ch. 24, according to which it is those who remain in the land, not those who are taken captive, who suffer the most. They are bringing the fulfillment of ch. 24 on themselves.
Ryken: The risky choice was perfectly safe, while the easy way out was deadly
III. (:19-22) TESTIMONY OF JEREMIAH REGARDING THEIR FOOLISH CHOICE
A. (:19) Hearing Impaired – Rejecting the Clear Command From the Lord
“The LORD has spoken to you, O remnant of Judah, ‘Do not go into Egypt!’ You should clearly understand that today I have testified against you.”
Feinberg: The Lord’s message remains unchanged – stay in the land and do not settle in Egypt (v. 19). He rebukes them for asking his will with no intention of following it. The warning is unmistakable; the doom is certain (v. 20). Jeremiah shows the remnant their duplicity in asking for a message from God when they had no intention of following it. All the time they had intended doing their own will in the hope that God’s will would coincide with theirs (v. 21). So they were victims of self-deception and self-delusion. How little did they realize that in Egypt the temptation for them to worship idols – the very sin that had led to the nation’s fall – would be even stronger than before! Jeremiah also reminds them it was not he that had instituted the inquiry; they themselves were responsible for provoking the Lord’s severe answer. The passage closes with the threefold judgment of sword, famine, and plague ringing in their ears (v. 22). The issue was clear, the warning was faithfully transmitted; but the remnant were set on having their own way.
B. (:20) Hypocritical Self Deception
“For you have only deceived yourselves; for it is you who sent me to the LORD your God, saying, ‘Pray for us to the LORD our God; and whatever the LORD our God says, tell us so, and we will do it.’”
C. (:21-22) Have Your Own Way = Jeremiah Abandons Them to Their Chosen Destruction
“So I have told you today, but you have not obeyed the LORD your God, even in whatever He has sent me to tell you. Therefore you should now clearly understand that you will die by the sword, by famine and by pestilence, in the place where you wish to go to reside.”
That last phrase defines the operating rationale of this remnant. Ultimately, despite their protestations of desiring the will of God and their assurances that they will submit to the revealed will of God, it all comes down to what they desire in their hearts.
Adam Clarke: The prophet assures them of safety in Judea, but destruction in Egypt, Jeremiah 42:4-18; and reproves their hypocrisy in asking counsel with which they had no intention to comply, Jeremiah 42:19-22.