Background: Jeremiah is a prophet of God who didn't really ask to be one and has been through a ton of hard stuff because even though he didn't ask to be a prophet and felt he wasn't ready to be one, God equipped him and Jeremiah chose to obey. God sends Jeremiah with probably the worst news possible almost all of the time to the people of Judah, and nobody wants to hear it. Why? Because what God tells Jeremiah to say is a warning to the people: He wants Jeremiah to warn the people that if they don't repent from their current practices (that is, turn away from what they are doing currently that dishonors God and follow God instead), destruction is sure to come upon the land, and an entire population of people will be wiped out. Hardly anyone likes Jeremiah for this, especially because false prophets keep saying things like, "Don't listen to Jeremiah; God will not sent Babylonians to destroy us!"
Why does God do this whole destruction-punishment thing, and why does He even say he feels grieved about it? Because God is a Father, and He is just: Like a parent, He loves His children very much, but in order for the child to grow up and be successful the parent must punish the child for bad behavior so that the child can develop well.
So we arrive at chapter 42, and there is only a remnant of Judah left after the Babylonians come through and then the Ammonites. The army officers of the remnant of Judah come to Jeremiah and beg him in verse 2, "Please hear our petition and pray to the LORD your God for this entire remnant. For as you now see, though we were once many, now only a few are left. Pray that the LORD your God will tell us where we should go and what we should do." Jeremiah agrees, and he's probably happy because it appears in this moment that people are actually going to listen to him and to God for once and actually do what's best for them. He says he'll tell them everything he hears from God and won't hold anything back. So the remnant replies in verse 6, "Whether it is favorable or unfavorable, we will obey the LORD our god, to whom we are sending you, so that it will go well with us, for we will obey the LORD our God."
I am convinced that this sort of obedience that the remnant professes in verse 6 is the kind of obedience that God looks for in His children. He's not looking for wimpy half-hearted obedience. He's not looking for His children to only obey Him when it suits their own personal desires, to only obey Him when he says "yes" to everything that they want to hear. He is a firm parent. He needs His children to obey him whether he says "yes" or "no". He has His peoples' best interests at heart always, and He loves us always. This means that since He knows what is best for us, for things to go well with us we need to obey Him even when He says "no"; that is to say, we need to obey Him even when it goes against what we really would like to do. Unfortunately for the remnant of Judah in these two chapters, they disobey because God tells them through Jeremiah not to flee to Egypt, which is what they had been planning on doing all along. I haven't read further than chapter 43 at this point, but we know at this point that destruction will come for them later at Egypt if they choose to flee there, even though at first they will be able to live an easier life.
This brings up another juicy point: Sometimes the easier way is not the best way. Sometimes we have to suffer things that we don't want to at all. We're like that child kicking and screaming when told that we can't go to the playground today because it's raining outside. The important thing to remember is that God uses hard times and moments to shape us and prepare us for things that have yet to come, and to prepare us for the good that He has in store for us.
Now let's look at what it says in verse 7: "Ten days later the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah." You might be thinking, "Okay, so what? This is boring." Dear Reader, the point is that God is a God of processes, not of instant gratification. How well does instant gratification work when it comes to raising a child? It doesn't discipline the child well, that's for sure. I'm sure you can think of a couple of kids who are being raised this way or who are older and were raised this way... God does not coddle His children like this. God's timing is perfect, and once again He knows what's best for us. This means that sometimes we have to be patient and wait. Our prayers may not be answered in an instant. It may take a day, or it could take ten as we see with Jeremiah, or it could take even longer. And so ensues a time of waiting.
But what does it mean to wait? It doesn't mean just sitting there! Look at how John Ortberg puts it:
[To wait] doesn't mean to be passive or inactive or fatalistic. It means whatever I do while I'm waiting for Sunday [an answered prayer, a certain event, a blessing, etc.], I do with Him. I work with Him, I rest with Him, I ask questions with Him, I wrestle with Him, I complain with Him. I wait on the Lord.Of course this requires a ton of patience, especially when we've been waiting for answers or healing or blessing for a long time. I'll let you know that I've been granted a couple of really amazing dreams that I want to follow through on and I want to see come to life really bad, but I know that they require that I wait. What does this period of waiting involve? Well first, I'll be studying in Spain in the fall; before I am able to go, I need to prepare my heart, pack bags, tie up loose ends, and of course still continue life here in the United States! After that, I have dreams of going to graduate school, but this requires that I wait as well. During that period of waiting, I need to finish my undergraduate studies. And I picture myself living and working in Costa Rica in the future, which of course requires more waiting as I finish all of my studies, do all of the necessary planning, get things set up, actually finding a job, etc. There are more dreams floating around in my head besides these, but I share these just as examples.
Jeremiah had to wait ten days for God to answer his prayer, but during that time he wasn't passive. He continued to pray, and continues to live life. One final word on waiting that I greatly enjoy: In the Spanish language, the word for "to wait" is "esperar". That same word "esperar" also means "to hope". While we are waiting for whatever it is we are waiting for, we are hoping. We hope for something that hasn't yet come but that we have faith will indeed come to us, that answer to our prayer.
In the end when God told him what to tell the remnant of Judah, they still didn't listen and went to Egypt anyway, but Jeremiah's example of being a faithful servant is one that I pray that you, dear Reader, would take to heart.