Zedekiah’s Final Meeting with Jeremiah
Open Your Bible
Jeremiah 37:1-21, Jeremiah 38:1-28, 2 Kings 24:8-9, Psalm 40:1-3
I have two daughters, ages five and two. My two-year-old loves to eat and doesn’t understand boundaries, and my five-year-old likes to be busy, which means she leaves her food lying around in her wake. I’ll let you guess what happens more often than not. And despite my repeated warnings to my eldest—that if she leaves her uneaten food lying around, her sister will likely find and consume it—she continues to do the same thing, over and over again. Needless to say, tears ensue. I realize it’s probably not great parenting to say, “I told you so!” But really, what else is there to say? It’s a cause-and-effect problem, a black-and-white (and no gray) situation.
When Jeremiah speaks to Zedekiah in today’s passage, there’s a similar sentiment behind the message, one in which a half-hearted response just won’t do. There’s really no gray area to wonder, Well, maybe that’s not really what Jeremiah meant, or Maybe the consequences won’t really be as bad as he says they will. But what did Jeremiah actually say? Surrender to the Chaldeans, and you will live. Don’t surrender, and you will die (Jeremiah 38:2,18,23). Over and over again, Jeremiah relays this message, then gets thrown down a well for saying it, only to then say it again.
I find myself wishing that God always spoke this clearly. I couldn’t possibly count up all the seasons in my life when I have prayed desperately for clarity, for a sign in the sky, for a prophet to appear and speak with such thorough conviction. But even if God were to act in this way, would I actually believe Him? Would I, like King Zedekiah, come up with a list of reasons why I might possibly do the thing I was so clearly instructed not to do?
Zedekiah listened to the officials who said Jeremiah must be wrong, allowing them to throw him down the cistern. Later, Zedekiah was afraid of how the Judeans would treat him if he listened to Jeremiah and surrendered, and so he told Jeremiah to not tell anyone about the conversation. You can probably guess the outcome. The Lord spoke with conviction, but the king did not listen.
While I wish I were more like Jeremiah, the truth is, I probably live my life a lot more like Zedekiah. I’m able to read God’s Word and then turn around and act in the complete opposite of its instructions. My conversation is not always gracious nor is it seasoned with salt (Colossians 4:6). I love money (Matthew 6:24) and put my hope in all sorts of things other than God (1Peter 1:13). I have very little self-control (Proverbs 25:28), and my heart is often bitter and angry (Ephesians 4:31).
The reality is that I want God to be clear in His instruction, but only when it benefits me, when His Word aligns with my self-interests and goals. When He is clear and it stings a little, or when He asks me to sacrifice or change for my good and His glory, I pretend that’s not really what He’s saying. But even though I see myself in the willful, self-justifying defiance of Zedekiah, I can rest assured knowing that his fate is not mine, because of the person and work of Jesus Christ. When I look to Jesus, there is no cost too great to follow Him.