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the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12
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Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 42

Ironside's Notes on Selected BooksIronside's Notes

Verses 1-22

Jeremiah being among the number carried away from Mizpah, the representatives of the people now turned to him. Their words were very fair and well-spoken: "Let, we beseech thee, our supplication be accepted before thee," they said, "and pray for us unto the Lord thy God, even for all this remnant (for we are left but a few of many, as thine eyes do behold us); that the Lord thy God may show us the way wherein we may walk, and the thing that we may do" (Jeremiah 42:2-3).

One is reminded of Jehoshaphat professedly seeking the mind of GOD after the alliance with the king of Israel had already been made and his word pledged. Alas, this is but trifling with GOD; yet, dear reader, are we altogether clear of this? How many a saint has set his heart upon a certain course without asking counsel of the Lord; and then, actuated by a feeling of unrest and anxiety, has sought to get the divine approbation for his self-concocted plans!

Notice here that the people do not say, "The Lord our God," but "The Lord thy God.” (Jeremiah 42:2) There is a sense of distance. They do not feel they can approach Him with confidence, hence they turn to Jeremiah, and would fain have him act the part of a go-between, or a mediator. It is always a bad sign when there is diffidence in approaching GOD; when the petitioner has more confidence in the prayers of a ministering servant than in his own.

Unmistakably, it reveals the lack of communion with GOD which inspires confidence in the hour of need. If the eye is single, the whole body is full of light, having no part dark.

If the desire to glorify GOD be supreme in the soul, one can turn to Him for guidance without fear. But when some cherished aim or selfish object is controlling the heart, there is and must be a lack of confidence towards Him.

Such was the present state of the spared remnant. Jeremiah makes no comment upon it, but quietly replies, "I have heard you; behold, I will pray unto the Lord your God according to your words; and it shall come to pass, that whatsoever thing the Lord shall answer you, I will declare it unto you; I will keep nothing back from you" (Jeremiah 42:4). Note how he throws them back on their own responsibility. He says, "The Lord your God," and speaks of what "the Lord shall answer you." He will be the spokesman for them, but not the go-between.

In the most solemn way they declare that they will abide by the Word of the Lord, whatever it may be; and no doubt, like many another in a similar place, they really thought they would. But they had settled it in their hearts to go into Egypt, and they counted upon the Lord's endorsement of their fleshly determination. They replied, "The Lord 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" (Jeremiah 42:5). Then growing bolder, they use the term, "The Lord our God," declaring, "Whether it be good, or whether it be evil, we will obey the voice of the Lord our God, to whom we send thee; that it may be well with us, when we obey the voice of the Lord our God” (Jeremiah 42:6). This certainly sounded well. Alas, that "good words and fair speeches" can be so cheap and so meaningless!

A significant ten days was allowed to elapse ere the Lord communicated His mind to His servant - a number suggesting man's responsibility Godward and man-ward, as set forth in the Ten Commandments given at Sinai. On that ground the remnant could claim nothing. The delay in answering indicates the distance at which they were from GOD. They had failed grievously, and yet there was no repentance (Jeremiah 42:7).

Before all the people, Jeremiah declared the word of the Lord: "Thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel, unto whom ye sent me to present your supplication before Him: If ye 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 42:8-10).

What riches of grace are here unfolded! On their part, no adequate sense of guilt; yet on His, such amazing compassion and loving-kindness. If they will but trust Him now in their weak, broken state - if they will rely upon His mighty arm and thus dwell in the land He had given them - if they will accept the chastisement, and bow to His Word, then He will build them up and care for them as a husbandman cares for his vintage.

Obeying His voice, they need have no fear of the wrath of Babylon's king.

"For I," says GOD, "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). Restoration and blessing, under the divine protection, would be the happy result of subjection to Himself. On the other hand, it were worse than folly for them to seek relief in Egypt. Nought but dire distress and judgment could result. To go back to Egypt was like a Christian going back to the world for help.

The Lord JESUS "gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father" (Galatians 1:4). This is the antitype of the deliverance from Egypt of old.

Pharaoh's land, for the redeemed of the Lord, was a land of bondage - it could never be their home. To settle there in peace and happiness was absolutely impossible. To attempt to do so was to ignore the blood of the passover and the parting of the Red Sea.

For the Christian this would be to forget that he is purged from his old sins through the shedding of the precious blood of CHRIST, and separated from this world by the death of that blessed One.

The Cross of CHRIST has come in between the believer and the world, enabling him to say, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world" (Galatians 6:14).

As the Red Sea rolled between Egypt and the place of Israel's blessing, so the death of CHRIST has cut me off from this world if I am a child of GOD. I cannot get back to it now, save by, for the time being, ignoring that solemn fact and acting as though the Cross to me were nothing! Alas, alas, how often, dear fellow-believer, have we so acted! Oh, the shame that it ever should be so! Yet what need there is that we own before GOD with confusion of face our wretched failures in this connection! But of one thing there can be no question: no truly converted soul was ever able to find rest in this world after being delivered from it once.

The history of the remnant here is, like all Scripture, "written for our admonition," (1 Corinthians 10:11) and should speak loudly to our consciences.

To go back to Egypt, for them, must mean increased sorrow and disaster. They might try to persuade themselves that they would there find a land of plenty and quietness, where, undistracted by war and the sound of the trumpet, they could eat bread to the full and dwell in peace; but this was a delusion (Jeremiah 42:13-14). The sword from which they sought to flee should pursue them there, and the famine of which they were afraid should follow close after them, and Egypt should be to them but a graveyard, because of the anger of the Lord which should be poured out upon them (Jeremiah 42:15-18).

The Egyptians might indeed dwell securely in their own land, but not so with the remnant of Israel. The worldling may occupy himself in this scene in comparative quietness and peace, but the child of GOD is spoiled for the world and can never be happy in it.

That the captains and the people had in no sense deceived the Lord with their fair words is evident in what follows.

He admonished them faithfully not to go into Egypt, and then makes bare their hearts:

"For ye have used deceit against your souls," the prophet declares, "when ye sent me unto the Lord your God, saying, Pray for us unto the Lord our God; and according unto all that the Lord our God shall say, so declare unto us, and we will do it" (Jeremiah 42:19-20 margin).

It was in vain to seek to deceive Him whose eyes as a flame of fire penetrate the inmost secrets of the being.

They were not upright before Him. He knew it well, and yet condescended in grace to point out the path of blessing, and warn of the road to ruin. The word had been set before them. Already their downcast faces gave the answer. Jeremiah waits for no reply, but announces:

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

Bibliographical Information
Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Jeremiah 42". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/isn/jeremiah-42.html. 1914.
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