Zedekiah his name means righteousness of Jehovah in other words Jehovah is my righteousness or salvation, what a beautiful name! All he had to do was utter his name every day. He need to remind himself of God and his salvation and his righteousness but the sad thing was Zedekiah did not live up to his name, he lived against actually what his name meant.
He was the last of the king Judah and he was the son of Josiah. He reigned after his two older brothers and his nephew Jehoiakim ruled. He was only 21 years old when he became a king and he ruled for 11 years. Many great prophecies in the Bible prophesied in his time. The two main prophets in the bible, the Major Prophets who prophesied during his time were Hezekiah and Jeremiah.
So we can imagine Zedekiah had incredible spiritual people influenced around him. He was son of Josiah, who was the one who restored the temple worship, and he restored so many great things in the Bible to Judah. Josiah is the one who restored the word of God, he read the word of God and he called the people to restore to the word of God. Josiah was his dad. Babylonians captured them, Hezekiah prophesies from Babylon because he was also an exile along with Jehoiakim.
When the Babylonians captured them, Jeremiah remained in Jerusalem. So we can see Jeremiah was his counselor. He had incredible spiritual people to help him. Lets see what the Bible says about Zedekiah and his life.
2 Chronicles 36:11-16
11 Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eleven years.
12 He did evil in the eyes of the LORD his God and did not humble himself before Jeremiah the prophet, who spoke the word of the LORD.
13 He also rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar, who had made him take an oath in God's name. He became stiff-necked and hardened his heart and would not turn to the LORD, the God of Israel.
14 Furthermore, all the leaders of the priests and the people became more and more unfaithful, following all the detestable practices of the nations and defiling the temple of the LORD, which he had consecrated in Jerusalem.
15 The LORD, the God of their fathers, sent word to them through his messengers again and again, because he had pity on his people and on his dwelling place.
16 But they mocked God's messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the LORD was aroused against his people and there was no remedy.
Zedekiah did evil in the eyes of the lord; he did not humble himself before Jeremiah the prophet who spoke the word of God. He rebelled against the king Nebuchadnezzar. He became stiff-necked and hardened his heart and would not turn to the Lord. It also talks about the people at that time; they became increasingly unfaithful towards God. God had pity on his people and his dwelling place and he kept sending messengers after messengers to help his people.
The Bible says they mocked God's messengers, people despised his words, and they scoffed at his word, which made God angry. When we see this, we can understand that God is very compassionate. He loves us. He is reaching out to us, and he is not going to give up after one message, he is going to send messengers after messengers and give us every kind of opportunity to turn hearts away from evil and turn to God. God will do his part, He will always accomplish his desire to seek and save the lost. But it is up to us to respond to him, his messenger or to his message.
Zedekiah did not remember his name, did not remember what his name meant. Jehovah is my righteousness, Jehovah is my salvation. God was reaching out to him, God was giving him an opportunity to be saved, but he did not take the opportunity. Jeremiah means Jehovah will lift up, exalt, Jehovah will rise. That's what we see in Jeremiah's life, God raised him up, God lifted him up for a time to preach the word, for a time to pass on the judgment of God to the people of Judah and the people of Babylon.
When we look at Zedekiah, we say what a hardhearted man. The passage we read makes us to think Zedekiah was a very hardhearted man and a wicked man, because God calls him stiff-necked. That is how God calls him. When we read about Zedekiah's life, he had the moments of spirituality. The only problem is his spirituality does not last long it was just for the moment. Zedekiah in his lifetime, was a wicked, killing and murdering person, that was his life. He had his moments when he tried to serve and do what is right.
8 The word came to Jeremiah from the LORD after King Zedekiah had made a covenant with all the people in Jerusalem to proclaim freedom for the slaves.
9 Everyone was to free his Hebrew slaves, both male and female; no one was to hold a fellow Jew in bondage.
Here Zedekiah makes some spiritual decisions in his life. He told his people and was willing to free his Hebrew slaves both male and female. Bible says no Jew should be held as a slave. Therefore, here Zedekiah had a moment where he was trying to do what is right. Not only him, he wanted everybody else in his nation too do what is right along with him. Therefore, he had his moment of spirituality.
But afterward they changed their minds and took back the slaves they had freed and enslaved them again.
Here they all decided they are going to give up, they are going to free the slaves but soon they changed their mind. So here was Zedekiah trying to change but soon he went back to his old life. We know Jeremiah asked that he would enquire. He would take advice from the prophet. He would ask Jeremiah the prophet to pray for him.
King Zedekiah, however, sent Jehucal son of Shelemiah with the priest Zephaniah son of Maaseiah to Jeremiah the prophet with this message: "Please pray to the LORD our God for us."
So here is Zedekiah requesting the prayers of Jeremiah saying, 'please beg God to help us'. When we look at Zedekiah, he is just like any one of us. All of us have desires to do what is right. He wanted to help people. He wanted to be kind to the slaves. He wanted to know what God's will is. We even ask one of us please pray for me brother, please pray for me sister. We even take advice from one another - spiritual advice. Just like Zedekiah. However, we can learn something from Zedekiah, something wrong he did. So then, we read this part of this passage we can think, 'what a spiritual man, what a good man', but yet in II Chronicles God says he was stiff necked, he did evil in the eyes of the Lord, he did not humble himself before Jeremiah'.
There is a problem with Zedekiah. He was a man who ran his life by emotions but not by convictions. He had a good heart, but other people around him easily influence his decisions, his life or his spiritual life.
2 "This is what the LORD says: 'Whoever stays in this city will die by the sword, famine or plague, but whoever goes over to the Babylonians will live. He will escape with his life; he will live.'
3 And this is what the LORD says: 'This city will certainly be handed over to the army of the king of Babylon, who will capture it.'"
4 Then the officials said to the king, "This man should be put to death. He is discouraging the soldiers who are left in this city, as well as all the people, by the things he is saying to them. This man is not seeking the good of these people but their ruin."
5 "He is in your hands," King Zedekiah answered. "The king can do nothing to oppose you."
6 So they took Jeremiah and put him into the cistern of Malkijah, the king's son, which was in the courtyard of the guard. They lowered Jeremiah by ropes into the cistern; it had no water in it, only mud, and Jeremiah sank down into the mud.
Here we see Zedekiah's people did not like Jeremiah's message. So what they wanted to do, they wanted to kill Jeremiah. So they said we need to destroy him and the King said all right there is nothing I can do to oppose you, you can do whatever you want. Here was Zedekiah's opportunity to stand up to his people for what is right, but he could not make up his mind to say this is the right thing to do, we are not killing the prophet. We see Zedekiah had a heart to do what is right, but the people around him easily influenced him. He was very vulnerable to the world.
We are just like him in his situation. All of us desire to do what is right, but we are so vulnerable to the world and what the world is tempting us to do with them. That is what happened to Zedekiah, he had the heart right but messed up. Then he was willing to even kill the prophet. We read ahead Bible says Ebed Melech (learned about the second eunuch), he told the king, 'what you are doing is wrong'. He said, ' Ok Ok Ok what I am doing is wrong and he saves Jeremiah from dying in the cistern. We can see him going back and forth in being spiritual being ungodly being spiritual being ungodly. He never changed to be consistent in his life. Let us see what happened to him in the end.
The following passage gives the summary of all the events of his life.
1 Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eleven years. His mother's name was Hamutal daughter of Jeremiah; she was from Libnah.
2 He did evil in the eyes of the LORD, just as Jehoiakim had done.
3 It was because of the Lord's anger that all this happened to Jerusalem and Judah, and in the end he thrust them from his presence. Now Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon.
4 So in the ninth year of Zedekiah's reign, on the tenth day of the tenth month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon marched against Jerusalem with his whole army. They camped outside the city and built siege works all around it.
5 The city was kept under siege until the eleventh year of King Zedekiah.
6 By the ninth day of the fourth month the famine in the city had become so severe that there was no food for the people to eat.
7 Then the city wall was broken through, and the whole army fled. They left the city at night through the gate between the two walls near the king's garden, though the Babylonians were surrounding the city. They fled toward the Arabah,
8 but the Babylonian army pursued King Zedekiah and overtook him in the plains of Jericho. All his soldiers were separated from him and scattered,
9 and he was captured. He was taken to the king of Babylon at Riblah in the land of Hamath, where he pronounced sentence on him.
10 There at Riblah the king of Babylon slaughtered the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes; he also killed all the officials of Judah.
11 Then he put out Zedekiah's eyes, bound him with bronze shackles and took him to Babylon, where he put him in prison till the day of his death.
Because they did not obey God's word, God sent Babylonians to attack Jerusalem. And what did the Babylonians do. They did not come and immediately attack the city. What they did is they camped around the Judah. For 18 months. We know the reasons why they camped out are. They wanted the people inside to starve to death or surrender. Within these 18 months where were all the other people. They were inside the city. Jeremiah was in prison inside the city, Zedekiah was still the king, the people knew, they were under attack. They could have made many decisions in those 18 months. God gave those 18 months to repent, because Jeremiah was still preaching the word. Jeremiah's message was always consistent. It was Zedekiah responded with inconsistency. The word of God is always consistent. It is our response to word of God is always inconsistent. I Pet 1:25 the word of God stands forever. And this is the word that was preached to us.
1 Peter 1:25
24 For, "All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall,
25 but the word of the Lord stands forever." And this is the word that was preached to you.
We do not wait for the word of God to change; we wait for our hearts to change. We know what Zedekiah is waiting for, he was somehow hoping that God will change his mind. He was somehow hoping that God would say a different message through Jeremiah. Every time he sends somebody to Jeremiah to enquire the Lord, Jeremiah said the same thing, 'you must surrender to the Babylonians, you must obey the word of God, and you must humble yourself'. The message was consistent, his response was inconsistent. God gave 18 months for the people to repent.
We know God gives enough years for us to be humble and repent. He is so patient. He is willing to give us the same message repeatedly. He will make us listen to the same message repeatedly until we get it, but Zedekiah did not get it. And what happened he said no tomorrow, tomorrow I will change, may be not. But we know although Zedekiah knew Jeremiah is right, he didn't have the heart to listen to him. He was pulled away by public opinion, by his own fear, and by his friends he hung out with. God is very patient.
We know Zedekiah all his life looking for some consolation, comfort from Jeremiah and from God. That is why we come to church, that's why we come to hear God's word. That's why we go to God. We go to God for some consolation, for comfort, for forgiveness, for healing. And God had a plan for Zedekiah to be consoled, to be comforted, and to be loved, to be saved. There was a condition to that consolation, for that comfort. What does God want to do? Surrender. If you surrender Zedekiah you will be consoled, you will be comforted, you will be lifted up, you will be saved, your life, your family, your whole nation.
So we are similar to Zedekiah, we like to be comforted, we like to be consoled but we do not like surrender, but God's way is best way. His ways seems tough to us is not that what we want to hear or we like to do, but Bible is very clear, humble yourself before the Lord, under his mighty hand and he will lift you up.
God does not surrender to us we have to surrender to God. God does not surrender his word us but we need to surrender to word of God that God has put in front of us. Zedekiah had an opportunity, not just once, twice but so many months so many years. When God saw no change of heart that's when he said he is stiff-necked. Even though, he had many spots of spirituality and religion in his life, God said Babylon and people were dying of hunger inside and finally they have to flee from the city and they were held captive by the Babylonians.
Zedekiah was captured, his sons were captured, his sons were killed in front of Zedekiah, and Zedekiah's eyes were put off and finally he had to be taken into exile and he died in exile in Babylon. He did not have to be like that. The story would have changed if Zedekiah was just humble. When we change, make that one decision to change, the destiny, our future, our family future is going to change.
One decision, that is all it takes for us to change this way or that way. One decision changes the destiny and eternal destiny of our life and our family. As Christians God gives us new name. God wants us to live up to our new name - Christians. 'I am a Christian'; means God called me to be like Christ. Zedekiah did not live up to his name, but as Christians God is calling us to live up to our new name in Him.