As the city of Jerusalem was threatened by the invading Babylonian Empire, there was much political intrigue taking place. Some men wanted Jeremiah the prophet dead for speaking the Lord’s judgment on Jerusalem. They thought he was unnecessarily disheartening the men.
After one failed attempt to kill Jeremiah, a servant of the king rescued the prophet. And Jeremiah and King Zedekiah had a chance to have a conversation. Jeremiah told the king that the city would be taken. And Jeremiah told the king that, if he wanted to be spared by the Lord, he needed to surrender himself to the king of Babylon.
Jeremiah 38:17-20 – 17 Then Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, “Thus says the Lord, the God of hosts, the God of Israel: If you will surrender to the officials of the king of Babylon, then your life shall be spared, and this city shall not be burned with fire, and you and your house shall live. 18 But if you do not surrender to the officials of the king of Babylon, then this city shall be given into the hand of the Chaldeans, and they shall burn it with fire, and you shall not escape from their hand.” 19 King Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, “I am afraid of the Judeans who have deserted to the Chaldeans, lest I be handed over to them and they deal cruelly with me.” 20 Jeremiah said, “You shall not be given to them. Obey now the voice of the Lord in what I say to you, and it shall be well with you, and your life shall be spared.
Consider that King Zedekiah received the most favorable answer he could have possibly received given the circumstances. There is a simple action that Zedekiah could take, and action commanded directly by the Lord, that would spare his life and keep his city from the torch. This is, in so many ways, a no-brainer.
Want to guess what happened? The king, of course, does not listen. His fears and his understanding of the situation would not allow him to obey the command of God. He was too scared of the unknown. So he tried to escape on his own, and he suffered greatly for it.
Is there a lesson here for us? Of course there is. God’s word is true. God gives us counsel that goes against our this-worldly wisdom. And when God tells us what is right, we need to obey, even when we are afraid to do so. There is nothing to be gained by surviving a few more years in a besieged city only to fall in disobedience to the Lord. And there is nothing to gain by compromising the word of God for things that will eternally pass away.
The king heard the word of God, heard the promise of God, heard that he could be safe. His response was basically, “Thanks but no thanks.” Let’s not respond that way to our Lord.