Nothing Could Be Done
2 Chronicles 36:11-21[i]
“Zedekiah was 21 years old when he became king.” (2 Chronicles 36:11)
Zedekiah was a son of Josiah and brother of Jehoiachin’s father, Jehoiakim.
Josiah had been a brilliant and godly king. His reign lasted 31 years. He became king at age 8 and died at the age of 40 when he challenged Egypt on the battlefield.
At that time, the two super-powers of the region were Babylon and Egypt. Pharaoh Neco marched against the armies of Babylon in 605 B.C. Josiah went out and confronted Pharaoh’s army and was defeated and killed. Josiah’s son, Jehoahaz, assumed the throne, but Pharaoh deposed Jehoahaz three months later and put his brother, Jehoiakim, on the throne.
Jehoiakim reigned for 11 years, but then Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, came to Jerusalem and took Jehoiakim captive. Jehoiakim’s son, Jehoiachin, assumed the throne, but his reign lasted only 3 months because Nebuchadnezzar did not agree. Nebuchadnezzar replaced Jehoiachin with his uncle, Josiah’s son, Zedekiah.
21-year-old Zedekiah would have been 9 years old when the Egyptians killed his father Josiah. He first saw Egypt and then Babylon plunder his temple, city and people. He, himself, was placed on the throne by the King of Babylon, and he swore by the Name of the Lord to be loyal to the King of Babylon.
The Lord gives this account of Zedekiah’s life in 2 Chronicles 36:12-13.
He did what was evil in the sight of the LORD his God, and he refused to humble himself when the prophet Jeremiah spoke to him directly from the LORD. He also rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar, even though he had taken an oath of loyalty in God’s name. Zedekiah was a hard and stubborn man, refusing to turn to the LORD, the God of Israel.
Zedekiah had seen some bad things in his life, and he had pressures around him. We know that he feared some of his officials because of his conversation with Jeremiah in Jeremiah 38:24-26. Zedekiah also lived in fear of the Babylonians.
Many of us face pressures: pressures of work and of economics, pressures of health and family, and pressures of relationships and communication. All of us have seen bad things, for instance: parents that did not care as they should, family members that died, and conflicts with those around us. We all look for safety and strength in these situations that confront us. We seek to manage and/or control circumstances and people in order to preserve our safety.
Zedekiah tried to do this. He rebelled against the King of Babylon, and he looked to Egypt to help break the power of the Babylonians over him. (Ezekiel 17:15 speaks of this treaty. When Zedekiah rebelled, Nebuchadnezzar sent his army to besiege Jerusalem. Zedekiah sent envoys to Egypt for help. Jeremiah 37:5 tells us that Pharaoh sent his army, and when the Egyptian army reached Judah’s southern border, the Babylonians broke their siege of Jerusalem long enough to go fight off the Egyptians.)
When God tells us that Zedekiah did evil in the sight of the Lord, He tells us a couple of the things that Zedekiah did.
First, Zedekiah refused to humble himself.
The text says that Jeremiah spoke to Zedekiah directly from the Lord. If we look at Jeremiah 38:14-28, we see an incident where Zedekiah talked privately with Jeremiah and Jeremiah spoke to Zedekiah directly from the Lord.
Zedekiah justified himself in front of Jeremiah. God told Zedekiah to surrender to the Babylonians, but Zedekiah said he was afraid of how the Babylonians would treat him. God assured him he would be treated well, but Zedekiah still did not obey. God’s analysis of Zedekiah’s response is that he refused to humble himself.
Whatever excuse you and I have for not obeying the Word of God, I suspect, God’s analysis would be the same. God says, “Husbands love your wives.” I know and you know that we do not always obey this command. What is your excuse? I have used quite a few of them myself, but the answer has always been found in humbling myself. Since I picked on the men, what does God says to wives? What is your excuse? Love your neighbor as yourself is a command that all of us fall short on, but do we humble ourselves and admit the sin in our hearts?
Not only did Zedekiah refuse to humble himself when spoken to directly from God, he also broke his oath, his promise. The text says he rebelled against the King of Babylon even though he had taken an oath of loyalty.
The oath of loyalty would have been the condition for taking the throne. However, Zedekiah did not think his oath worth keeping. Ezekiel 17:15 makes it clear that God would not allow a king to swear a treaty in His name and then break it.
Some teach that a Christian should never take an oath. Jesus did teach that we should not swear by invoking other things to make the oath stronger. However, He taught that a simple yes or no should be as binding as any oath. (Matthew 5:33-37) Has any one ever said, “Yes, I will,” or “No, I will not,” and failed to keep his or her word? Has any one ever signed a document saying that it is true to the best of his or her knowledge? We make promises to each other every day. Marriage is an oath or covenant between husband and wife. It is much more than “till death do us part.” It is a promise to love, to honor, to cherish, to be faithful to this one person all the time. Has the husband who does not love, honor and cherish his wife kept his vow just because he has not divorced her? Of course not! We all have excuses for not keeping our promises, but are we willing to humble ourselves and admit the sin in our hearts?
God’s final analysis of Zedekiah is, “Zedekiah was a hard and stubborn man, refusing to turn to the Lord, the God of Israel.” (2 Chronicles 36:13)
This is the point of what I am speaking about today.
Zedekiah was a man, and as a man, he had characteristics common to all of us. Any one of us can harden his or her heart against the Lord. We all know people who refuse to turn to the Lord.
Since this behavior is possible for all of us, let us consider the consequences Zedekiah saw.
First, the text tells us:
Likewise, 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. (2 Chronicles 36:14)
Zedekiah was not the only one affected. As the leader of the nation, his behavior changed the course of a nation. They all became more and more unfaithful. They followed the pagan practices of the surrounding nations.
Whose lives do your behavior and mine affect? Children, spouses, students, employees, clients, neighbors, etc.
Is the temple of the Lord, which is our body, defiled as a result? Before you say no, what about sex outside of marriage? What about pornography?
In Zedekiah’s time, it says the Lord repeatedly sent prophets to warn the people, but the people of his day scoffed at the prophets. They mocked God’s messengers and despised their words. (2 Chronicles 36:15-16)
It is no different now. It does not matter how many preachers say it and how many times they say it, there is an ever-increasing tendency to live together before getting married. It is the norm now, and to suggest waiting until after marriage to have sex is considered naïve and maybe even stupid. Let us call it scoffing. According to 2012 census data, 66% of all couples wed that year lived together for two years or longer before the wedding. Given that this does not count those who lived together less than two years, nor does it take into account the 7.8 million couples living together at the time. The majority of people do not take God’s commands about adultery and fornication seriously in our day.[ii]
Sex is just one issue. What about honesty? Can we trust people?
Zedekiah and his kingdom are an example for us. 2 Chronicles 36:16 says, “They scoffed at the prophets until the LORD’s anger could no longer be restrained and nothing could be done.”
“Nothing could be done.”
This signaled the end of the country. Most of the people living in Jerusalem under Zedekiah’s reign were killed by the Babylonians.
It was all the result of a hard heart and a refusal to humble himself and turn to the Lord.
What is the answer for our day?
It starts with you and me. You and I must humble ourselves and turn to the Lord.
[i] Unless otherwise noted Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation. Copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Steam, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.
[ii] http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2014/03/the-science-of-cohabitation-a-step-toward-marriage-not-a-rebellion/284512/ quoting https://www.census.gov/prod/2013pubs/p20-570.pdf