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RESOURCE CENTER AND ARCHIVES

Jeremiah 42:16, 910, 1922; 43:2comment (0)

August 11, 2011

By Douglas K. Wilson

Related Scripture: Jeremiah 42:16, 910, 1922; 43:2


Explore the Bible
Professor of Christian Studies, School of Christian Studies, University of Mobile

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Jeremiah 42:1–6, 9–10, 19–22; 43:2

Christians often say we want to know God’s will. In reality, we want God to bless us in what we want to do. God is aware of our actions, but He also knows our attitudes. May God’s Word, which separates the thoughts and intents of the heart, reveal His truth for each of us.

In this week’s passage, Jeremiah confronts the attitudes of Judah’s refugees, who have already determined to flee to Egypt, against the words of God. Though they gave the impression that they were seeking God’s will, their minds were made up (Jer. 41:17).

Seek Spiritual Guidance (42:1–6)
Survivors from Mizpah, including army officers, fled after the Babylonian-appointed governor had been murdered. Though they intended to find safe haven in Egypt, they sought out Jeremiah’s counsel and intercession. Specifically they inquired, “Where shall we go and what shall we do?” They committed to receive the word gladly, whether it was favorable for them or not. Jeremiah’s response was to pray for them but also to instruct them to obey the word.

Students without direction between semesters or after graduation often ask for the same kind of counsel. “Where shall we go and what shall we do?” They discern that God is leading them to participate in a short-term missions trip or an international service project. Then, before the ink is even dry on their application, they determine that they do not want to go. Discerning God’s will is not a multiple-choice exam. Those who seek spiritual guidance must obey or face serious consequences.

Receive an Unpopular Response (42:9–10)
When you are seeking God’s will, are you willing to follow if it means going in a different direction than you planned? According to Jeremiah 41:17, the refugees were “on their way to Egypt.” Jeremiah’s counsel was to stay in the land and not fear the Babylonians. Such a plan was in complete contrast to their life trajectory.

Once again, we see how words that describe Jeremiah’s calling (Jer. 1:10) are tied to the messages he delivered. In an earlier lesson, we saw how God was going to build up and plant (Jer. 31:28). These very words were promised as the fruit of obedience if the travelers remained where they were. Both implicitly and explicitly, however, God warned that fleeing to Egypt would result in being torn down and uprooted.

How would you react to the following instructions? “Surrender your plans. Trust me as I lead to the place you fear the most. If you obey me, I will bless you. If you ignore me, I will reject you.”

Don’t Be Deceived (42:19–22)
Jeremiah was not deceived by the refugees’ empty plea for God’s counsel. God knew their intent had always been to travel to Egypt, regardless of the prophet’s response.

Though they had an escape plan, there was no escape. The refugees fled from the Babylonians after rejecting their governor, only to face a more serious judgment by ignoring their King’s counsel. Disaster was in store, for they sought God’s will with no intention of following it.

Watch Out for Wandering (43:2)
In response to Jeremiah, the leaders called him a liar. They determined that he had a political agenda and simply wanted to gain favor with the Babylonians by handing over these outlaws to the governing authorities. Instead of listening to God’s word, they took Jeremiah and Baruch into custody and took them to Egypt as prisoners. They had wandered so far from God that they rejected godly counsel as political and warranted bad behavior as appropriate (Jer. 43:4–6).

Robert Robinson, as a 22-year-old lyricist, recognized his propensity to stray from God when he wrote in “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing”: “Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it/Prone to leave the God I love.” Lest we think that those refugees did something we would never do, beware. If a hymn writer, who longs for God to draw near, can wander away, then so can you. So can I.

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