Saving Yourself

Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, “The Lord God of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says, ‘You must surrender to the officers of the king of Babylon. If you do, your life will be spared and this city will not be burned down. Indeed, you and your whole family will be spared.  Jeremiah 38:17 NET

            King Zedekiah of Judah was the last King before Jerusalem and the nation was taken fully captive by the Babylonians. He is a perplexing individual because it seems that he wants to hear the voice of God but not obey the voice of God.

            Jeremiah had been prophesying that the Lord had determined to turn His people over to King Nebuchadnezzar because of their idolatry and refusal to repent and turn fully to the Lord. Some of the people of Judah had already been taken into captivity. The rest are clinging to hope, looking to Egypt for help instead of trusting in the Lord.

            Jeremiah is accused of treason and thrown into prison. When he was released, King Zedekiah asked him for a word from the Lord. Jeremiah was hesitant because he did not trust the King. The King gave him assurance he would not be punished. Jeremiah lets him know that surrender to the Babylonians would result in the city being spared and Zedekiah’s life being spared.

            This is Zedekiah’s response, “King Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, “I am afraid of the Judeans who have deserted to the Babylonians. The Babylonians might hand me over to them and they will torture me.” Then Jeremiah answered, “You will not be handed over to them. Please obey the Lord by doing what I have been telling you.” Jeremiah 38:19-20

            This was the critical turning point. Zedekiah was given the choice to trust the Lord and save the city and his own life or give in to his own fears. Zedekiah was also afraid of the leaders of Judah. Like Pilot dealing with the fate of Jesus he was caught between his conscious and the crowd.

            Zedekiah trusted his own judgment and fears and that of his own officials over the word of the Lord. As a result, Jerusalem was burned to the ground, and the walls were torn down. Zedekiah witnessed his sons and officials killed just before his eyes were gouged out. He died in captivity in Babylon.

            You can count on it every time. When we trust our own feelings and fear instead of trusting and obeying the Word of the Lord, it always ends up poorly. When we decide to save ourselves instead of looking out for others and how they will be impacted.

            Saving ourselves is a natural tendency. It is what we can understand. It is what we can relate to. That is why those who taunted Jesus on the cross to “Save yourself!” They could believe someone would save themselves, not someone who would put their own interests aside for others to be saved.

            Zedekiah and Jesus were connected to the line of David. One saved himself and the city of Jerusalem and God’s people suffered the consequences. Jesus chose not to save himself but surrendered to the Father’s will and mankind had salvation and freedom from the bondage of sin.

            Paul the Apostle would point this out when he wrote, “…through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.” (Romans 5:19 NIV)

            Keep this in mind the next time you need to make a decision on what is best for you or what is best for your family and others.