One thing that bugs me is when people ask me for help and don’t take the advice I give them. My advice is far from perfect, but I do seek to offer wise, biblically-based counsel to those who seek it. Yet so often I find those who ask for help taking vastly different paths than the ones I suggest, sometimes taking the exact opposite path.
Over the past few days, I have seen this unfold in the life of Judah’s final pre-exilic king, Zedekiah. Back in Jeremiah 38, king Zedekiah asks Jeremiah to tell him exactly what’s about to happen to the kingdom and what he should dod about it. This is what Jeremiah says:
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. 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, fand they shall burn it with fire, and you shall not escape from their hand.
The conversation continues as Zedekiah expresses his fears to Jeremiah, but at the end of the day, Jeremiah’s word from the Lord remains the same, surrender and you will live, resist and you will die. If I were Zedekiah, I know which one I would choose. However, 2 Kings reveals exactly how much value king Zedekiah placed on the words of the prophet. 2 Kings 25:1 and following says this:
And in the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month, on the tenth day of the month, vNebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came with all his army against Jerusalem and laid siege to it. And they built siegeworks all around it. So the city was besieged till the eleventh year of King Zedekiah. 3 On the ninth day of the fourth month the famine was so severe in the city that there was no food for the people of the land. Then a breach was made in the city, and all the men of war fled by night by the way of the gate between the two walls, by the king’s garden, and the Chaldeans were around the city. And they went in the direction of the Arabah. But the army of the Chaldeans pursued the king and overtook him in the plains of Jericho, and all his army was scattered from him. Then they captured the king band brought him up to the king of Babylon at Riblah, and they passed sentence on him. They slaughtered the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes, and put out the eyes of Zedekiah and bound him in chains and took him to Babylon.
For nearly two years, Zedekiah tried to hold down the fort in Jerusalem, deciding to resist rather than surrender, but in the end, the will of the Lord was strong than the will of the king, and Zedekiah was over taken. His family was killed and his eyes were gouged out and he was taken to Babylon as a common prisoner.
My question is this: Why would he even ask Jeremiah for help in the first place if he had no intention of listening?
I think the answer is this:
Zedekiah intended to listen to the words of the Lord, but when he heard them, he was faced with the all too familiar dilema of our existence: In whom did the king place his fear and trust, God or man? His actions make clear that he feared man more than God and trusted his own strength more than God’s mighty power. But over and over again the Scriptures reminds us of where we should place our trust, and who we should fear:
The Lord is my light and my salvation;
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life;
of whom shall I be afraid?
It is better to take refuge in the Lord
than to trust in princes.
Some trust in chariots and some in horses,
but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.
Blessed is the man who makes
the Lord his trust,
who does not turn to the proud,
to those who go astray after a lie!
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear him,
and he makes known to them his covenant.
And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.