This is the word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD when King Zedekiah sent to him Pashhur son of Malchijah and the priest Zephaniah son of Maaseiah, saying,
I. AN EXAMPLE TO BE IMITATED. Whatever might be said of the general behavior of the king, his conduct on this occasion appears at first highly sagacious and commendable.
1. For its acknowledgment of Jehovah as the only Deliverer. A tremendous danger threatened the state. Zedekiah "counted the cost" and sent to the representative of Jehovah. He did not waste his resources in useless expedients, but frankly accepted the calamity as sent from God, appealing through God's prophet for deliverance. Most men in similar circumstances lose themselves in secondary causes. "It is this unfortunate accident or that. In time circumstances will be better, and we shall right ourselves."
2. Its respect for God. Great officers of state sent to a poor prophet. Religion after all may be the chief concern; at least a very important matter, and worthy the attention of the highest in the land.
II. AN EXAMPLE TO BE AVOIDED.
1. It was tardy. The warning of the prophet had been given long before, but it was not believed. Not until the visible proof of his veracity appeared before the city was Zedekiah eager to come to terms with the God he had offended. However great the alacrity of men to betake themselves to the offices of religion in times of calamity, their earnestness has not the spontaneous character to which it pretends. They are spurred on by fear.
2. The power instead of the grace of God was appealed to. A compliment to Jehovah's past achievements is delicately suggested. No potty business would bring him to ask a favor of God, but this trouble is great and urgent, and beyond human means of dealing with it; therefore God is called in. "It is worthy of his interference who always ' doeth wondrously.' "Now, there is no real humiliation here. Recognition of God's claims is grudgingly and of necessity made, but no word is mentioned of sin or repentance from it; no appeal is made to the forgiving love of God. Human nature is proud even in its necessities and prayers. "Help me now, at this juncture, and - afterwards I shall be able to help myself." God wilt not accept us unless we come humbly as well as prayerfully. Sin must be confessed.
3. It contained no promise of amendment. Jehovah is summoned as a Dens ex machina for the solution of a humanly impossible problem; but there is no indication that the "desperate resort" will grow into a course of constant waiting upon God.
4. The duty which ought to have been personal was delegated to others. Under the garb of respect religion is often really evaded. The Bible teaches the great doctrine of mediation, but it does not tell us how to perform our religious duties by proxy.
5. Certainty, the note of Divine faith, is conspicuous by its absence. "If so be that." The case is stated as a distant possibility. The language sounds respectful; it is so diffident, so unpresuming; but it really veils a profound skepticism. There ought to be, there is, no "perhaps" in believing prayer. The king was told that if he and his people repented, God would instantly avert the calamity or convert it into blessing. Perhapses like this are profanities. Besides, the suggestion is dishonoring to God, viz. that he should stay his judgments and the sinner nevertheless continue impenitent,
6. The whole tone of the message is false and unsatisfactory. It is that of one driven up into a corner by an unexpected exigency, but resolved that what he is obliged to do shall be barely done, and in such a manner as to give it quite another aspect to those who look on. A moral distance is observed, as of one who is unwilling to allow that religious duties are of personal as well as official and conventional obligation. It is the courtly language of diplomacy, and does not come hot-burning from a heart full of sorrow, faith, and love. What wonder it should not be answered save in scorn and added severity? The sarcasm is sublime. - M.
Inquire, I pray thee, of the Lord for us.
1. That he brake his oath and faith plighted to the King of Babylon (Ezekiel 17:16).
2. That he humbled not himself before Jeremiah, speaking from the mouth of the Lord. Hitherto he had not: but now in his distress he seeketh to this prophet; yea, sendeth an embassage. Kings care not for soldiers, said a great commander, till their crowns hang on the one side of their heads. Sure it is that some of them slight God's ministers till they cannot tell what to do without them.
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