Today’s passages: Jeremiah, chapters 37-39; Psalm 79; 2 John Scripture: Jeremiah 38:17-23 (NRSV) – Then Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, “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 will 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 handed over to the Chaldeans, and they shall burn it with fire, and you yourself shall not escape from their hand.” King Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, “I am afraid of the Judeans who have deserted to the Chaldeans, for I might be handed over to them and they would abuse me.” Jeremiah said, “That will not happen. Just obey the voice of the Lord in what I say to you, and it shall go well with you, and your life shall be spared. But if you are determined not to surrender, this is what the Lord has shown me – a vision of all the women remaining in the house of the king of Judah being led out to the officials of the king of Babylon and saying, ‘Your trusted friends have seduced you and have overcome you; Now that your feet are stuck in the mud, they desert you.’ All your wives and your children shall be led out to the Chaldeans, and you yourself shall not escape from their hand, but shall be seized by the king of Babylon; and this city shall be burned with fire.”
Observations: And that’s exactly what happened. Zedekiah, after asking Jeremiah on several occasions what word he had from the Lord, still refused to listen and do what God had told him to do – and things happened just as Jeremiah had told him they would. I’m not sure how long it took – the timeline of these chapters is a bit hard to follow – but chapter 39 reflects that the city fell just as Jeremiah had said, and Zedekiah was taken out and handed over to the king of Babylon. When God decrees that certain consequences will follow disobedience, we can be sure that they will, even if they don’t come immediately.
God has given all of us the same kind of guidance in his Word: he has commanded us how to live, and he has decreed certain blessings that will follow obedience, and certain consequences that will follow disobedience. These blessings and consequences may not happen immediately; in fact, there are often times when it may seem that negative consequences follow obedience and “blessings” follow disobedience. This is Satan’s way of trying to deceive us. “Do not be deceived; God is not mocked. Whatever a man sows, that is what he will reap.” In God’s time, according to God’s purposes, things will come to pass just as God has said.
And because “God is no respecter of persons,” the same principle holds true for everyone: powerful and powerless, rich and poor, young and old, famous and anonymous. King Nebuchadnezzar thought he had the world by the tail, but the day came when God humbled him (see Daniel 4). The Babylonians probably thought their kingdom would go on forever – but God had decreed 70 years, and that’s exactly what they got. God has not changed; his principles are as true today as they were 2500 years ago. Those who honor God will be blessed; those who dishonor God will be suffer the consequences. The blessings and consequences may come in this life, or they may come in God’s eternal kingdom – but they will come.
Applications: One of the reasons that the Judeans came to the point of being exiled was because they continued to tell themselves that God wouldn’t allow it to happen, because they were “his people.” Calling themselves “his people” didn’t mean that they could do whatever they wanted with impunity; God expects his people to walk in his ways. The same is true today. We can allow ourselves to believe that “God won’t allow that to happen,” but if we continue to disregard the teachings of his Word and do what we think is best, we’re walking outside God’s purposes. We need to seek God’s will, and do it – and do it his way. The ends never justify the means in God’s purposes; the ways we do things are as important as the results. Prayer:Father, help me today to walk in your ways – to do your will, and do it the way you call me to do it. Lead me in your paths, that I might not be led astray by the deceptions of the enemy. Help me to point people toward you, and to help them understand that we are called to live like Jesus, not just “believe” in Jesus. May your kingdom come, and your will be done, by your people today. Amen.