And there was another great eagle with great wings and much plumage, and behold, this vine bent its roots toward him and shot forth its branches toward him from the bed where it was planted, that he might water it. It had been planted on good soil by abundant waters, that it might produce branches and bear fruit and become a noble vine. Ezekiel 17:7-8
This is the second great eagle. The second king is Pharaoh Hophra of Egypt. And the picture is starting to come together. Zedekiah had prospered under Nebuchadnezzar, but he decided to rebel. To do this, he invited the help of the Egyptians. In verse 15 it says, “But he rebelled against him by sending his ambassadors to Egypt, that they might give him horses and a large army. Will he thrive? Can one escape who does such things? Can he break the covenant and yet escape?” Zedekiah broke his oath with King Nebuchadnezzar and asked for help from another great eagle to get out from under Nebuchadnezzar’s rule. If you read this allegory without knowing all the details it is easy to think that God is being harsh when you read his judgment on Zedekiah. That is what I thought the first time I read it. After all, shouldn’t the king of Judah try to get out from under the thumb of a foreign power? But when I studied it out, I realized what God was saying. Listen to God’s judgment on Zedekiah for his rebellion.
As I live, declares the Lord God, surely in the place where the king dwells who made him king, whose oath he despised, and whose covenant with him he broke, in Babylon he shall die. Pharaoh with his mighty army and great company will not help him in war, when mounds are cast up and siege walls built to cut off many lives. He despised the oath in breaking the covenant, and behold, he gave his hand and did all these things; he shall not escape. Therefore thus says the Lord God: As I live, surely it is my oath that he despised, and my covenant that he broke. I will return it upon his head. I will spread my net over him, and he shall be taken in my snare, and I will bring him to Babylon and enter into judgment with him there for the treachery he has committed against me. And all the pick of his troops shall fall by the sword, and the survivors shall be scattered to every wind, and you shall know that I am the Lord; I have spoken. Ezekiel 17:16-21
You will notice that God says that Zedekiah despised the oath. Remember this oath was made before God (Nebuchadnezzar made him swear by God). And then in the middle of this judgment God turns around and says it is my oath that he despised – my covenant that he broke. God is seriously ticked off. Why? Zedekiah had made an oath with another king in the name of God. God sees that as his own oath and his own covenant. God takes an oath very serious. Zedekiah took God’s name and put it on an oath. Do you think God’s name is important to him? Think of all the scriptures that proclaim the greatness of his name and how he gives grace to his people for his name’s sake. If someone took your name and signed it on a contract, would it be okay for them to break it. It is really you then who would be breaking the contract.
Another thing to remember is that these are kings. The decisions kings made affected whole nations and countless people. If you read Jeremiah 37-38, you will find that Jeremiah warned Zedekiah more than once that he needed to surrender to Nebuchadnezzar. Zedekiah allowed Jeremiah to be put in prison and later cast into a miry pit. He refused to listen even after many warnings. II Chronicles 36 tells us that Zedekiah did not humble himself before Jeremiah the prophet and that he hardened his heart against turning to the Lord. Chapter 36 goes on to say that the priests and the people also were exceedingly unfaithful. And therein lies the chief concern for a king. People follow their king, even when this means following him in unfaithfulness toward God. God holds kings to a higher standard – they are accountable for leading people into sin.
In Zedekiah’s rebellion, he ends up in a very dark place. King Nebuchadnezzar did come and we find what happened in Jeremiah 39.
When Zedekiah king of Judah and all the soldiers saw them, they fled, going out of the city at night by way of the king’s garden through the gate between the two walls; and they went toward the Arabah. But the army of the Chaldeans pursued them and overtook Zedekiah in the plains of Jericho. And when they had taken him, they brought him up to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, at Riblah, in the land of Hamath; and he passed sentence on him. The king of Babylon slaughtered the sons of Zedekiah at Riblah before his eyes, and the king of Babylon slaughtered all the nobles of Judah. He put out the eyes of Zedekiah and bound him in chains to take him to Babylon. The Chaldeans burned the king’s house and the house of the people, and broke down the walls of Jerusalem. Jeremiah 39:4-8
Two great eagles, a rebellious king, and a prophet who is cast aside – all this tells a story of how God will hold kings accountable. In a day when political leader’s feet are hardly ever held to the fire, my cry to our kings is to listen and change. Ezekiel’s allegory and Zedekiah’s life tell us one thing clearly. God is watching and places judgment on kings who rebel. God holds all kings accountable for their actions in public and private. God brings judgment on those kings that rebel against him and cause his people to turn away from him. It is time to revere God. Rebellion is not free, it costs us. Decide now, political kings, whether to live with broken oaths, secret lies, and fearful sin or to turn and stand up for the God who created you. Your actions have consequences – and ultimately you decide whether our nation lives in blessing or will be cursed by God himself. You cannot delegate the responsibility – it is all up to you.