Why did God care whether the Jews left in Jerusalem after the exile went down to Egypt or not? Does it really matter to God where we live?
The issue was not merely one of location. The issue was one of trust. God told his people, through Jeremiah, not to go down to Egypt. The people did not believe in this word from the Lord, at least not to the point of obedience. They went to Egypt anyway.
Furthermore, the fact that these particular Jews had ceased to trust in the Lord was manifested in the fact that they worshipped other gods. Their response to Jeremiah was,
As for the word that you have spoken to us in the name of the Lord, we are not going to listen to you. Instead, we will do everything that we have vowed, make offerings to the queen of heaven and pour out libations to her, just as we and our ancestors, our kings and our officials, used to do in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. (Jeremiah 44:16-17)
We may never be so bold or so forthright in declaring our decision to disobey the word of the Lord. We may not physically put our fingers in our ears like children and say, "I'm not listening to you!" We tend to drift rather than make such clear-cut moves as these particular Jews did. But we often disobey the word of the Lord nonetheless.
The question in any decision is not: should I move here or move there, should I do this or do that? The question is: can I carry out this course of action as a demonstration of faith, hope, and love toward the Lord, or not?
Eugene Peterson writes in Run with the Horses,
We have to get practical. Really practical. The most practical thing we can do is hear what God says and act in appropriate response to it. “Arguments are ineffectual unless supported by events.” Hope-determined actions participate in the future that God is bringing into being. These acts are rarely spectacular. Usually they take place outside sacred settings. Almost never are they perceived to be significant by bystanders. It is not easy to act in hope because most of the immediate evidence is against it. As a result, we live in one of the most impractical societies the world has ever seen. If we are to live practically, we must frequently defy the impracticalities of our peers. It takes courage to act in hope. But it is the only practical action, for it is the only action that survives the decay of the moment and escapes the scrapheap of yesterday’s fashion.