Explore The Bible Study: Trustworthy

7:13 PM

Have you ever had someone ask for your advice, you gave it, and they chose to ignore it? Most of us will seek out the advice of others, especially if it relates to health, financial issues, or major life-changing decisions. As believers, we usually, or most certainly, should seek God’s wisdom regarding decisions as well. We seek God’s advice by going to the Bible, prayer, and mature believers. The Explore the Bible Study: Trustworthy takes you to a group who asked for God's advice but then refused to follow it.

Jeremiah 42 takes us to a time when the people of God asked for advice and protection from God. 

Leading up to this chapter, Jeremiah 37-41, describe a time when Judah’s last king, King Zedekiah (597–586 BC), sought advice from Jeremiah and asked him to pray for Jerusalem during the final Babylonian siege of Jerusalem.  Zedekiah didn’t like Jeremiah’s advice regarding repentance or disaster, so he had Jeremiah imprisoned (Jeremiah 38:1-13). Zedekiah spoke with Jeremiah one last time before Jerusalem’s fall (Jeremiah 38:14-26). Once again Jeremiah advised Zedekiah that God told him to surrender to Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, but Zedekiah refused to follow God’s advice.

Jeremiah 39 describes the siege and capture of Jerusalem by King Nebuchadnezzar’s army. They slaughtered Jewish officials, killed Zedekiah’s sons, blinded the king, and led him in chains to Babylon. They also destroyed the palace, broke down Jerusalem’s walls, and exiled all but the poorest people. However, Nebuchadnezzar allowed Jeremiah to remain.

Jeremiah 40 describes Nebuchadnezzar’s appointment of Gedaliah as governor over Judah. During this time, Judean refugees returned from surrounding countries and submitted to Gedaliah’s rule. This created unrest that eventually led to the assassination of Gedaliah. Fearing Babylonian retribution, the remaining Israelites determined to leave and flee to Egypt.

Once again, with their backs against the wall, the Israelites sought advice from Jeremiah regarding their situation. 

Jeremiah 42:1-6 introduces us to the delegation that was sent to Jeremiah. This delegation expressed a desire to seek God’s direction and promised to obey whatever God would say through Jeremiah. After 10 days of seeking the Lord, Jeremiah delivered the Lord’s response to the delegation. The message God gave Jeremiah involved two options from which to choose.

This brings us to some questions we all must answer.  

First, do we only seek God’s advice when our backs are against the wall and we have tried all other options? 

Second, when God does speak, what warnings can we learn from the people’s response, about ignoring God’s advice?

The first option God gave to Jeremiah to share was the best option. 

Option 1: Stay and Trust God—Jeremiah 42:7-12

Jeremiah summoned all those who awaited his response. His audience included the delegation, the commanders of the armies (that were left) and all the remnant that remained, “from the least to the greatest.” Jeremiah reminded the people that they had asked him to bring their petition to God. The people wanted God’s guidance in-light-of the tumultuous situation in Judah following Gedaliah’s assassination. 

Imagine you are one of those hearing God’s instructions after you have seen the complete destruction of Jerusalem and the conquest of Judah. What questions or concerns would God’s advice create? Knowing what you know about the people’s situation, had you been one of Judah’s decision makers, would you have recommended moving to Egypt after hearing God’s advice?

The Hebrew wording regarding the choice God gave stresses the deliberate decision the people needed to make because their circumstances might suggest pursuing another option. With that choice God would bless them even amid a hostile reign of a pagan king.

  • God would rebuild and not demolish.
  • God would plant and not uproot them.
  • God would relent concerning the disaster He had brought on His people. 
  • God would save them and rescue them from Nebuchadnezzar.
  • God would be compassionate toward them.
  • God would cause Nebuchadnezzar to have compassion, resulting in them being allowed to return to their own soil. 

God’s advice included actions that would be very difficult for them to do – not only remain but not be afraid of Nebuchadnezzar. The people had seen indescribable destruction and the exile of their loved ones, and were now facing a possible retribution by king Nebuchadnezzar. They probably feared that this time, the king would leave no survivors.

But God personally promised to save and rescue His people. The Babylonians were merely God’s instrument, and He would oversee the Jews’ protection and safety. Jerusalem’s defeat was not the defeat of God. He had judged them, but now He would protect those who remained and help them rebuild and become fruitful. The Lord would accomplish all of this if the people obeyed and trusted the Lord’s message through Jeremiah. 

Has God ever given you advice that was totally opposite of what you thought should happen? Did His choice keep you in a place or situation that you felt was hostile or difficult? How difficult would it be for you to obey God?

The people did have another option.

Option 2: Don’t Stay and Don’t Trust God—Jeremiah 42:13-18

What did God say would happen if they moved to Egypt? How was this different from what they assumed would happen if they moved to Egypt? 

If you were told that the situation would not be the way you envisioned, would you change your decision? 

God knew they would reject His advice. The people had already determined that safety would be found in Egypt. It’s interesting why they would even seek God’s advice since the decision was already made. It’s almost as if they were seeking God as an afterthought, to get His stamp of approval on the decision they had already made. 

Perhaps we are guilty of doing the same thing. 

How many times have we already made decisions, then we go to God seeking His advice, only to discover that His advice doesn’t align with our decisions?

When have you felt that God’s option wasn’t the option you desired to choose?

Trusting our own plans and judgment ultimately leads to destruction. God’s ways and thoughts are infinitely beyond ours (Isaiah 55:8-9), so it makes sense to trust Him. If you do decide to ignore God, you must accept responsibility and consequences.

You must accept the consequences of disobedience—Jeremiah 42:19-22 

If people today choose to do something other than what God commands, do they usually blame God for the outcome?

Jeremiah stressed his desire that they know and understand the implications of their refusal to heed God’s warning. They thought they would escape by fleeing to Egypt for a while, but in reality, the disastrous consequences of disobedience would follow them to Egypt. 

Failing to follow God’s counsel reveals a person’s true heart. People may say they believe and trust God, but the way they follow God’s advice given in His Word, by His Spirit, or through other believers truly reveals how much they truly desire to follow Him.

Obey or Ignore God

Why would someone ask for God’s counsel and then ignore it?  (Explore the Bible PSG, p. 107)

On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate your dependence on God when making decisions? What adjustments do you need to make to trust Him more and lean less on your own understanding? (Explore the Bible PSG, p. 108)

What should other believers’ role be in helping you as you seek God’s direction?

God’s people must never trust their own understanding over God’s commands. When we follow God’s advice and commands, we demonstrate our trust and belief in God to others. We should also understand that, while we have a choice, choosing not to follow God’s advice will result in consequences for which we will have to take responsibility.

Ultimately, we must remember that following God’s counsel reveals what we really believe about God.

The downloadable teaching helps provide more details for this study, along with some tools you can use in guiding a group Bible study. 

Download PDF Version

Download Word Version

LifeWay Explore The Bible Resources

These teaching helps are intended to be used as a supplement to your study of Lifeway's Explore the Bible curriculum resources. Portions of this material are taken directly from content copyrighted to Lifeway Christian Resources Explore the Bible and is used with permission.  This material has not been reviewed by Lifeway Christian Resources. 

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