Go Not into Egypt
Johanan and the captains, set on going to Egypt, ask Jeremiah to enquire of Yahweh for a blessing (vv. 1-6).
From v. 18 of ch. 41, in their fear they still showed some apparent respect to Jeremiah. Agreeing to pray for them, Jeremiah says that he will tell them exactly what Yahweh's answer is, good or bad. Johanan replies: "we will obey," and in parenthesis we should put, 'as long as it is what we want.'
Notice v. 2, 'pray for us' and in v. 3, 'Yahweh thy Elohim.' Firstly these statements show they couldn't pray for themselves, and secondly that they didn't recognise Yahweh as their God.
In vv. 7-12, the answer comes from Yahweh, in which they are encouraged to continue in the land of Judah, and assured that if they did so it should be for their well-being. Contrast v. 7, when the answer came after 'ten days' (which were probably spent in meditation before Yahweh) with the instant replies to the righteous (2Kgs. 20 with Hezekiah; Neh. 2; Dan. 9; John 12).
Following this in vv. 13-18, Jeremiah, knowing their intentions, the language becomes stronger and clearer, so that they are left in no doubt as to the consequences of their actions. In vv. 19-22, the hypocrisy of the people is known unto Yahweh. They had already made up their minds to go into Egypt. The thinking of the flesh is apparent in the record, so the sentence is not only passed upon them, but also is confirmed to the statement that they would die in the place of the sojourn.
21 And now I have this day declared it to you; but ye have not obeyed the voice of Yahweh your Elohim, nor any thing for the which he hath sent me unto you.
They had learned nothing. Their approach to God was a deceit and a falsehood, and He plainly told them so through the prophet. How hateful it must be to God when we piously seek His guidance in prayer while all the time we are doing and planning to do what we know is not in harmony with His will! Yet this is a very common thing, to which we are all prone, unless we exercise great care.
Only with a pure heart and a clear conscience as to our purpose for the future dare we approach God. Communion with God, which we sometimes take so lightly, is a great and awesome responsibility.
This people had no intention of obeying. They were set in their wilfulness on going to Egypt, and they were hoping that God could be persuaded to go along and bless them in what they had themselves decided was best. What a strange outlook, but yet how common!
Surely it is obvious that there is no use praying for guidance if we do not sincerely intend seek and follow God's way, wherever it leads. There are many very plain commands in God's Word, we are not wholeheartedly trying to keep them-the ones we do know-it is hypocrisy to be pretending to seek His guidance in other problems that arise.
This people hoped that God would agree to their going to Egypt so that they could have the added pleasure of a feeling of self-righteous piety, but if He disagreed they were going anyway, though doubtless quite willing to express their "sorrow" that it was necessary to break His commands to get what they wanted.
Jeremiah was taken with them by force against his will. He was right, of course, to object and resist being taken, but we see as we look back that it was fitting that circumstances should be such that he should go with them. This was the last, forlorn remnant of the nation. His long labour of warning was nearly done.
In Egypt two more prophecies are recorded-a brief one against Pharaoh, and a long one against the idolaters of the Jewish remnant, with repeated warnings of their utter destruction.
And this is the end. We hear no more of Jeremiah. We are not told how, when, or where he died. As the curtain falls upon the last scene in his book, it is still the same picture-the prophet's voice raised in faithful warning-the people rejecting his word to the end, and clinging to their wickedness and abominations.
And so the ever-rising flood of judgment closed over this last obstinate remnant of the nation, and all was gone. The Kingdom of God had failed, and fallen. The glory was departed from Israel, and the long Gentile night had begun. But the words of the prophet still remain-
"Ye shall seek Me, and ye shall find Me-when ye shall search for Me with all your heart."
"He that scattered Israel shall gather him, and keep him, as a shepherd doth his flock."
Bro Growcott - 4.17.