Zedekiah was appointed by Nebuchadnezzar to replace Jehoiachin who was taken into captivity. Jeremiah tells us that Jehoiachin spent 37 years in prison in Babylon before Nebuchadnezzar’s son and successor “Evil-merodach ascended to the Babylonian throne. He was kind to Jehoiachin and released him from prison on March 31 of that year.
He spoke kindly to Jehoiachin and gave him a higher place than all the other exiled kings in Babylon. He supplied Jehoiachin with new clothes to replace his prison garb and allowed him to dine in the king’s presence for the rest of his life. So the Babylonian king gave him a regular food allowance as long as he lived. This continued until the day of his death” (Jeremiah 52:31b-34, NLT).
Half a lifetime in prison and then a beggar at the table of a pagan king. Not much to brag about in Jehoiachin’s record. But what of Zedekiah who succeeded him?
It seems completely insane that he would rebel against Nebuchadnezzar who, during Jehoiachin’s reign, had already taken “all of Jerusalem captive, including all the commanders and the best of the soldiers, craftsmen, and artisans” (II Kings 24:14a). Didn’t leave Zedekiah much to work with, but he rebelled just the same.
And Zedekiah’s rebellion included breaking “an oath of loyalty in God’s Name” (II Chronicles 36:13a). Folks, that alone should make your hair stand on end. To swear “in God’s Name” is to make a vow not only between you and the other earthly party – be it a court of law or an individual – but it’s also a vow to the Lord that what you are saying is trustworthy and that you’ll fulfill whatever commitment you have made.
But Zedekiah wasn’t alone in his wrongdoing. “All the leaders of the priests and the people became more and more unfaithful. They followed all the pagan practices of the surrounding nations, desecrating the Temple of the Lord that had been consecrated in Jerusalem” (II Chronicles 36:14).
Yet “the Lord, the God of their ancestors, repeatedly sent His prophets to warn them” (II Chronicles 36:15a). And how did they respond?
“The people mocked these messengers of God and despised their words. They scoffed at the prophets until the Lord’s anger could no longer be restrained and nothing could be done” (II Chronicles 36:16).
The Lord may be “merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love,” (Joel 2:13b), but He still has His limits. Judah had reached them. And as much as it grieved God’s heart to do so, it was time for the axe to fall in Jerusalem.
The really sad part is that the same passage from Joel says that “He is eager to relent and not punish” (Joel 2:13c). Eager. If only they would have turned to Him.
So many bad things had happened to get Judah’s – and Israel’s – attention, and yet they ignored the One who only wanted to love them. The nation of Israel had bitten the dust long before. Now it was Judah’s time to face the music.
“God’s patience is infinite. Men, like small kettles, boil quickly with wrath at the least wrong. Not so God. If God were as wrathful, the world would have been a heap of ruins long ago.” (Sadhu Sundar Singh)
Copyright © 2013
Judy Woodward Bates