Dangerous Presumption

“[King Zedekiah said,] ‘Inquire of the LORD for us, for Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon is making war against us. Perhaps the LORD will deal with us according to all his wonderful deeds and will make him withdraw from us’” (Jeremiah 21:2).

By the time Zedekiah was king in Judah, the Babylonians were at the gates of the city, seeking to invade it and wreak havoc upon the nation. Zedekiah was nervous, especially since he knew there was nothing he could do to ward off the Babylonians. So in an act of desperation, he sent messengers to Jeremiah, asking for God to do something wonderful and deliver Judah from its enemies.

While at first it seems like a step in the right direction for him to seek God’s help, in reality this was just another example of the king’s folly. First, he had clearly not been listening to any of the prophecies Jeremiah had been proclaiming. Each one of them spoke of the coming destruction of Jerusalem and how God would punish His people for their iniquities. This judgment was inevitable; God had even instructed Jeremiah to not pray for the people, as He would not relent of the disaster He was about to bring upon the nation.

But an even greater mark against Zedekiah is the phrasing of his message. He didn’t ask God to be merciful. He didn’t acknowledge his own wrongdoing or the wrongs of his people. He just asked God to do something wonderful. He treated God as little more than a powerful magician who would do miraculous things for him if he just asked. He didn’t care about anything Jeremiah had said concerning God’s judgment on sin; he just wanted a convenient escape route.

God’s answer illustrates just how serious of an issue this was. He didn’t even address the possibility of the Babylonians retreating. Instead, He declared that only those who willingly submitted to the invaders would keep their lives. Everyone else would be destroyed along with the city. As for Zedekiah himself, there would be no hope for him. He would be struck down by the Babylonians; he would have no chance to escape. His presumptuous request proved he had no respect for God. God had shown him the one way to be rescued, but he had chosen to follow his own understanding. His destruction was on his own head.

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