The word which came to Jeremiah from Yahweh, when king Zedekiah sent to him Pashhur the son of Malchijah, and Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah, the priest, saying, “Please inquire of Yahweh for us; for Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon makes war against us. Perhaps Yahweh will deal with us according to all his wondrous works, that he may withdraw from us.”
Then Jeremiah said to them, “Tell Zedekiah: ‘Yahweh, the God of Israel says, “Behold, I will turn back the weapons of war that are in your hands, with which you fight against the king of Babylon, and against the Chaldeans who besiege you outside the walls; and I will gather them into the middle of this city. I myself will fight against you with an outstretched hand and with a strong arm, even in anger, in wrath, and in great indignation. I will strike the inhabitants of this city, both man and animal. They will die of a great pestilence. Afterward,” says Yahweh, “I will deliver Zedekiah king of Judah, his servants, and the people, even those who are left in this city from the pestilence, from the sword, and from the famine, into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and into the hand of their enemies, and into the hand of those who seek their life. He will strike them with the edge of the sword. He will not spare them, have pity, or have mercy.” ’
There are some today who don’t believe that God requires that people repent before they become a Christian. I believe that this passage is an illustration of the fact that God does require repentance before He gives mercy. Let me remind you that by repentance I mean a change of mind, specifically about being a sinner and accepting God’s view of your bad behavior.
In this passage, the king of Judah sent men to Jeremiah to ask him to ask God for His help against the coming attack from Babylon. Many kings in the past had requested help from God and received it in times like these, but this time, God’s message was terrifying. Jeremiah told them that God Himself intended to fight against Jerusalem! This reminds me that when we fear man more that God, we make one of the biggest mistakes possible. God is the one we should be fearing and the fact that God brings it up by His actions demonstrates the problem of repentance.
Judah was asking for God’s help when they hadn’t even confessed and turned from their sins. They were using God as a way to get out of trouble while still living the way that they wanted to and God’s response to this was to not only deny their request for mercy, but to demonstrate His great anger against them. He was not only going to bring the sword of Babylon against them, He was going to add disease to it and require that some of them be taken as slaves back to Babylon. No mercy was to be given at all.
The God of Israel is still the same today. When you read about the Gospel in the New Testament, you often read the words, “repent” and “believe” together. Becoming a Christian isn’t simply the addition of new things to your life. It’s also the removal of the old things. If a person’s heart is not brought to the place where they understand that they have sinned and need a savior, they don’t have a proper understanding of the Gospel and they can’t be saved. Salvation is turning from old beliefs, to new ones. It’s not a simple request that God stop being mad and start being nice. As we see here, that doesn’t work.