The People and the Prophet

Jeremiah 42 and 43 tell the following tale-

Then all the military leaders, in particular Johanan son of Kareah and Azariah son of Hoshaiah, and all the people from least to greatest, approached 2 the prophet Jeremiah and said, ‘Please hear our petition and intercede with Yahweh your God for us and for all this remnant — and how few of us are left out of many, your own eyes can see- 3 so that Yahweh your God may show us the way we are to go and what we must do.’

4 The prophet Jeremiah replied, ‘I hear you; I will indeed pray to Yahweh your God as you ask; and whatever answer Yahweh your God gives you, I will tell you, keeping nothing back from you.’

5 They in their turn said to Jeremiah, ‘May Yahweh be a true and faithful witness against us, if we do not follow the instructions that Yahweh your God sends us through you. 6 Whether we like it or not, we shall obey the voice of Yahweh our God to whom we are sending you, so that we may prosper by obeying the voice of Yahweh our God.’

7 Ten days later the word of Yahweh came to Jeremiah. 8 He then summoned Johanan son of Kareah and all the military leaders who were with him, and all the people from least to greatest, 9 and said, ‘Yahweh, God of Israel, to whom you deputed me to present your petition says this, 10 “If you will only stay in this country, I shall build you and not overthrow you; I shall plant you and not uproot you, for I am sorry about the disaster I have inflicted on you. 11 Do not be afraid of the king of Babylon, whom you fear now; do not fear him, Yahweh declares, for I am with you to save you and rescue you from his clutches. 12 I shall take pity on you, so that he pities you and lets you return to your native soil. 13 But if you say: We will not stay in this country; if you disobey the voice of Yahweh your God, 14 and say: No, Egypt is where we shall go, where we shall not see war or hear the trumpet-call or go short of food; that is where we want to live; 15 in that case, remnant of Judah, listen to Yahweh’s word: Yahweh Sabaoth, God of Israel, says this: If you are determined to go to Egypt, and if you do go and settle there, 16 the sword you fear will overtake you there in Egypt, and there you will die. 17 Yes, all those who are determined to go to Egypt and settle there, will die by sword, famine and plague: not a single one of them will survive or escape the disaster I shall inflict on them. 18 Yes, Yahweh Sabaoth, the God of Israel, says this: Just as my furious anger was poured out on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so will my fury be poured out on you if you go to Egypt: you will become an object of execration and horror, a curse, a laughing-stock; and you will never see this place again.” 19 Remnant of Judah, Yahweh has told you, “Do not go into Egypt.” Understand clearly that today I have given you a solemn warning. 20 You were not being sincere when you sent me to Yahweh your God and said, “Intercede for us with Yahweh our God; tell us exactly what Yahweh our God says and we will do it.” 21 Today I have told you, but you have not obeyed the voice of Yahweh your God or any part of the message he sent me to give you. 22 So understand this clearly: you will die by sword, famine and plague in the place where you want to go and settle.’

When Jeremiah had finished telling all the people all the words of Yahweh their God, which Yahweh their God had sent him to tell them — all the words quoted above- 2 Azariah son of Hoshaiah, and Johanan son of Kareah, and all those arrogant men, said to Jeremiah, ‘You are lying. Yahweh our God did not send you to say, “Do not go to Egypt and settle there.” 3 It was Baruch son of Neriah, who keeps inciting you against us, to hand us over to the Chaldaeans so that they can put us to death or deport us to Babylon.’

4 So neither Johanan nor any of the military leaders nor any of the people obeyed the voice of Yahweh by staying in the country of Judah. 5 Instead, Johanan son of Kareah and all the military leaders led off the entire remnant of Judah, those who had come back from all the nations where they had been driven to live in the country of Judah: 6 men, women, children, the royal princesses too, and every single person that Nebuzaradan commander of the guard had left with Gedaliah son of Ahikam, son of Shaphan, including the prophet Jeremiah and Baruch son of Neriah. 7 And so, in disobedience to the voice of Yahweh, they reached Egypt and arrived at Tahpanhes. (Jeremiah 42:1-43:7).

What’s so interesting about this story is that people today treat the message of God (in Scripture and Sermon) the same way that the people treated Jeremiah’s word.  Invariably people will say ‘pray for us.’  And then they will add ‘and whatever God wants us to do, we’ll do’.  Then, once God tells them what to do they reject it, saying ‘ah, that’s just your opinion’ and thus ignore what they’ve been told.  And then they do what they were going to do all along, and suffer.  And for the life of them they can’t figure out why…

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About Jim

I am a Pastor, and Lecturer in Church History and Biblical Studies at Ming Hua Theological College.
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