After the murder of Gedaliah, Johanan and the other leaders with him were determined to flee to Egypt. There was nothing that could change their minds on this point. They would do what God had expressly forbidden through the words of Jeremiah. These men came to the conclusion that this unwanted oracle was actually the fault of the messenger. They insisted that Jeremiah and his assistant Baruch were lying traitors.
Was Jeremiah a secret Babylonian spy? If so he would have gone to be with the king in Babylon, since he was invited to do so. Instead he chose to remain with the poor who would suffer in the land. Furthermore, Jeremiah wrote honest words regarding the Lord’s judgment against the Babylonians. He was God’s prophet and not a political agent for any earthly power.
Johanan’s rebellious choice to trust in Egypt was not only for himself. Many others were forced to go with him, including Jeremiah and Baruch. Egypt was the place from which Israel had been rescued in the days of Moses. God brought about a mighty exodus from that land of slavery many centuries before. He had told them that they should never return that way again.
This ancient account of Johanan’s sin is important for God’s people in every era to consider. We should have more sense than to return to enslaving patterns of life from which we were delivered. We have been freed from sin and death by the powerful redemption of our Savior. Why would we ever want to return to our past? We have also been granted our good standing as children of God through faith in Jesus Christ. Why would we ever turn away from what we believe?
We need to patiently wait for the fulfillment of all the Lord’s plans. Our security is not in our own resourcefulness. The Lord has rescued us. He will protect our liberty. All our hope is in Christ alone. There is no peace for us if we run back to false gods, moralism, or some self-help plan of positive thinking.
Prayer from A Book of Prayers
O Lord of Hosts, against our holiest impulses and the plain teaching of Your Word, some have been forced to walk a dangerous path that is against Your revealed will. Please help us and be with us. Powerful men who usurp authority among Your people have forced our hands in ways that are wrong. How are we to submit to such foolish and unspiritual men? Yet we may have no choice today. Surely there are brothers and sisters who have been led away in chains into wicked situations and places. Meet us in our despair and have mercy upon us. We would not willingly choose this slavery. Help us and deliver us.