Wednesday, July 29, 2015

A Message To Zedekiah

Jeremiah 21:1-14

“The word which came unto Jeremiah from the LORD, when king Zedekiah sent unto him Pashur the son of Melchiah, and Zephaniah the son of Maaseiah the priest, saying,  Inquire, I pray thee, of the LORD for us; for Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon maketh war against us; if so be that the LORD will deal with us according to all his wondrous works, that he may go up from us.” (Jeremiah 21:1-2)

Judah was already in captivity when Zedekiah became king, and under his administration they tried to rebel.  Nebuchadnezzar was forced to suppress rebellions repeatedly, and had again been forced to send troops to regain control.   Zedekiah sent Pashur, (not the priest from the previous chapter) and Zephaniah to find out if God is going to bless and fight for them this time like he had done in the past. 

“Then said Jeremiah unto them, Thus shall ye say to Zedekiah: Thus saith the LORD God of Israel; Behold, I will turn back the weapons of war that are in your hands, wherewith ye fight against the king of Babylon, and against the Chaldeans, which besiege you without the walls, and I will assemble them into the midst of this city.  And I myself will fight against you with an outstretched hand and with a strong arm, even in anger, and in fury, and in great wrath.  And I will smite the inhabitants of this city, both man and beast: they shall die of a great pestilence.” (Jeremiah 21:3-6)

God’s response was not what Zedekiah wanted to hear.   He said he would use their own weapons against them, trapping them outside the walls while the Babylonian forces occupy the city.  God himself would fight against the Jews because he was very angry at what they were doing.  He would send pestilence or disease among them to weaken their defenses, killing many of them.  They had offended their strongest ally and turned him against them.

“And afterward, saith the LORD, I will deliver Zedekiah king of Judah, and his servants, and the people, and such as are left in this city from the pestilence, from the sword, and from the famine, into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, and into the hand of their enemies, and into the hand of those that seek their life: and he shall smite them with the edge of the sword; he shall not spare them, neither have pity, nor have mercy.” (Jeremiah 21:7)

Those who survive the war, starvation and the diseases, including Zedekiah would be captured by the Babylonians or others of their enemies.  Their enemies would show no mercy, killing them indiscriminately. 
“And unto this people thou shalt say, Thus saith the LORD; Behold, I set before you the way of life, and the way of death.  He that abideth in this city shall die by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence: but he that goeth out, and falleth to the Chaldeans that besiege you, he shall live, and his life shall be unto him for a prey.  For I have set my face against this city for evil, and not for good, saith the LORD: it shall be given into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall burn it with fire.” (Jeremiah 21:8-10)

The messengers were to warn the people they had two choices.  If they stayed in the city and fought, they would die whether killed in battle or of starvation and disease.  If they left the city and surrendered to the Babylonians, their lives would be spared because God was determined to destroy the city.   Nebuchadnezzar would defeat the city and, as a result of the repeated rebellion, burn it with fire to prevent future problems. 

“And touching the house of the king of Judah, say, Hear ye the word of the LORD; O house of David, thus saith the LORD; Execute judgment in the morning, and deliver him that is spoiled out of the hand of the oppressor, lest my fury go out like fire, and burn that none can quench it, because of the evil of your doings.” (Jeremiah 21:11-12)

Even at this late date, just a couple of years before the complete destruction of Jerusalem, God offers a chance to escape.  If Zedekiah would step up and enforce God’s laws, executing justice fairly and protecting the innocent, god would deliver them.  If not, God’s anger would come on them like an unquenchable fire because of their wickedness. 

“Behold, I am against thee, O inhabitant of the valley, and rock of the plain, saith the LORD; which say, Who shall come down against us? or who shall enter into our habitations?  But I will punish you according to the fruit of your doings, saith the LORD: and I will kindle a fire in the forest thereof, and it shall devour all things round about it.” (Jeremiah 21:13-14)

Because God had protected them in the past, so that the Babylonians had initially just taken over the government, establishing Zedekiah as king, Judah had the idea that they would never be completely defeated or occupied.  God warns them that they are about to receive the full consequences of their behavior.  He said it would be like a forest fire, that doesn’t stop with the trees, but burns the neighborhoods around the forest as well.  

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