The Best-Laid Schemes of Mice and Men, Go Oft Awry.
“I, the GOD of Israel, want you to give this Message to the king of Judah, who has just sent you to me to find out what he should do. Tell him, ‘Get this: Pharaoh’s army, which is on its way to help you, isn’t going to stick it out. No sooner will they get here than they’ll leave and go home to Egypt. And then the Babylonians will come back and resume their attack, capture this city and burn it to the ground.” – Jeremiah 37:7-8 MSG
King Zekekiah had a plan. In spite of all the warnings and prophecies from the lips of Jeremiah about the fall of Jerusalem and the futility of trying to resist the coming invasion of Judah by the Babylonians, Zedekiah thought he could outsmart God. He owed his position as king to Nebuchadnezzar, the king of the invading forces of Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar had taken Jehoiachin, the king of Judah, captive back to Babylon and placed Zedekiah, Jehoicihin’s uncle on the throne in his place. He had even given Zedekiah his name, changing it from Mattaniah. In return for his new name and position, Zedekiah had made an oath in God’s name to Nebuchadnezzar to be a faithful servant to him. But in the book of Second Chronicles we read that Zedekiah was “a hard and stubborn man, refusing to turn to the Lord, the God of Israel” (2 Chronicles 36:13 NLT). He not only rebelled against God, he refused to submit to the authority of Babylon. He came up with the ingenious plan of forming an alliance with Egypt, and using them as a means of rejecting and rebelling against the rule of Babylon. Even though Jeremiah had made it painfully clear that nothing short of repentance could alter God’s plans for Judah’s destruction, Zedekiah had other ideas. He truly believed he could outsmart and out-maneuver God. He could escape the divine decree with a little planning and diplomacy. But God’s plan always trumps ours.
But he rebelled and sent emissaries to Egypt to recruit horses and a big army. Do you think that’s going to work? Are they going to get by with this? Does anyone break a covenant and get off scot-free? As sure as I am the living God, this king who broke his pledge of loyalty and his covenant will die in that country, in Babylon. Pharaoh with his big army–all those soldiers!–won’t lift a finger to fight for him when Babylon sets siege to the city and kills everyone inside. Because he broke his word and broke the covenant, even though he gave his solemn promise, because he went ahead and did all these things anyway, he won’t escape. Therefore, GOD, the Master, says, As sure as I am the living God, because the king despised my oath and broke my covenant, I’ll bring the consequences crashing down on his head. – Ezekiel 17:15-19 MSG
What Zedekiah failed to understand was that God’s plan for Judah went way beyond the siege of Jerusalem and the short-term exile of the people to Babylon. God had a long-term plan for His people that included their ultimate return and restoration to the land after a 70-year hiatus. It also included a future restoration to a right relationship with Him and the return of a descendant of David to the throne of Israel. That has yet to happen, but will when Jesus Christ returns and establishes His kingdom in the New Jerusalem. Zedekiah, like the rest of us, lived in the here and now. He was focused on his immediate context and could not see any good coming from a siege and possible exile to Babylon. He didn’t like God’s plan, so he came up with his own. He couldn’t appreciate or understand that God’s plan, while difficult to accept, was ultimately going to turn out for the better. Sometimes we find ourselves going through situations or circumstances we don’t like, and we can’t see any good coming from them, so we begin to scheme and plan a way of escape. Rather than ask God what He might be trying to teach us in the midst of our difficulty, we begin to figure out an alternative escape route. When we do, we are basically telling God that we doubt His love for us. We are rejecting His plan for us. We are denying His power and diminishing His sovereignty. In essence, we are saying that we are in control, not Him. We know what is best, not Him. Our plans can be trusted, not His. Our will is to be preferred over His. But God’s plan can’t be stopped, altered, derailed, and replaced with our own. Zedekiah would learn that his best-laid scheme was going to fail. Egypt would leave. Babylon would return. Jerusalem would fall. And he would end up in Babylon, blinded, humiliated and enslaved. Had Zedekiah listened to the word of God spoken by Jeremiah, the prophet of God, he could have saved himself a lot of trouble. That doesn’t mean his life would have been easy, but it would have meant that he was living obediently within the will of God rather than striving to replace God’s will with his own. We may not always understand what is going on when it comes to our circumstances, but we must believe that God is in control and He has a plan that is bigger and better than anything we might come up with. He is in control and He has a bigger-picture plan that we can’t see. We can trust that He ultimately knows what is best for us, because He loves us.
Father, my plans rarely work, but I continue to come up with them. At the end of the day, it is because I don’t trust Your plan. I doubt Your ability to take care of me, so I come up with ways to take care of myself. Please forgive me. Help me to see Your bigger plan as better than mine. Give me an eternal perspective, not a temporal one. Help me to view my situations through Your eyes, not mine. I want to learn to trust You more. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men