At the end of ten days the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah. Then he summoned Johanan the son of Kareah and all the commanders of the forces who were with him, and all the people from the least to the greatest, and said to them, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, to whom you sent me to present your plea for mercy before him: If you will remain in this land, then I will build you up and not pull you down; I will plant you, and not pluck you up; for I relent of the disaster that I did to you. Do not fear the king of Babylon, of whom you are afraid. Do not fear him, declares the Lord, for I am with you, to save you and to deliver you from his hand. I will grant you mercy, that he may have mercy on you and let you remain in your own land. But if you say, ‘We will not remain in this land,’ disobeying the voice of the Lord your God and saying, ‘No, we will go to the land of Egypt, where we shall not see war or hear the sound of the trumpet or be hungry for bread, and we will dwell there,’ then hear the word of the Lord, O remnant of Judah. Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: If you set your faces to enter Egypt and go to live there, then the sword that you fear shall overtake you there in the land of Egypt, and the famine of which you are afraid shall follow close after you to Egypt, and there you shall die. All the men who set their faces to go to Egypt to live there shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence. They shall have no remnant or survivor from the disaster that I will bring upon them. Jeremiah 42:7-17 ESV
I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them. Deuteronomy 30:19-20 ESV
Once there was a king who had an unusual way of finding out if a man was guilty or innocent of a crime. He would bring the man into an arena, and offer him a choice of two doors. Behind one door would be a hungry tiger who who would kill him and eat him, and behind the other door would be a beautiful woman who would marry him. The accused man would have a choice of which door to open, and whichever door he chose would determine his fate. One day a man fell in love with the princess, and this was against the law. He was brought into the arena and given his choice. The princess loved him, and she found out which door had the lady and which had the tiger. She signaled the man she loved which door to choose, and he trusted her and went to the door she told him to go to. This is only a story, and the person who wrote this story didn’t tell us whether the man met the lady, because the princess wanted to save his life, or the tiger, because the princess was jealous of the woman who would get to marry him. It’s up to us to guess–the lady or the tiger?
The people who were left in Jerusalem were facing an important choice, too. Should they go to Egypt, where they might be safe from King Nebuchadnezzar? Or should they stay home? They didn’t know what to do, so they asked Jeremiah to tell them what God wanted. God gave Jeremiah a very clear message. He told them that they should stay in their own country. If they did that, the Lord would have mercy on them and keep them safe from King Nebuchadnezzar. But if they went to Egypt, God would be very angry with them and punish them with more death and destruction. The man in the story might not have been able to completely trust the princess, but the people left in Jerusalem could trust the Lord fully. They could be confident in obeying what he told the prophet Jeremiah.
God loves us just as he loved his people of old, and he wants us to live forever with him in his heavenly kingdom. But we aren’t able to make the right choice on our own to follow the Lord’s ways and come to him. So God came to us in Jesus to die on the cross so that our sins could be forgiven. He sends us his Holy Spirit to help us put our faith in Jesus so that we can have eternal life. The Holy Spirit helps us follow God’s ways, and he keeps us trusting in Jesus, now and always.
Dear Heavenly Father, help us to always trust Jesus and follow the way that brings us home to you. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.