[Optional longer reading: Jer. 41:16–43:13]
According to Mary Poppins, some promises are really “pie crust promises . . . easily made, easily broken.” That’s what we have in today’s reading. The remnant in Judah faced a dilemma. They had to choose whether to remain in the land and face potential Babylonian retribution, or to flee for safety to Egypt. To Johanan and others, Egypt looked like the best option, but on their way, they stopped to ask Jeremiah for God’s direction.
Notice the apparently godly tenor of their request. They asked Jeremiah to pray for them that “the Lord your God will tell us where we should go and what we should do” (42:3). They seemed truly to desire God’s direction, and even offered a vow demonstrating their commitment: “Whether it is favorable or unfavorable, we will obey the Lord our God, to whom we are sending you, so that it will go well with us, for we will obey the Lord our God” (42:6). Everything about their request seemed good and right. They sought God’s help when needed, and promised to do whatever He told them to do.
In turn, Jeremiah prayed then presented the people with God’s word: stay in the land and “I will build you up and not tear you down” (42:10); flee to Egypt and you will “die by the sword, famine and plague” (42:17). Given such a clear choice, and their earlier promises, the people’s response is surprising. They accused Jeremiah of lying, and declared him a false prophet! Johanan then gathered the people together and headed for Egypt, “in disobedience to the Lord” (43:7). Apparently their earlier promises were not genuine. Not getting the word they wanted, they broke their promise and went their own way.
Apply the Word
How often do we pray to God for guidance, saying we are open to whatever He wants, but when the time comes we just do whatever we wanted to do anyway? Maybe you have difficult decisions you need to make in your life. Will you take those to the Lord in prayer, genuinely seeking His wisdom, prepared to act in obedience when He reveals His will?