Daily Family Worship

Jeremiah 21: A Word to King Zedekiah

by | Jul 25, 2023

jeremiah 21

It is clear that the prophecies of this book are not all compiled in the chronological order in which they were preached; for there are chapters after this one which speak of Kings Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, and Jeconiah – who all reigned before Zedekiah, in whose reign the prophecy of this chapter took place. Here we read of the message which Zedekiah sent to Jeremiah, desiring him to enquire of the Lord on behalf of the people (verses 1-2). The prophet, in God’s name, sends an answer to the king’s message. In it, he foretells the certain and inevitable ruin of the city, and the fruitlessness of the people’s attempts for its preservation (verses 3-7). Then he advises the people to make the best of this bad situation by meekly submitting to the king of Babylon, instead of resisting and rebelling against him (verses 8-10). The king and his family are advised to repent and reform (verses 11-12), and to not grow secure in vain-confidence by trusting in the strength of their city (verses 13-14).

This seems to have been a very humble message which King Zedekiah sent to the Lord’s prophet. But unfortunately, we know from 2 Chronicles 36:12 that Zedekiah did not genuinely humble himself. He did not consistently exhibit the humility that he sometimes seems to have displayed. Indeed, he never humbled himself at all until necessity and distress forced him to do so; and he only humbled himself so far as to desire the prophet’s assistance, but not so far as to take his good advice.

A time of distress was what the king was certainly in at this point. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon made war upon him. He not only invaded the land of Judah, but he also besieged the city of Jerusalem. In this time of trouble, Zedekiah sent two messengers – Pashur (not the same man as in the last chapter) and Zephaniah – to visit Jeremiah and convey a request to him. It was good that he sent messengers to the prophet, but it would have been better if he himself had desired a personal interview with the prophet – which he surely could have easily obtained, if he had only humbled himself before the Lord Whom Jeremiah served.

The message that was thus sent to Jeremiah was a request: “Enquire, I pray thee, of the Lord for us” (verse 2). Now that the Babylonian army (also referred to as the Chaldeans, as in verse 4) had actually gotten within the borders of their land, the people of Jerusalem and Judah were somewhat convinced (although reluctantly and too late) that Jeremiah was indeed a true prophet of Jehovah. Under this conviction, they now desired him to stand as their friend before God; for they believed that he truly had that communion with the Lord which none of their false prophets had, despite their flattering predictions of peace. But the nature of their request was only a desire for Jeremiah to ask God what course they ought to take in their present straits. How sad it is that many will not ask for God’s grace to be shown them so that they may be saved from their sins, and yet they are often glad of directions from His Providence as to how to get clear of their troubles. All they care about is how to get rid of their bad circumstances, and not how to make their peace with the Lord and be reconciled with Him. The Jews in Jeremiah’s day only wanted their enemies to go away from them, but they were not concerned that their God would return to them.

It was foretold that God would render all their endeavors for their own security fruitless and ineffectual (verse 4). Some of the people may have imagined that they could secure their own safety by declining to sally out and attack the besiegers. But they are warned that even if they avoided the Babylonians’ sword, yet there was no way that they would escape the sword of God’s justice (verse 6). They would die of a great pestilence which would rage within the city walls, while the enemies were encamped around them. Even the king himself, and persons who escaped the sword and famine and pestilence, would fall into the hands of the Chaldeans, who would cut them down in cold blood (verse 7).

These predictions were certainly not what the people wanted to hear, but the prescription which he gave them now would provoke them even more. First, Jeremiah advised the people to surrender themselves to the Chaldeans, as the only means left to them to save their lives (verses 8-10). This counsel was very displeasing to those who were flattered by their false prophets into a desperate resolution to hold out to the last extremity. Second, the prophet advised the king and princes to reform, and to take heed to fulfill the duty of their offices. Jeremiah’s responsibility was not to compliment or court these royal men, but to give them wholesome counsel (verses 11-12). Finally, Jeremiah showed the people the vanity of all their hopes, as long as they continued unreformed and unrepentant (verses 13-14). Thinking their city to be impregnable because of their natural defenses, they defied the judgments of God and said, “Who shall come down against us?” By their wickedness, they had driven the Lord out of their city, when He would have gladly tarried with them as their Friend. But their bulwarks could not keep Him out of their city, when He came against them as their enemy. “If God be for us, who can be against us?” But if He is against us, who can help us in any way? O Lamb of God! Be the safety of all Your redeemed ones who are washed in Your blood. Our sins are a more formidable foe than even the Chaldean army, and there is no way of escape in ourselves; but in You, there is forgiveness, deliverance, and mercy!

Lord Jesus, we pray that a national reformation would take place in our own land! Help the leaders and government of our people to begin by setting a good example, so that the people will be invited to repent and return to You and find mercy. Amen.

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