Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Promise Keeping: Jeremiah 34

Jeremiah 34

King Zedekiah was more of a fool than a demon. Several of the kings before him were evil, even very evil, and one recent king was even righteous, but Zedekiah was too much of a politician. He ran his life and his kingdom according to the most recent need perceived by his advisors and made his decisions based on attempts at short-term pandering. And it got him in trouble.

Jeremiah 34 tells the story of Zedekiah breaking two very important promises and what became of the man as a result. The first promise was made to Nebuchadnezzar when the general of the Babylonian army took the true king of Judah into exile and erected Zedekiah as his puppet-king. The explicit understanding was that Zedekiah would be loyal to Babylon, but chapter 34 opens this way:

“…when Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and all his army and all the kingdoms of the earth under his dominion and all the peoples were fighting against Jerusalem and all of its cities:” (vs.1 )

Zedekiah listened to his advisors instead of honoring his promise to Babylon and started an insurrection in hopes of breaking free (see chapter 27). The result, instead of freedom from their enemies, was a renewed effort on Babylon’s part to destroy Jerusalem. Jeremiah tells Zedekiah that the city will be burned and he will be taken into exile, and though Zedekiah will not die by the sword, his fate is worse than death. As a result of his promise breaking, Nebuchadnezzar will slaughter his sons before his eyes and then gouge them out.

But Zedekiah is not done breaking oaths. The rest of the chapter details a covenant he made before God to free all the slaves in Jerusalem. The slaves were freed, but it didn’t take long for Zedekiah to revoke the oath and recapture the slaves. God was pleased he made the oath and that the slaves were freed, but then became sarcastic over the broken covenant:

“Therefore, thus says the LORD: You have not obeyed me by proclaiming liberty, every one to his brother and to his neighbor; behold, I proclaim to you liberty to the sword, to pestilence, and to famine, declares the LORD. I will make you a horror to all the kingdoms of the earth.” (vs. 17)

The habit of breaking promises, of lying, is a powerful relationship killer. In dramatic fashion Zedekiah destroyed the relationship established between himself and Nebuchadnezzar and then he harmed his relationship with God as well. Proverbs 26:28 says, “A lying tongue hates its victims.” In Psalm 5:6 the sins of murder and lying are paired when the Psalmist says, “You destroy those who speak lies; the Lord abhors the bloodthirsty, and the deceitful man.”

When it comes to lying the most telling passage of Scripture is possibly Colossians 3:9-10.

“Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.”

In other words, the more truthful my speech becomes, the more full of integrity my language and actions are, the more like Christ I become. Lying belongs to the old, decrepit part of my sin nature that, by the grace of Jesus Christ, is overcome with a new nature.

Being a truthful person is a character I develop. It begins with keeping my word and my promises and sinks deep into my soul and becomes integrity. Truth telling is the character God wants me to develop as his child. My folly is that I often think I can maintain relationships—with my fellow beings and with God—while being deceitful.


A Slave Of Christ said...

Want this to get even more interesting? Reread Jeremiah 34, and then go read Exodus 21:1-11. Then that little part in John 8 about Jesus setting us free.

See where God leads you with it. :)

Anonymous said...

Isn't this an example of a failed prophesy? Jeremiah 34:4-5 promises Zedekiah a "peaceful" death. Yet he died in prison after having witnessed the death of his sons. Wouldn't that be stretching of the meaning of the word peaceful?