My, oh my, how quickly things progress when you are away for a week!
We had a wonderful time away this past week helping with ministry at family camp in Stayner. Amanda and I were busy helping with chapel services, worship, programming and those odd jobs that come with camp ministry that you can never really plan for. We were everything from visiting pastor to cinnamon bun makers to handymen this past week. Unfortunately, the internet was down at the camp for the bulk of the week, so I was unable to continue our conversation as we continue our walk through the Bible together.
But we are back at it now, and progressing very quickly! Tomorrow we will be half way through Jeremiah as we close in on the fall of the nation of Israel to the up and coming nation of Assyria.
I was amazed by something in this section of Jeremiah that I feel is very pertinent to today. It concerns Zedekiah, king of Judah from 597-586 B.C.
Zedekiah is the last king to hold that position in Judah before the nation is destroyed and taken into their Babylonian exile. Obviously, these events recorded in Jeremiah 21 happen before that final destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.
Zedekiah was not a good king. 2 Chronicles 36 says: “12 He did evil in the eyes of the Lord his God and did not humble himself before Jeremiah the prophet, who spoke the word of the Lord. 13 He also rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar, who had made him take an oath in God’s name. He became stiff-necked and hardened his heart and would not turn to the Lord, the God of Israel. 14 Furthermore, all the leaders of the priests and the people became more and more unfaithful, following all the detestable practices of the nations and defiling the temple of the Lord, which he had consecrated in Jerusalem.”
This is a man who refused God’s help from the start of his reign, rebelled against the King of Babylon and led the people into defiling the temple in Jerusalem.
But in Jeremiah 21 we read that he has the guts to approach Jeremiah, requesting that Jeremiah petition God to intervene in their circumstances and rescue them. Of course God refuses this request, and even proclaims that his hand would in fact aid the Babylonians.
Here is a man who from the outset turns his heart away from God, and yet when trouble comes he expects God to jump right in and save him. That takes guts! The unfortunate thing is that I still see people doing this today! People live their lives their way, doing their own thing, until things go sideways and then they cry out to God for help. What we fail to realize, and what Zedekiah failed to realize, is that if we have God in the picture from the outset, then perhaps these sideways situations would be less traumatic and occur less often.
I’m not saying that having God in your life insulates you from the tragedies of life. In fact, Jesus promised that following him would bring suffering. But at least if God is in your life and you have a relationship with him then you have a leg to stand on when you turn to him for help.
It would be like having a rich aunt or uncle in your family that you have nothing to do with, until the day you need money. And then all of a sudden you are all chummy-chummy with them because you need their help. Then when the crisis is over, all of a sudden you stop calling, stop emailing and stroke them off of your Christmas card list. God is not some giant blessing PEZ dispenser that we can run to when we need help.
Furthermore, I think God’s response to Zedekiah shows us just how much it hurts God when we treat him this way. God is furious with Zedekiah and pronounces great judgement on him and his officials because of his presumptuous request.
One final comment: notice what God says to the people after his response to Zedekiah: “‘This is what the Lord says: See, I am setting before you the way of life and the way of death.” This is always the way it is with God. He has always offered us two choices, right from Adam and Even until now. The way of life and the way of death. We must choose. It really fries my bacon when people choose the way of death and then blame God for the consequences. People live their own way, crisis hits, they turn to God and then get angry at God when he doesn’t do what they ask.
Don’t get me wrong, God can and does intervene in the lives of people who are not faithful to him. The stories of the Old Testament prove that to us. But we cannot presume to live our lives the way we choose and expect God to show up and miraculously pick up the pieces every time.
- What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
- What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
- Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
- How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
- What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?
Tomorrow’s Reading: Jeremiah 23-25