Zedekiah had more than ample warning of the danger that was coming. He was unwilling to obey the words of Jeremiah. As the years went by his fears seemed to grow, but he could not find any way out as he considered his options. He actually needed to surrender to the Babylonians as an expression of His submission to God. This was the only safe choice, but he repeatedly rejected that instruction from the Lord.
Even after one and a half years of a siege against Jerusalem, when the city walls had been breached and key Babylonian officials had taken their seats in the place of power, Zedekiah and his army attempted to escape by night. They were pursued, and frightful punishments were brought against them with swift and unwavering determination. What could be worse for a king than to see his sons killed before his very eyes? The murder of those young men was the last thing that he ever saw on this earth, for his own eyes were put out on that same day.
In addition, the nobles of Judah were put to death, the wall was broken down, and the king’s house was destroyed. Anyone of any use to the Babylonians was taken into exile and the rest were left in the land.
In contrast to this strict judgment, the king of Babylon gave a special instruction of mercy regarding Jeremiah. He was to be cared for, no one was to do any harm to him. The prophet had been in confinement in the court of the guard for some time. He ended up staying with the poor and the weak who remained in the land after the destruction of the city.
Another man that was treated well was the Ethiopian servant of the king who had earlier pleaded with Zedekiah for the rescue of Jeremiah from a muddy well where he would have soon died. God would deliver him from the trouble that so many others would face.
When a judgment from God overtakes a nation like Judah, we expect to hear that the most righteous people will be vindicated and the most wicked will suffer. But what about the cross of Christ? What happened to the best man that day? Why did Jesus die and the guilty go free?
What was it that uniquely qualified our Lord for the cross? It was His unparalleled righteousness. If He had sinned, He would have been disqualified from serving as our atoning sacrifice. If He had transgressed, there would have been no salvation for us in His death.
Of course the death of the very best Man could never be a fitting end to God’s story. Christ has risen. He satisfied God’s demands of perfect holiness, carried the full weight of our eternal debt, and then rose far above the sin and death that He had so soundly defeated. He continues to identify with us, the poor and the weak, remaining with us forever.
There are many occasions in this world when the sentence of punishment seems to fit the crime, but the gospel is not one of those occasions. In the good news of Christianity, the sinless Redeemer has taken our hell and we have been granted His heaven. We should hate the idea of facing the punishment that we actually deserve, but we can rejoice forever because of the life and death of Jesus Christ for sinners.
Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Lord God Almighty, when an agent of destruction and discipline from Your hand comes, will we see him rightly? How will we patiently receive the challenges that are a part of Your decree for Your church here below? Will we strike Your hand and run from You, or will we faithfully bear the affliction that You have sent for our good? Do we really believe that You know how to deliver us out of all harm? Do we truly know that You are working all things for our good? We believe Your Word. Strengthen us as servants of Your Son in a day of trouble.