What does it say?
Confusion reigns in Jerusalem following its fall to Babylon and the deportation of most of the Jews (Jer 41). Ishmael assassinates the governor Gedaliah along with others. Johanan is another resistance leader that rescues captives from Ishmael and proposes fleeing from the Babylonian by going to Egypt. Before leaving, the people ask Jeremiah for divine guidance (Jer 42). God gives them a word through Jeremiah, but they refuse to follow it and strike out for Egypt anyway. They accuse Jeremiah of telling them a lie. In response, Jeremiah predicts that Egypt, too, will fall to Babylon (Jer 43).
Jeremiah 44 contains Jeremiah’s last known prophecies. Some time has passed since the events of chapters 41-34 and Jews are settling down in Egypt. The Jews in Egypt have not turned from their idolatrous ways and God tells them that the future lies with those Jews taken captive into Babylon, not with those in Egypt or the very few that remained in the land.
The short chapter 45 is an historical appendix to the events of Jeremiah 36 and gives us more information about Jeremiah’s servant Baruch. Perhaps it is placed here to show that Baruch is exempted from the judgment upon the idolatrous Jews described in chapter 44. God promises personal deliverance for Baruch.
What does it mean?
Chapters 41-43 describe a common human tendency. Everyone says they want to know God’s will, but even when we can see it clearly in the Bible, we often fail to obey. Nor are we above attacking the messenger that delivers God’s word to us. Bottom line: we should not be too judgmental of the Jews. We are all made of the same clay.
The Jews that choose to go down to Egypt do so because it is the course of least resistance. Ironically, the course of least resistance leads them directly into that which they feared most. This is very similar to what happened in Isaiah 7 as the prophet confronted Ahab by the conduit of the upper pool in the highway of the fuller’s field (Isa 7:3). Ahab failed to act in faith because he had already chosen the “easy way out.” His son would stand in the same spot years later and face the enemy in whom his father confided as an ally.
How will I respond?
Do I face a major decision? Will I choose the course of least resistance or that course that will ultimately bring greater glory to God? Is there a decision I need to make this week on this basis?