Jeremiah was a prophet to the Jews at the time of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon was reigning the world. His book chronicles what happened to the obstinate Jews. He was labelled as the mourning prophet because during his time, nobody (as in nobody) listened to God through him, and thus obeyed God.
Chapter 42 of the book records the time after the Jews were exiled, and only the peasants were left in the land, which was in ruins. The appointed governor of Judah was already killed at this time, and so the people came to Jeremiah to inquire of the LORD on what they should do. When they came to him, they seemed sincere in obeying what God would say them to do. They even said, “Whether it is pleasant or unpleasant, we will listen to the voice of the LORD our God to whom we are sending you, in order that it may go well with us when we listen to the voice of the LORD our God,” (v.6). So, after ten days, Jeremiah came back to them with the word from God. He said that God wants them to stay in Judah and He will have compassion on them. They should not fear the king of Babylon for He will save and deliver them from his hand. His promise is that of restoration. However, God warned the people as well: not to go to Egypt for if they go, they would surely die.
God searches the heart and He understands every intent of the thoughts (1 Chronicles 28:9). At this instance, God did not fail to see through the intentions of the Jews. For when Jeremiah warned them about not going to Egypt, they became furious of him. They accused Jeremiah of telling a lie (43:2) and they went down to Egypt as they have planned. I am unsure when they have planned going to Egypt–either before they inquired of Jeremiah, or during those ten days of waiting for God’s leading. In the end, they pursued what they wanted, what they have planned in their hearts, and refused to obey God.
Why did they prefer Egypt over their own land? It is ironic that they would want to go back to the land of their slavery and choose to forsake the land promised to them. God revealed what’s in their heart in v.14: in Egypt, there was no war, and no famine. It looked like a place where they could find safety and abundance. Judah, on the other hand, was in ruins. It was burned and the danger of the Chaldeans coming back for them was always there. Their choice was a matter of walking by sight, or walking by faith.
God promises to be found when we seek Him with all our heart (Jeremiah 29:13), thus letting us know what to obey. In the new testament, Paul exhorts us to walk by faith and not by sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). Walking by faith requires us to put our full trust in God and not rely on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6). This faith pleases Him (Hebrews 11:6).
So the question for us now is this: Would we walk by faith? Or by sight?
“As for you, my son Solomon, know the God of your father, and serve Him with a whole heart and a willing mind; for the LORD searches all hearts, and understands every intent of the thoughts. If you seek Him, He will let you find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will reject you forever.” 1 Chronicles 28:9