In 586 B.C. the walls of Jerusalem fell to the Chaldeans. The armies of Nebuchadnezzar had overtaken the city. Many were taken captive to Babylon and the areas around that city. A few were left there in Judea.
The scenario of our lesson finds that the person put in charge of these Jews in Jerusalem has just been killed. Fearing the wrath of the king of Babylon, they decided they might find safety in Egypt. They decided to go there, but some of the people objected because they would be leaving their land and heritage behind. So they came to Jeremiah the prophet to see what he had to say.
(1)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 (2) 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,
Most of these commanders were self appointed leaders and a few were children or grandchildren of former leaders of Israel. People like the heads of a household or they had family relationships in the priesthood or the royal family.
They came to the right source for their inquiry: They came to the prophet of
God. In all likelihood the writings of the Law had been carried with the exiles
to the land of Chaldea. So they could not inquire in the scriptures to determine
the will of God for them. They came to a known prophet of God. They had known
many prophets, but Jeremiah’s prophecies were the only ones that came
true. This is what Moses taught them on how to tell if a prophet was from God
They came and requested prayer: Prayer is a great tool for everyone. It is the avenue whereby we can communicate with God. God desires us to acknowledge Him, and to talk to Him as our great Provider and Holy Father in heaven. It is through prayer that our request come before God.
They requested prayer to the God of Jeremiah: These people had been practicing
idolatry for so long that they could not tell if anything was the result of
a god or just happened. Jeremiah had prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem,
and his prophecy is the only one that came true. The people saw that Jeremiah
had a connection with a God that was certainly more powerful than the other
Some people proffer that to say the Lord YOUR God was an indication that these people had humility to approach such a God. This conjecture certainly sounds good, but I fear it was not the real meaning of the people. They really had no idea who the God of their ancestors actually was. They were that far removed from Him.
Their request was for all of them: So many requests are offered on behalf of one or two, but in this case, everyone was asking to learn what God wanted them to do. This is the case of our story. I would not doubt that they had also inquired of the priests of the Baals or of other gods they had worshipped in the past. So often we learn that what is good for one is also good for another. The blessings of God that we request might seem selfish looking to our own interests, but when God showers His blessings upon His children, others benefit also from those same blessings.
(3) that the Lord your God may tell us the way in which we should walk and the thing that we should do."
They asked about the proper way: We learn in the scriptures that the word used for walk does not always mean putting one foot in front of the other and causing movement. The idea of walk is to behave in a certain way or live a certain behavior among the people of this world. Asking of God how we should live is a most commendable request.
They asked what they should do. This is just another way of saying what they had already said. It is wise to ask God how we should behave in every walk of life. There is probably no greater question that can be asked of God.
(4)Then Jeremiah the prophet said to them, "I have heard you. Behold, I am going to pray to the Lord your God in accordance with your words; and it will come about that the whole message which the Lord will answer you I will tell you. I will not keep back a word from you."
Jeremiah responded to them as is proper for him to do: He said that he heard their request and that he would comply. Jeremiah was going to pray to God and request exactly what they had asked. This must have been exciting for Jeremiah. For many years, he had been trying to teach them God’s ways, and he was constantly met with persecution and insults, and some had tried to harm him because what he taught was not popular with the people.
Jeremiah was going to pray to God: The only true God. He was going to inquire of the Lord what the people wanted to learn. Surely, Jeremiah was excited to see people interested in serving God for a change.
Jeremiah made a promise: Jeremiah indicated that the Lord would hear his prayer and would give an answer. This had happened many times in the life of Jeremiah, and now should not be any different. What Jeremiah promised was to tell them all that the Lord had said to tell them. Jeremiah promised to not hold anything back. For years, people had been telling Jeremiah to speak softly and to not tell things that were hurtful or even truthful. To hold back anything would be telling less than God intended for the people to hear. The apostle Paul told the Ephesian elders that he told them everything that was profitable and that he did not shrink from declaring to them the whole counsel of God. This is a good lesson and a warning for anyone who proclaims God’s word.
(5)Then they said to Jeremiah, "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.
They acknowledged that God’s word would be their authority: If we were to put this in words of today, it might sound like this. “If we don’t do what God wants us to do, then we deserve whatever punishment He gives to us.” Notice that they did not say this about portions of God’s message, but they said the whole message. We also need to learn to hear all of God’s word and abide as He has directed us to live. It is so easy to select parts of God’s word and ignore that which does not agree with our agenda.
(6)"Whether it is pleasant or unpleasant, we will listen to the voice of the Lord our God to whom we are sending you, in order that it may go well with us when we listen to the voice of the Lord our God."
Their words showed the greatest of all attitudes: Whether pleasant or unpleasant means that some things we may agree with and others we may not agree with. For most people the Bible is something that they do not agree with. Many people pull out a few verses and rest upon thoughts of man that make it seem right to them to only live by a few rules or concepts. Their selfishness keeps them from observing all the commandments of God.
We will listen: They decided that what The Lord was going to say to them was going to be right. It really did not matter if it was pleasant or not, they were going to listen, and we get the sense that their answer indicated that they would obey that word. This is very commendable.
They recognized the benefit: They knew that God was a loving God, and that He had compassion upon those who obeyed Him. The said that they knew God’s ways are right and beneficial. The LORD does not withhold any good to those who walk in His ways.
These are the right attitudes when it comes to inquiring of God how we should live.
Sadly in our story, the people had already decided what they wanted to do. Or at least their leaders had decided what course they were going to follow. They already had plans to go to Egypt. God even warned them not to go to Egypt, because He knew they already had this planned. As we read God’s instructions, we see that good is the only thing in store for them if they would obey. God also warned them that if they went against His word, they would suffer.
When Jeremiah had finished repeating what the Lord had told him to say, he implored with his own words to encourage the people to follow God’s instructions. But immediately when Jeremiah finished his discourse, the leaders told Jeremiah “you are telling a lie”(Jeremiah 43:2).
Is that not the same with the world today? People have their minds made up
of what they want to do, and they ask the preacher to inquire of God and tell
them what God says.
The preachers are faithful to God and tell the people the truth, and the people call them liars. Why? Because what they want to do and what God wants them to do is not the same thing. Self always wins over God, and that victory is short lived, for in the day of judgment, God will withhold the victory, and the soul will be lost who did not obey the voice of the Lord.
The people had been promised great blessings if they would only stay in Jerusalem. But they had their minds made up. We find in Chapter 43 that God kept His word. All those people who went to Egypt met a terrible death as God had promised.
God has promised us great blessings if we will obey Him. This article should encourage you to be faithful to the word of God. Therein is the message of salvation contained and the hope of eternal life which God promised to those who obey Him. Those not willing to deny self and follow Jesus and His teachings from the Bible will be turned away from Him in judgment and will face eternity in hell. Will you take on the right attitude as these people did, and seek the word of God that you might live?
By Carey Scott, April 19,2010
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