Jeremiah 43 has the response of the people to Jeremiah’s word from God. Remember in the last chapter, the people had asked the prophet to seek God about what they should do. He came back to them with the response – they were to stay put and not go to Egypt. Before he asked, they had assured him that they wanted to hear from God and would obey whatever his reply was. So now we see how that is carried out. Jeremiah is standing before the people and telling them the “words of the Lord their God, with which the Lord their God had sent him to them”.
So what should have happened? Maybe a little gratitude and then a discussion of how to obey. Instead, some of the leaders get combative and say “You are telling a lie”. They really didn’t want to hear God unless what He said was what they planned to do already. These guys were going to Egypt and just looking for God to bless their plan. Unfortunately that is how we often pray. We seek God’s blessing on what we are going to do rather than seek what He wants us to do. Big difference. In the first case, if the answer isn’t what we wanted, we either ignore it or have to tell God He’s wrong.
Of course, God is never wrong, but it doesn’t occur to us that we might be. In this case “Johanan the son of Kareah and all the commanders of the forces and all the people did not obey the voice of the Lord, to remain in the land of Judah”. They loaded up the people and they took off to the land of Egypt, in spite of the direct word from God to stay put. It’s so easy to sit here today and realize just how stupid the people were. But we tend to do the same things. We make choices in violation of God’s ways and plans for us. And like these people, we end up where we shouldn’t be. “They came into the land of Egypt, for they did not obey the voice of the Lord”.
Jeremiah continues to hear from God, and it isn’t good. God has the prophet make very clear the coming pain that will befall these folks. He is instructed to bury some large stones in the pavement at the entrance of Pharaoh’s palace and talk about how the King of Babylon will come and set up shop right there. God’s plan is in motion and will happen. And it won’t end well for the people that have gone to Egypt as “he shall clean the land of Egypt as a shepherd cleans his cloak of vermin, and he shall go away from there in peace”. Disobedience never ends well. We have to learn to hear and obey God’s voice!