Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah in Tahpanhes: “Take in your hands large stones and hide them in the mortar in the pavement that is at the entrance to Pharaoh’s palace in Tahpanhes, in the sight of the men of Judah, and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I will send and take Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, my servant, and I will set his throne above these stones that I have hidden, and he will spread his royal canopy over them. He shall come and strike the land of Egypt, giving over to the pestilence those who are doomed to the pestilence, to captivity those who are doomed to captivity, and to the sword those who are doomed to the sword. I shall kindle a fire in the temples of the gods of Egypt, and he shall burn them and carry them away captive. And he shall clean the land of Egypt as a shepherd cleans his cloak of vermin, and he shall go away from there in peace. He shall break the obelisks of Heliopolis, which is in the land of Egypt, and the temples of the gods of Egypt he shall burn with fire.’” Jeremiah 43:8-13 ESV
Many are the plans in the mind of a man,
but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand. Proverbs 19:21 ESV
When I was a young girl, I did a bad and foolish thing. One day when I was walking along a path beside a lovely wooded area, I noticed that there were some nails driven into the ground on the dirt path. Each nail held a square of bright orange plastic fabric to the ground. I knew what these nails with their orange squares meant. They meant that someone had surveyed the woods and that soon bulldozers would come and tear down the trees and bushes and build roads and houses. I didn’t want to see that happen, so as I walked along I kicked up all the nails with their orange squares. I tried to undo all the work the surveyors had done and prevent anyone from building the housing development. But that was foolish. A few days later as I walked along the path again I saw that someone had driven wooden stakes deep into the ground and nailed orange squares into the stakes. I couldn’t kick up those wooden stakes, and I couldn’t stop the developers from building the houses and roads that they planned.
The people who ran away from Jerusalem to Egypt to try to stay safe from King Nebuchadnezzar were just as foolish. They had heard God’s words warning them to stay in their home country, and promising that the Lord would protect them and keep them safe. But they disobeyed God and went to Egypt, and took Jeremiah with them. In Egypt, the Lord told Jeremiah to take some large stones and hide them in the pavement that led to the entrance to one of Pharoah’s palaces. These stones were to be a sign to God’s people that Nebuchadnezzar was going to come and conquer Egypt and set up his throne there. The Babylonians would do to Egypt what they had done to Jerusalem, destroying and killing and taking captive and burning the Egyptian temples. The people of Israel might be able to take the stones out of the pavement, but they wouldn’t be able to prevent Nebuchadnezzar from coming. They couldn’t stop God’s purposes.
People can’t ever stop God’s purposes, no matter what they do or how hard they try. This is actually good news for us. God’s greatest purpose in all of history is to bring people back to himself. When the right time came, he sent the promised Savior, Jesus, into the world. Jesus took the load of all the sins of the world onto himself, and he took that load to the cross. When Jesus died on the cross, God poured out all his judgment of sin onto Jesus. Because of what Jesus has done for us, God forgives all our sins every day. We are free from sin to live as his people, and we know that his purposes for us are always going to be for our good. God is always working to keep us close to him, now and forever.
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for your good purposes for us in Jesus. Help us to trust our lives to your will. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.