We all like to think we are part of the remnant, and that those who are in the remnant are safe. But are we secure in that understanding? Sometimes in Scripture it looks as though there is a remnant of the remnant. In the wake of the destruction of the first Temple by the Babylonians, Gedaliah was the leader of an impoverished, downtrodden national remnant. The army officers came to Gedaliah, a member of a family of scribes, at Mizpah after hearing he had been put in charge by the king of Babylon. In 2 Kings 25:23-26, Gedaliah had urged the officers with a message similar to that of Jeremiah: “Do not be afraid of serving the Chaldeans. Settle down in the land and serve the king of Babylonia, and it will go well with you.” We go on to read how Gedaliah was murdered along with the Judeans and Chaldeans that were with him at Mizpah. All the people that remained, great and small, in fear of the Chaldeans, fled with the army officers to what they believed was a safe haven – Egypt.
Before Gedaliah’s murder by a member of the royal family, the king of Babylon had left a remnant of Israel in Judah, which Gedaliah attempted to unify. They were without both a king, and the Temple. The Jews that had fled to Transjordan also gathered to Gedaliah (Jeremiah 40:11-12).
Moving on, past other murders and the confrontations between Johanan son of Kareah and Ishmael in which Johanan is the eventual victor, the people turn to Jeremiah. They want to hear a word from the Lord. Tellingly, Johanan was not counted among the first to seek such guidance. Jeremiah prophecies to the remnant (Jeremiah 42:7-11): “… If you stay in this land, I will build you up and not uproot you. Do not be afraid of the King of Babylon, whom you now fear; do not fear him – declares the Lord – for I will show you compassion – he will have compassion on you and restore you to your land.” Jeremiah continues: “If you say, ‘We will not stay in this land,’ and do not heed the voice of the Lord, your God. If you say, ‘No, for we will come to the land of Egypt, where we will see no war and hear no battle trumpets, nor will we hunger for bread, and there we will dwell.’” Jeremiah prophesies further; “Now hear the word of the Lord, O remnant of Judah: Thus said the Lord of Hosts, God of Israel: If you are determined to go to Egypt and you go to sojourn there, then the sword you fear will overtake you there in Egypt, and the famine you dread will follow you into Egypt, and there you will die! (Jeremiah 42:13-16).
Their response seals their fate
“When Jeremiah had finished speaking to the people all the words of the lord, their God – what the Lord had sent him to tell them, Azariah son of Hoshaiah and Johanan son of Kareah and all the arrogant men said to Jeremiah: You lie; the Lord, our God, has not sent you to tell us not to go to Egypt to sojourn there. Rather, Baruch son of Neriah is inciting you against us to hand us over to the Chaldeans, that they may kill us or carry us into exile to Babylonia” (Jeremiah 43:1-3). So they (the remnant) went to Egypt and did not heed the word of the Lord (Jeremiah 43:5-7).
The remnant of Israel journeyed to Egypt with Jeremiah in tow, and settled among the ruins in a fertile and well-irrigated area known locally as “the Castle of the Jews’ Daughter.” The locals welcomed them with open arms, with the Israelites making themselves at home, making the most of the luxurious lifestyle they now enjoyed, and participating in the pagan religion on hand. Egypt was a world power; the forlorn Israelites felt safe at last nesting under her wings. Jeremiah, like a fish out of water moves among them. One day, things are about to change dramatically as God’s word comes to the prophet of God. “Take some large stones and hide them in the mortar in the brickwork at the entrance to Pharaoh’s palace in Tahpenhes, in the presence of Jewish men. Say to them: Thus said the Lord of Hosts, God of Israel: I will send for My servant King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia, and I will set his throne atop these stones I have buried; he will spread his royal pavilion over them. He will come and attack Egypt, bringing death to those destined for death, captivity to those destined for captivity, and the sword to those destined for the sword (read Revelation 13:9). I will set fire to the temples of the gods of Egypt; he will burn them and take [their gods] captive; he will fold up the land of Egypt as a shepherd folds his garment…He will smash the monoliths at the temple of the sun in Egypt, and he will burn down the temples of the gods of Egypt (Jeremiah 43:9-13).
This prophecy was to be fulfilled in the years to come. The historian, Josephus, records that Nebuchanezzar “invaded Egypt to suppress it, killing its king, recapturing the Jews there, and bringing them to Babylonia.”
The Remnant without a Remnant
“Now thus says the Lord, God of Hosts, God of Israel: Why are you doing such evil to yourselves, cutting off from Judah the men and women, the children and infants, and leaving yourselves without a remnant? Why arouse My anger with what your hands have made, burning incense to other gods in Egypt, where you have come to destroy yourselves and make yourselves a curse and an object of reproach among all the nations on earth? Have you forgotten the wickedness of your ancestors, of the kings of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem? To this day they have not humbled themselves or shown reverence, nor have they followed My Torah and the laws I set before you and your ancestors” (Jeremiah 44:7-10).
Jeremiah proclaimed his warnings in the land of Israel, at the king’s palace there, and the Temple, but no-one would listen to him. Here, in Egypt, they answered him in what might be described as one voice. It is terrible to read. One wonders, would Jeremiah receive the same response today if he proclaimed his message in London, at the palace and at Westminster? Britain ignores God. The people have not humbled themselves and have not shown reverence to or for God. I fear London, and Britain’s response would be somewhat similar to that of Jeremiah 44:15-19. The remnant in Britain will not be saved out of the wrath to come simply by being the remnant. It is the obedience of His people God delights in, not sacrifice (1 Samuel 15:22), and not sacrifice to other gods! This will probably cause the theologians to cringe, but, reading about the remnant reminds me of the parable of the virgins, and a remnant within a remnant. One group is eager for the things of God, and for the glory of the Lord, and walking in the Spirit. The other group is distracted by worldly affairs and comfortable living – the flesh-life. Here, in Egypt, the people are of the latter variety, enjoying the luxurious living in Egypt, and bowing the knee to foreign gods. They were feeling safe outside of the land God had given to them. They were feeling secure in rejecting God’s word and God’s protection, while embracing gods made by the hand of man (Romans 1:21-23, 25). Until recent times, Jews have considered themselves somewhat safe in the lands of their dispersion. Though the Lord has been calling them back to Israel, many have stubbornly resisted that call. Jeremiah’s word to those in Egypt warned them that only individuals would survive the coming onslaught. In the time ahead of us in the Church, the love [towards God] of most will grow cold Matthew 24:12). They will fall away from the faith and be swallowed up by the world, the flesh, and by the god of this world.
The Future is Women…
This was the comment made by a young woman named Chloe, in Los Angeles. She was being interviewed after watching the royal wedding of Prince Harry and his new wife Meghan. Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, has been given the blessing of the palace to use her position to fight for feminism.[i] Women are becoming more and more vocal in today’s world, and, with echoes of Eden (Genesis 3:6), it is the women in Jeremiah 44:15-19 that respond by speaking out and leading the opposition to the prophet Jeremiah. It is the women that prompted their families to burn incense to the gods of Egypt; it was their husbands that justified their actions and supported them while accusing Jeremiah. They claimed to have done what Jeremiah told them to do, and that it didn’t do them any good. People in churches and society in general can turn on the preacher and teacher when he delivers God’s word to them. There is division in the Church over doctrine, that is as strong as the division in the nation over ‘Brexit’, creating visible splits in community and fellowship. The people scorn the man of God as they scorn the word he brought to them. The Israelite men in Egypt were not silent; but justified the women’s actions theologically.
Ireland has just held a referendum where they were given the choice, choose life, or choose death – Yes, to death. No, to life. The Yes vote won. The majority fighting for, and voting for Yes to abortion, were women, and the men justified their stand, particularly the Prime Minister of Ireland. Death struck in Eden and death is what we shall get in these islands of Britain and Ireland. Death is what the people want, death is what the people will get. Over the last forty years, we have seen Ireland vote to make contraception legal, to make divorce legal, to make same-sex marriage legal, and now abortion is legal in once Catholic Ireland. It is a living picture of the spiral of sin resulting in death. The living adult population feel secure in killing the living unborn population, those children that are being deprived of the right to life – And Ireland, as the rest of Britain has already done, rejoices in their victory. Doctors and nurses have been given a mandate to kill. The eventual fallout will be the disabled and elderly, and those with terminal illness will undoubtedly follow. The push is on for all of this already. After Irelands “victory” for “Yes to Death”, leading Tory women are pressuring Theresa May to change Norther Ireland’s abortion laws. Apparently, the slogan used in Northern Ireland is, “Trust Women”.[ii] Nicola Sturgeon celebrated the result and said “trust in women” had won the day as she welcomed Ireland’s landslide vote to reform its abortion laws. Scotland’s First Minister tweeted: “Congratulations to @Together4yes and the people of Ireland.” “Compassion, justice and trust in women win the day.”[iii] A woman played a vital role in the beginning, when the world was created (Genesis 3:6), and the man was not far behind her in justifying her decision by taking the fruit and eating it; and women are playing a vital role as we near the end of the age – at least, in these islands. Romans 5:112-21, and 1 Corinthians 15:21 explain how death entered. I imagine the NHS in this land will continue to struggle in its death throes, because we cannot expect to be kept in good health when we are murdering the unborn! There is no Hall of Remembrance for the nine-million unborn, butchered in the slaughter-house of human deprivation, and their little bodies burned and destroyed. The blood of these children cries out from the earth (Genesis 4:10). We as a people and nation are plunging deeper into the depths of political and moral darkness as we choose death and reject life. By demanding our ‘rights’ we will lose them. God hears, God sees, and God will act. Death has not lost its sting for those that defy the Living God.
Thank you, Lord Jesus, that You are the Lord of Life; and that You came to give us life in all its abundance (John 10:10). It is Satan – the thief – that has come to steal and kill and destroy. Through Your Son, we can receive your gift of salvation – “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
Blessings and shalom,