I’ve been reading Jeremiah again: slowly this time! What a fascinating book. In chapter 44 we find a little discussion between Jeremiah and the remainder of the tribe of Judah. Chapters 40-43 set the stage for the discussion in 44. Jeremiah had just sought the Lord on behalf of the Judeans and waited for an answer 10 days.
God asks his people why they are destroying themselves – he tells them not one man, woman or child will survive if the continue with their present course of action. God further mentions that everything the people are trying to escape from specifically war and famine will accompany them in Egypt where they will die. God told them in chapter 34 that if they would merely stay where they were, their lives would work out, but the people had made up their minds before seeking God. They didn’t receive the answer from God they were looking for – so they decided to go ahead with “plan A” anyway.
I’m noticing character traits to pay attention to here: How often do we ask God for an answer, and then go ahead and do what we were going to do anyway – even if God tells us not to? I’m sure I could do quite a study on that topic, but where I’m looking today is at verses 15-28
15 Then all the women present and all the men who knew that their wives had burned incense to idols—a great crowd of all the Judeans living in northern Egypt and southern Egypt—answered Jeremiah, 16 “We will not listen to your messages from the Lord! 17 We will do whatever we want. We will burn incense and pour out liquid offerings to the Queen of Heaven just as much as we like—just as we, and our ancestors, and our kings and officials have always done in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. For in those days we had plenty to eat, and we were well off and had no troubles! 18 But ever since we quit burning incense to the Queen of Heaven and stopped worshiping her with liquid offerings, we have been in great trouble and have been dying from war and famine.”
19 “Besides,” the women added, “do you suppose that we were burning incense and pouring out liquid offerings to the Queen of Heaven, and making cakes marked with her image, without our husbands knowing it and helping us? Of course not!”
20 Then Jeremiah said to all of them, men and women alike, who had given him that answer, 21 “Do you think the Lord did not know that you and your ancestors, your kings and officials, and all the people were burning incense to idols in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? 22 It was because the Lord could no longer bear all the disgusting things you were doing that he made your land an object of cursing—a desolate ruin without inhabitants—as it is today. 23 All these terrible things happened to you because you have burned incense to idols and sinned against the Lord. You have refused to obey him and have not followed his instructions, his decrees, and his laws.”
24 Then Jeremiah said to them all, including the women, “Listen to this message from the Lord, all you citizens of Judah who live in Egypt. 25 This is what the Lordof Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says: ‘You and your wives have said, “We will keep our promises to burn incense and pour out liquid offerings to the Queen of Heaven,” and you have proved by your actions that you meant it. So go ahead and carry out your promises and vows to her!’
26 “But listen to this message from the Lord, all you Judeans now living in Egypt: ‘I have sworn by my great name,’ says the Lord, ‘that my name will no longer be spoken by any of the Judeans in the land of Egypt. None of you may invoke my name or use this oath: “As surely as the Sovereign Lord lives.” 27 For I will watch over you to bring you disaster and not good. Everyone from Judah who is now living in Egypt will suffer war and famine until all of you are dead. 28 Only a small number will escape death and return to Judah from Egypt. Then all those who came to Egypt will find out whose words are true—mine or theirs!
I think we can learn a lot from reading this over and over slowly and allowing the words to sink in. I invite you to meditate on this passage, and think of the ramifications for yourself.