How many times are we tempted with moving to what looks to be the best place to live? How many times have you been tempted with a job that offers far more benefits but had some hidden pitfalls? We are human. We follow what looks good and sounds good only to realize that if it is not in God’s will, life will be harder—maybe impossible. The temptation has a name. It is called “The grass always looks greener on the other side” syndrome. I’m sure you have heard this phrase said and have watch people “go to the other side” over the years to realize that the grass wasn’t as green as they thought. Maybe it was you, it certainly was me from time to time! Guess what! It’s an animalistic drive! Even livestock will tear down a fence meant for their protection to eat the grass on the other side that they think might be sweeter, better, and more of it!
Friends, the grass is only greener—over the septic tank. Bad stuff only makes it look like it is for the greener good.
Jeremiah has been by the remnant’s small army captains to pray for God’s will, saying we will obey whatever God says—please pray to your God for us. Notice “your God” is used in the request signaling the relationship that is less than what it should be. Jeremiah asks God for what HE wants for them and God responds. But God sees and knows the hearts of all so he responds with a warning: “Don’t go to Egypt!” It will not be better for you there. The grass is not greener, in other words, in Egypt!
Jeremiah 42, The Message
What You Fear Will Catch Up with You
1-3 All the army officers, led by Johanan son of Kareah and Jezaniah son of Hoshaiah, accompanied by all the people, small and great, came to Jeremiah the prophet and said, “We have a request. Please listen. Pray to your God for us, what’s left of us. You can see for yourself how few we are! Pray that your God will tell us the way we should go and what we should do.”
4 Jeremiah the prophet said, “I hear your request. And I will pray to your God as you have asked. Whatever God says, I’ll pass on to you. I’ll tell you everything, holding nothing back.”
5-6 They said to Jeremiah, “Let God be our witness, a true and faithful witness against us, if we don’t do everything that your God directs you to tell us. Whether we like it or not, we’ll do it. We’ll obey whatever our God tells us. Yes, count on us. We’ll do it.”
7-8 Ten days later God’s Message came to Jeremiah. He called together Johanan son of Kareah and all the army officers with him, including all the people, regardless of how much clout they had.
9-12 He then spoke: “This is the Message from God, the God of Israel, to whom you sent me to present your prayer. He says, ‘If you are ready to stick it out in this land, I will build you up and not drag you down, I will plant you and not pull you up like a weed. I feel deep compassion on account of the doom I have visited on you. You don’t have to fear the king of Babylon. Your fears are for nothing. I’m on your side, ready to save and deliver you from anything he might do. I’ll pour mercy on you. What’s more, he will show you mercy! He’ll let you come back to your very own land.’
13-17 “But do not say, ‘We’re not staying around this place,’ refusing to obey the command of your God and saying instead, ‘No! We’re off to Egypt, where things are peaceful—no wars, no attacking armies, plenty of food. We’re going to live there.’ If what’s left of Judah is headed down that road, then listen to God’s Message. This is what God-of-the-Angel-Armies says: ‘If you have determined to go to Egypt and make that your home, then the very wars you fear will catch up with you in Egypt and the starvation you dread will track you down in Egypt. You’ll die there! Every last one of you who is determined to go to Egypt and make it your home will either be killed, starve, or get sick and die. No survivors, not one! No one will escape the doom that I’ll bring upon you.’
18 “This is the Message from God-of-the-Angel-Armies, the God of Israel: ‘In the same way that I swept the citizens of Jerusalem away with my anger and wrath, I’ll do the same thing all over again in Egypt. You’ll end up being cursed, reviled, ridiculed, and mocked. And you’ll never see your homeland again.’
19-20 “God has plainly told you, you leftovers from Judah, ‘Don’t go to Egypt.’ Could anything be plainer? I warn you this day that you are living out a fantasy. You’re making a fatal mistake.
“Didn’t you just now send me to your God, saying, ‘Pray for us to our God. Tell us everything that God says and we’ll do it all’?
21-22 “Well, now I’ve told you, told you everything he said, and you haven’t obeyed a word of it, not a single word of what your God sent me to tell you. So now let me tell you what will happen next: You’ll be killed, you’ll starve to death, you’ll get sick and die in the wonderful country where you’ve determined to go and live.”
WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?
When Jeremiah consents to their request to pray on their behalf, he responds with, “I hear your request. And I will pray to your God as you have asked.” Was Jeremiah making a point in using the words they used, “your God” when praying and relating what God says? I’m not sure, but it is a good teaching point for us.
Because of Jesus Christ, ALL who believe can walk right up to God in prayer, asking for His will for all of life. There is no middle man on earth. Jesus’ work on the cross to pay for our sins tore the curtain barrier apart that stood between God and man. Every human has access to God through Jesus, His Son, when we pray in Jesus Name! It is no longer, “your God or my God”, He is Our God, Our Father in Heaven who hears our words and knows our hearts! What a blessed thought! Can I get an amen?!
PAUSE TO PRAY AND REFLECT…
Do I really believe what God says is really real?
Do I pray expecting an answer from God or do I pray just to feel better about the situation?
Do I pray knowing God is already at work for me, not against me?
Do I pray knowing God has my best interests in His heart?
THE FEAR FACTOR—AKA, not doing the will of God
Johanan was once brave enough to want to kill Ishmael, but now he didn’t have the courage to stand for what he knew was right. He was afraid to trust the Lord and stay in the land of Judah, perhaps because he feared what the Babylonians might do when they found out that Gedaliah was dead and Ishmael had filled a pit with dead bodies.
Deception was in the hearts of the leaders, including Johanan. They had their minds already made up to go to Egypt, and they were hoping Jeremiah would agree with them. Sometimes God’s people take this false approach in discerning the will of God. Instead of honestly seeking God’s will, they go from counselor to counselor, asking for advice and hoping they’ll find somebody who will agree with their hidden agenda. Yikes!
God kept the people waiting for ten days, possibly to give them time to search their hearts and confess their sins. During those ten days, they could see that the Lord was caring for them and that they had nothing to fear. That should have convinced them that the plan to flee to Egypt was a foolish one.
God spoke through Jeremiah, ending the conversation where it began, to expose the real intention of the army leaders. They really didn’t want Jeremiah’s prayers or God’s plans; they wanted the Lord to approve what they had already decided to do. But this was a fatal decision on their part; for if they carried out their plans, they would die in Egypt.
God knows what is best for us. ALWAYS. And God is always at work while we pray.
What lessons you have taught us today! Jesus, you taught us to bring everything to you in prayer, to seek and we will find you, to pray and you will answer. I pray that I will really hear you and understand what you are telling me to be and do. Help me to listen, give your power and courage to obey. Thank you!
In Jesus Name, For Your Glory, Amen