Jeremiah Chapter 42
Lessons from the text
Serve God Honestly
The remnant of the Jews honor God by coming to Him after Governor Gedaliah is murdered. They further honor Him by promising to obey His advice no matter what it is. However, they greatly dishonor Him by not accepting His advice and doing as they please by going down into Egypt instead of staying in the promised land.
Why did the people even promise to obey God if they intended from the start to go to Egypt? Through Jeremiah, God has been telling them for years to put themselves under Babylonian rule and then they will be blessed and sustained (Jer. 27:11). They already knew that God would tell them to stay in Israel. Is it possible that they were vainly hoping that God would change His mind and bless them in the course of action they wanted to take?
Regardless, the fact is that the people rejected God’s words to do as they pleased. Their actions were very insulting. How would you feel if someone comes to you for advice and, upon hearing what you have to say, rejects your words because they are not what that person wanted to hear?
God, through Isaiah, writes that “this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honor me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear towards me is taught by the precept of men” (Isa. 29:13). In light of this verse, the people only know how to fear God based on man’s opinion of God instead of personally knowing the power and authority of God. They do not fear Him because they do not acknowledge Him as their King. Therefore, they will boast with lofty promises, such as to obey God whether it is for their good or their evil, but then turn around and completely disrespect God by refusing to listen to His words. If God does not fit into their little idea of what God should or should not do, then they reject His words as being lies and traps for their souls (Jer. 43:2-3).
What is the purpose of asking advice of God if it is not to actually listen to what God has to say? If you have no intention of obeying God, then why bother to come to Him for advice or guidance? If you have no intention of keeping His commandments by reading His word and accepting the leadership of Jesus Christ in your life, then coming to church or praying lofty prayers is useless. God is interested in the intents of your heart. He knows if you are serving Him earnestly or in pretense. So please, serve God honestly and not with your lips only.
Verse by Verse Commentary
1-3 In just three months, they have watched their kingdom be destroyed by Babylon and their last semblance of government slaughtered by the traitor Ishmael. Without Gedaliah to lead them, the Jews rightfully turn to the only authority left among them, God. They seek out Jeremiah to ask him what God would have them to do.
4 Jeremiah is glad to ask advice of the Lord. As he has done in the past, he promises to repeat word for word whatever God tells him (Jer. 26:2-7). These verses highlight the prophet’s honesty.
5-6 The people make a vow before God to follow whatever advice He gives them. This is a foolish vow of the lips and not of a sincere heart for they promise to obey God even if it means evil on them. God does not want to hurt His people. The Jews are so far from fellowship with Him that they do not understand His character or intention towards them. They are merely serving Him with their lips and not with their hearts. See Isaiah 29:13.
7-8 Ten days after Jeremiah begins to pray, God gives an answer, and the people appear eager to hear what God has to say.
9-17 Even though God has been directing His people throughout Jeremiah’s ministry, God is gracious enough to once again send the same message He has been declaring since before Babylon came up against Israel; the people have a choice to do good or evil and if they chose evil, they will bring destruction on themselves (Jer. 4:7-30). If they will only repent and obey God, then God will bless them. He understands that from the people’s perspective, Egypt looks far more appealing that Israel. The promised land has been burned by the Babylonian conquest but Egypt is still thriving. In Israel they have no army or fenced cities to defend themselves while Egypt has horses and chariots.
God reminds them that if they stay, He is sufficient to defend them and provide for their every need. In essence, He is asking them to trust in His provision and wisdom instead of being lured away by the apparent luxury of Egypt. To make Himself perfectly clear, God details all the evil that will come upon the Jews if they disobey Him and go into Egypt. The very things they think they will be escaping if they flee to Egypt will consume them there. It is pointless to seek refuge anywhere other than in God. Only God can deliver and save, and anything outside of His protection is vulnerable to destruction. In God, and not the world, is life, peace, and blessings.
18-22 In righteous anger, God will pour out His fury on the Jews for their disobedience. While God wishes to bless (v. 11), He is forced to pass judgment on sinners. He knows that the people have come to Him in pretense, inquiring of Him with no intention of listening to what He has to say. Therefore, He pronounces destruction on them. Noteworthy is that despite their rebellion, God will use them to magnify Himself; by prophesying against them, when this prophecy is fulfilled other peoples will acknowledge that He is the one who performed these words, thus witnessing of His existence and authority.
Thank you for your faithfulness in studying God’s word.
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