1-2 | Zedekiah inquires of the Lord through Jeremiah
3-7 | God promises that Jerusalem’s overthrow will be swift
8-10 | The Lord gives two choices: stay in the city and die; or surrender to the Chaldeans and save your life.
11-12 | God’s case against the house of David—the king’s house
13-14 | God’s punishment is the result of their actions
Longsuffering. This is one of those words that is not commonly used today but is considered an attribute of God. By definition1, as a noun, it means “long and patient endurance of injury, trouble, or provocation.” God had truly been longsuffering with the people of Israel and Judah. He had suffered the continuous worshiping of idols and rebellious, stiff-necked attitude. God, just like any longsuffering parent, could no longer take the rebellious attitude and decided that punishment needed to be meted out and He was going to allow the Chaldeans to be the instrument of His wrath.
Jeremiah had been prophesying about the coming destruction of Jerusalem and the captivity that would take place. Now when Nebuchadnezzar’s army was approaching, Zedekiah decides to inquire of the Lord, to see if He would intervene “according to His wonderful acts.”
Zedekiah is hoping that God will defend the city and nation as He had done so wonderfully in the past. We know that the Assyrians had tried to overthrow Jerusalem and Judah under Hezekiah, but God intervened and saved them. Zedekiah is hoping for the same intervention. Instead the Lord offers two choices because the outcome is sure to be the destruction of Jerusalem: 1) stay in the city and die by the sword, by famine, or by pestilence; or 2) leave the city and surrender to the Chaldeans, saving their lives but still taken captive and deported.
Then the Lord places the blame squarely on the shoulders of the “household of the king of Judah” (Jeremiah 21:11). Why? Ultimately, the leaders are to blame for the wayward actions of a nation. You can try to pass the buck, but if the leaders are not setting an example in either their personal lives or through the laws they enact, they are to blame.
Yes, each person is responsible for their personal sins and the consequences that might come with them. But national sins rest squarely on the shoulders of the leaders. Ultimately, they are the ones that are to be held responsible for them.
God gives two options: stay in the city and die or surrender their lives to the Chaldeans. Previously, when the Assyrians besieged the city, Hezekiah had built a tunnel to bring water into the city and they were able to survive with God’s intervention and the king’s planning. This time, that would not happen.
The result of this siege would be famine resulting in pestilence and eventually, death by the sword for those that remained. Finally, the city would be burned and utterly destroyed.
When we read historical events like this we have to ask ourselves, “How does this apply to our times?” I offer these two observations.
First, as I mentioned before, national sins will rest on the shoulders of its leaders and can bring about the destruction of a nation. We have many national sins that our leaders have allowed to take place, too many to list them all here. These national sins are not limited to the actions of the present leaders, but have been building over many decades.
Many will or have said, “America isn’t a Christian nation.” But if you read the Old Testament prophets, God doesn’t just bring judgment on the Jewish people alone, He pronounces judgment on all nations who continue in national sins (consider Isaiah, Jonah and Amos as examples). So any nation who is allowing actions outside of God’s standard is in jeopardy of God’s judgment or His relenting as a result of their repentance.
Second, God is longsuffering with individuals who continue rebelling against God’s standard. He is patient and wanting people to repent and live. Consider the following.
Ezekiel 18:29-32 NASB “But the house of Israel says, ‘The way of the Lord is not right.’ Are My ways not right, O house of Israel? Is it not your ways that are not right? 30 “Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, each according to his conduct,” declares the Lord GOD. “Repent and turn away from all your transgressions, so that iniquity may not become a stumbling block to you. 31 “Cast away from you all your transgressions which you have committed and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! For why will you die, O house of Israel? 32 “For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies,” declares the Lord GOD. “Therefore, repent and live.”
Ezekiel 33:7-11 NASB “Now as for you, son of man, I have appointed you a watchman for the house of Israel; so you will hear a message from My mouth and give them warning from Me. 8 “When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you will surely die,’ and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require from your hand. 9 “But if you on your part warn a wicked man to turn from his way and he does not turn from his way, he will die in his iniquity, but you have delivered your life. 10 “Now as for you, son of man, say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus you have spoken, saying, “Surely our transgressions and our sins are upon us, and we are rotting away in them; how then can we survive?”‘ 11 “Say to them, ‘As I live!’ declares the Lord GOD, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back, turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O house of Israel?’
John 3:16-21 NASB “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17 “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. 18 “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 “This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. 20 “For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21 “But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”
2 Peter 3:8-9 NASB But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. 9 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.
God’s doesn’t want to punish people and has given us His word to instruct us in His ways. But, being a just and holy God, if people refuse to turn from their sinful ways, He will reluctantly execute His judgment. As always, ultimately the choice is yours to make, continue in sin and be assured of the judgment to come or repent and live.
Lord God, You are longsuffering, not wanting any to perish. Yet we also know that You are holy and sin is an abomination to You and affront to Your holiness. Forgive us for our rebellious and stiff-necked hearts. Revive us again and stir us to live to Your glory and honor. May Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
1 – “longsuffering.” Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 05 Sep. 2015. <Dictionary.com http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/longsuffering>.