The Expository Files

Running From God

Jeremiah  52:1-11

The sad end of the earthly throne of the house of David was accomplished by the siege and fall of Jerusalem to Nebuchadnezzar in 587 B.C. The last descendant of David to rule as a king of a physical nation of Zedekiah. He was a young and wicked man. "Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he became king...And he did evil in the sight of the LORD" (Jer. 52:1,2).

For eleven years of national devastation, moral degeneration and increasing affliction of God's righteous people (epitomized by the suffering of Jeremiah the prophet), this man ruled without much thought of God. When he did think of God his reasonings were only defiant. Maybe he thought that the threatening words of Jeremiah, like those of other prophets before him, concerning the destruction of the city and temple would never be seen in his day. Zedekiah believed that somehow God's punishments would not fall of him. There was no rational basis for this belief, but it is a stubborn conviction shared by many. The apostle Peter warned us concerning the mocking of mockers, who say, "Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation." (2 Pet. 3:3)

How do men arrive at this conclusion? Is it a wrong conclusion garnered the patience of God? Many think that a delay in threatened punishment means that no punishment will ever come. But this is short-sighted, for a study of God's dealings with man always shows that, in the end, God's threats surely do come to pass, even if they be a long time in coming. Do men think that the past favor of God (such as former fellowship and blessings given) will protect them against the punishment of current sins? As we trust in God not to forget past faithfulness we must also know the same Omniscience and Justice knows of our current activities.

So in Zedekiah's case, "For through the anger of the LORD this came about in Jerusalem and Judah until He cast them out from His presence." (Jer. 52:3) Fellowship with God was lost. They may have been Jews; they may have been daily in and around the Temple; they may have been descendants of David - but they were no longer God's people. He was done with them. So "Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came, he and all his army, against Jerusalem, camped against it, and built a siege wall all around it." (Jer. 52:4) It took a long time for this to come, but when it did it was thorough, protracted, horrible and, because God occasioned it, it was successful.

The suffering of the people during the eighteen month siege is described in simple facts of historical record in verse 6. "The famine was so severe in the city that there was no food for the people of the land." Jeremiah gives fuller detail in his sad lamentation. "See, O LORD, and look! With whom hast Thou dealt thus? Should women eat their offspring, The little ones who were born healthy? Should priest and prophet be slain In the sanctuary of the Lord?" (Lam. 2:20)

Such a horrible end of those who had been God's people. Pagans burned the temple, palaces, and houses of the city. (52:12,13) The ornaments the temple and all its implements were removed to Babylon. (52:17-23) High priests and royal officials were killed. (52:24-27) The people were deported to a foreign land. (52:28-30) How pathetic an end for them. Such a grim end that God had to bring on them.

But what of Zedekiah? Did he wait in the palace for the soldiers to come arrest him? Did he perish in the flames while barricaded to resist capture? Did he take a sword and fight with his men? Did he kneel in prayer? No, he cut and ran. "[A]ll the men of war fled and went forth from the city at night by way of the gate between the two walls which was by the king's garden..." (Jer. 52:7) From a prophecy of Ezekiel we learn that this was a disgraceful and inglorious break out through a hole in the wall. "And the prince who is among them will load his baggage on his shoulder in the dark and go out. They will dig a hole through the wall to bring it out. He will cover his face so that he can not see the land with his eyes." (Ezk. 12:12)

So they ran like thieves, but Ezekiel said that they would not get away, "I shall also spread My net over him, and he will be caught in My snare." (Ezk. 12:13) They made it only about 15 miles, and "the army of the Chaldeans pursued the king and overtook Zedekiah in the plains of Jericho, and all his army was scattered from him. Then they captured the king and brought him up to the king of Babylon." (Jer. 52:8,9)

Zedekiah's situation quickly went from bad to worse. His sons were killed before his eyes. (Jer. 52:10) And so that this calamity would be the last thing he ever saw, Nebuchadnezzar "blinded the eyes of Zedekiah." Then he "bound him with bronze fetters and brought him to Babylon, and put him in prison until the day of his death." (Jer. 52:11)

Zedekiah was unable to live a life of rebellion and still have a good end. If we might summarize his life in a few words: He was: wicked, troubled, sieged, running, caught, blinded, imprisoned, and then dead. Surely the words of Jeremiah were fulfilled, "Write this man down childless, A man who will not prosper in his days." (Jer. 22:30)

Yes, the rebellious life always ends disastrously. You can no more run from God's punishment than Jonah could run from His presence - yet many will try. Men have always tried to sow the wind without reaping the whirlwind. They try to sow to the flesh and not reap corruption. They shall keep on trying to live a life of sin and not go to hell. And none will succeed. We will not prosper in sin. We will not be successful in running from the fires of hell. Zedekiah couldn't run that fast. I can't run that fast. You can't run that fast.

By Jay Horsley
 From Expository Files 7.12; December 2000