Have you ever known someone who was hurtling toward destruction (e.g., of their health, of their marriage, of their family, of their reputation, of their business, of their soul) who steadfastly refused opportunity after opportunity to save himself/herself through immoral or stubbornly dumb choices? It’s tragic and heartbreaking to watch. Today’s reading deals with the last chances offered Zedekiah and the city of Jerusalem to avoid not just defeat, but cataclysmic destruction of the city and the Temple, not to speak of the human life lost — last chances that Zedekiah and the rulers of Jerusalem decided to take a pass on. What can we learn from Jeremiah’s account of the last days of Jerusalem in his lifetime.
The Egyptians were just another false hope
The political rescue that made sense to Zedekiah and his advisors was to ask the Egyptians to come to their rescue, and sure enough when the Egyptians approached the Babylonians did lift the siege and confronted the new threat. But the Egyptians were a false hope to Jerusalem, the Egyptians could never be Israel’s savior, the God that they had offended and abandoned was their Savior — the very One who was bringing Nebuchadnezzar’s army to Israel’s doorstep. Jeremiah 37:10 “‘For even if you had defeated the entire army of Chaldeans who were fighting against you, and there were only wounded men left among them, each man in his tent, they would rise up and burn this city with fire.’”” Somehow political intrigue and complexity was deemed better than repentance and obedience, but it wouldn’t work. Israel had offended God and God was a very determined enemy. The awful thing is that it didn’t need to be this way.
Politicians and their constituents still seek political answers to spiritual problems. The solution is always doing right and faithfulness to the LORD, and repentance, if it is called for. Psalms 144:15: “How blessed are the people who are so situated; How blessed are the people whose God is the LORD!”
Where are all your false prophets?
Zedekiah seemed to have been inclined listen to Jeremiah, but he had also been inclined to listen to the false prophets with their false hopes. And at this point the false prophets’ prophecies were being exposed for the foolishness that they always were. Jeremiah rightly asks, (Jeremiah 37:19) ““Where then are your prophets who prophesied to you, saying, ‘The king of Babylon will not come against you or against this land’?” The answer was Nowhere to be found!
There continue to be false prophets (false teachers and preachers) in our own day, full of false hope and misinformation. As in Zedekiah’s case, there’ll be those who listened to them to their own tragic demise. The destruction coming, however, is not just of a city and its Temple, but the final judgment. The false prophets will be unable to rescue.
When is treason not really treason?
The answer is when foolishness is really wisdom. Jeremiah’s advice to Zedekiah, the rulers, and the people sounded like treason in the ears of the leaders, Jeremiah 38:3, 4 ““Thus says the LORD, ‘This city will certainly be given into the hand of the army of the king of Babylon and he will capture it.’” Then the officials said to the king, “Now let this man be put to death, inasmuch as he is discouraging the men of war who are left in this city and all the people, by speaking such words to them; for this man is not seeking the well-being of this people but rather their harm.”” But there was no treason here, there was godly wisdom — a submission to God by submitted to the judgment that He had ordained for them through the Babylonian captivity. Think about it like a criminal holed up in a house, surrounded by the police. The smart thing to do is to come out with your hands up, confess, and do the time for your crime. It may not be much fun but it’s better than taking a hundred bullets and or spending more time in prison for the further crimes of resisting.
Today people continue to resist the consequences for sins and continue to resist submission to God. Dodging consequences, however, doesn’t solve the larger and more serious problem of one’s character and of one’s final destiny for sin.
The last thing he saw
Despite the opportunity to minimize the destruction — Jeremiah 38:17, 18 “Then Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, “Thus says the LORD God of hosts, the God of Israel, ‘If you will indeed go out to the officers of the king of Babylon, then you will live, this city will not be burned with fire, and you and your household will survive. ‘But if you will not go out to the officers of the king of Babylon, then this city will be given over to the hand of the Chaldeans; and they will burn it with fire, and you yourself will not escape from their hand.’”” — Zedekiah still took a pass on God’s offer. The consequences of his inaction, his fear of the nobles who wanted to fight to the last man, his hope for salvation from the Egyptians was that when he was captured (after trying to flee the city at night), he had to watch as his own children were brutally executed and then his eyes were put out! The memories of this last sight had to have burned his heart, his conscience, and his memory to his dying day! How many alcoholics, stubborn spouses, negligent parents, or self-centered libertine have surveyed the wreckage and collateral damages of their life’s follies with sharp pangs of conscience and deep regret.
When you hate to be right
He was right and he had been right all along. But there was no triumph in Jeremiah’s vindication. No victory dance, no fist pumping, just broken-heartedness. There is no competition in Jeremiah’s heart, as in, “I was right and you were wrong!” And even here there is a lot for us to consider; discussing the Bible’s teachings isn’t a debate to be won or lost, it is a plea for men to save themselves. When and if they reject the Bible’s teachings, it’s not a defeat to us or a victory for them — it’s an eternal tragedy; it’s a lost soul.
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.