Day 213: A Lesson from King Zedekiah’s Life

Jeremiah 52:1-11

Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he began to reign. He reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Hamutal the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah. He did that which was evil in Yahweh’s sight, according to all that Jehoiakim had done. For through Yahweh’s anger this happened in Jerusalem and Judah, until he had cast them out from his presence.

Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon. In the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month, in the tenth day of the month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came, he and all his army, against Jerusalem, and encamped against it; and they built forts against it round about. So the city was besieged to the eleventh year of king Zedekiah.

In the fourth month, in the ninth day of the month, the famine was severe in the city, so that there was no bread for the people of the land. Then a breach was made in the city, and all the men of war fled, and went out of the city by night by the way of the gate between the two walls, which was by the king’s garden. Now the Chaldeans were against the city all around. The men of war went toward the Arabah, but the army of the Chaldeans pursued the king, and overtook Zedekiah in the plains of Jericho; and all his army was scattered from him. Then they took the king, and carried him up to the king of Babylon to Riblah in the land of Hamath; and he pronounced judgment on him. The king of Babylon killed the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes. He also killed all the princes of Judah in Riblah. He put out the eyes of Zedekiah; and the king of Babylon bound him in fetters, and carried him to Babylon, and put him in prison until the day of his death.

Zedekiah’s story is a sharp rebuke to all of us. He was the one who allowed Jeremiah to be thrown in jail, only to secretly let him out when no one was looking. He was more afraid of men than of God. Here we see where that kind of behavior took him in his life. He ended up being the king who went down in history as the one that lost Jerusalem. He is the one that God brought down His final judgment upon.

While Zedekiah was in Jerusalem, Jeremiah was afflicted. Remember that he was thrown into a muddy well and then confined in jail. When we read those things it seemed so unfair and it was, but in the end, Jeremiah won. Zedekiah was taken captive into Babylon and Jeremiah was allowed to go wherever he wanted and He chose to stay there in Judah. Zedekiah’s punishment was severe. His eyes were put out after watching his children be put to death. This shows us what God thinks of it when His prophets are mistreated. Zedekiah was always expecting God to save Him, but refused to listen to or believe in God’s words.

Even if you are sometimes nice to Christians and pray, it doesn’t mean that you will be saved from Hell. The Bible says that without faith it is impossible to please God. Zedekiah did some good things but the most important thing was missing and that was faith in God’s word. God warned him over and over that Babylon was coming. He even told him that it was possible to surrender and avoid destruction, but Zedekiah would not believe God. He chose to do things his own way. May unbelievers be given eyes to see and turn to the truth and be saved, and may we as Christians continue in faith every day and avoid being foolish like Zedekiah was.

Day 160: The Sin of Omission

Jeremiah 38:19-23

Zedekiah the king said to Jeremiah, “I am afraid of the Jews who have defected to the Chaldeans, lest they deliver me into their hand, and they mock me.”

But Jeremiah said, “They won’t deliver you. Obey, I beg you, Yahweh’s voice, in that which I speak to you; so it will be well with you, and your soul will live. But if you refuse to go out, this is the word that Yahweh has shown me: ‘Behold, all the women who are left in the king of Judah’s house will be brought out to the king of Babylon’s princes, and those women will say,

“Your familiar friends have turned on you,
and have prevailed over you.
Your feet are sunk in the mire,
they have turned away from you.”

They will bring out all your wives and your children to the Chaldeans. You won’t escape out of their hand, but will be taken by the hand of the king of Babylon. You will cause this city to be burned with fire.’ ”

One of the most wicked things we can do is to fail to do anything. It is often called the sin of omission. It’s especially deceptive because we tend to think that we aren’t doing anything wrong, simply because we aren’t do anything at all. That’s the situation that God put king Zedekiah in. It’s pretty obvious that God was well aware of the fact that Zedekiah was more afraid of the people than he was of God’s word. All God had to do was set up this simple situation. King Zedekiah had the choice to surrender to Babylon and save Jerusalem and his family, or to remain silent and allow his family to be taken and the city to be burned. God makes it clear here that by simply doing nothing, Zedekiah would “cause this city to be burned with fire.”

The reason that Zedekiah gave for not surrendering, was that he was afraid of the Jews who had already defected to Babylon. If this is true, the King actually distrusted his own people more than the Babylonians! I think that Zedekiah was, what we would call today, paranoid. God didn’t call this a disease. He called it sin and we know why. Zedekiah chose to believe his own thoughts rather than to believe the word of God. I believe that the Bible is clear on this. When we choose to trust in our own understanding, we will eventually go crazy. God had clearly directed the king’s path if only he would have stopped leaning on his own understanding.

Notice how wicked this sin of omission is. The one who commits it chooses to continue in sin for a season at the expense of the lives of those around him. The king could have saved the lives of his own family and the families of many other people in the city. He could have even preserved the temple and the city walls that would later have to be rebuilt, but because he decided to lean on his own understanding, his fear lead to self protection which lead to mass destruction. May God help us to stop leaning on our own understanding and help us to rely on God so that we can become a blessing rather than a curse.

Day 159: The Incredible Mercy of God

Jeremiah 38:14-18

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.