We have reason to wonder how Jeremiah the prophet escaped the sword of Ishmael; it seems he did escape, and it was not the first time that the Lord hid him. It is strange also that in these violent turns he was not consulted before now, and his advice asked and taken. But it should seem as if they knew not that a prophet was among them. Though this people were as brands plucked out of the fire, yet have they not returned to the Lord. This people has a revolting and a rebellious heart; and contempt of God and his providence, God and his prophets, is still the sin that most easily besets them. But now at length, to serve a turn, Jeremiah is sought out, and all the captains, Johanan himself not excepted, with all the people from the least to the greatest, make him a visit; they came near (Jer. 42:1), which intimates that hitherto they had kept at a distance from the prophet and had been shy of him. Now here,
I. They desire him by prayer to ask direction from God what they should do in the present critical juncture, Jer. 42:2, 3. They express themselves wonderfully well. 1. With great respect to the prophet. Though he was poor and low, and under their command, yet they apply to him with humility and submissiveness, as petitioners for his assistance, which yet they intimate their own unworthiness of: Let, we beseech thee, our supplication be accepted before thee. They compliment him thus in hopes to persuade him to say as they would have him say. 2. With a great opinion of his interest in heaven: “Pray for us, who know not how to pray for ourselves. Pray to the Lord thy God, for we are unworthy to call him ours, nor have we reason to expect any favour from him.” 3. With a great sense of their need of divine direction. They speak of themselves as objects of compassion: “We are but a remnant, but a few of many; how easily will such a remnant be swallowed up, and yet it is a pity that it should. Thy eyes see what distress we are in, what a plunge we are at; if thou canst do any thing, help us.” 4. With desire of divine direction: “Let the Lord thy God take this ruin into his thoughts and under his hand, and show us the way wherein we may walk and may expect to have his presence with us, and the thing that we may do, the course we may take for our own safety.” Note, In every difficult doubtful case our eye must be up to God for direction. They then might expect to be directed by a spirit of prophecy, which has now ceased; but we may still in faith pray to be guided by a spirit of wisdom in our hearts and the hints of Providence.
II. Jeremiah faithfully promises them to pray for direction for them, and, whatever message God should send to them by him, he would deliver it to them just as he received it without adding, altering, or diminishing, Jer. 42:4. Ministers may hence learn, 1. Conscientiously to pray for those who desire their prayers: I will pray for you according to your words. Though they had slighted him, yet, like Samuel when he was slighted, he will not sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for them, 1 Sam. 12:23. 2. Conscientiously to advise those who desire their advice as near as they can to the mind of God, not keeping back any thing that is profitable for them, whether it be pleasing or no, but to declare to them the whole counsel of God, that they may approve themselves true to their trust.
III. They fairly promise that they will be governed by the will of God, as soon as they know what it is (Jer. 42:5, 6), and they had the impudence to appeal to God concerning their sincerity herein, though at the same time they dissembled: “The Lord be a true and faithful witness between us; do thou in the fear of God tell us truly what his mind is and then we will in the fear of God comply with it, and for this the Lord the Judge be Judge between us.” Note, Those that expect to have the benefit of good ministers’ prayers must conscientiously hearken to their preaching and be governed by it, as far as it agrees with the mind of God. Nothing could be better than this was: Whether it be good, or whether it be evil, we will obey the voice of the Lord our God, that it may be well with us. 1. They now call God their God, for Jeremiah had encouraged them to call him so (Jer. 42:4): I will pray to the Lord your God. He is ours, and therefore we will obey his voice. Our relation to God strongly obliges us to obedience. 2. They promise to obey his voice because they sent the prophet to him to consult him. Note, We do not truly desire to know the mind of God if we do not fully resolve to comply with it when we do know it. 3. It is an implicit universal obedience that they here promise. They will do what God appoints them to do, whether it be good or whether it be evil: “Though it may seem evil to us, yet we will believe that if God command it it is certainly good, and we must not dispute it, but do it. Whatever God commands, whether it be easy or difficult, agreeable to our inclinations or contrary to them, whether it be cheap or costly, fashionable or unfashionable, whether we get or lose by it in our worldly interests, if it be our duty, we will do it.” 4. It is upon a very good consideration that they promise this, a reasonable and powerful one, that it may be well with us, which intimates a conviction that they could not expect it should be well with them upon any other terms.