A Scripture Verse and a Sad Memory

I am reading through Jeremiah in the mornings and, except for the book of Consolation(chapters 29-32), the book is a sad one with very few bright notes in its melody. There are fascinating sections that I would love to preach through. But as I was reading yesterday morning, I read a verse that brought back a flood of memories to me.

The verse was Jeremiah 32:20, “Obey now the voice of the LORD in what I say to you, and it shall be well with you, and your life shall be spared.” Over 20 years ago I used to meet with a man in our church every week. We would memorize Scripture, pray, and on occasion go and evangelize together. This is one of the texts we memorized, Jer. 32:20.

The context: King Zedekiah calls for Jeremiah, he wants a word from God. Jeremiah gives him the word: submit to Babylon, go into exile, and God would spare Jerusalem from being burned to the ground. The king and his family would survive. This was the promise, although it was hard. The threat however made clear the cost of disobedience. If Zedekiah disobeyed, the city would be handed over the Babylonians, it would be burned to the ground and the king and his family would not survive. When Zedekiah expresses concern over the Jews who were already in exile, Jeremiah promised the king that he would not be given over to their hands. That’s where Jer. 32:20 comes in. “Obey now the voice of the Lord.” Zedekiah’s obedience was to be immediate. But the promise of obedience was shalom and a spared life. Submitting to Babylon was hard, disobedience was harder. My friend and I memorized this verse among many.

In Jer. 39, Zedekiah and his family try to flee Jerusalem. They were going to secure their own safety. Zedekiah did not obey the voice of the Lord. He and his family were captured, his sons were killed in front of him, and then his eyes were gouged out. God’s threats are never empty.

That friend, a man with whom I prayed and memorized Scripture, went the way of Zedekiah. This friend of mine seemed to be blessed by God, until he wanted to go his own way, choose his own idols, and worship at the altar of immorality. He rejected the very call to obedience from Jer. 32:20. His life is empty now. He has sown to the flesh; he is reaping crops of bitterness and pain. He may eventually reap the crop of eternal judgment. I hope not. I pray not. But God is not mocked.

God gave His Word of promise to Zedekiah to spare him from something worse than submission to Babylon. God gives us His Word of promise to save us from eternal Hell. Will we hear it, heed it, and live?