Going to Egypt

Jeremiah 39 – 43

Locked in chains, he was pulled along with the other prisoners. They were filthy and starving. The smell alone was enough to make him wretch. They stumbled down the broken streets. Jerusalem, his home, had just fallen to the Babylonians. It was 586 BC and the prophesied fall of Judah had finally come. Jeremiah’s heart was broken.

The captain of the guard rode his horse up and down the columns of captives being marched to Babylon. He shouted orders to his guards, first in one direction, then in another. His eyes fell on Jeremiah the prophet. “This is all God’s work.” He told Jeremiah. “The disobedience of your people has brought the justice of God. But today I will free you from the chains on your wrists. You may choose anywhere to live. Don’t worry, you will be taken care of wherever you decide to go.”

Jeremiah, along with the others who had been left behind, settled under the newly appointed governor, Gedaliah (GEH-dah-li-uh). He promised peace and security. The few remaining people moved into the empty towns. They worked the vineyards and the orchards. The wine and fruit they harvested overflowed.

A top officer for the deposed king, Ishmael had eluded the Babylonian army.  He returned to meet with the new governor, to talk of the country and the people, to share a meal. Between the second and third courses Ishmael and his men rose, drew their swords and struck down Gedaliah.

News of the murder spread like wildfire. The people could talk of nothing else. “Why did he do it? Surely the Babylonians will make us pay! They will come and burn the fields and vineyards. They will carry us off to exile along with the others! We should run away. Quick, we can get half way to Egypt before they get here.”

Someone in the crowd shouted, “Ask Jeremiah the Prophet what we should do!”

They went as one people – the army officers, the greatest nobles and the poorest field workers.

“Please, Jeremiah. Pray that God will tell us where we should go and what we should do. We will do everything God says. Whether we like it or not, we promise to obey.”

Jeremiah locked himself into his prayer closet, fasting and praying.

One day. Two days. Three days…Ten days. Then Jeremiah heard from God.

He spoke to them as one people – the army officers, the greatest nobles and the poorest field workers.

“This is what God says to you. ‘If you stay, I will bless you greatly, your enemy will have compassion on you. If you disobey and run off to Egypt, your enemy will overtake you and you will never see your land again. Do not go to Egypt.’”

The arrogant men stepped forward. “Jeremiah, you are lying! This is a trick. We are going to Egypt.”

 

How often do we pray for God’s will and direction in our lives? How often do we rationalize away our obedience? God’s judgement came on Judah because of their disobedience and when the people ran away to Egypt they took their disobedience with them. God promised them that if they went to Egypt, they would never see their homeland again. The Babylonians did indeed invade Egypt in 568-567 BC.

Lesson From Jeremiah

  1. Commit time to prayer. Jeremiah did not hear instantly from God. He spent days praying and listening. Sometimes it takes weeks or months. Never stop praying. Luke 18:1-8
  2. Listen for God’s voice. Prayer is conversation. Sometimes we talk, sometimes we listen. Still your busy thoughts and turn your attention to God, wait expectantly for His answer. Be still and know that He is God. Psalm 46:1
  3. Obey. Instead of looking at your own circumstances, worried and fretting, take God’s hand and walk in obedience. Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. John 14:23

 

Sounds of Silence

“Silence is not the absence of something but the presence of everything…It is the presence of time, undisturbed. It can be felt within the chest. Silence nurtures our nature, our human nature, and lets us know who we are. Left with a more receptive mind and a more attuned ear, we become better listeners not only to nature but to each other. Silence can be carried like embers from a fire. Silence can be found, and silence can find you. Silence can be lost and also recovered. But silence cannot be imagined, although most people think so. To experience the soul-swelling wonder of silence, you must hear it.”

Gordon Hempton, One Square Inch of Silence

http://onesquareinch.org/

Product Details

“The soul-swelling wonder of silence.” What an incredible phrase! I have felt it but never knew how to put it into words.

Once, long ago, I was hiking through Silver Falls State Park and I sat down for a rest and a snack. No one else was around. After finishing my snack, I paused. Then I heard it! The natural silence. The pitter-patter of chipmunk feet behind me. The soft  whoosh  of leaves high in the trees. Yes! I could feel it in my chest.

When life gets difficult, I always find myself retreating to the forest. There are other beautiful places to hike but there is a magic about the forest that touches me in a way nothing else does.

Stress…worry…anxiety…burdens…tension…

My muscles are tight with it all. My mind stuck in an endless flow of negative thoughts. My temper on edge. My patience non-exsistent.

Then I reach the forest. I look for steep trails that lead to isolated water. I hike hard and fast. I push myself, allowing only small amounts of water periodically. My lungs feel it first. The burning. Then my thighs start to ache. Sometimes there are tears. I am not ready for the silence yet. The forest is only beginning its work on me. I feel protection from the trees. I feel the firmness of the trail beneath my feet. I feel the boundlessness of the sky above me. I feel the hidden animals aware of my intrusion. I feel much that I am not consciously aware of.

When I finally reach exhaustion, I stop and look around. I can begin to see again. A thousand shades of greens and browns. The view down the valley.

I find a place for a snack and sit, replenishing my energy and soaking in the feel of the forest. I am half way there.

My hiking is now slower and my thoughts match my pace. The negetive thoughts have stopped their insistent hammering in my head.

Then I reach the water. Just the sight of it soothes me. My thoughts and emotions settle. I need to touch the water, to feel its coolness slip over my hands. Next, I find a place to sit as close to the water as possible. Another snack and I am ready for the silence. I sit and listen. The tiny lap of water on the shore of the lake. The birds crying as they circle overhead.

How long have I sat there? One, two, three hours? I refuse to take a watch hiking. A glance at the sun tells me when I need to be heading downtrail so I won’t get caught in the dark. “The soul-swelling wonder” of the silence has nurtured my human nature. It is difficult to head home, but I do. I will be patient and kind once again. But not for long. Soon I will need to return to my forest and my silence.