We are all familiar with Paul’s warning to Timothy that the time would come when the believers Timothy is serving will want their ears tickled (2 Tim 4:3). In other words, they will want to be told what they want to hear. We are all prone to that problem. We don’t like it when the Word of God challenges us to change our way of thinking or our conduct. We may even understand what the Word is saying to us, but we ignore it because we want to do something contrary to what it is saying.
Jeremiah 42 gives us an excellent illustration of this tendency. The Jews had been conquered by the Babylonians who had installed a governor over them. But certain Jews had killed this civil ruler. Now, some of the Jews were afraid of what the Babylonians would do to them for killing the man whom the Babylonians had placed in power. They feared the Babylonians would either kill them or take them to Babylon as slaves.
These Jews came to Jeremiah to ask what they should do. One option was that they could go to Egypt. This was an attractive option. Judah had experienced war for a number of years. The land was destitute. Egypt had more food. In Egypt they would have been far away from the power of the Babylonians. It looked like a place of security.
Jeremiah had proved during the recent difficult times that he was a prophet from God. The Jews asked Jeremiah to inquire of God about going to Egypt. If God said to go, they would go. If He said to stay in Judah, they would stay.
But when Jeremiah spoke to them what God had said, they did not like the message. God told them to remain in Judah. But they said that God did not say that (Jer 43:2). It seems pretty clear that what they had hoped for was that Jeremiah would have told them what they had already decided to do—to go to Egypt. They had hoped that Jeremiah would tell them what they wanted to hear. They wanted a message that would tickle their ears.
They thought they would be safe in Egypt. God said if they went there, the Babylonians would destroy them in Egypt. They thought they would have food in Egypt. God said they would die of famine. They wanted to flee what had happened to them in Judah, but God said He would bring the same calamities upon them in Egypt.
The message from the Lord was for their good. God told these Jews that if they remained in Judah, He would protect them from the Babylonians. They would be safe in the land. They would prosper in the land.
But there was more. The reason the land of Judah had been destroyed by God was because the Jews had fallen into idolatry. God knew that if they went to Egypt, the Jews would commit the same sin (Jer 44:8). They would worship the false gods of Egypt.
God’s word for them was one that would bring blessing. To disobey it would bring the discipline of God. That is hard to see when you only want to hear what you want to hear. That is hard to do when the child of God thinks he knows what is best.
Surely there is a lesson for us. As the Word of God reveals to us the need to change what we think or do, we need to have the faith that God knows what is best for us.