Spiritual Traitor

Zedekiah the son of Josiah, whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon made king in the land of Judah, reigned instead of Coniah the son of Jehoiakim. But neither he nor his servants nor the people of the land listened to the words of the Lord that he spoke through Jeremiah the prophet.

King Zedekiah sent Jehucal the son of Shelemiah, and Zephaniah the priest, the son of Maaseiah, to Jeremiah the prophet, saying, “Please pray for us to the Lord our God.” Now Jeremiah was still going in and out among the people, for he had not yet been put in prison. The army of Pharaoh had come out of Egypt. And when the Chaldeans who were besieging Jerusalem heard news about them, they withdrew from Jerusalem.

Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah the prophet: “Thus says the Lord, God of Israel: Thus shall you say to the king of Judah who sent you to me to inquire of me, ‘Behold, Pharaoh’s army that came to help you is about to return to Egypt, to its own land. And the Chaldeans shall come back and fight against this city. They shall capture it and burn it with fire. Thus says the Lord, Do not deceive yourselves, saying, “The Chaldeans will surely go away from us,” for they will not go away. 10 For even if you should defeat the whole army of Chaldeans who are fighting against you, and there remained of them only wounded men, every man in his tent, they would rise up and burn this city with fire.’” Jeremiah 37:1-10

Jeremiah’s prophesies are coming true, and even now in this moment, the king and the people do not listen. This chapter of Jeremiah reveals the accusation of being a traitor (v. 13). Yet Jeremiah is not the traitor and the problem in Judah is not political but spiritual. Phillip Graham Ryken in his book on Jeremiah and Lamentations says that the real traitor is the king, Zedekiah, and Ryken calls the king a spiritual traitor. There are many reasons for this but one of them is his refusal to hear the word of God through the prophet and obey it.

Often circumstances seem resolved, but in fact they are not. This is the situation with Zedekiah and Judah. The Chaldeans stopped attacking Jerusalem because of the Egyptians. However, soon after this the Babylonians defeated the Egyptians and resumed their siege on Jerusalem. Strangely enough, this is exactly what Jeremiah was the telling the king. The language is so strong we wince at it, but God’s truth cuts through modern sensitivities. Jeremiah tells them even if Judah could defeat the Chaldeans and only their wounded were left. Those pitiful wounded men would come and burn the city and destroy it.

It is understandable why people would question Jeremiah. It is understandable why it is so hard to take such prophesies. But Jeremiah remained true, the king did not. The people refused to repent and received exactly what the prophets had been saying for centuries. Jeremiah was the last hope, the last stop before judgment. You can fight people or circumstances, but you can’t fight God. Jehovah will have his way regardless of how hard our hearts are. It is difficult to understand how people can be so stubborn and rebellious, but it is easy to understand how God deals with it. He actually makes it very simple. Listen, repent (obey), and receive restoration. Do not listen, do not repent, and well…read Jeremiah 37. God is crystal clear about obedience. Just like our nation has made a choice, each of us individually make this important choice regarding repentance. Be wise and do not become a spiritual traitor.

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