Jeremiah 38:17 Then Jeremiah said to Zedekiah (king of Israel), “Thus says the Lord, the God of hosts, the God of Israel, If you will only 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 handed over to the Chaldeans, and they shall burn it with fire, and you yourself shall not escape from their hand.”
After many generations in which the Hebrew people had been unfaithful to God, their day of reckoning was upon them. The northern kingdom of Israel was already defeated. Here, the southern kingdom of Judah was facing imminent defeat. In our passage for today, God’s prophet Jeremiah advised King Zedekiah what to do:
v.17 “Thus says the Lord, the God of hosts, the God of Israel, If you will only 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.”
This word put the king in a bit of a bind. On the one hand, one can assume the king wanted to live, wanted his people to live, and wanted his city to be spared. Surrendering would accomplish these things, according to the word of God spoken by the prophet. But there was a problem:
Surviving meant surrendering.
What would the people think of a king who advocated surrender rather than fight? Even if it was the right thing to do? Even if God himself gave such counsel through the prophet? In the end, the king chose to defy the counsel of God and do it his way – and all his people died.
Pride comes before a fall. (Proverbs 18:6)
As a king with an entire people in his care, the correct course of action would have been for the king to surrender as God suggested – though this may have compromised the king in the eyes of his subjects. At least they would have lived to see another day. And it’s possible they would, over time, come to appreciate the wisdom of making the difficult choice to surrender and save God’s people and God’s city Jerusalem. Instead, they were put to the sword and the city destroyed. It didn’t have to be that way.
Let’s face it, we tend to be a stubborn people. And, if we’re honest, we place a very high value on what other people think of us. We are reluctant to swallow our pride. We resist being laid low in the eyes of others, even if it’s the wise thing to do. We live for the approval of those around us rather than the One. Which brings up some important questions:
Where is my pride getting the better of me? How is my need for the approval of others clouding my better judgment? How am I placing others at risk by refusing to bend?
Heavenly Father, you value those with a humble heart and contrite spirit. Give us grace to live for the applause of You alone. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.