The tale of the last days of Judah are filled with names of persons who were involved in political intrigue and murder. The story is complicated, and events move quickly; so, the question continually rises out of all the confusion – who is in charge. In Jeremiah 42 this is most pointedly addressed. The Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem and they took prisoners of the most important leaders among the people. Without the leaders those who were left came out of hiding to follow the newly appointed Jewish governor Gedaliah.
He did not believe a report from Johanan that Ishmael had plans to murder him. At a banquet Ishmael committed mass murder of the governor, his aides, and his followers. Johanan gave chase yet only succeeded in retrieving some captives that had been taken. Johanan and his people asked Jeremiah to seek God for instructions. Then they ignored the warning from God not to go to Egypt, but instead they kidnapped Jeremiah and walked off the pages of known history.
Examine the possibilities of those who might, could and thought they should be in charge. Gedaliah was the governor. He had followers and issued instructions to them. Therefore, he thought he was in charge. However, he had no plans, no have goals, and no way in which to evaluate what he was doing and all the potential consequences.
Ishmael certainly wanted to be in charge. To do that he had to become a traitor. It was his effort to be in charge that it caused him to commit murder. He knew he should be in charge because he was of the Royal seed. Events didn’t go his way though. Whatever he intended backfired.
Johanan was a military captain and one that everyone would expect to be in charge. He was an officer among the troops. To offset the treachery, he decided that he would be in charge. The consequences of his efforts were minimal. He only succeeded in freeing a few followers. During this whole time no one expressed gratitude to God for his overwhelming goodness.
Then there was a group of people unnamed and followers. They greatly needed a leader. They were like sheep without a shepherd. They had no idea who was in charge in all this tragedy. Unfortunately, they did not rally the courage to make changes. They saw the matter as us versus them and not about us for them. They settled within 20 miles of the city that was built by slaves. The remained in the state of confusion about what should be.
Jeremiah was the final character in this story. He was a man of God. He did as he was asked to go to God for direction which is what the people needed after the mass murder. They already decided they were going to Egypt and asked Jeremiah to get God’s blessing for the decision they already made.
Looking back at their situation, it certainly seems foolish from our perspective. One doesn’t decide and then tell God to bless it after the fact. Jeremiah knew who should be in charge but the people disallowed it. And Jeremiah knew who was the only one truly able to be in charge. Instead of listening to Jeremiah and God, they kidnapped Jeremiah and went into the dark pages of their own unknown future without God’s blessing. In doing so, Jeremiah became kidnapped and was never heard of again.
While looking at the circumstances of our lives, there may be some serious events occur like in the story. Or there may be a situation in which a decision needs to be made and hopefully it’s in God’s will. It is a significant temptation of believers to take matters into their own hands, develop plan, and while implementing the plan expect God to bless their decision without ever first asking God his opinion.
We may find ourselves in situations in which we need God’s guidance. It may be a traumatic circumstance, or it may be something not near so difficult to understand. In either case, if we are going to ask God’s direction, we must be willing to respond to his leadership. And we must be willing to change our intentions in favor of God’s plan. Certainly, they must not engulf innocent people in our rebellious spirit for the direction that we take.