After Nebuchadnezzar had destroyed the city of Jerusalem and taken the majority of the people to Babylon, including King Zedekiah, he appointed Gedaliah Son of Ahikam as governor over the land of Judah. The people left in Judah were men, women, and children who were the poorest in the land. When the Jews who had been scattered throughout Moab, Ammon, Edom and other countries heard about this, they came back to Gedaliah in Mizpah. Gedaliah was advised that there was a conspiracy to kill him but he did not believe it. This is what he was told:
Johanan son of Kareah and all the army officers still in the open country came to Gedaliah at Mizpah and said to him, “Don’t you know that Baalis king of the Ammonites has sent Ishmael son of Nethaniah to take your life?” But Gedaliah son of Ahikam did not believe them. Jeremiah 40:13-14
The conspiracy was carried out and Gedaliah was killed. Read how this all happened in Jeremiah 41:1-15. It is a very sad story. This caused a lot of fear among the Jews because he who was appointed governor of Judah by King Nebuchadnezzar had been murdered. The following story tells us what the Jews decided to do out of fear:
Then Johanan son of Kareah and all the army officers who were with him led away all the people of Mizpah who had survived, whom Johanan had recovered from Ishmael son of Nethaniah after Ishmael had assassinated Gedaliah son of Ahikam—the soldiers, women, children and court officials he had recovered from Gibeon. And they went on, stopping at Geruth Kimham near Bethlehem on their way to Egypt to escape the Babylonians. They were afraid of them because Ishmael son of Nethaniah had killed Gedaliah son of Ahikam, whom the king of Babylon had appointed as governor over the land. Jeremiah 41:16-18
They chose to hear from God whether this was the right thing to do. In other words, they wanted to know whether going to Egypt was acceptable to God. Here is how they sought the answer:
Then all the army officers, including Johanan son of Kareah and Jezaniah son of Hoshaiah, and all the people from the least to the greatest approached Jeremiah the prophet and said to him, “Please hear our petition and pray to the Lord your God for this entire remnant. For as you now see, though we were once many, now only a few are left. Pray that the Lord your God will tell us where we should go and what we should do.” Jeremiah 42:1-3
Here is how the prophet Jeremiah responded:
I have heard you,” replied Jeremiah the prophet. “I will certainly pray to the Lord your God as you have requested; I will tell you everything the Lord says and will keep nothing back from you.” Jeremiah 42:4
Then the people made this vow before the Lord:
Then they said to Jeremiah, “May the Lord be a true and faithful witness against us if we do not act in accordance with everything the Lord your God sends you to tell us. Whether it is favorable or unfavorable, we will obey the Lord our God, to whom we are sending you, so that it will go well with us, for we will obey the Lord our God.” Jeremiah 42:5-6
As soon as Jeremiah heard from the Lord, he called all the people so that he could convey the answer from God:
Ten days later the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah. So he called together Johanan son of Kareah and all the army officers who were with him and all the people from the least to the greatest. He said to them, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, to whom you sent me to present your petition, says: ‘If you stay in this land, I will build you up and not tear you down; I will plant you and not uproot you, for I have relented concerning the disaster I have inflicted on you. Do not be afraid of the king of Babylon, whom you now fear. Do not be afraid of him, declares the Lord, for I am with you and will save you and deliver you from his hands. I will show you compassion so that he will have compassion on you and restore you to your land.’ Jeremiah 42:7-12
However, if the people chose to disobey the word of the Lord, this is what would happen to them:
However, if you say, ‘We will not stay in this land,’ and so disobey the Lord your God, and if you say, ‘No, we will go and live in Egypt, where we will not see war or hear the trumpet or be hungry for bread,’ then hear the word of the Lord, you remnant of Judah. This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘If you are determined to go to Egypt and you do go to settle there, then the sword you fear will overtake you there, and the famine you dread will follow you into Egypt, and there you will die. Indeed, all who are determined to go to Egypt to settle there will die by the sword, famine and plague; not one of them will survive or escape the disaster I will bring on them.’ This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘As my anger and wrath have been poured out on those who lived in Jerusalem, so will my wrath be poured out on you when you go to Egypt. You will be a curse and an object of horror, a curse and an object of reproach; you will never see this place again.’ Jeremiah 42:13-18
To emphasize on the seriousness of this message and with strong words, Jeremiah repeated these words. Jeremiah knew something about their response before he said the following:
Remnant of Judah, the Lord has told you, ‘Do not go to Egypt.’ Be sure of this: I warn you today that you made a fatal mistake when you sent me to the Lord your God and said, ‘Pray to the Lord our God for us; tell us everything he says and we will do it.’ I have told you today, but you still have not obeyed the Lord your God in all he sent me to tell you. So now, be sure of this: You will die by the sword, famine and plague in the place where you want to go to settle. Jeremiah 42:19-22
Surely, the prophet knew their response. Listen to their response:
When Jeremiah had finished telling the people all the words of the Lord their God—everything the Lord had sent him to tell them— Azariah son of Hoshaiah and Johanan son of Kareah and all the arrogant men said to Jeremiah, “You are lying! The Lord our God has not sent you to say, ‘You must not go to Egypt to settle there. But Baruch son of Neriah is inciting you against us to hand us over to the Babylonians, so they may kill us or carry us into exile to Babylon. Jeremiah 43:1-3
Then all the people made this rebellious move:
So Johanan son of Kareah and all the army officers and all the people disobeyed the Lord’s command to stay in the land of Judah. Instead, Johanan son of Kareah and all the army officers led away all the remnant of Judah who had come back to live in the land of Judah from all the nations where they had been scattered. They also led away all those whom Nebuzaradan commander of the imperial guard had left with Gedaliah son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan—the men, the women, the children and the king’s daughters. And they took Jeremiah the prophet and Baruch son of Neriah along with them. So they entered Egypt in disobedience to the Lord and went as far as Tahpanhes. Jeremiah 43:4-7
Now listen to the consequence of this rebellious move:
In Tahpanhes the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: “While the Jews are watching, take some large stones with you and bury them in clay in the brick pavement at the entrance to Pharaoh’s palace in Tahpanhes. Then say to them, ‘This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: I will send for my servant Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and I will set his throne over these stones I have buried here; he will spread his royal canopy above them. He will come and attack Egypt, bringing death to those destined for death, captivity to those destined for captivity, and the sword to those destined for the sword. He will set fire to the temples of the gods of Egypt; he will burn their temples and take their gods captive. As a shepherd picks his garment clean of lice, so he will pick Egypt clean and depart. There in the temple of the sun in Egypt he will demolish the sacred pillars and will burn down the temples of the gods of Egypt. Jeremiah 43:8-13
These Jews were desperate to know God’s will for their lives. They had vowed that even if it is unfavorable for them, they would still obey. But when God gave them the answer, they disobeyed the word of the Lord while accusing the prophet of not having heard from the Lord, saying that Baruch son of Neriah had instead misled him.
- Here are a couple of lessons from this story.
- If you are interested in knowing God’s will for your life, go ahead and ask Him. He will show you.
- God will not force you to do His will for your life. But if you disobey Him, you will pay a high price for your rebellion.
- If you failed to fulfill God’s will and run away out of fear, that which you feared will find you where you have gone for refuge. God will send it to you. The Jews feared King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon and ran to Egypt. But God sent him to conquer Egypt and destroyed everyone including these runaway Jews.
- It is more painful to run away from God’s will than to fulfill it. It might look like doing God’s will is more dangerous or painful, but the truth is; it is safer to be where God wants you to be or to do what God wants you to do. To state it differently, there is success in doing God’s will.
- God knows what is best for us. Even though in our human eyes and understanding God’s will looks unfair or dangerous, in the end we will all agree it was the best thing for us.
- When you seek God’s will in your life, what do you look for or want to hear in order to know that God’s has spoken to you?
- Have you ever disobeyed God’s will for your life before? How did you find out you were wrong? What was the consequence?
- Has the Lord shown you His will for your life today and you are opting to run away from it? Obey the Lord and you shall find out that it is the best thing for your life. Step out of fear! Take a step of faith. The future is bright for you. Who do you have to fear if the Lord is ahead of you? Sing the hymn; “Anywhere with Jesus and I can safely go!” Then get on the road to fulfilling God’s will for your life.
To humans belong the plans of the heart, but from the
Lord comes the proper answer of the tongue.
All a person’s ways seem pure to them,
But motives are weighed by the Lord.
Commit to the Lord whatever you do,
And he will establish your plans.
Has God Shown You His Will for your Life?
Read: Jeremiah 40:7-43:3
By Pastor Shadrack [email protected]