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Tuesday, June 25th, 2024
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 42

Smith's Bible CommentarySmith's Commentary

Verses 1-22

Chapter 42

So in chapter 42:

Then all the captains of the forces, and Johanan the son of Kareah, they came unto Jeremiah, and said unto him, We beg you, that you will accept our supplication, and pray for us unto the LORD [or unto Jehovah] thy God, even for all this remnant; (for we are just a few of the many, as your eyes behold us:) ( Jeremiah 42:1-2 )

In other words, "There's just a few of us left. Now pray to the Lord your God for us."

That the LORD [or Jehovah] thy God may show us the way wherein we may walk, and the thing that we may do ( Jeremiah 42:3 ).

So they're asking now that Jeremiah will seek the Lord for guidance. Now notice that they are saying, "The Lord thy God," or, "Jehovah thy God." And when Jeremiah answers them, he said,

I will pray unto the LORD your God ( Jeremiah 42:4 )

They are saying to Jeremiah, "Pray to Jehovah thy God," not really acknowledging Jehovah as their own God in the request. But Jeremiah turns it around and says, "I will pray unto Jehovah thy God." And then later on he mentions Jehovah our God. So he said, "I will pray unto Jehovah your God."

according to your words; and it shall come to pass, that whatever Jehovah shall answer you, I will declare it unto you; I will not keep anything back from you. Then they said to Jeremiah, Jehovah be a true and faithful witness between us, if we do not even according to all things for the which the LORD thy God shall send thee to us. Whether it is good, or whether it is evil, we will obey the voice of Jehovah our God ( Jeremiah 42:4-6 ),

So they acknowledged Jehovah. And of course, this is when you... this is what it's all about, when obedience, when He is Jehovah your God then that it just has the intimation of obedience. That's what worshipping or serving God is all about. That is submission to God as Lord of our lives. And God being a title is the title of that master of your life. What is it that masters your life? That's your God. People say, "Well, I don't believe in God." That's not true. Everybody is mastered by some principle, some idea. And whatever it is that masters your life, that is your God. So when you acknowledge God, you're acknowledging whatever force or guiding or directing principle there is in your life. And you're always obedient to that guiding force or principle of your life.

So inquire. Now here they are. "Look, we promise we will obey. Whatever the Lord tells us. If it's good or if it's bad, we'll obey it. The Lord judge between us. We're going to obey it."

And it came to pass after ten days ( Jeremiah 42:7 ),

Now this is interesting to me because Jeremiah, no doubt, had a pretty good connection. You know, we read all the way through how the word of the Lord was coming to Jeremiah in so many different situations. And here he is coming to the Lord now for a specific purpose--to receive instruction and guidance from God for these people who are asking him to seek the Lord for them. And it's interesting to me that he did not hear for ten days.

How often when we come to God are we looking and expecting for an immediate response. And if God doesn't speak in the first five minutes that I give Him the opportunity, well then I'll try something else, you know. After all, I've waited here for five minutes to give God a chance to talk to me. And yet here is Jeremiah waiting for ten days to hear the word of the Lord. God's timing does not always coincide with mine. I so often look at a situation and I say, "Well, Lord, as I see it You have just about five hours to take care of this situation. And if in the next five hours You don't do something, it's down the tubes. It's too late. So You got five hours to do Your work, Lord." And then I come back, say, "Well, Lord, sixty minutes. It's about all You got. Lord, You've got about five minutes. Oh Lord, You're too late. You had Your chance. Too bad. Now I'm going to have to step in and do something, Lord, because You didn't make it." And there are so many cases where I was so certain that God missed His chance. And yet I found out later that I was just ahead of God's schedule. I was going by my watch and He was going by His eternal clock. And God worked and God did it and I thought it's too late. He can't do it now. There have been times when I was sure, "It's just too late, Lord. Oh God, You could have done it. Why didn't You do it, Lord? Now it's too late."

You know, oftentimes God delays the answers to prayer in order that He might give more. You remember when Hannah had gone with her husband Elkanah in order to offer their sacrifices unto the Lord. And Elkanah looked at her and he says, "How come you're so depressed?" She said, "Oh, your other wife and I have been having a real time." She said, "You give me a son." He said, "Am I God that I can give you a son?" The other wife was having lots of kids. She couldn't have any. That was a disgrace in that culture. And it was obvious that Elkanah loved her more than he did his other wife. I can see that polygamy would have all kinds of problems. Who can handle one? And these wives were at each other. And this other one was really getting to Hannah because she didn't have any children. And so she said, "Give me a son or I perish." He said, "Am I God that I can give you a child?" He said, "But look, you've got me. Aren't I worth many sons to you?" It didn't work. She didn't answer him, but her silence said a lot.

So when they came to the house of the Lord, she was in such bitterness over this whole issue. But she was there on the temple steps or on the steps, the temple wasn't built then, but there on the step of the court of the place of worship, tabernacle, and she was pouring out her soul to God in deep bitterness, and so much so, that she wasn't even uttering the words. Just her mouth was moving but she wasn't uttering the words. And Eli the priest came by and looked at her there in that, you know, just tense and strained condition and he said, "Woman, you better leave the bottle alone. It will take you to the bottom." She said, "I'm not drunk, sir. I'm not a woman of wine." She said, "My soul is bitterly grieved before God." And he said, "Go your way, God grant your request."

Well, what she was praying was, "God, if You'll just give me a son, I'll give him back to You all the days of his life." Well, you see, the condition of Israel was so low that God couldn't find any man to lead the people. God needed a man. God couldn't find a man so he had to find a woman in order to get a man. And he got her attention by closing up her womb and making her childless. And no doubt she had prayed many, many times that God would give her a child, take away the disgrace of her barrenness. But God waited, God delayed the answer. God was intending all the time to answer her prayer. But God needed a man. And so He delayed the answer until her prayer came into harmony with the will of God. "Lord, if You'll just give me a man child, I'll give him back to You." All right! Now you're in harmony with the purpose of God. And she bore a son and she called his name Samuel. And he became one of the greatest leaders of Israel, leading them out of sure tragedy in that particular period of history and became a marvelous prophet and priest of God. God delayed the prayer, answering the prayer in order that He might give more. God oftentimes does that for us.

Jeremiah waited for ten days.

and the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah. And so he called Johanan, and all of those captains that were with him, and all of the people together ( Jeremiah 42:7-8 ),

Down near Bethlehem, there on the road towards Egypt.

And he said unto them, Thus saith Jehovah, the God of Israel, unto whom ye sent me to present your supplication before him; If you will still abide in this land, then will I build you, and not pull you down; and I will plant you, and not pluck you up: for I repent me of the evil that I have done unto you ( Jeremiah 42:9-10 ).

And, again, here the idea of repent is a term that we use of God because we describe the actions of God in human terms, but we read that, "God is not a man," Deuteronomy, "that He should repent" ( 1 Samuel 15:29 ). Hath He not spoken? Shall He not perform? But yet God is saying, "I have changed from the evil, or I have completed the evil that I've purposed upon you and I'm not going to bring any further evil," basically, is what God is saying.

Don't be afraid of the king of Babylon, of whom you are afraid; for I am with you to save you, and to deliver you from his hand. And I will show mercies unto you, that he may have mercy upon you, and cause you to return to your own land ( Jeremiah 42:11-12 ).

Now don't be afraid of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon. You don't need to fear him. You are afraid of him, but you don't need to be afraid of him. For I will have mercy upon you and I will give you mercy in his eyes that he'll return you to the land.

But if you say, We will not dwell in this land, neither obey the voice of the LORD your God, saying, No; but we will go into the land of Egypt, where we shall see no war, nor hear the sound of the trumpet, nor have hunger of bread; and there will we dwell ( Jeremiah 42:13-14 ):

So this is what was in the back of their minds in going to Egypt. "We'll be able to escape war. We won't hear the sound of trumpet." That is, the trumpets that are calling the troops to battle. "We'll not have hunger, and there will we dwell." So their going to Egypt was a case of convenience. It was a peace-at-any-price kind of a thing. "We'll escape from war, the sounds of the trumpets of war. And there we'll have peace. We'll eat bread and have plenty."

And now therefore hear the word of the LORD, ye remnant of Judah; Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; If you wholly set your faces to enter into Egypt, and go to sojourn there; Then it shall come to pass, that the sword, which you feared, will overtake you; and the famine, which you are afraid, will follow close after you there in Egypt; and there you will die. So shall it be with all the men that set their faces to go into Egypt to sojourn there; they shall die by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence: and none of them shall remain or escape from the evil that I will bring upon them. For thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; As mine anger and fury hath been poured forth upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem; so shall my fury be poured forth upon you, when you enter into Egypt: and you shall be an execration, and an astonishment, and a curse, and a reproach; and ye shall see this place no more. The LORD hath said concerning you, O remnant of Judah; Go not into Egypt: know certainly that I have admonished you this day. For you have dissembled in your hearts, when you sent me unto the LORD your God, saying, Pray for us unto the LORD our God; and whatever our God says, or declares to us, that we will do ( Jeremiah 42:15-20 ).

You were deceitful. You were not telling the truth when you vowed to obey the voice of the Lord.

And now I have this day declared it to you; but ye have not obeyed the voice of the LORD your God, nor any thing for the which he hath sent me unto you. Now therefore know certainly that ye shall die by the sword, by the famine, and by the pestilence, in the place whither ye desire to go and to sojourn ( Jeremiah 42:21-22 ).

Now here is a classic example of proper counseling by a minister or by a pastor. As pastors, we really are not here to give you legal advice. Nor are we here to give you medical advice. Nor are we here to give you psychological counseling. We are here to give spiritual counseling to people and to talk to them concerning their spiritual problems, and that's all that we're qualified to do. And if a person comes for counsel and their problem is legal, then all we can do is send you to an attorney. If it's medical, we can send you to a doctor. If it's a deep psychological problem, then we can send you to a psychologist. We're here to counsel people on the spiritual things and to give to you the Word of the Lord on spiritual issues. Now, we cannot force your action. All we can do is give you the alternatives. "Here's what the Lord says about this. If you stay here, then this is what God is going to do for you and this is what God has promised to do. If you go down there, then this is what is going to happen. And this is what the Lord says will happen if you go down there." That's all we can do is lay out the alternatives from a spiritual standpoint and what the Word of God says about the alternatives. But you have to always make your own choice and own decision of what you are going to do. And really we can't tell you what to do. All we can do is give you the Word of the Lord and lay your alternatives, lay the alternatives before you and then you make your decision on what you want to do. The choice is always yours. All we can do is lay out the choices and the results of the choices. And then you must decide which path you're going to take.

So look how effectively Jeremiah did that. "Now look, if you stay in the land, you don't need to be afraid of Nebuchadnezzar because God will plant you here. And God will be with you and He'll give you mercies and you'll find mercies before Nebuchadnezzar and all. And you're going to prosper; you'll be blessed. If you go down to Egypt, because you think that you can escape war down there, you think that you can have plenty of bread and you think it's going to be well down there, the very things that you're trying to escape are going to follow you down there. The sword will follow you there. The famine will follow you there. War and the famine that you're worried about here, they'll follow you there and you'll die in Egypt. You'll never come back to the land again. You're going to perish in Egypt. It's all over if you go down there. That's it, it's over for you." And so he told them what the Lord had said. And the Lord just gave to them the various choices and the consequence of each choice.


Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Jeremiah 42". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/csc/jeremiah-42.html. 2014.
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