Today’s Bible reading* raises the question, “When God speaks, will we trust and obey or not?”
The people came to Jeremiah and asked him to ask God for His direction in where to go and what to do. Jeremiah took the matter to God and God answered back.
‘If you will indeed stay in this land, then I will rebuild and not demolish you, and I will plant and not uproot you, because I relent concerning the disaster that I have brought on you. Don’t be afraid of the king of Babylon whom you now fear; don’t be afraid of him’—this is the LORD’s declaration—‘because I am with you to save you and rescue you from him. I will grant you compassion, and he will have compassion on you and allow you to return to your own soil.’ “But if you say, ‘We will not stay in this land,’ in order to disobey the LORD your God, 4and if you say, ‘No, instead we’ll go to the land of Egypt where we will not see war or hear the sound of the ram’s horn or hunger for food, and we’ll live there,’ then hear the word of the LORD, remnant of Judah! This is what the LORD of Armies, the God of Israel, says: ‘If you are firmly resolved to go to Egypt and stay there for a while, then the sword you fear will overtake you there in the land of Egypt, and the famine you are worried about will follow on your heels there to Egypt, and you will die there. All who resolve to go to Egypt to stay there for a while will die by the sword, famine, and plague. They will have no survivor or fugitive from the disaster I will bring on them.’
Jeremiah 42:10–17 (CSB)
The LORD has spoken concerning you, remnant of Judah: ‘Don’t go to Egypt.’ Know for certain that I have warned you today! You have gone astray at the cost of your lives because you are the ones who sent me to the LORD your God, saying, ‘Pray to the LORD our God on our behalf, and as for all that the LORD our God says, tell it to us, and we’ll act accordingly.’ For I have told you today, but you have not obeyed the LORD your God in everything he has sent me to tell you. Now therefore, know for certain that by the sword, famine, and plague you will die in the place where you desired to go to stay for a while.”
Jeremiah 42:19–22 (CSB)
The people asked for a Word from God. Jeremiah faithfully delivered that Word: Submit to the evil King of Babylon and God will deliver you. But if you flee for “safety”, you won’t find it; instead, you will die.
But when God’s people heard Jeremiah’s Word from God, they didn’t like it. They called him a liar (Jeremiah 43:2) But Jeremiah spoke the truth.
Most of you reading this devotional have never rappelled down a wall or mountain. But if you’ve ever done any rock climbing and rappelling, you know that when it comes to learning how to rappel, the one thing you must do is the last thing you want to do.
When you’re twenty feet (or more!) off the ground and look down, you want — more than anything! — to lean toward the rock. It’s scary! You want to stay as close to the rock as you can because you think that the rock means safety.
You don’t want to lean away from the rock, but your instructor tells you that leaning away from the rock is actually the safest thing to do! If you lean away from the rock — thanks to physics — you can use your equipment to effectively walk backward down the rock and down to the ground. But to lean away from the rock — and apparent safety — is a test of faith.
So what does rappelling have to do with today’s reading? The people approached Jeremiah, asking for a Word from God. When he gave the Word, the people didn’t like what they heard. The last thing they wanted to do was to submit to Nebuchadnezzar. But by submitting to the King of Babylon, God promised safety. Doing what they thought was safe would lead to their demise.
God still speaks to His children. (John 10:27) Whenever God gives you a Word, listen. When you receive the Word, know that His ways, His purposes, and His timing are always right and perfect. And like a climbing instructor, He knows what’s best and He knows how things work best.
When you hear God’s Word, you may not like it. But know that He is God and you aren’t. He knows what He’s doing. So step out in faith and walk in obedience to what He says.
* Chapters covered in today’s reading: