The Word Made Fresh
1Then all the officers of the army along with Johanan son of Kareah and Azariah son of Hoshaiah plus all the people, rich and poor, came to 2the prophet Jeremiah. They said, “Please be kind and listen to our situation, and pray to the LORD your God for us. We are all that’s left and there are only a few of us remaining as you can see. 3Ask the LORD your God to show us where we should go and what we should do.”
4Jeremiah said to them, “All right. I’ll pray to the LORD your God as you’ve asked. I won’t keep anything from you; whatever the LORD answers I will tell you.”
5They said, “May the LORD truly be a faithful witness against us if we don’t do everything the LORD says to us through you, 6good or bad. We will obey whatever the LORD our God tells you we should do. It will go well with us when we obey the LORD’s voice.”
7After ten days, the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah. 8He summoned Johanan son of Kareah and the army officers who were with him as well as all the people, even the least among them. 9He told them, “This is what the LORD God of Israel, to whom you have sent me to plead your case, has said: 10‘If you will stay here I will build you up and not pull you down. I will plant you and not pluck you up. I regret the disaster I have allowed you to undergo. 11Don’t be afraid of the king of Babylon any longer, for I am with you to save you. I will rescue you from his hand, says the LORD. 12I will be merciful to you, and he also will have mercy on you and allow you to return to your native land.’ 13But if you continue to say you will not stay here in disobedience to the voice of the LORD your God, 14and instead say that you will go to stay in Egypt where you won’t be involved in war or hear the sound of war trumpets or be hungry for something to eat, 15then hear the word of the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel: ‘If you are determined to go to Egypt and settle there, 16then the violence you fear will overtake you in the land of Egypt, and the famine you dread will follow you there and that is where you will die. 17All of you who are determined to go to Egypt and settle there shall die by war and famine and plague. Those who do so will not have any remnant or survivor from the troubles I will send upon them.’
18“For the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says this: ‘Just as my fierce anger was poured out on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, such will be the case against those of you who go to Egypt. You will be hated and treated horribly, cursed and ridiculed, and you will never see this place again.’ 19The LORD has clearly told you who remain of Judah not to go to Egypt. Don’t forget that I have warned you today 20that it would be a fatal mistake. You yourselves sent me to the LORD your God and asked me to pray to the LORD for you. You told me that you will do whatever the LORD says you should do. 21So, I have told you today. But so far you have not obeyed the LORD your God’s voice in anything I was sent to tell you. 22Be aware, then, that you shall die by the sword and by famine and by plague in the place to which you wish to go and settle.”
1-6: This chapter fleshes out the story hinted at in 2 Kings 25:26. Johanan and all the people who escaped Mizpah come to Jeremiah while they are camped at Geruth Chimham near Bethlehem and ask him to seek God’s guidance. They promise to do whatever God tells them to do.
7-17: It takes Jeremiah ten days of praying before he gets an answer. Highlight verse 7 in your Bible — ten days of praying and listening and waiting, but as far as answers to prayers go, that’s pretty fast. He calls them together and announces that God’s advice is that they remain in Judah. God is sorry for all the suffering they’ve endured. God will protect them, and the king of Babylon will let them settle in peace. If they go to Egypt, they will be overtaken by the disaster that is about to befall that country.
18-22: Jeremiah obviously senses that they have already decided to head to Egypt. He tells them God will be angry with them and they will come to a violent end. For heaven’s sake, think of all the trouble God went through to get them out of Egypt in the first place!
Be careful with prayer. God may give an answer you don’t like, and then you will be tempted to persuade yourself that it wasn’t really God who put that idea in your head, and you’ll use that reasoning as an excuse to go ahead and do what you wish. Sometimes God’s answer to our prayers isn’t what we wanted to hear; but be steadfast – God knows what God is doing, even when we don’t know what we’re doing.