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False Obedience


“‘And I have this day declared it to you, but you have not obeyed the voice of the LORD your God in anything that he sent me to tell you’” (Jeremiah 42:21).


The fall of Jerusalem was a slow process. Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, attacked in several waves, each time carrying off a different group of people as captives. At last, the king himself was taken, the city fell, and only the poorest of the poor were left in Jerusalem.


Jeremiah was one of the ones left behind. He continued proclaiming God’s words to the people, though his heart was heavy for the sorrow he saw around him every day. He begged the people to listen to God, to return to Him, that they might see an end to these horrors that had befallen them.


After a time, the people came to Jeremiah asking if they should stay in Jerusalem or go to Egypt, where they believed they could start over and have better lives. They promised to obey whatever God told them. Jeremiah sought God’s direction and delivered it to the people, but he ended his words with the pronouncement that they would not obey, because they never obeyed.


God’s command was to stay in Jerusalem and see how He would provide for them there. If they went to Egypt, He warned, they would only come to ruin. They would die there, and none of them would ever return.


But the stubborn people of Israel refused to listen. When God’s instructions were contrary to what they wanted, they insisted that Jeremiah was lying to them and marched off to Egypt anyway. And there, the calamity God had warned them about fell on them. That small remnant of people died in Egypt, failing to gain the new start they had so longed for. If they had obeyed God and stayed where they were, they would have experienced Him restoring them, but they trusted in their own understanding.


And so they fell.

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