Sometimes when we don’t like what we hear we persecute those who speak unwelcome words. The condition of our hearts in the now dictates whether we are receiving God or pushing him away, our actions ebbing and flowing from self-centredness to Christ-focus…
16 Jeremiah was put into a vaulted cell in a dungeon, where he remained a long time. 17 Then King Zedekiah sent for him and had him brought to the palace, where he asked him privately, “Is there any word from the Lord?”
“Yes,” Jeremiah replied, “you will be delivered into the hands of the king of Babylon.”
18 Then Jeremiah said to King Zedekiah, “What crime have I committed against you or your attendants or this people, that you have put me in prison? 19 Where are your prophets who prophesied to you, ‘The king of Babylon will not attack you or this land’?
14 Then King Zedekiah sent for Jeremiah the prophet and had him brought to the third entrance to the temple of the Lord. “I am going to ask you something,” the king said to Jeremiah. “Do not hide anything from me.”
15 Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, “If I give you an answer, will you not kill me? Even if I did give you counsel, you would not listen to me.”
16 But King Zedekiah swore this oath secretly to Jeremiah: “As surely as the Lord lives, who has given us breath, I will neither kill you nor hand you over to those who want to kill you.”
17 Then Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, “This is what the Lord God Almighty, the God of Israel, says: ‘If you surrender to the officers of the king of Babylon, your life will be spared and this city will not be burned down; you and your family will live. 18 But if you will not surrender to the officers of the king of Babylon, this city will be given into the hands of the Babylonians and they will burn it down; you yourself will not escape from them.’”
19 King Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, “I am afraid of the Jews who have gone over to the Babylonians, for the Babylonians may hand me over to them and they will mistreat me.”
20 “They will not hand you over,” Jeremiah replied. “Obey the Lord by doing what I tell you. Then it will go well with you, and your life will be spared.
Jeremiah 37:16-18, 38:14-20
King Zedekiah, who was installed as King of Judah by the Babylonians, put Jeremiah in jail. There was a trumped-up charge against him that Jeremiah was defecting to the invading Babylonians. Once in jail, the King revealed that he still knew that Jeremiah had God’s voice. He asked whether there was any word from God.
Interesting. He punished the voice of God and then turned around and asked it to speak. That tension exists even today. We don’t like what we hear and we persecute those who speak unwelcome words. Then when we are open to the truth, we go back to God’s messenger.
In other words, the condition of our hearts on any given day dictates whether we are receiving God or pushing him away.
We aren’t much different from Zedekiah. Our actions ebb and flow from self-centredness to Christ-focus and back.
Jeremiah was quick to ask the King what he had done to the prophets who had told the King falsely that Babylon would not attack. Again, our treatment of the messenger depends on whether we like the message, and not necessarily on the veracity of the message. To be seekers of the truth, we must be centred on hearing what God has to say to us and then seek him for our response as well.
In desperation, Zedekiah got there. We see in the next interaction that he promised Jeremiah that he would not kill him or hand him over to others based on his prophecy. Zedekiah was finally ready to hear from God. The message was clear: accept God’s lot for you and you will live. The King would have to surrender to have his life spared.
Sometimes God’s plan for us includes our deep humility and trust. Would you be willing to submit to God’s plan, even if it included discipline, for your own eventual good? Our pride works against our humble response. We have much to learn from the story of Judah…