RETURNING to our old, sinful LIFESTYLE is NOT an OPTION
August 20 Bible Reading: Jeremiah Chapters 40-42
“But if you say, ‘We will not dwell in this land,’ disobeying the voice of the Lord your God, saying, ‘No, but we will go to the land of Egypt where we shall see no war, nor hear the sound of the trumpet, nor be hungry for bread, and there we will dwell’-- Then hear now the word of the Lord, O remnant of Judah! Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: ‘If you wholly set your faces to enter Egypt, and go to dwell there, then it shall be that the sword which you feared shall overtake you there in the land of Egypt; the famine of which you were afraid shall follow close after you there in Egypt; and there you shall die.’” (Jer. 42:13-16)
The background of the above passage is that the army captain Johanan and the fearful Jews make a request to the prophet Jeremiah that he should inquire from Jehovah God where they should go and what they should do. This is what they told the prophet: "Please, let our petition be acceptable to you, and pray for us to the Lord your God, for all this remnant (since we are left but a few of many, as you can see), that the Lord your God may show us the way in which we should walk and the thing we should do" (vv. 2-3). When the prophet Jeremiah consented to pray to God on their behalf, they promised to obey whatever God would reveal to them through His servant (vv. 4-6).
Ten days later God answered the prayers of Jeremiah, and gave the following directives to give to all the Jews: “Don’t flee to Egypt but stay in the land as there was safety in Judea”. The Jews should not be afraid of the Babylonians because God would deliver them from all harm. If they stay in Judea, God would actually prosper them (vv. 7-12). However, if they flee to Egypt, all the perils that they feared would happen to them in Judea will overtake them in Egypt, and they would suffer grave consequences (vv. 13-18).
Much like the blessings and the curses of Deuteronomy 28, Jeremiah followed his list of blessings for obedience with a list of judgments for disobedience. Jeremiah concluded his message by repeating God’s command that they not go to Egypt because, if they went there, they would die by the “sword, famine and plague”. Sadly however, the Jews were determined to return to Egypt where they expected to see no war, nor hear the sound of the trumpet, nor be hungry. It appears that the people had already made up their minds before they sought the word from the Lord (vv. 2, 3).
Let us understand that God was always against the Israelites seeking refuge in Egypt: “But he (the king of Israel) shall not...cause the people to return to Egypt...for the Lord has said to you, ‘you shall not return that way again’” (Deut. 17:16). History reveals that the people of Israel had tried to go back to Egypt whenever they were in trouble, like in the days of Moses (Exod. 16:3; 17:3; Num. 11:4–6; 14:1–5) and Isaiah (Isa. 30:1–5; 31:1–3), and now in the days after the Babylonian conquest (41:17). God had told them to stay in the land of Canaan, but they were afraid to obey His Word.
Why did God forbid His people to return to Egypt? History reveals that Egypt oppressed them for over 430 years, and God had to deliver them from that land through Moses with great signs and wonders. Egypt represents the world that we live in and everything that it contains including the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life (1 John 2:15-17). Returning to Egypt means that we are going back to our old sinful lifestyle that God is against. It also indicates our false trust as well as our delusion of safety in human power and strength. Remember that returning to our old sinful lifestyle after we have encountered with truth of the gospel through Jesus Christ is not an option for us anymore!