The book of Jeremiah paints a vivid picture of a terrible time for Israel. They were backslidden and hard-hearted, and despite Jeremiah's numerous attempts to convey the Lord's wishes for reconciliation, the nation would not have it. They were content in their wicked ways. . . until, that is, God's punishment fell upon them. As He had declared He would do, He allowed the nation to be taken over by the king of Babylon. Most of Israel was taken away captive, but a few were left behind to tend the fields.
Over time, more and more refugees found their way to Judah where the king of Babylon had set up an overseer to rule the people. The prophet Jeremiah was among those in this camp, but though they were not captives in Babylon, their lives were far from easy, especially after their leader was killed. In a panic, the people sought to flee to Egypt, but before going, they asked Jeremiah to seek the Lord's will. Look what they had to say:
Then they said to Jeremiah, 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. 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 42:5-6
After ten days, the Lord gave Jeremiah the directions he had been seeking. He basically told the people to stay put. He promised them that if they would stay where they were, He would set everything straight. He would return them and all that they had to their rightful land. They need not fear the king of Babylon any longer. If they would just hold out and stay put, God promised to meet all their needs and more.
On the other hand, if they went to Egypt, God assured them that they would all die. Take a look: But if ye 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: And now therefore hear the word of the Lord, ye remnant of Judah; Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; If ye wholly set your faces to enter into Egypt, and go to sojourn there; Then it shall come to pass, that the sword, which ye feared, shall overtake you there in the land of Egypt, and the famine, whereof ye were afraid, shall follow close after you there in Egypt; and there ye shall 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. - Jeremiah 42:13-17
Pretty clear answer, huh? So what did Israel do? Then spake Azariah the son of Hoshaiah, and Johanan the son of Kareah, and all the proud men, saying unto Jeremiah, Thou speakest falsely: the Lord our God hath not sent thee to say, Go not into Egypt to sojourn there. . .So they came into the land of Egypt: for they obeyed not the voice of the Lord: thus came they even to Tahpanhes. - Jeremiah 42:2,7 So much for following the Lord! I could say a lot about that right now, but for the sake of time, I'm going to move on to the main thought that the Lord impressed on me this morning.
Without doing any harm to the Scriptures, I would like to share with you the interpretation of God's command that came to my mind upon reading it. "Child, I know you're tired and you're scared, but I have you where you are for a purpose. If you'll just be still and stay where I've placed you, I will set everything straight. You don't need to fear. I will save you. I will deliver you. I will show you mercy upon mercies. Stay and be blessed. However, if you're determined to go your own way and do your own thing, I won't stop you. But know this: when you're outside of my will, there will be consequences, and they will be severe. I know it looks better over there right now, but I promise you, it's not what it seems, and you will come to regret it later. Trust me, child. You're better off where you are, safe and secure in my will. Won't you stay with me?"
Stay or go? The choice is yours, but I warn you, anytime we stray outside of God's will, we'll wish we hadn't. Follow God's leading even when the path looks grim, for He has promised there's a brighter day coming!