“The LORD has said to you, O remnant of Judah, ‘Do not go to Egypt.’ Know for a certainty that I have warned you this day that you have gone astray at the cost of your lives. For you sent me to the LORD your God, saying, ‘Pray for us to the LORD our God, and whatever the LORD our God says, declare to us and we will do it.’ And I have this day declared it to you, but you have not obeyed the voice of the LORD your God in anything that he sent me to tell you. Now therefore know for a certainty that you shall die by the sword, by famine, and by pestilence in the place where you desire to go to live.” —Jeremiah 49:19–22
With the fall of Jerusalem in chapter 39 of Jeremiah, you’re left asking “What’s next?” Chapters 40–41 begin to answer that question and chapters 42–42 begin to tell you why behind the what. What’s next is judgment and why is their failure to listen. Roughly a decade before the city fell, Yahweh told Jeremiah that the people who would remain in the land would be like very bad figs, whereas those taken into exile would be regarded as very good figs. Here you see how bad the bad figs are. But you can’t initially see it from the outside. This is the kind of produce that passes the eye and nose test only for you to cut into it at home and find things rotten to the core. God puts pressure on His people, and once squeezed, the rottenness comes out.
Expecting reprisal from Babylon for Ishmael’s murder of Gedaliah and the Chaldean soldiers, the remnant plans to seek refuge in Egypt. But before they do so they pull over to ask for directions. It will become clear that they have no intention to heed any directions, they just want to be seen as they humble type who asks for them. They can’t imagine anything other than a green light for Egypt, so it’s therefore safe to ask. They’re like the child who only asks when their certain they’ll receive a yes. This gives them the appearance of being submissive. If such a child expects a “no” then he’ll try and play ignorant and innocent after the fact. But the remnant will soon learn they’re not so cute and God is not so naive.
This remnant isn’t seeking the word of Yahweh, but a word from Yahweh. This is why they speak piously but listen wickedly. They speak well hoping to get the answer they want, ergo, they are prepped to listen rebelliously should they hearing anything otherwise. To speak well is nothing if we do not hear well. Hard ears reveal the wickedness of a smooth tongue. The people sing pretty but their heart isn’t in it, and in this instance, the beat is more important than the words. They’ve got the right lyrics, but God listens for the beat of their heart, and it’s way off.
What’s next is judgment. The why is their failure to listen. The present trial is to make plain who they are so that when God trashes the figs, everyone understands His justice in doing so—they were bad, really bad. The only kind of ripe they were was ripe for destruction. This world is headed for judgment and salvation and the test laid before us everyday as to which destination we will find is a simple hearing test.
“Thus says the LORD: ‘As the new wine is found in the cluster, and they say, “Do not destroy it, for there is a blessing in it,” so I will do for my servants’ sake, and not destroy them all. I will bring forth offspring from Jacob, and from Judah possessors of my mountains; my chosen shall possess it, and my servants shall dwell there. Sharon shall become a pasture for flocks, and the Valley of Achor a place for herds to lie down, for my people who have sought me. But you who forsake the LORD, who forget my holy mountain, who set a table for Fortune and fill cups of mixed wine for Destiny, I will destine you to the sword, and all of you shall bow down to the slaughter, because, when I called, you did not answer; when I spoke, you did not listen, but you did what was evil in my eyes and chose what I did not delight in’ ” (Isaiah 68:8–12, emphasis mine).