A few days ago we saw Jonah was called to go to Nineveh and preach repentance. Jonah 1:1 “The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai: 2 “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” Instead, Jonah ran away and ended up in a great fish. He then had three days and three nights himself to repent. He then said, 8 “Those who cling to worthless idols turn away from God’s love for them. 9 But I, with shouts of grateful praise, will sacrifice to you. What I have vowed I will make good. I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord. 10 And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.” So once again Jonah 3:1 “the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: 2 “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you. 3 Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it. 4 Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” 5 The Ninevites believed God.”
Now remember this city that believed was the capital of Assyria, not Jerusalem and its wickedness came before God. This shows the amazing grace of God. Now it is going to take a bit to get to where we are going in this blog, as it is important to see what was taking place at the time. So we start with Josiah. When Josiah found the book of the law he said, 2 Kings 22:13 “Go and inquire of the Lord for me and for the people and for all Judah about what is written in this book that has been found. Great is the Lord’s anger that burns against us because those who have gone before us have not obeyed the words of this book; they have not acted in accordance with all that is written there concerning us.” The answer came back. 2 Kings 22:15 “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: Tell the man who sent you to me, 16 ‘This is what the Lord says: I am going to bring disaster on this place and its people, according to everything written in the book the king of Judah has read. 17 Because they have forsaken me and burned incense to other gods and aroused my anger by all the idols their hands have made, my anger will burn against this place and will not be quenched.’ 18 Tell the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the Lord, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says concerning the words you heard: 19 Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before the Lord when you heard what I have spoken against this place and its people—that they would become a curse and be laid waste—and because you tore your robes and wept in my presence, I also have heard you, declares the Lord. 20 Therefore I will gather you to your ancestors, and you will be buried in peace. Your eyes will not see all the disaster I am going to bring on this place.’”
Then things unraveled very quickly and the disaster came because the following kings did not obey the Lord. 2 Kings 23:33 “Josiah’s son became king for three months. Then Pharaoh Neco put Jehoahaz in chains and made Josiah’s other son Eliakim king but changed his name to Jehoiakim. Jehoahaz died in Egypt. 2 Kings 24:1 “During Jehoiakim’s reign, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon invaded the land, and Jehoiakim became his vassal for three years. But then he turned against Nebuchadnezzar and rebelled. 2 The Lord sent Babylonian, Aramean, Moabite and Ammonite raiders against him to destroy Judah, in accordance with the word of the Lord proclaimed by his servants the prophets. 3 Surely these things happened to Judah according to the Lord’s command, in order to remove them from his presence because of the sins of Manasseh and all he had done, 4 including the shedding of innocent blood. For he had filled Jerusalem with innocent blood, and the Lord was not willing to forgive.” Then Jehoiachin his son succeeded him as king. All of these kings did evil in the eyes of the Lord. 2 Kings 24:10 “At that time the officers of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon advanced on Jerusalem and laid siege to it, 11 and Nebuchadnezzar himself came up to the city while his officers were besieging it. 12 Jehoiachin king of Judah, his mother, his attendants, his nobles and his officials all surrendered to him.” 16 The king of Babylon also deported to Babylon the entire force of seven thousand fighting men, strong and fit for war, and a thousand skilled workers and artisans. 17 He made Mattaniah, Jehoiachin’s uncle, king in his place and changed his name to Zedekiah. Zedekiah did evil and was the last king of Judah. 19 He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, just as Jehoiakim had done. 20 It was because of the Lord’s anger that all this happened to Jerusalem and Judah, and in the end he thrust them from his presence.” 2 Kings 25:1 “So in the ninth year of Zedekiah’s reign, on the tenth day of the tenth month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon marched against Jerusalem with his whole army. He encamped outside the city and built siege works all around it. 2 The city was kept under siege until the eleventh year of King Zedekiah.”
I think you get the picture of what was going on at that time. The kings of Judah did evil in the eyes of the Lord. In Jeremiah 52 we see a summary of Jerusalem falling to the Assyrians. We also see a summary of what happened in 2 chronicles 36:15 “The Lord, the God of their ancestors, sent word to them through his messengers again and again, because he had pity on his people and on his dwelling place. 16 But they mocked God’s messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the Lord was aroused against his people and there was no remedy. 17 He brought up against them the king of the Babylonians, who killed their young men with the sword in the sanctuary, and did not spare young men or young women, the elderly or the infirm. God gave them all into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar. 18 He carried to Babylon all the articles from the temple of God, both large and small, and the treasures of the Lord’s temple and the treasures of the king and his officials. 19 They set fire to God’s temple and broke down the wall of Jerusalem; they burned all the palaces and destroyed everything of value there. 20 He carried into exile to Babylon the remnant, who escaped from the sword, and they became servants to him and his successors until the kingdom of Persia came to power. 21 The land enjoyed its sabbath rests; all the time of its desolation it rested, until the seventy years were completed in fulfillment of the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah.
So what does this have to with running away like Jonah? All this was the backdrop to something else that was going on. You have these armies that have taken captives and destroyed the temple as seen in Jeremiah 52. (Please read) You will notice that some were left behind. Jeremiah 52:16 “But Nebuzaradan left behind the rest of the poorest people of the land to work the vineyards and fields.” You will also see that Jeremiah who prophesied about this was also taken captive. Jeremiah 40:1 “Jeremiah bound in chains among all the captives from Jerusalem and Judah who were being carried into exile to Babylon. 2 When the commander of the guard found Jeremiah, he said to him, “The Lord your God decreed this disaster for this place. 3 And now the Lord has brought it about; he has done just as he said he would. All this happened because you people sinned against the Lord and did not obey him. 4 But today I am freeing you from the chains on your wrists.” He then gave him the option to go to Babylon or stay. 6 So Jeremiah went to Gedaliah son of Ahikam at Mizpah and stayed with him among the people who were left behind in the land.” Gedaliah then tells the people “Do not be afraid to serve the Babylonians, he said. “Settle down in the land and serve the king of Babylon, and it will go well with you.”
But they did not listen and now there was a problem due to an assassination of this good man Gedaliah by “Ishmael son of Nethaniah, the son of Elishama, who was of royal blood.” He probably thought he was the rightful heir but actually he was a murderer. I will leave it at that as to what he did but now people were then afraid and headed for Egypt. I wanted to give this background to show you what they were up against. The Babylonians put Gedaliah in charge and they would be furious when they find out about his death and they were afraid. Now the other men fought with Ishmael and chased him off and then went to Jeremiah, as they feared the Babylonians. Why wouldn’t they be as they saw first hand the power they had? Jeremiah 42:1 “Then all the army officers, including Johanan son of Kareah and Jezaniah son of Hoshaiah, and all the people from the least to the greatest approached 2 Jeremiah the prophet and said to him, “Please hear our petition and pray to the Lord your God for this entire remnant. For as you now see, though we were once many, now only a few are left. 3 Pray that the Lord your God will tell us where we should go and what we should do.”4 “I have heard you,” replied Jeremiah the prophet. “I will certainly pray to the Lord your God as you have requested; I will tell you everything the Lord says and will keep nothing back from you.” 5 Then they said to Jeremiah, “May the Lord be a true and faithful witness against us if we do not act in accordance with everything the Lord your God sends you to tell us. 6 Whether it is favorable or unfavorable, we will obey the Lord our God, to whom we are sending you, so that it will go well with us, for we will obey the Lord our God.”
Now we have this group of people in fear for their lives waiting for the response from God. So here was the answer. Jeremiah 42:7 “Ten days later the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah. 8 So he called together Johanan son of Kareah and all the army officers who were with him and all the people from the least to the greatest. 9 He said to them, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, to whom you sent me to present your petition, says: 10 ‘If you stay in this land, I will build you up and not tear you down; I will plant you and not uproot you, for I have relented concerning the disaster I have inflicted on you. 11 Do not be afraid of the king of Babylon, whom you now fear. Do not be afraid of him, declares the Lord, for I am with you and will save you and deliver you from his hands. 12 I will show you compassion so that he will have compassion on you and restore you to your land.’13 “However, if you say, ‘We will not stay in this land,’ and so disobey the Lord your God, 14 and if you say, ‘No, we will go and live in Egypt, where we will not see war or hear the trumpet or be hungry for bread,’ 15 then hear the word of the Lord, you remnant of Judah. This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘If you are determined to go to Egypt and you do go to settle there, 16 then the sword you fear will overtake you there, and the famine you dread will follow you into Egypt, and there you will die. 17 Indeed, all who are determined to go to Egypt to settle there will die by the sword, famine and plague; not one of them will survive or escape the disaster I will bring on them.’ 18 This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘As my anger and wrath have been poured out on those who lived in Jerusalem, so will my wrath be poured out on you when you go to Egypt. You will be a curse and an object of horror, a curse and an object of reproach; you will never see this place again.’ 19 “Remnant of Judah, the Lord has told you, ‘Do not go to Egypt.’ Be sure of this: I warn you today 20 that you made a fatal mistake when you sent me to the Lord your God and said, ‘Pray to the Lord our God for us; tell us everything he says and we will do it.’ 21 I have told you today, but you still have not obeyed the Lord your God in all he sent me to tell you. 22 So now, be sure of this: You will die by the sword, famine and plague in the place where you want to go to settle.”
How many people come before God and then ignore His answer because they do not trust the word of the Lord? All down through history we see Israel, the church who refused to listen to God’s word and basically run the other way by doing the opposite of God’s commands. Jeremiah 8:6 “I have listened attentively, but they do not say what is right. None of them repent of their wickedness, saying, “What have I done?” Each pursues their own course like a horse charging into battle.” 2 Chronicles 29:6 “Our parents were unfaithful; they did evil in the eyes of the Lord our God and forsook him. They turned their faces away from the Lord’s dwelling place and turned their backs on him.” Nehemiah 9:26 “But they were disobedient and rebelled against you; they turned their backs on your law. They killed your prophets, who had warned them in order to turn them back to you; they committed awful blasphemies. 29 You warned them in order to turn them back to your law, but they became arrogant and disobeyed your commands. They sinned against your ordinances, of which you said, ‘The person who obeys them will live by them.’ Stubbornly they turned their backs on you, became stiff-necked and refused to listen.” Isaiah 1:4 “Woe to the sinful nation, a people whose guilt is great, a brood of evildoers, children given to corruption! They have forsaken the Lord; they have spurned the Holy One of Israel and turned their backs on him.” Zechariah 7:11 “But they refused to pay attention; stubbornly they turned their backs and covered their ears.” Not only do these verses describe Israel, they describe the church. God gives us His word but the church refuses to listen and go their own way, yet still expects God to bless their disobedience.
This week we have been talking about the arrogance of our enemies. They think they are wise in their own understanding but lack knowledge. Proverbs 10:14 “The wise store up knowledge, but the mouth of a fool invites ruin.” Isaiah 56:11 “They are dogs with mighty appetites; they never have enough. They are shepherds who lack understanding; they all turn to their own way, they seek their own gain.” So the men that approached Jeremiah for a word from God did not listen. Jeremiah 43:1 “When Jeremiah had finished telling the people all the words of the Lord their God—everything the Lord had sent him to tell them— 2 Azariah son of Hoshaiah and Johanan son of Kareah and all the arrogant men said to Jeremiah, “You are lying! The Lord our God has not sent you to say, ‘You must not go to Egypt to settle there.’ 3 But Baruch son of Neriah is inciting you against us to hand us over to the Babylonians, so they may kill us or carry us into exile to Babylon.” 4 So Johanan son of Kareah and all the army officers and all the people disobeyed the Lord’s command to stay in the land of Judah. 5 Instead, Johanan son of Kareah and all the army officers led away all the remnant of Judah who had come back to live in the land of Judah from all the nations where they had been scattered. 6 They also led away all those whom Nebuzaradan commander of the imperial guard had left with Gedaliah son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan—the men, the women, the children and the king’s daughters. And they took Jeremiah the prophet and Baruch son of Neriah along with them. 7 So they entered Egypt in disobedience to the Lord.”
Then God said through Jeremiah, Jeremiah 43:10 “This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: I will send for my servant Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and I will set his throne over these stones I have buried here; he will spread his royal canopy above them. 11 He will come and attack Egypt, bringing death to those destined for death, captivity to those destined for captivity, and the sword to those destined for the sword.” The people responded 16 “We will not listen to the message you have spoken to us in the name of the Lord! 17 We will certainly do everything we said we would.” Then Jeremiah responded, “Go ahead then, do what you promised! Keep your vows! 26 But hear the word of the Lord, all you Jews living in Egypt: ‘I swear by my great name,’ says the Lord, ‘that no one from Judah living anywhere in Egypt will ever again invoke my name or swear, “As surely as the Sovereign Lord lives.” 27 For I am watching over them for harm, not for good; the Jews in Egypt will perish by sword and famine until they are all destroyed. 28 Those who escape the sword and return to the land of Judah from Egypt will be very few. Then the whole remnant of Judah who came to live in Egypt will know whose word will stand—mine or theirs.”
It really makes no sense at all to go against the word of God but like Israel the church does it all the time when they go their own way. God said he would protect them and keep them safe but they did not trust the word of the Lord and took it upon themselves to make their own way only to find out death waited for them when they got there. God speaks to us through his word yet men and woman refuse to listen and continue to go their own way. Proverbs 14:12 “There is a way that appears to be right, but in the end it leads to death. Jesus told us John 14:15 “If you love me, keep my commands” but the church made their own commands to follow. Jesus said repent and the kingdom would come near yet the church said what have I done? Why do I need to repent? The church follows the ways of man and thinks God is blessing them when they have success yet God says James 4:4 “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” In their success they let men of depraved minds be their guides. 2 Timothy 3:1 “But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.” Matthew 15:14 “Leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”
Today’s church lies desolate because men and women go to God and then turn and do their own thing. The word of god is before them yet they refuse to turn from their wicked ways. We need to be like Josiah, not his sons who followed him. 2 Kings 23:25 “Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the Lord as he did—with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with all the Law of Moses.” So while the enemy stands against the church, stand firm and trust His words. Don’t turn from them. The good news for us is while the church remains in captivity, we have great hope for our freedom. Isaiah 13:11 “I will put an end to the arrogance of the haughty and will humble the pride of the ruthless.” Don’t turn from God’s word but turn back to Him. As Jesus said Repent for the Kingdom is near!