“But I am afraid to surrender,” the king said, “for the Babylonians may hand me over to the Judeans who have defected to them. And who knows what they will do to me!” Jeremiah replied, “You won’t be handed over to them if you choose to obey the Lord. Your life will be spared, and all will go well for you.
Jeremiah 38:19, 20 (NLT)
The dialogues between Zedekiah and Jeremiah prior to the fall of Jerusalem are very intriguing. Jeremiah never had good news for Zedekiah when asked what message the LORD had for him. Still, Zedekiah kept asking, as if he hoped that somehow the message would change. It never did, though. The only hope he was given was, if he surrendered to Babylon, his punishment would be less severe than if he fought to the end.
Zedekiah’s response is predictable. Surrender did not seem logical for a king that was under siege. He fears what others would do to him. Kings who surrender are normally put to death by the conquering king. Worse yet, what would happen to him if the Babylonians turned him over to the Judeans who had already defected?! Anything could happen. He may likely die at the hands of a mob. What God commanded was not the reasonable thing to do. The fear of what humans could do kept him from obedience to God.
Sometimes God asks us to do things that do not seem logical or reasonable. It is easy to list several rational arguments of how others will respond and what could go wrong if we obey. Will we be misunderstood? Or ridiculed? Or ignored? There can be many reasons to fear the response of humans when we seek to obey God, but in the end, He promises that it will go well with us if we obey.
The fear of humans won out with Zedekiah. He and the entire city of Jerusalem paid a severe price.
But the Babylonian troops chased the king and caught him on the plains of Jericho. They took him to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, who was at Riblah in the land of Hamath. There the king of Babylon pronounced judgment upon Zedekiah. He made Zedekiah watch as they slaughtered his sons and all the nobles of Judah. Then they gouged out Zedekiah’s eyes, bound him in bronze chains, and led him away to Babylon.
Meanwhile, the Babylonians burned Jerusalem, including the palace, and tore down the walls of the city.
We may not face as severe of consequences, but we may well miss a much better outcome if we ignore the voice of God because of the fear of people.