Then Zedekiah the king sent and took Jeremiah the prophet to himself into the third entry that is in Yahweh’s house. Then the king said to Jeremiah, “I will ask you something. Hide nothing from me.”
Then Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, “If I declare it to you, will you not surely put me to death? If I give you counsel, you will not listen to me.”
So Zedekiah the king swore secretly to Jeremiah, saying, “As Yahweh lives, who made our souls, I will not put you to death, neither will I give you into the hand of these men who seek your life.”
Then Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, “Yahweh, the God of Armies, the God of Israel, says: ‘If you will go out to the king of Babylon’s princes, then your soul will live, and this city will not be burned with fire. You will live, along with your house. But if you will not go out to the king of Babylon’s princes, then this city will be given into the hand of the Chaldeans, and they will burn it with fire, and you won’t escape out of their hand.’ ”
After years and years of warnings, and after the more recent warnings of God’s prophet Jeremiah, God gives Zedekiah one last chance to save Jerusalem. After all of the anger that God has expressed, He was still willing to accept Judah’s repentance. This is definitely not human behavior and it also demonstrates that “the God of the Old Testament” is far from being mean. What we actually see is a God who desperately wishes He didn’t have to punish His children.
We also experience the challenges that Jeremiah had in his daily walk with God. God had promised Jeremiah that he would not be killed as long as he continued to give out God’s messages faithfully. Even though he knew this, he was still defensive when the king asked Jeremiah for news from God. It could be that Jeremiah was just saying this for the kings benefit, but I think that if it were me, I would have been asking to protect myself and I think that God actually expects this of us. It’s natural and right to do what we can to avoid death! I believe that our avoidance of death is a part of His plan to keep us from it. Even so, we should also keep trusting God’s promises as we do what we can to protect ourselves.
King Zedekiah’s fear of man was evident in his life. He appears to have handed Jeremiah over to be killed when he was afraid of the princes and the military. Now, he’s talking to Jeremiah in secret again. The kings cowardice is in stark contrast to Jeremiah’s bravery, and that continues to play out as we read on. It is very comforting that we have a God who is willing to not give us what we deserve if we are willing to simply start obeying Him again.