Marriage, Judah and Egypt

One pastor told of the following conversation:

“God spoke to me about my marriage. He told me, ‘It is finished.’ I knew I was free to get a divorce.” The man who said this to me was churchgoing and Bible-believing. He knew the gospel, valued prayer, evangelized, and could even defend faithfulness in marriage. And yet he believed God had mailed him a “Get Out of Marriage Free” card. How can someone be committed to the Bible on one hand and claim special revelation from God on the other? The power and deceitfulness of sin is surely one answer. Rejection of the sufficiency and authority of Scripture is another. (from Aaron Mitchel’s review of D.A Carson’s, Collected Writings on Scripture (

In the book of Jeremiah, a remnant had been left in Judah. It was a scary time. Nebuchadnezzar had invaded and the remnant was living in difficult and uncertain circumstances. Jeremiah’s message all along had been to submit to God’s discipline at the hands of the Babylonians and all would go well. The remnant went to Jeremiah (Jer. 42:1-2) and explicitly asked for prayer and counsel from the Lord. They vowed that they would listen and obey the Word of the Lord, even if it was unpleasant (42:3-6). Jeremiah received the word of the Lord and called the people back in order to reveal it to them (42:7-9). The message was simple and consistent with his previous messages to the remnant, stay in the land, do not be afraid of the king of Babylon and God would be with them in compassion and would restore them to their land (42:9-12). This was a hard message. Their governor, Gedaliah, had been murdered, the culprits were still at large, posing a threat to them, and the Babylonians did not seem very trustworthy or friendly. Egypt seemed like the much safer and less stressful option. In fact, the remnant was already poised to go to Egypt (41:17-18). Egypt represented the greener grass syndrome (safer, better and easier over there). They wanted Jeremiah to confirm their plans, even though their words were shrouded with submission, obedience and humility.

Jeremiah warned them not to go to Egypt and told them that what they feared in the land of Judah would come upon them if they went to Egypt (42:13-19). Jeremiah’s final application exposed the remnant’s self-deception and confirmed God’s judgment on them (42:20-22). The warning, although fierce, was an act of love to prevent them from making a very bad and destructive decision. How did this remnant respond? Did they give heed to the warning and see their self-deception for what it was? No. Rather they concluded that Jeremiah was lying and then went ahead did what they had already decided they were going to do when they originally asked for the word of the Lord (43:1-4). They went to Egypt (43:5-7).

The remnant pictures many professing Christians today who want to go to Egypt. They are looking for some spiritual confirmation and when God’s clear Word is presented, they dismiss it one way or another, either by denying it or coming up with their own “word from the Lord.” Their decision to go to Egypt, against the clear Word of God, is their destruction and their doom (Jer. 43:8-13). So for those who think God has given them a “get out of marriage free” card, they are self-deceived. Going to Egypt will be their undoing. Obedience to the Word of God is the only safe path (Jer. 38:20), even when Egypt seems safer and happier. Submission to the will of God is ultimately the only rewarding path, even when staying in Judah is the last thing we want to do (Jer. 42:10-12).