man thoughtful, hand on chin August 26 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): Jeremiah 43-44;
Psalms 71, 116

Wrong Choices Can Hurt

In our American society we are bombarded with choices—choices of clothing, food, entertainment, opportunities, and a myriad of other things. Most choices do not hurt us but some do. Each of us has a very important choice to make in our lives: Will we follow the LORD or walk in our own ways? The remnants of Judah also had a choice to make: would they flee possible revenge from their enemies, or would they believe the LORD and find protection from Him?

After Jerusalem was destroyed in 586 B.C., Babylon put a governor in the land of Judah, Gedaliah by name, to rule the small vassal nation. This brought peace to the land. The remnants of Judah, who fled when Babylon attacked Jerusalem, including the Jewish army, gained confidence to return. Gedaliah pardoned the soldiers for their offenses, realizing they were only following the orders of their deposed king, Zedekiah.

Some of the refugees of war fled to friendly nations. Ishmael, son of Nethaniah, who was of royal blood, was one of them. Wanting their nation back, he and ten other men staged a coup against Gedaliah. They ate a meal with him in Mizpah of Judah. There they assassinated him, killed his soldiers, and kidnapped the people of Mizpah (the new capital of Judah after Jerusalem was destroyed).

When the rest of the Jewish army in Mizpah found out about their treachery, they formed a posse and chased Ishmael. They recovered all of the residents of Mizpah and killed two of Ishmael’s men before Ishmael and the rest of his band escaped.

Fearing revenge from Babylon because the governor was killed, they chose to flee to Egypt. To confirm the wisdom of their plans and get God’s blessing, they asked Jeremiah to talk to the LORD about it.

In today's Bible reading we see their reaction to God's message. The answer is not what they expect or want. The LORD tells them to stay in the land and He will protect them. Egypt is not a place of safety—although she is strong, Babylon will soon come and destroy her. The leaders of Judah call Jeremiah a liar. In disobedience to the LORD’s command, they continue on with their plan and even take Jeremiah with them. Perhaps they think God will not destroy them if they have His prophet for security. Poor Jeremiah; He is old receives no consideration or respect. How does Jeremiah feel and what does he do?

Psalms 71 and 116 have no titles or superscriptions to give us clues as to who wrote them, but since they describe an older person late in life and all the struggles he has to overcome, they fit well into the context of Jeremiah’s life at this time. Perhaps they were authored by Jeremiah. These psalms express the emotions of Jeremiah and what he probably did. The author calls upon the LORD for His protection as he continues to proclaim God's messages of admonition and judgment. This is what Jeremiah must have done. Jeremiah had already been put in stocks, jailed, put into a muddy well, chained, isolated from everyone, and carried off into exile before he was allowed to return. Now he is taken to Egypt.

What does God say to His obstinate people? Since they are relying on the gods of Egypt and swearing by them, the prophet proclaims this message,

But hear the word of the LORD, all Jews living in Egypt: “I swear by my great name,” says the LORD, “that no one from Judah living anywhere in Egypt will ever again invoke my name or swear, ‘As surely as the Sovereign LORD lives.’ For I am watching over them for harm, not for good;

the Jews in Egypt will perish by sword and famine until they are all destroyed. Those who escape the sword and return to the land of Judah from Egypt will be very few. Then the whole remnant of Judah who came to live in Egypt will know whose word will stand-- mine or theirs” (Jeremiah 44:26-28).

What a strong message of judgment! This message is even confirmed by a sign—Pharaoh Hophra of Egypt will soon be killed by his enemies. Still, the Jews will not listen.

What would we do if we were in Jeremiah’s shoes? The temptation would be to quit, stop giving forth God’s message, retire, and then let the people do whatever they want. We would grieve over the demise of our nation but tire of fighting against people’s opinions. But perhaps God does not want us to do that.

Lessons to Live By

  • Let's not be obstinate. We should listen to the LORD and do what He says; He has our best interests in mind. We should follow God’s Word, even when our own counsel seems better. God will never lead us astray.
  • God never called Jeremiah to succeed in his ministry. He required faithfulness. And, for us who have a personal relationship with God, He requires the same thing—faithfulness. Let's leave the success of our ministry to the LORD. Let's persevere, even when we are old and gray. We need to be faithful to the tasks God has given us.
  • Do we have a personal relationship with the LORD? He can give us forgiveness, peace, spiritual life and His favor (more...).
  • Wrong choices can hurt or even destroy; therefore let's be courageous to follow the LORD.

Focus Verse

Jonah 2:8 (NIV) “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.”

Enjoy this song by Ivan Parker–“I Choose”

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A Look Ahead: The Jews in exile were poor and homeless. Was there any Hope for the Hopeless? If you have felt the same way, you can draw some encouragement from our Next Lesson. Join us!

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