2 Chronicles 36:12–13 (NKJV)
12[King Zedekiah] did evil in the sight of the Lord his God, and did not humble himself before Jeremiah the prophet, who spoke from the mouth of the Lord. 13And he also rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar, who had made him swear an oath by God; but he stiffened his neck and hardened his heart against turning to the Lord God of Israel.
The text before us today speaks of the sad legacy of King Zedekiah, the last of the kings of Judah. Heir to a broken kingdom, Zedekiah hastened its slide into oblivion. Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylon, had conquered Judah in fulfillment of God’s just judgment. Rather than submit to God’s hand of judgment, however, Zedekiah sought escape by soliciting the help of Egypt. The result was disastrous. Zedekiah watched his own sons slain before his eyes before being blinded and forced to end his days in chains and slavery. The transgressions of Zedekiah stand as warnings to all of us. So let us consider three admonitions which we can gather from this text.
First, Zedekiah failed to humble himself before the Word of God. Our text tells us that “he did evil in the sight of Yahweh his God, and did not humble himself before Jeremiah the prophet, who spoke from the mouth of Yahweh.” When challenged by Jeremiah, when confronted with the Word of God, Zedekiah chose to follow his own path instead. Like our first father Adam, Zedekiah believed that he knew better than God how to live life. So what of you? How do you respond to the Word of God preached and applied? Do you listen and give heed? Or do you ignore his word in favor of your own opinions? Beware the fate of Zedekiah.
Second, Zedekiah violated his oath. He “rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar, who had made him swear an oath by God.” Zedekiah vowed to remain loyal to King Nebuchadnezzar. However, when Egypt made an offer of help, when a more attractive deal came along, he forsook his oath. So what of you? Are you faithful to your oaths? Do you keep your word even when you swear to your own hurt? Or do you look for paths of escape when the going gets tough? We all make vows and promises – marriage vows, business contracts, military service, membership oaths. In each, we promise faithfulness and loyalty, but we are routinely tempted to act unfaithfully. Beware the fate of Zedekiah.
Third, Zedekiah refused to turn to Yahweh. He “stiffened his neck and hardened his heart against turning to Yahweh the God of Israel.” When he entered upon the great responsibility of kingship, even when he reached the end of his own resources, he refused to turn to God and seek wisdom from Him. Instead, he turned to foreign gods and relied upon his own wisdom and strength. So what of you? To whom are you turning in your difficulties? Perhaps there are new pressures at work or at home; the children are not behaving as you had hoped; a friendship is under strain; you are facing a hard providence – sickness, betrayal, loss. To whom are you turning? Have you turned to God, prayed to Him, asked Him to intercede on Your behalf? Or have you hardened your heart? Beware the fate of Zedekiah.
These warnings serve as a reminder that as we come before the Lord to worship, we must confess our sins and transgressions to Him, beseeching Him to forgive us for the sake of Christ. We must not stiffen our necks but humble ourselves in His sight. So as we humble ourselves before Him, and as you are able, let us kneel before the Lord.