“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12 NIV).
Fox News carried an interview last evening with a man appearing to be wrapped in the evil tendrils of deception he couldn’t sit still. His eyes were wide and flamed and his speech rushed out of his mouth while his body bounced and shook.
At first I mistook his demeanor as being fervent about the subject, but the longer he chattered, almost without taking a breath, the deeper he slipped into that dark place where truth held no substance, but a return to power of his former leader’s community organizing agenda sparked him giddy.
“By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh if from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; and this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world” (1 John 6:2-3 NIV).
And so it was in the days of Zedekiah, king of Judah. The year is 586 B.C. and Judah has been engaged with Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, since 605 B.C.—you do the math. The king of Babylon by this time has carried possibly as many as fifteen thousand or more Jews into captivity, and in 597 B.C. King Neb appointed Zedekiah to be a puppet king. And puppet he was. A real politician who aimed to please everyone, but ended up pleasing no one. Especially not God.
God told them through Jeremiah, to go peacefully to Babylon. But peaceful was not in their vocabulary and the leaders demanded Zedekiah put Jeremiah to death. They couldn’t bear to hear truth, but chose to believe lies. And I can see the picture in my mind’s eye—Zedekiah, in an unkinglike fashion, throwing up his hands and sighing: “Behold he is in your hands; for the king, can do nothing against you” (Jeremiah 38:5 NIV).
Have you bowed to the evening news as your source of information, or is God your standard and source of truth?
So, this group of arrogant, ungodly leaders who refused to listen to the words of God, grabbed Jeremiah and cast him into a deep cistern in the court of the guardhouse. Scripture tells us there was no standing water in the well, but there was mud. Lots of yucky mud. And Jeremiah sank in this putrid muck.
The 38th Chapter of Jeremiah paints the account of Jeremiah’s plight and how God used a seemingly insignificant man to save him. And for all of you who deem yourselves insignificant, you have no idea how God can and will use you if you stand for righteousness…even when it seems you’re swimming upstream against a rip-tide of unrighteousness.
Jeremiah, however, was now confined to the court of the guardhouse to limit his speech. But God’s plan is never thwarted, and God was using Jeremiah to give the king yet another opportunity to listen.
Are you listening to the Word of the Lord today?
Zedekiah had Jeremiah brought to him at the third entrance in the house of the Lord. (A road less travelled.) The king asked God’s prophet to tell him the truth—he wanted to know God’s word to him. Really? (Jeremiah had only been telling all of Judah what God said was going to happen for at least thirty-eight years—and to this king for eleven years).
Jeremiah’s reply is also in this 38th Chapter, but Jeremiah has the courage to remark, “…if I give you advice, you will not listen to me.”
But at the king’s urging, Jeremiah repeated God’s promise even in these last hours of their rebellion. The king admitted his fear, Jeremiah reassured him God was faithful and would save him, but the king chose to listen to the priests and leaders’ deceptive words so long his heart was weak and he refused to trust the Word of the Lord. He believed men rather than the Lord God Almighty.
Who do you choose to believe—man’s words or God’s Word?
And there are always consequences when anyone rejects God. Doesn’t matter if you believe in Him or not. He is God. This is His world. His Law. And His way. But He is full of mercy and grace and love. Love so great He sent His Only Son to pay the price for our rebellious sin against Him. The original choice to believe and trust belongs to us. “Whosoever will may come.” But the consequences of our choices belong to the Lord our God.
Zedekiah tried to determine his own consequences when he and his men attempted escape in the darkness of night, but he was caught, brought before Nebuchadnezzar and sentence was passed. All of the nobles he bowed to were slaughtered before his eyes, and Nebuchadnezzar killed Zedekiah’s sons too…just before King Neb blotted out Zedekiah’s eyes.
When the time for choices end, only consequences remain.
Imagine an eternity with that scene playing in the darkness of his mind. I’m sure he wished he had listened to the Word of God, but it was too late. His time for choices gone. The gavel was down and the consequences applied. Forever. The Chaldeans burned the city and broke down the walls of Jerusalem and took Zedekiah, in fetters of bronze, to Babylon. To die.
Now is the time for God’s people to fast and pray. Tomorrow may be too late.
We are at that same cross-road in America today . This nation has rejected God—for at least two generations—maybe more. Yet God keeps pleading for us to return and repent. We have an opportunity at this moment in time—perhaps like Zedekiah, the last opportunity before God’s gavel smacks the sound block, and the consequences for our rebellion are sealed. Forever. For the same reason it fell on Judah—God’s people still refusing to listen to God’s Words. Will we be weak? Deceived? Or will we be stubborn and stiff-necked, refusing to repent and return to the Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior and soon coming King?
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you. Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world. And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. To Him be dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 5:6-11 NIV).
Next week: Insignificant? Maybe. But not in God’s eyes!