Thus said the LORD, the God of Israel; Go and speak to Zedekiah king of Judah, and tell him, Thus said the LORD; Behold…
Zedekiah, King of Judah. The life of this unhappy monarch is a piteous but powerful illustration of the misery of instability of character, the sorrows that dog the footsteps of the infirm will. What men need, in order to be happier and better than they are, is not more knowledge of what is right - they are amply supplied with that; or the presence of plentiful good purpose and desire to do the right - hell itself is paved with good intentions; but what is needed is strength of will, firmness and stability of character. It is for lack of that that men go so wrong and make such a miserable confusion of their own life and that of others. The history of Zedekiah illustrates all this. Therefore note -
I. HIS CHARACTER AS SHOWN BY HIS HISTORY. He was son of the good King Josiah, and may have been one of the "princes" carried off to Babylon in the days of Jehoiakim. He appears to have attracted the favourable notice of Nebuchadnezzar, probably on the ground of the hope that Jeremiah the prophet cherished concerning him. That hope was expressed in the name given him - Zedekiah, "the Lord our Righteousness," a name fulfilled only in One, but telling of the hopes that gathered round this young king. At twenty-one years of age he was placed on the throne of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar, and then the extreme difficulties of his position became evident. In his own country and in those adjoining, a smouldering rebellion prevailed. This the great enemy of Babylon, Egypt, did not fail to fan and further to the utmost of her power. Only a leader was wanting, and the rebellion would at once break forth. The chief of Zedekiah's own people were eager for him to head the revolt. For a time he refused, and seems (cf. Jeremiah 51:59) to have taken a solemn oath of allegiance to Nebuchadnezzar. But keeping this oath was not easy. It was a cruel position for him, and he had not the strength which so critical a time and emergency demanded. The influence of Jeremiah and Ms fear of the Babylonian power drew him one way; the clamour of his princes, priests, and people, and the promised aid of Egypt drew him another. And so at length he yielded, and treated his oath as so many idle words. Loud and stern were the protests of the prophet of God against such shameless and senseless falsehood (cf. Ezekiel 17:14; ch. 28.). But the princes of his court, as he himself pathetically admits (ch. 38.), had him completely under their influence: "Against them," he complains, "it is not the king that can do anything." He was thus driven to disregard the counsels of the prophet, which, as the event proved, were perfectly sound; and "he who might have kept the fragments of the kingdom together, and maintained for some generations longer the worship of Jehovah, brought its final ruin on his country, destruction on the temple, death to his family, and a cruel torment and a miserable captivity on himself." And there are other recorded instances of his lack of moral strength. His allowing the rich men and all those who, contrary to the Law, had held their, brethren as bondslaves, to enslave them once more, notwithstanding that in the most solemn way they had covenanted with God not to do so; then his treatment of the Prophet Jeremiah, - all showed, not so much that he was wicked, as that he was weak. Cruelly imprisoned by his enemies, the king sent for the prophet and placed him in gentler captivity in the court of his own palace. But there assailed by the angry accusations of the prophet's foes, the king yielded, and let them cast him into a horrible pit, where, had he been long left, he must have miserably perished. Conscience, stirred up by the remonstrance of a faithful servant, led the king to interpose again for his relief, and to have him remitted to his prison in the king's court. There Zedekiah treated him kindly; when the famine was raging in the city, he procured bread for him; he asked his prayers, and held long and frequent converse with him, but was all the while in abject fear lest the nobles should discover what their conversation had been about, and ha prevailed upon the prophet to condescend to an evasion of the truth in order not to betray him, poor weak king that he was (ch. 38.). Altogether wise was the counsel the prophet gave, but the king would and he would not. He did not know his own mind. But events moved on. The city was captured. The king and his household endeavoured to escape, were caught, carried before Nebuchadnezzar; his children were crucified in his presence; then his eyes were put out; and, loaded with fetters, he was dragged across the weary desert to Babylon, where he lived in misery until the Lord visited him (Jeremiah 32:5) - that is, until the Lord mercifully sent death to put an end to all his woe. It is a pitiful story, but one that teaches much concerning this instability of character which was this poor monarch's ruin.
II. WHAT THIS HISTORY SUGGESTS AS TO SUCH CHARACTER. It suggests:
1. Its nature. That it is a halting perpetually between two opinions - a condition of perpetual indecision! You never know where to find such men, or can be sure as to what they will do. They promise so well; they turn out so ill. Like a chip on a stream, driven, tossed, turned hither and thither, entangled, engulfed at last - so is such a man. In secular matters it is ruin, in spiritual it is more disastrous still.
2. Its results. What a miserable man this Zedekiah must have been! And so are all such. The debtor's pillow is proverbially a restless one, because of its wretchedness. Yet more so is that of the man who has no will of his own. And what Sorrow he brings upon others! He drags them down into the same vortex in which he is himself swallowed up. What ruin is wrought by such men in all the circles to which they belong!
3. Its cause. Want of a guiding principle in life. Without this, having no fixed rules, secular life is ruined. But in things spiritual this endeavour to serve God and mammon, this divided heart, is absolutely fatal. In such men the surrender to Christ has never been thorough and complete. They are as the seed on the stony ground.
4. Its cure. Living under the abiding realization of the presence of Christ. In armies that have begun to waver, the approach, the word, the eye of their leader has rallied them again and won them victory. So if, when tempted to waver, we feel the eye of Christ on us, we shall be firm. Therefore let him be the Lord of your souls. - C.
Parallel VersesKJV: Thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel; Go and speak to Zedekiah king of Judah, and tell him, Thus saith the LORD; Behold, I will give this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall burn it with fire:
WEB: Thus says Yahweh, the God of Israel, Go, and speak to Zedekiah king of Judah, and tell him, Thus says Yahweh, Behold, I will give this city into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall burn it with fire: