“Why Do You Ask?” – Jeremiah 41:16-44:30

December 8th, 2019

Jeremiah 41:16-44:30 {42:1-22; 43:7; 44:15-18}

“Why Do You Ask?”

Aux. Texts: Hebrews 4:12-13

Call to Worship: Psalm 139

Service Orientation: God knows all.  Don’t play games with God.  The only one you are fooling is yourself.  False sincerity ultimately leads to false security.

 

Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. — Hebrews 4:12-13

                                                                                                                        

Background Information:

  • Jeremiah himself was released by the Babylonian officials and was offered the options of going to Babylon or choosing to go anywhere else he pleased. The Babylonians appointed Gedaliah, the grandson of Shaphan, associate of the royal court in Jerusalem and sympathizer with Jeremiah’s message, as governor.  With this favorable development, many Jews who had fled to Moab, Ammon, and Edom returned to Judah.  (Max Anders, Holman OT Commentary: Jeremiah, 301)
  • (v. 41:16) Ahikam, the father of Gedaliah, was an ally of the prophet Jeremiah (Jer 26:24; 39:14), and Gedaliah may have been in sympathy with Jeremiah’s political views. That could explain why Nebuchadnezzar selected Gedaliah to be governor.  Gedaliah’s time in office was brief.  After only two months he was murdered by a group of zealous nationalists under the leadership of Ishmael (Jer 40:1-41:18).  (Max Anders, Holman OT Commentary: Jeremiah, 320)
  • (v. 41:16) Johanan now decided to go as quickly as possible to Egypt. He and the army officers with him (v. 16) feared reprisals when the news of Gedaliah’s assassination reached Babylon (v. 18).  Ishmael had completely frustrated any plans for peaceful settlement in the land.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Jeremiah, 632-3)
  • (v. 41:17) The Judeans could hardly flee elsewhere since most of the rest of the Near East was already subjugated. And of course Ammon was not a possibility since Johanan and the others worked against the strategy of their king Baalis by interfering with the murderous plot of Ishmael.  (Tremper Longman III, Understanding the Bible: Jeremiah, 264)
  • (v. 41:17) Humanly speaking, escape to Egypt was the best foreign policy. It was in a safe neighborhood a long, long way from Babylon, and the Egyptians had plenty of food and a stable economy; so going down to Egypt made a lot of sense.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 616)
  • (v. 41:17) As this little group camped, most agreed that the best thing they could do was to go to Egypt. They had no idea how Nebuchadnezzar would react to the death of Gedaliah but felt that in Egypt they would find refuge and security.  A few of them were not nearly so sure; they wished they had a clearer direction about what they should do.  Some suggested that it might be a good idea to consult the prophet Jeremiah and to ask him to pray for them.  The decision to go to Egypt made the most sense, and most of the group really believed that was the best decision.  But to convince the few who were uncertain and to confirm what they already believed, why not go to the prophet?  Surely he would give them the same advice.  (David M. Gosdeck, The Peoples Bible: Jeremiah, 265)
  • (v. 42:10) Interestingly, God then says that his motivation for such a promise is that he is grieved over the disaster that he inflicted on them. Earlier in Jeremiah (i.e., 18:8, 10), this verb was used to indicate what God would do if the people repented.  He announced their judgment but would relent or change his mind if they repented.  We are not to think that God came to believe he made a mistake in the judgment of the exile.  But we are to recognize that God loves his people so much that it hurt him to have to judge them and he is looking passionately for an opportunity to restore them.  (Tremper Longman III, Understanding the Bible: Jeremiah, 266)
  • (v. 42:14) The second part of Jeremiah’s message was a warning (42:13-18). Ever since Abraham’s lapse of faith in going to Egypt (Gn 12:10-20), the Jews had a tendency to follow his example.  Several times during the wilderness years, whenever they had a trial or testing, the Israelites talked of going back to Egypt.  In fact, this was their cry at Kadesh-Barnea when they refused to enter the Promised Land (Nm 13-14).  During the final years of the kingdom of Judah, there was a strong pro-Egyptian party in the government, because Egypt seemed to be the closest and strongest ally.  (Warren Wiersbe, Be Decisive, 178)
  • (v. 42:14) It is worth adding that Egypt was not in itself forbidden territory: it would become an important center of learning for the later Dispersion, and would shelter the holy family.  The sin of Jeremiah’s contemporaries was not geographical:  it was a vote of no confidence in God.  (Derek Kidner, The Bible Speaks Today:  Jeremiah, 134)
  • (v. 42:17) The fearful, hopeless fate which awaited them in Egypt–sword, famine, and pestilence–was therefore to be understood as wholly deserved. It was for them a self-chosen disaster: The narrative effectively “disinherits” the community that had sought refuge in Egypt from any place in the renewed Israel.  (R.E. Clements, Interpretation: Jeremiah, 235)
  • (v. 43:8) Surprisingly, in view of the sharpness of his disclosure, Jeremiah went with them. The inference is that he was taken by force, although this is not spelled out with any clarity.  It is possible that in spite of everything he chose to remain with the people he felt divinely called to serve.  (R.E. Clements, Interpretation: Jeremiah, 236)
  • (v. 43:8) Chapters 43-44 relate to the remnant in Egypt. Johanan and the people disregarded the Lord’s warning and went there, taking Jeremiah and Baruch, probably by force.  The prophet doubtless died in Egypt.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Jeremiah, 636)
  • (vss. 43:8-13) The Jewish leaders had hoped to escape the punishment of the king of Babylon by fleeing to Egypt.  By refusing the divine word spoken through Jeremiah they were also fleeing from God.  But the sad truth was that they would escape neither. (Tremper Longman III, Understanding the Bible: Jeremiah,  267)
  • (v. 43:11) The terrors they were trying to avoid in Judah would only follow them to Egypt, and the very judgments that God had sent against Judah during the siege would come upon them in the land of Pharaoh. God knew that Nebuchadnezzar would enter Egypt and punish the land, which he did in 568-567 BC (see Jer 46:13-19).  (Warren Wiersbe, Be Decisive, 178)
  • (v. 43:12) As easily as a shepherd throws his loose outer garment around him, so the king of Babylon would take Egypt–as we would say, “with no sweat.” (David M. Gosdeck, The Peoples Bible: Jeremiah, 271)
  • (ch 44) This chapter contains Jeremiah’s last message. It has been dated 580 BC because the dispersion implied in v. 1 would have taken some years.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Jeremiah, 640)
  • (vss. 44:15ff) Idolatry was killing the souls of these families. The husbands failed to show spiritual leadership within the home.  They were not strong in service for their King.  Meanwhile, their wives were leading their families into pagan worship.  As a result, their children were learning to love the Queen rather than to serve the King.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 629)
  • (vss. 44:15ff) The people openly and unashamedly refused to forsake their idolatry; indeed, they found pragmatic justification for it. They brazenly declared that they would keep on in their idolatry (vv. 16-17).  The occasion here may have been an idolatrous feast in which the women had a major part (so Streane).  The women were so prominent in this worship doubtless because Astarte, “The Queen of Heaven” (vv. 17, 18, 19, 25), was the goddess of fertility.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Jeremiah, 642)
  • (v. 44:17) The Queen of Heaven was not an Egyptian; she was the fertility goddess of Canaan, Assyria, and Babylonia. How ironic it was for the Jews, having fled from the Babylonians, to worship a Babylonian goddess!  Yet ancient papyri from the Jewish community at Elephantina (an island on the Nile) reveal that the Jews freely mixed elements of Israelite and Canaanite religion.

The Queen of Heaven went by different names in different dialects–Anat, Astarte, Ashteroth, and Ishtar, which is the pagan origin of Easter.  Her cult was worshiped with the burning of incense, the pouring of libations, and the sacrifice of animals.  In the palace kitchen at Mari, archaeologists have uncovered some of the baking molds used to shape this goddess into sweet little cakes.   (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 626)

  • (vss. 44:20-30) Verses 20-30 constitute the very last message of Jeremiah recorded in the book. The remaining chapters contain prophecies dating from earlier years.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Jeremiah, 644)
  • (v. 44:25) Their excuse for worshiping the Queen of Heaven was, “our husbands knew what we were doing.” They were appealing to the Biblical teaching about vows.  If a wife made a foolish vow, her husband had the spiritual authority to overturn it (Nm 30:10-15).  In Egypt, the women made a vow to worship the Queen of Heaven (Jer 44:25).  It was a sinful vow, but their husbands said nothing about it.  Thus the guilt for the sin rested upon the husbands as well as on their wives.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 629)
  • It would appear that, so far as his outward lot was concerned, the prophet Jeremiah spent a life of more unrelieved sadness than has perhaps fallen to the lot of any other, with the exception of the Divine Lord. This was so apparent to the Jewish commentators on the prophecies of Isaiah that they applied to him the words of the fifty-third chapter, which tell the story of the Man of Sorrows who was acquainted with grief, and stood as a sheep dumb before her shearers.  Of course, in the light of Calvary, we see the depths of substitutionary suffering in those inimitable words which no mortal could ever realize; but it is nevertheless significant that in any sense they were deemed applicable to Jeremiah.  (F. B. Meyer, Jeremiah: Priest and Prophet, 189-90)
  • Chapters 46 through 51 contain prophecies previously given against the nations. The oracles against Egypt were spoken in 605 BC (46:2), while the judgments against Babylon were announced around 594 BC (51:59).  Chapter 52 is an appendix to the book that, as the Bible indicates (51:64b), was not written by Jeremiah himself.  Thus chapter 44 contains the last recorded words of Jeremiah.

This is a good place, therefore, to recount the many sufferings of the Weeping Prophet.  He was ignored, rejected, scorned, and humiliated.  He was beaten, imprisoned, and put in the stocks.  He was falsely accused and condemned as a traitor.  Twice he was cast into a dungeon and left for dead.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 622)

  • Humanly speaking, Jeremiah’s life did not have a happy ending. His ministry ended as it began, with words of judgment.  Like nearly all the rest of his prophecies, his final words of judgment were largely ignored.  In fact, rabbinic tradition holds that Jeremiah was stoned by the Jews in Egypt.  Perhaps Heb 11:37 has Jeremiah in mind when it speaks of the stoning of the prophets.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 633)

 

The question to be answered is . . . What can Jeremiah 41-44 teach us about our relationship with God?

 

Answer: God knows everything:  your heart and your mind.  He knows you much better than you know yourself.  Attempting to fool God you will only succeed in deceiving yourself.   Don’t play games with God.

 

The Word for the Day is . . . Sincere

 

What can Jeremiah 41-44 teach us about our relationship with God?:

I-  Self-deception leads to hypocrisy and insecurity.  (Jer 42:1-43:7; 44:2-5, 8-10 see also: 1 Chr 28:9; Ps 44:20-21; Prv 21:2; Jer 17:9-10; Ob 1:3; Lk 16:15; 1 Cor 3:18; Gal 6:3; 2 Thes 2:10; 2 Tm 3:13; Jam 1:26)

 

God always answers those who ask of him, but these people had not asked honestly.  They had already made up their minds.  They were not ready to obey God’s will.  Because they did not trust the Lord, they did not listen to his answer.  Because they did not trust the Lord, they looked elsewhere for security.  They yearned for Egypt, where they imagined they would find peace and prosperity.  They forgot the most basic truth of Scripture and life.  Only in the Lord does anyone find peace and security.  And because they looked to themselves, they refused to do what the Lord had told them.  (David M. Gosdeck, The Peoples Bible: Jeremiah, 267-8)

 

They only pretend to want to know God’s will for their lives.  What they really want is for God to put his rubber stamp on the plans they have already made.  They say, “I’ve already made up my mind, but by the way, Lord, is this really what you want me to do?”  They start to act before they begin to pray.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 614)

 

He rebukes them for asking his will with no intention of following it.  The warning is unmistakable; the doom is certain (v. 20).  Jeremiah shows the remnant their duplicity in asking for a message from God when they had no intention of following it.  All the time they had intended doing their own will in the hope that God’s will would coincide with theirs (v. 21).  So they were victims of self-deception and self-delusion.  How little did they realize that in Egypt the temptation for them to worship idols–the very sin that had led to the nation’s fall–would be even stronger than before!  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Jeremiah, 636)

 

Sometimes God’s people take this false approach in discerning the will of God.  Instead of honestly seeking God’s will, they go from counselor to counselor, asking for advice and hoping they’ll find somebody who will agree with their hidden agenda.  (Warren Wiersbe, Be Decisive, 177)

 

Self-deception is “corrupted consciousness,” says Lewis Smedes.  Whether fear, passion, weariness, or even faith prompts it, self-deception, like a skillful computer fraud, doubles back to cover its own trail.  “First we deceive ourselves, and then we convince ourselves that we are not deceiving ourselves.”   (Cornelius Plantinga, Jr., Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be, 107)

 

It is quite difficult to break the power of religious self-deception, for the very nature of faith is to give no room for doubt.  Once a person is deceived, he does not recognize that he is deceived, because he has been deceived!  For all that we think we know, we must know this as well:  we can be wrong.  If we refuse to accept this truth, how will we ever be corrected from our errors?  (Francis Frangipane, The Three Battlegrounds, 30)

 

Like so many others before them and like so many others since then, they had deluded themselves into thinking that the Lord’s Word does not matter, that they could fake obedience.  They serve as a warning.  No one should pretend he is ready to do God’s will if he is not.  No one should pray to the Lord unless he comes with an obedient heart and is prepared to accept the answer the Lord gives.  We can deceive people, but no one deceives God.  No one will escape the judgment that deception brings.  No one can escape the force of God’s own Word.  The Lord keeps His word and stands by His promises.  The person who thinks he can fool God has only fooled himself.  (David M. Gosdeck, The Peoples Bible: Jeremiah, 268-9)

 

The remnant claimed that things were fine until they stopped worshiping the Queen of Heaven.  Goddess worship brought them health and wealth, they claimed.  All their subsequent troubles was outlawed.  The fall of Jerusalem and the exile in Egypt did not take place until after they abandoned their Queen.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 630)

 

Every sin turns out to be suicidal.  This is the great danger of doing what works instead of doing what is right.  If you live for yourself, you will destroy yourself.  It can feel good to be angry, but anger leads to bitterness.  Greed works if you want to make money, but it is the enemy of contentment.  Sexual sin destroys sexual intimacy.  And so on.  Sin destroys the soul.  It destroys relationships with other people and fellowship with God.  In the end, sin recoils to devour the sinner.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 630)

 

Many things that seem risky are actually quite safe.  It is safe to go into the jungle to do mission work.  It is safe to make a lifetime vow of marital faithfulness.  It is safe to raise a family.  It is safe to give away your money to the poor.  It is safe to do these things provided they are done in obedience to God.  No matter how frightening it may seem at the time, it is always safest to obey God.

On the other hand, many things that seem safe turn out to be fatal mistakes.  What is the harm in laughing at a vulgar joke with your co-workers?  What is so dangerous about engaging in a little sexual activity before marriage?  What does it matter if you steal some notepads from your corporation?  Who cares if you cheat on your lab work?

Those things may sound relatively harmless, but they are no more safe than “safe sex.”  Disobeying God always has fatal side effects, spiritually speaking.  Living for self always leads to death, not life.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 617-8)

 

The leaders of the remnant had already made up their minds.  They refused to listen to Jeremiah, despite his flawless record as a prophet and despite their vow to do whatever God told them to do.  Eugene Peterson puts it well:  “Johanan and the people respected Jeremiah enough to ask for his prayers, but they didn’t trust God enough to follow his counsel” (Eugene H. Peterson, Run with the Horses: The Quest for Life at Its Best, 201).  It never occurred to them that God’s plans might be different from theirs.  So when they asked for spiritual guidance in the first place, they were just fooling themselves.  They said they wanted to follow God, but they didn’t mean it.  They were only willing to follow God if he was going their direction.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 618)

 

Going back to Egypt had “fatal mistake” written all over it.  Jeremiah had often warned the Jews not to go to Egypt (2:18, 36; 24:8-10).  Nevertheless, they were already halfway out the door.  Maybe, they thought, it would be okay to go to Egypt just this once.  So they traveled about five miles down the road.  Then they started to have second thoughts.  Should they stay or should they go?  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 614)

 

My conviction is that these people have gone from one speaker to another, looking for somebody who will agree with what they already want to do.  When they find him, they’ll let their pastor know that a “man of God” gave them wise counsel.  It’s the Johanan syndrome all over again.  (Warren Wiersbe, Be Decisive, 179)

 

Demosthenes said, “Nothing is easier than self-deceit.  For what each man wishes, that he also believes to be true.” (Patrick Morley; The Man In The Mirror, 286)

 

As for the earthly protector, Pharaoh Hophra (30), he would prove no more of a refuge than poor Zedekiah.  He had already shown himself no match for Babylon in his attempt to relieve Jerusalem (37:5-7); and in fact he would eventually lose first his throne (570) and later his life to his relative Ahmose (Amasis), in whose reign Nebuchadrezzar would invade Egypt.  (Derek Kidner, The Bible Speaks Today:  Jeremiah, 134)

 

Even as God spoke these words through his prophet, their own land lay in desolate ruins.  Jeremiah’s hearers had seen it with their own eyes, but they ran from the hard lesson God was teaching them.  They had learned nothing from it.  (David M. Gosdeck, The Peoples Bible: Jeremiah, 274)

 

Never promise you will obey what the Lord wants you to do unless you are prepared to do it.  (Max Anders, Holman OT Commentary: Jeremiah, 317)

 

You can’t even trust yourself when you are a hypocrite.  Who am I really?

 

He exposes the duplicity of their pretended consultation for guidance when their minds had been made up all along.  They have shown themselves no better than their disobedient forbears, and thus equally deserving of the same kind of punishment.  Far too many Christians also expect God to honor plans which are none of His making.  (R.K. Harrison, Tyndale OT Commentaries: Jeremiah, 164)

 

A former teacher once said that truth is only known through commitment.  What he meant is that the intellectual approach to God or the dialogical form of inquiry can be helpful, but personal commitment to God (and being known by God) is where the truth of God’s sovereignty and goodness is revealed.  What a tragedy that Jeremiah’s companions could commit themselves in advance to following God’s will, only to reject it when it did not suit their predilections.  (J. Andrew Dearman, The NIV Application Commentary: Jeremiah, 361)

 

The survivors had still not learned the lesson of implicit trust in God for all areas of life (cf. Phil 4:19).  Self-interest has predominated once again, and now their concern is merely to know if God will approve of their plan to migrate to Egypt.  Thus they are not seeking spiritual guidance in the usual sense of that term (cf. 41:17).  While promising obedience, they apparently felt that God would readily honor their plans, and thus their obedience would involve little effort or sacrifice.  The degree of submission required of the Christian was exemplified by Christ (cf. Lk 22:42; Phil 2:8, etc.).  (R.K. Harrison, Tyndale OT Commentaries: Jeremiah, 163)

 

There could hardly be a better plea for guidance than this unanimous (1) and unreserved request (5-6), that the Lord your God may show us the way we should go, and the thing that we should do (3).  It is a prayer still worth praying daily.  Yet a minute flaw on the surface of it, in the words “your God,” made an admission that went deeper than they realized (despite v. 6), as the next chapter will show.  (Derek Kidner, The Bible Speaks Today:  Jeremiah, 130-1)

 

They had actually hoped that God would answer according to their desires (so KD).  They earnestly wanted confirmation of their decision, not guidance from the Lord (v. 3; cf. v. 17, so Freedman).  According to their thinking, the unrest and absence of security in Judah made resettlement there an impossibility.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Jeremiah, 633-4)

 

II-  Pride, arrogance and presumption reveals a heart far from the God of truth.   (Jer 43:1-3; 44:10, 16-18 see also: 1 Sm 2:3; Isa 40:27-28; 2 Thes 2:10)

 

This is a most revealing glimpse of spiritual perversity–for in blaming all their troubles on the reformation (44:17-18) instead of on the evils it had tried to root out, these people were turning the truth exactly upside down.  (Derek Kidner, The Bible Speaks Today:  Jeremiah, 133)

 

As anticipated in Jeremiah’s report of the divine decision, Azariah and Johanan, the two named leaders, as well as all the arrogant men erupted with an angry rejection of Jeremiah’s proposal to stay in Judah.  The arrogance, of course, is a function of their putting their own opinion above that of the Lord’s will.

In essence, they accuse Jeremiah of being a false prophet (You are lying!  The LORD has not sent you to say).  They also curiously accuse him of being a puppet of Baruch (Baruch son of Neriah is inciting you), whom they imply is a toady of the Babylonians.  We know Baruch as Jeremiah’s scribe (Jer 36, see also ch. 45), but something has given these people the impression that Baruch is calling the shots.  Their reaction is desperate, and since the accusation of Jeremiah as false prophet is wrong, so is their statement that he was put up to it by Baruch.  (Tremper Longman III, Understanding the Bible: Jeremiah, 266-7)

 

They also affirmed that when they stopped their idolatrous practices, food shortages and war were the result (v. 18).  They doubtless ascribed their troubles to the reforms of Josiah, to which they senselessly attributed the downfall of Judah.  (Theological gymnasts are not restricted to the twentieth century.)  In short, the remnant claimed that idolatry had done more for them than the Lord whom Jeremiah represented.  Nothing is more blinding than unbelief.  Not once did they connect their trials with their sins (so KD).  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Jeremiah, 642)

 

Their unbelief had blinded them.  They could no longer see the truth.  Wanting desperately to believe the lie, they completely deceived themselves.  They did not bother to think about their reason for being in Egypt.  It was because they had disobeyed the Lord and brought upon themselves his terrible judgment.  Where was their “Queen of Heaven” when Nebuchadnezzar broke through the walls of Jerusalem and burned it to the ground?  Jeremiah’s warning fell on deaf ears.  They had given up the Word of the Lord and there was not wisdom in them.  (David M. Gosdeck, The Peoples Bible: Jeremiah, 277)

 

If Jeremiah’s audience is now speaking of the Lord our God (v. 2, as against “the Lord your God” is 42:2), the words are spoken no longer with the fleeting humility of 42:6, but with the arrogance that claims God for their side against Jeremiah.  All along (had they realized it) they had regarded God as a power to enlist, not a lord to obey; and they still cannot believe that his will can be radically different from their own.  (Derek Kidner, The Bible Speaks Today:  Jeremiah, 131)

 

It was Hegel, in the introduction to his Philosophy of History (1804), who rightly said:  “What experience and history teach is this–that people and governments never have learned anything from history, or acted on principles deduced from it.”  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Jeremiah, 640-1)

 

In the same way, many people deny that the Bible is God’s Word.  They have their own ideas about what God is like, and they judge the Bible according to their own standards.  They read what it teaches about God’s wrath against sin, for example, and they say, “Oh, no, our God would never say something like that.  Our God is a God of love; he would never punish sin.”  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 619)

 

The people felt like they had to get someone else to pray for them.  They did not have a warm, personal relationship with God.  They believed in his existence in a general sort of way, but they thought he was “somewhere out there.”  They were not close enough to God to engage in meaningful prayer.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 615)

 

For some reason the Jews who had fled to Egypt held a solemn assembly.  During the course of this assembly Jeremiah engaged in his final dialogue with his people.  After this dialogue there was nothing more he could say.  During this assembly the Jews in Egypt confirmed their unbelief.  Determined to sin, they grabbed at whatever cover they could to justify themselves.  They did not show the slightest sign of repentance; in fact, their attitude had hardened into bold defiance.  (David M. Gosdeck, The Peoples Bible: Jeremiah, 276)

 

Led by the officers of the army, Johanan rejected what Jeremiah had said.  He called Jeremiah a liar and a pawn.  He charged that Baruch, Jeremiah’s assistant, was behind it all.  He said that Baruch had pushed Jeremiah to give them this advice.  In this way they rejected the Word of the Lord.  The officers hadn’t wanted to consult Jeremiah in the first place, so they found a convenient excuse to disregard his message.  They used this excuse to salve their own consciences and to answer the question that they had asked Jeremiah in the first place.  At least they could say they had tried.  (David M. Gosdeck, The Peoples Bible: Jeremiah, 269-70)

 

III-  Distrusting God brings judgment.  (Jer 42:11, 13-28; 43:4-7; 44:2-6, 11-14, 23-24, 26-30 see also: Eccl 12:14; Mk 4:22; Lk 8:17; 1 Cor 4:5; Jam 1:22)  

 

These were practically the only vows the Jews actually kept.  As a result, the patience of God finally came to an end.  “Have it your way,” he said in essence.  “Make your covenant with the Queen of Heaven.  But know that you will be cursed for breaking my covenant.”  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 631)

 

The narrative that follows has been designed to show the despair of those who went to Egypt; this despair led them into ever deeper apostasy so that they lost all sense of being the People of the Lord God.  (R.E. Clements, Interpretation: Jeremiah, 236)

 

At the instinctive level, the fallen mind is always ready to assume that God is the adversary, whom we (like these characters) may blame for our past and distrust for our future.  On a more doctrinaire plane, the secularist will blame Christianity, not the lack of it, for many of society’s ill, ascribing our frustrations and tensions to the biblical restraints and moral absolutes; seeking freedom, as did Jeremiah’s critics, not in God but from God.  (Derek Kidner, The Bible Speaks Today:  Jeremiah, 133)

 

Think of it!  Abraham’s descendants returned to Egypt long after their liberation from it.  With great suffering they had been delivered from their bondage in Egypt only to return there a defeated and hopeless remnant nearly nine hundred years later (so Morgan).  (Frank E. Gæbelein, Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Jeremiah, 637)

 

According to their view, Judah had prospered just as long as incense had been offered to the Queen of Heaven.  Thus they were harking back to the days of Manasseh when Judah had been seduced into worshiping the queen of heaven (2 Kgs 21:1-3).  All their troubles, so it seemed to them, had begun when Josiah made his sweeping reforms and destroyed the cult objects of their worship (2 Kgs 23:4-14).  (Howard Tillman Kuist, Layman’s Bible Commentary: Jeremiah, 122)

 

Worship Point:  Worship the God of all truth.  He knows the truth about you!  If you listen to His Word and His Spirt He will lead you into the truth about yourself.  And that truth will set you free from the lies you say to yourself.  (Ps 139; Rv 3:14-22)

 

If God knows where Adam is hiding, then why does God ask him, “Where are you?”  Perhaps God wants Adam to realize that when he tries to hide from God, he is hiding only from himself.  (Rabbi Lawrence Kushner, Jewish Spirituality: A Brief Introduction for Christians, 50)

 

The trouble with a god who never disapproves of where you go or what you do is that he is no god at all.  The real God is so wise and so holy that our plans often do not fit into his agenda.  They are either foolish or downright sinful.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 618)

 

If you don’t see the absolute holiness of God, the magnitude of your debt, the categorical necessity of God’s just punishment of your sin, and therefore the utter hopelessness of your condition, then the knowledge of your pardon and deliverance will not be amazing and electrifying!  —Tim Keller

 

Worship starts at the end of mother’s apron strings.  It starts with the values learned in the kitchen.  It starts around the family dinner table, which the Puritans called “the family altar.”  This is why every family must meet together regularly for prayer and Bible study.  Families should discuss the sermon and the Sunday school lesson on the way home from church.  They should sing hymns and spiritual songs.  They should memorize Bible passages and learn their catechism.  (Philip Graham Ryken, Preaching the Word: Jeremiah, 629)

 

Gospel Application:  The fact that Jesus was still willing to die for you when you were His enemy ought to empower you to come clean and allow Him to reveal all of the dark secrets you are trying to keep from Jesus and from yourself.  Until the Gospel penetrates your heart and mind you will lack the courage to face the truth about yourself.  (Ps 94:9-11; Jer 17:9-10; Acts 15:8; Rom 5:10)

 

True repentance only begins when one passes out of what the Bible sees as self-deception (cf. Jas 1:22, 26; 1 Jn 1:8) and modern counselors call denial, into what the Bible calls conviction of sin (Cf. Jn 16:8).    (J. I. Packer; Rediscovering Holiness, 123-4)

 

The Gospel is always more compelling to people who know their own inadequacies.  (Tim Keller; message “Injustice: Hasn’t Christianity Been and Instrument of Oppression?”)

 

If you do not believe in a God of wrath, but only in a god of love; then what did it cost for your god of love to really love you?  When you understand the wrath of God, you better understand the love of God because you understand what God was willing to do for you because of Your Sin.  —Tim Keller

 

If you get into a covenant relationship . . . you finally have a zone of security, a zone of safety, a place where you can finally be yourself.  You see, in a consumer relationship you are always marketing, you are always selling yourself, you’ve got to perform, you’ve got to meet the other person’s need or they’re out.  But in a covenant, in a marriage . . . you can finally have a zone of safety, you can finally get rid of the facades, you can finally let him know, her know about your insecurities.  You can finally be yourself.   (Tim Keller message, “Love and Lust”)

 

Spiritual Challenge: All a man’s ways seem right to him, but the LORD weighs the heart (Prv 21:2). If anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself (Gal 6:3).   The LORD searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever (1 Chr 28:9b).  The LORD knows the thoughts of man; he knows that they are futile (Ps 94:11).

     For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account (Heb 4:12-13). Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says (Jam 1:22).

 

Spiritual Challenge Questions:

  1. I’m sure the Jews under Johanan were convinced they were earnestly and sincerely asking Jeremiah what God had to say about where they should go (Jer 42:1ff). But, as the story unfolds, it becomes apparent they were lying to both Jeremiah and themselves (Jer 43:1ff).  Because self-deception is self-deceiving, how can one even begin to escape the trap once one is in the clutches of self-deception?

 

  1. Unfortunately, everyone else in the world can see those who are being self-deceived more than the one being self-deceived. How does a Christian begin to challenge a brother or sister in Christ who is obviously blinded by  self-deception?  

 

  1. What are some indicators we might look for that alerts us that we might be living in self-deception?

 

So What?:  You can either go God’s way and hear the truth about yourself and repent unto life; or you can go your own way and play games with God and continue to live with the lie concerning yourself that leads to death.  (1 Chr 29:17; Heb 4:12-13)

 

There are only two kinds of people in the end:  those who say to God, “thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.”  All that are in Hell, choose it.  (C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce, 72-3)

 

If you put any conditions on your service to Christ (“I will serve you if”) then you are not really serving Christ at all but it is yourself you are serving.  —Tim Keller

 

There’s nothing worse than insecurity.  So many people live in fear because they are uncertain about what comes next and their standing before God, if they even believe in God.  On the flip side, there’s nothing better than being absolutely sure that the most powerful Being in the universe adores you as His own child.  This is precisely the confidence the Holy Spirit offers us.  (Francis Chan, Forgotten God, 103)

JESUS:

GENUINE

 

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