One of the greatest attributes we have is our character, it is the essence of who we are. While no leader is perfect, there are certain characteristics that just cannot be tolerated because of the immense damage they cause. Have you ever known a leader who was secretive? Did you trust him? Now, I am not talking about using discretion, which all kings (and the rest of us) must use. There is a monumental difference between using discretion and being secretive. King Zedekiah was secretive. While we can see this by looking at his rebellion against Nebuchadnezzar, Jeremiah’s experience with the king shows a glaring picture of how dishonest (and secretive) Zedekiah was. There are two prime examples found in Jeremiah 37 and 38.
When Jeremiah had come to the dungeon cells and remained there many days, King Zedekiah sent for him and received him. The king questioned him secretly in his house and said, “Is there any word from the Lord?” Jeremiah 37:16-17
There is much to this story, but I want to focus on the secretive nature of the king. You notice here that the king questioned Jeremiah secretly. In the next chapter Jeremiah is thrown into a miry pit, no thanks to the king, but again the king releases and sends for him. And again we see the secretive nature of Zedekiah.
King Zedekiah sent for Jeremiah the prophet and received him at the third entrance of the temple of the Lord. The king said to Jeremiah, “I will ask you a question; hide nothing from me.” Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, “If I tell you, will you not surely put me to death? And if I give you counsel, you will not listen to me.” Then King Zedekiah swore secretly to Jeremiah, “As the Lord lives, who made our souls, I will not put you to death or deliver you into the hand of these men who seek your life.” Jeremiah 38:14-16
Here we find Zedekiah swear secretly to Jeremiah. But Jeremiah obviously had very little faith in the king at this point. Zedekiah had not listened to Jeremiah’s continual warnings. We can sense the character of the king when he tells Jeremiah not to hide anything from him. You have to wonder, was Jeremiah prone to lying to the king? Hardly, he was a prophet of God who spoke the truth. Sometimes leaders who speak to people in this way reveal their true nature – Zedekiah does not want Jeremiah to do what he does himself. Can you trust a leader who only speaks good things to you in private? The king allowed Jeremiah to be imprisoned and then thrown into a pit, and he would have died had not one of the king’s servants come and pleaded with Zedekiah to get Jeremiah out of the pit. So, should Jeremiah listen to “good” words spoken in private after this? Of course not! The king’s words meant very little. His actions showed his true character. At the end of the chapter one of the last things Zedekiah says to Jeremiah is: “Let no one know of these words” (verse 24). Again we are struck by the king’s secretive nature and utter lack of character. And we know in the end, Zedekiah still did not listen to Jeremiah. He fled when Nebuchadnezzar came and we know how the story ends. This clearly shows us we should be very careful around secretive leaders. Their secrecy often is an attempt to hide a plethora of sin and dishonest dealings. The only remedy for this destructive behavior is to push it into the light and expose it (with wisdom and discretion). While you may lose your head if you expose the sin of a king, it is also possible that you could save a nation.