Zedekiah the son of Josiah reigned as king instead of Coniah the son of Jehoiakim, whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon made king in the land of Judah. But neither he, nor his servants, nor the people of the land, listened to Yahweh’s words, which he spoke by the prophet Jeremiah.
Zedekiah the king sent Jehucal the son of Shelemiah and Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah, the priest, to the prophet Jeremiah, saying, “Pray now to Yahweh our God for us.”
Now Jeremiah came in and went out among the people, for they had not put him into prison. Pharaoh’s army had come out of Egypt; and when the Chaldeans who were besieging Jerusalem heard news of them, they withdrew from Jerusalem.
Then Yahweh’s word came to the prophet Jeremiah, saying, “Yahweh, the God of Israel, says, ‘You shall tell the king of Judah, who sent you to me to inquire of me: “Behold, Pharaoh’s army, which has come out to help you, will return to Egypt into their own land. The Chaldeans will come again, and fight against this city. They will take it and burn it with fire.” ’
“Yahweh says, ‘Don’t deceive yourselves, saying, “The Chaldeans will surely depart from us;” for they will not depart. For though you had struck the whole army of the Chaldeans who fight against you, and only wounded men remained among them, they would each rise up in his tent and burn this city with fire.’ ”
This piece of history records a very interesting situation. God tells us that neither the king, “nor his servants, nor the people of the land, listened to Yahweh’s words.” Even so, “the king sent… to the prophet Jeremiah, saying, ‘Pray now to Yahweh our God for us.'” What we have here is one-way communication. Israel decided not to listen to God but expected God to listen to them when they were in trouble. It appears that “when the Chaldeans… were besieging Jerusalem,” the Israelis found it in their best interest to have the prophet that they ignore pray to get the war to stop. We get to read here about how that turned out.
At first, it appeared to work because when Egypt decided to move in, the Chaldeans “withdrew from Jerusalem.” Perhaps they thought that they could ignore God and get His blessing anyway by praying some magic words, but God made sure to have Jeremiah give them another message.
God not only didn’t choose to help them, He repeated His intention to have them be destroyed. He had the very same prophet that they had been ignoring, tell them that the Chaldeans would not only return, but that even if they were all wounded, they would still end up burning Jerusalem.
There’s one thing that appears to be very clear from this passage. You can’t expect to pray to God for His help if you have been ignoring Him. I believe that this passage demonstrates that not only will God not help you, He may get angry and hurt you. Some may say that God is being mean here, but that’s because they are still refusing to see the obvious. God is a real person and He can’t be boxed up in a man-made, man-focused religion. Just like you would expect of any person, God gets angry when He’s ignored and He doesn’t feel close to people who try to use and abuse Him. He’s also the most powerful person and can do something about it when He’s mistreated. It is a lesson to us to pay attention to God’s words, then we can expect that God will hear our prayers for help.