Today Johanan and others ask Jeremiah to inquire of the Lord. They say “Let the Lord be a true and faithful witness between us, if we do not do according to everything which the Lord your God sends us by you. Whether it is pleasing or displeasing, we will obey the voice of the Lord our God to whom we send you, that it may be well with us when we obey the voice of the Lord our God.”
The Lord knows that these are just empty words and that they are hypocrites in their hearts, because the Lord knows the thoughts and intents of every man. However, Jeremiah responds by giving them truth from the Lord – “If you will still remain in this land, then I will build you and not pull you down, and I will plant you and not pluck you up. For I relent concerning the disaster that I have brought upon you. Do not be afraid of the king of Babylon, of whom you are afraid; do not be afraid of him… for I am with you, to save you and deliver you from his hand. And I will show you mercy, that he may have mercy on you and cause you to return to your own land.” But if you ignore my word and go to Egypt, “So shall it be with all the men who set their faces to go to Egypt to dwell there. They shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence. And none of them shall remain or escape from the disaster that I will bring upon them.”
All the proud men accuse Jeremiah of speaking falsely. Therefore, they ignore the word of God and journey to Egypt, taking Jeremiah with the other captives. On the way there, God has a message for them because of their disobedience. He says that He is sending Nebuchadnezzar against Egypt and “he shall strike the land of Egypt and deliver to death those appointed for death, and to captivity those appointed for captivity, and to the sword those appointed for the sword.” The Lord is going to destroy the people for trusting in Egypt and their false gods instead of Him. However, the Lord promises to leave a remnant – “Yet a small number who escape the sword shall return from the land of Egypt to the land of Judah; and all the remnant of Judah, who have gone to the land of Egypt to dwell there, shall know whose words will stand, Mine or theirs. And this shall be a sign to you… that I will punish you in this place, that you may know that My words will surely stand against you for adversity.”
Over in Babylon, about twelve years into Ezekiel’s captivity, he receives word that Jerusalem has fallen. During these twelve years the Lord has withheld Ezekiel from speaking freely. Ezekiel could speak only what the Lord told him to say, but today the Lord removes the muteness from Ezekiel. The people have been complaining about losing the land to which they believe they are entitled, so the Lord tells them that the land was His and He made it desolate because of their abominations. He also rebukes the people for coming to hear Ezekiel speak the word of God without a heart that desires obedience to His word — “So they come to you as people do, they sit before you as My people, and they hear your words, but they do not do them; for with their mouth they show much love, but their hearts pursue their own gain. Indeed you are to them as a very lovely song of one who has a pleasant voice and can play well on an instrument; for they hear your words, but they do not do them. And when this comes to pass—surely it will come—then they will know that a prophet has been among them.”
The people in exile are similar to the proud men left back in Judah — both have the outward appearance of people of the Lord, but inwardly they are self-serving, greedy hypocrites and God knows it.
We will hear more from Ezekiel tomorrow, so keep reading. (Jeremiah 42:1-44:30, Ezekiel 33:21-33)