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Lesson 12: Back to Egypt *

Introduction: Have you experienced a time at work when you gave advice, it was rejected, and your employer took a course you thought was wrong? If it turned out your advice was right, what should happen the next time you give advice to your employer? You would expect your advice would be followed, right? What if you always gave the right advice to your employer and your employer always rejected your advice? How would you feel? Time for a new job, right? I would be very annoyed and frustrated that no one recognized the wisdom of my advice. Welcome to Jeremiah's world! After all of his warnings, and after his precise predictions, his advice is still rejected. Let's dive into our study of the Bible and learn more.

  1. The Sad Remnant


    1. Read Jeremiah 40:1 and Jeremiah 40:4-5. What would you choose to do if you were Jeremiah? Recall that you have been preaching that the people should submit to Babylon. When they are exiled to Babylon they should work to make their captors a success ( Jeremiah 29:4-7). Isn't Babylon the natural destination for Jeremiah?


      1. Is Jeremiah uncertain about what he should do? ( Jeremiah 40:5 suggests that Jeremiah is standing in front of Nebuzaradan thinking about his options.)


      2. Is Nebuzaradan giving Jeremiah a hint that he should go to Gedaliah?


      3. What has the King of Babylon done for Gedaliah? (He is now in charge of the few who remain in Judah.)


      4. Read Jeremiah 26:24. Gedaliah's father, Ahikam, had been a supporter and protector of Jeremiah at a time when Jeremiah faced death. The question is whether Jeremiah should remain with the people Babylon did not want, or go with the talented class to Babylon. What would you do?


    2. Read Jeremiah 40:6-8. Jeremiah decides to stay in Judah. Who is with him in Judah? (The people the Babylonians did not think worth taking and several army officers and their men who were in the field rather than fighting in Jerusalem.)


      1. What does that suggest about these officers and men? (Jerusalem gets destroyed while they are off somewhere else. On the face of it, they seem to be the "fighters" who don't want to fight. What a group Jeremiah has chosen!)


    3. Read Jeremiah 40:9-10. What is the official position of the new leader of the remaining towns of Judah? (Submit to Babylon. That is consistent with Jeremiah's longstanding advice.)


    4. Read Jeremiah 40:11-12. Who else returns to the towns of Judah? (Jews who had previously left Judah to live in neighboring countries.)


      1. What is it like to live in the remaining towns of Judah? (The successful people have been exiled. I assume their homes and property (if they lived outside Jerusalem) remain. Those left behind move into the now abandoned homes and they enjoy a rich harvest of food. Things are going well.)


  2. The Plot


    1. Read Jeremiah 40:13-14. How loyal are these army officers to Gedaliah? (They warn him that Ishmael is not what he appears to be - a fellow refugee. Instead, the Ammonite king sent him to assassinate Gedaliah.)


      1. Let's investigate the background of Ishmael. Read Jeremiah 41:1. What can you tell me about his background? (He was of "royal blood." That means he could potentially claim the right to be king. He had been a officer in the king's court before the Babylonian defeat. That likely means he had been rejecting Jeremiah's call to submit to the Babylonians.)


      2. Why do you think Gedaliah did not believe the assassination plot was real?


    2. Read Jeremiah 40:15-16. It seems that Gedaliah rejected Johanan's solution because he did not think there was a problem. If you thought the assassination plot was real, would you have accepted Johanan's suggestion? (Why not take action in the "sunshine?" If Ishmael is guilty, why not bring public charges?)


  3. Trouble


    1. Read Jeremiah 41:1-3. Turns out that Gedaliah should have believed Johanan. If you were a surviving Jew, what would be your reaction to this? (The Babylonians would be back, and they would be angry.)


    2. Read Jeremiah 41:4-7 and Jeremiah 40:10. What is Ishmael's goal? Why is he killing all of these Jews who have done nothing to oppose him? (He seems to be an agent of the Ammonites. He is now fighting for them and against both the Jews and Babylon.)


    3. Johanan rallies the remaining officers and soldiers, defeats Ishmael, and brings the captives back home. Read Jeremiah 42:1-3. Why should God's advice be any different? He told them to submit to Babylon and raise crops in the towns of Judah. (Circumstances have changed. The Babylonian appointee, Gedaliah, has been assassinated. Babylonian soldiers have been killed. It might not be safe to stay.)


    4. Read Jeremiah 42:4-6. Have the people finally learned their lesson?


    5. Read Jeremiah 42:7-12. Has God taken into account their changed circumstances? (Yes. God says He understands their concern about the king of Babylon, but God's advice remains the same.)


    6. Read Jeremiah 42:13-17. Is God concerned that the people will reject His advice? Or, is God simply giving them a complete picture of the choice set before them?


      1. How does this compare to the choice set before us - to follow God or not?


      2. Are the optional results similar?


    7. Read Jeremiah 43:1-3. Do you think Jeremiah expected this response?


      1. Re-read Jeremiah 42:5-6. Are these people a special kind of dumb? Are they stupid beyond belief? Or, are they just like us?


      2. Do these people think they are obeying God? (They say ( Jeremiah 43:2) that Jeremiah is lying. That gives them room to think they are still obeying God.)


    8. Read Jeremiah 43:7-10. Why did Jeremiah go with these people to Egypt? Why not stay where he was or head to Babylon? (Since God is still giving Jeremiah messages, I have to believe that Jeremiah did not have a choice in the matter.)


      1. What is God's new warning to the people? (That Babylon will attack Egypt and occupy the very ground on which they are standing.)


    9. Jeremiah repeats the warning that they must leave Egypt or face total destruction. Read Jeremiah 44:15-18 for their response. What has not changed? What has changed? (The source of their problem from the very beginning is worshiping other gods. They now admit it and argue that these other gods protected them. What has changed is that they no longer make a pretense of following the true God.)


      1. What lesson or lessons does this teach us for today when we consider the religious advice of others? (If we are uncertain whether a religious leader is on the right track, time will often reveal the truth.)


      2. What does this teach us about witnessing to others? (People will always have a reason to reject God's word. We need to leave our frustration behind and leave it to God.)


      3. What lessons does this teach you about your relationship to God? (God is incredibly long-suffering and patient. He is used to dealing with people who are acting in ridiculous ways. We can never overestimate our ability to deceive ourselves and ignore the evidence.)


    10. Read Jeremiah 44:26-29. What is coming for those who reject God? (Punishment and destruction.)


      1. Some say that our God is a loving God who would never pronounce judgment or punish us. What does this reveal? (The people who say that are ignoring the word of God just like these people. If we put ourselves in God's place, we would have lost patience long before this. God is love, long-suffering and patient. But, a time comes when judgment is His final answer for those who reject His love and direction.)


    11. Friend, how about you? Do you continue to ignore God's word, depending instead on some logic that you think justifies ignoring God's word? Why not give up your rebellion right now and enter the world of God's love and protection?


  4. Next week: Lessons From Jeremiah.
* Copr. 2015, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2017 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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