Jeremiah 42 has the prophet being approached by the leaders of the remnant wanting help. “Let our plea for mercy come before you, and pray to the Lord your God for us, for all this remnant—because we are left with but a few, as your eyes see us—that the Lord your God may show us the way we should go, and the thing that we should do”. Those who were left after the massacre at Mizpah wanted a word from the Lord. It wasn’t going anything like they had expected, so it was time to check in. Isn’t that how we live far too often? We do things our way until it doesn’t work, and then we want to run to God.
Jeremiah is willing to seek God. But before he does, the people offer this promise. “Whether it is good or bad, we will obey the voice of the Lord our God to whom we are sending you, that it may be well with us when we obey the voice of the Lord our God”. One of the problems with prayer and seeking God’s will is that it may not come back the way we want it to. God may have a plan that is different than what we want to do. But here, the people seem to be humbly seeking God’s will. They want His protection.
Jeremiah agrees and seeks God on their behalf. It was ten days later that he received a word from the Lord. That likely felt like an eternity to them, but God doesn’t move on our timeline. He tells Jeremiah to pass this along. “If you will remain in this land, then I will build you up and not pull you down; I will plant you, and not pluck you up; for I relent of the disaster that I did to you”. It’s pretty simple – stay where you are and God will protect and establish you again as a nation. If you move, that is not the outcome.
To make sure they didn’t miss the severity of the decision, Jeremiah gives them more. “If you set your faces to enter Egypt and go to live there, then the sword that you fear shall overtake you there in the land of Egypt, and the famine of which you are afraid shall follow close after you to Egypt, and there you shall die”. Can it get much clearer? So now it comes down to choices. And like so many of us, they are determined to make the wrong one. They are determined to disobey God and attempt to run from death (in their own mind) but will in fact, run directly to death because they choose to disobey God’s plan. Obedience matters. We can’t seek God and then do what we were going to anyway.