(Today's post by Adam Cooper)
Have any of you ever played the game Perfection? You know the game with the board of shapes and you have to match little yellow plastic pieces to the shapes in the board before the timer expires? I remember playing that game as a kid and all I can remember to this day is the anxiety that I felt as the ticking of the timer just seemed to get completely unbearable right before the board popped and threw all of my hard work up into the air.TIME’S UP!!! If you have never played Perfection I am willing to bet that at some point in your life you have been under the weight of a deadline or timer and felt the anxiety that intensifies as that timer runs out or that deadline finally arrives.
In Jeremiah 34, King Zedekiah is under attack. As a matter of fact we are told that only three fortified cities are still in the fight against the Babylonian empire. King Zedekiah must know that his deadline (no pun intended) is quickly approaching. Then Jeremiah comes to Zedekiah with a word from the Lord, “You will not die by the sword; 5 you will die peacefully. As people made a funeral fire in honor of your fathers, the former kings who preceded you, so they will make a fire in your honor and lament, “Alas, O master!” I myself make this promise, declares the LORD.' “(v.4b-5 – NIV)” Basically, king Zedekiah’s time is up!
In Leviticus 25 it is stated that, “42 Because the Israelites are my servants, whom I brought out of Egypt, they must not be sold as slaves. (NIV)” However, in Jeremiah 34 verses 8-22 we see Jews holding Jews as slaves. Zedekiah makes a covenant with the people for these slaves to be released. The people honor this covenant but only temporarily, taking back all of their slaves. We are even told that the covenant that was made was made in the Temple before God which makes the fact that the people went back on the covenant even worse. For the indiscretions of the people God grants the people freedom. ““Therefore, this is what the LORD says: You have not obeyed me; you have not proclaimed freedom for your fellow countrymen. So I now proclaim 'freedom' for you, declares the LORD–'freedom' to fall by the sword, plague and famine. I will make you abhorrent to all the kingdoms of the earth. 18 The men who have violated my covenant and have not fulfilled the terms of the covenant they made before me, I will treat like the calf they cut in two and then walked between its pieces. (NIV)”
God’s plan for His people was for them to be in captivity. This captivity was a punishment for them not doing His will. Zedekiah was king over the kingdom by the will of God through the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar and God had promised His people that they would return from exile in 70 years. Zedekiah gets tired of living under the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar and breaks allegiance with him making a deal with the Egyptians in an attempt to throw off Nebuchadnezzar’s reign and regain independence and, well, that was NOT part of God’s will. God gave them over to the Babylonian’s once again and this time the kingdom was virtually destroyed.
We see in this chapter what we continually see throughout the Bible and that is the Jewish people not doing the will of God and facing the consequences. You would think it would be easy: follow the will of God or you will reap the rewards of your belligerence.
Man is a stubborn lot. We always think we can do it our way and that God’s way is too complicated or takes too long. We try to rush things or manipulate things into going our way, the world’s way, when all we need to do is be patient and place our fate in God’s hands. I know that this is something that I have struggled with in my life and it has been a journey of introspection and revelation.
My prayer today is that all of us who think our way is the best way will come to realize that God is always there with our best interests in mind and nothing we do will change His love for us. And sometimes that love means allowing us to suffer the consequences of our own decisions.