In this passage the people of Judah stand at a crossroads, and on the cusp of a major decision. Their nation has been decimated by Babylon and torn further by internal strife. There are very few of them left and their governor has been assassinated. To the south lies the nation of Egypt where they believe they can find a stable nation, economy and society to protect them from the revenge of the dreaded and unstoppable Babylonian army.
Into this crisis steps Jeremiah with the word of God. The people asked Jeremiah for God’s advice, and, after ten days of waiting, Jeremiah returned. That the answer is not what the people wanted to hear we can gather from God’s take on the situation. In verses 13-14, God knows their thoughts that Egypt appears to them to be a place, “where [they] will not see war or hear the sound of the trumpet or be hungry for bread.” God’s people see no hope in Judah, and placed all their hope in Egypt.
God is also clear about something else. He tells them in no uncertain terms that if they stay in Judah, He will take care of them. Notice how often God uses the personal pronoun in verses 10-12. God tells them things like, “I will build you up,” “I will plant you,” “I relent of (grieve for) the disaster,” “I am with you to save you,” and “I will grant you mercy.”
God promised them two things. If you stay here in the land I have given you, I will be your guardian and savior. And secondly, if you go to Egypt, you will all perish one way or another. So which decision do the people make and why? They went directly to Egypt because staying in Judah just seemed too hard and way too unreasonable. But when God is involved, the decision making process should be entirely different. One pastor put it this way, “Many things that seem risky are actually quite safe….It is safe to do these things provided they are done in obedience to God. No matter how frightening it may seem at the time, it is always safest to obey God.” In a culture that often tells us just the opposite, it is safe to sacrifice for God, to give financially to God, to get married, to raise a family, to move your life across the world in service to God.
What is God telling us about what is crucial in our decision making as His children? God, not what is before our eyes, should be the primary factor in our decision-making. There will be times when what looks like the reasonable decision is also God’s path for us, but we should make that choice based on God’s wisdom and direction, not just our own.
Even though there are places and decisions that seem to offer everything I want and need, including a future of promise and hope, any real hope I have is to follow the wisdom and word of God. The decision of faith in our lives, if done in obedience to God, will always lead us down the right path where we can find that God is with us, where He will plant and build us, where He will grant us His mercy, and where He will save us.