After ten days, Yahweh’s word came to Jeremiah. Then he called Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the captains of the forces who were with him, and all the people from the least even to the greatest, and said to them, “Yahweh, the God of Israel, to whom you sent me to present your supplication before him, says: ‘If you will still live in this land, then I will build you, and not pull you down, and I will plant you, and not pluck you up; for I grieve over the distress that I have brought on you. Don’t be afraid of the king of Babylon, of whom you are afraid. Don’t be afraid of him,’ says Yahweh, ‘for I am with you to save you, and to deliver you from his hand. I will grant you mercy, that he may have mercy on you, and cause you to return to your own land.
“ ‘But if you say, “We will not dwell in this land,” so that you don’t obey Yahweh your God’s voice, saying, “No, but we will go into the land of Egypt, where we will see no war, nor hear the sound of the trumpet, nor have hunger of bread; and there we will dwell;” ’ now therefore hear Yahweh’s word, O remnant of Judah! Yahweh of Armies, the God of Israel, says, ‘If you indeed set your faces to enter into Egypt, and go to live there, then it will happen that the sword, which you fear, will overtake you there in the land of Egypt; and the famine, about which you are afraid, will follow close behind you there in Egypt; and you will die there. So will it be with all the men who set their faces to go into Egypt to live there. They will die by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence. None of them will remain or escape from the evil that I will bring on them.’ For Yahweh of Armies, the God of Israel, says: ‘As my anger and my wrath has been poured out on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so my wrath will be poured out on you, when you enter into Egypt; and you will be an object of horror, an astonishment, a curse, and a reproach; and you will see this place no more.’
One thing that I am continually reminded of as I study Israel’s history is my own need for God to open my mind to His truth. God gives us many amazing promises, but I find that I will run right by them as if they don’t exist and continue to follow my fear. In this passage, God gives His amazing promise to the remnant of Judah, but first He makes them wait for 10 days. Isn’t that the way it goes sometimes? When we confess our confidence in God, we might be thinking that God is so happy to have us that He will respond to us instantly, and sometimes that is the case, but in this case, God chose to make them wait for an answer.
The wonderful thing is that God’s answer came with a promise of protection. If these people were willing to go back to Israel and stay there, God would make sure that Babylon wouldn’t harm them, but God knew their hearts. He exposes them here when He says: “Don’t be afraid of the king of Babylon, of whom you are afraid. Don’t be afraid of him.” If we put ourselves in their position, we would have to consider the fact that they just watched as Babylon desimated Jerusalem, killing people burning the city and removing their neighbors. This would take complete faith, not in what they saw but in what God was saying. God promised protection if they would stay in Israel, but He also made another promise.
He told them that if they wouldn’t stay and, instead, decided to move to Egypt where they felt safer, God would make sure that trouble would track each and every one of them down and kill them all. The choice was theirs. Either believe in God’s word and be saved, or trust in yourself and suffer. Where have we heard that before? It sounds a lot like John 3:16 doesn’t it? You can’t get away from this message, whether you read the Old Testament or the New. God will allow circumstances to make it seem like something that God says is impossible. We need God’s help to keep us focused on God’s word so that we won’t suffer the consequences of disobedience. We need God to open our minds to the reality of the world from His perspective, not our own. May He continue to build our faith as we live our lives for Him today.