I was reading recently in Jeremiah 38. It is a fascinating chapter and gives an interesting character study. In this chapter, the prophet Jeremiah meets with king Zedekiah who asks Jeremiah how to deal with the invading army from Babylon. This was God's punishment on Israel for their repeated stubbornness in not listening to God's message. Historically, it was a terrible time. The Babylonians besieged the city of Jerusalem for 2 years because of king Zedekiah's rebellion until there was no food left and the people had turned to cannibalism. There was starvation, disease and ultimately, in 587 BC the city was conquered and destroyed.
But in Jeremiah 38, a conversation is recorded between Jeremiah and the king. Jeremiah clearly spells out what is needed to spare the city. He tells Zedekiah to surrender and leave the city, surrender the army, and give it all to the Babylonians. He told him that if he did, he, his family and his city would be saved from destruction.
Zedekiah listened but did not follow the instructions. As a result, the city was turned into a ruin, all of Zedekiah's sons and his officials were executed, and Zedekiah himself had his eyes gouged out and sent into captivity as a blind, conquered king.
Why did the king ignore Jeremiah's advice? We are not totally sure, but there are some clues.
1. He simply did not believe Jeremiah and chose to believe others instead. He either did not think Jeremiah was correct or he just did not like his solution and believed other people who were telling him differently. How often do we make decisions based on the advice of those whose advice tickles our ears rather than listening and following words that might be difficult, but bring life.
2. He was fearful of his own people. He feared what the people would say and do if he advocated surrender. He was afraid for his reputation. He was fearful of what might happen from those who had already abandoned the city to the Babylonians. He feared others more than God. Whenever we base our decisions on trying to gain the approval of others, we are living in the fear of man and are on a dangerous road.
3. He had no certainty for the future. Despite Jeremiah's prediction, he did not "know" how the Babylonians would respond. It went against conventional wisdom to surrender (given that he had rebelled) and that things would go well. He had no assurance and guarantees for the future. Sometimes God's wisdom runs counter to what we see. We are put in a position to trust God and go for it or play it our way. We are always better off to trust God. He sees more and longer than we do.
So, whether you are a leader or simply going through life, surround yourself with godly counsel, don't live in fear of others, and trust God and go for it!
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