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, “Please let our petition come before you, and pray for us to the LORD your God, that is for all this remnant; because we are left but a few out of many, as your own eyes now see us, that the LORD your God may tell us the way in which we should walk and the thing that we should do.” . . . . “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.” Jer 42:1-3, 5, 6
So it has come to this. That the once great and proud nation of Israel, governed in the past by two of the greatest kings ever honored by God, David and his son Solomon, a nation once enslaved by Egypt and brought out by the majestic arm of the Lord, conquering the nations in the land of Canaan, ruling all of the land from the Euphrates to the Sinai peninsula, but now cast off like a worn out shoe, a people dimished to almost nothing and still living in Judah after being conquered by a filthy hoard of barbarians, who, taking all the best people of the land, left behind only the poorest of the poor. This little band comes to Jeremiah and asks for guidance swearing they will do whatever they are told.
Oh how deceptive is the heart of man. I wonder if they really knew they would rebel in a final desparate act of stupidity, or if they actually planned it all along.
“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.” This is the final nail in the proverbial coffin. Time after time, in numbers too large to count, this people did the identical thing. Told by the prophets that if they obeyed they would be blessed beyond their dreams, or if they rebelled their worst nightmare would consume them, they chose the latter! Blessing or curse? ‘I’ll go with the curse.” And so here Jeremiah, for seemingly one final time, tells them to stay in the land or perish if they depart for the imaginary protection of Egypt. And what is their last national decision, after they swore by the life of the Lord? But of course, they immediately turn and head for Egypt! Indeed, can a leopard change his spots? The heart of this people was darkness magnified.
But they started out this way, even after being led out of Egypt by God they still maintained their household gods as if insecret. What did God say to them about their wandering in the desert after Egypt,
“When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months these seventy years, was it actually for Me that you fasted?” Zec. 7:5 And fittingly for a stiff necked people, the last national resolve was one final act of flat out rebellion.
And so, with the majority of Israel and Judah exiled to Babylon, this small band still remaining departed the land of Canaan and returned to Egypt. It didn’t have to be this way. They could have given their hearts to God and enjoyed the riches of His blessing and grace. But out of the heart of darkness comes all kind of evil and rebellion. And Israel comes full circle, returning to the place of their enslavement so many hundreds of years previous. If Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and Moses could only see them now, how appalled they would be. But God’s grace and mercy did not die with the nation of Israel. He would again call them out of Egypt, and from all the other corners of the world, to come back to the land. Always giving one more chance, but also fulfilling His promise, that an heir would certainly come from the seed of David, though they still had hundreds of years to wait. And most of them in silence as God would no longer talk through he prophets after the death of Malachi in about 415 BC. Four hundred long silent years. Until the fulfillment of the promise in a birth in a manger in Bethlehem at the second dawning of man.
[Scriptures taken from the New American Standard Bible © 1995]