Tuesday, July 04, 2006

A Declaration of Independence that Didn't Work

Every year at this time we celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence, when the American colonies severed their ties with England. The Empire struck back but was defeated, and the United States of America was born.

In today's reading, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon invaded the land of Judah. This happened during the reigns of Jehoiakim, Jehoiakin, and Zedekiah, because they declared their independence -- well, two of them did. The text tells us,
Surely these things happened to Judah according to the Lord's command, in order to remove them from his presence because of the sins of Manasseh and all he had done, including the shedding of innocent blood.
2 Kings 24.3-4
So what can we learn from these kings? The lesson I take from them is this: Sometimes a 1776-style declaration of independence is not such a good idea. Especially when the
Lord already said that "I will wipe our Jerusalem as one wipes a dish, wiping it and turning it upside down. I will forsake the remnant of my inheritance and hand them over to their enemies. They will be looted and plundered by all their foes" (2 Kings 21.13-14)

Sometimes we run into obstacles that God wants us to overcome, and other times the obstacles are a sign that we should turn around and go back. "The prudent see trouble coming and take cover; the simple keep going and suffer for it," as it says in the Proverbs.

Zedekiah had plenty of notice that he was going the wrong way.
As we will see later when we read Jeremiah, Zedekiah had specific real-time guidance from a prophet of the Lord, but he refused to believe it, and continued to pursue his disastrous rebellion against Nebuchadnezzar. The consequences were awful, too; the last thing he saw on earth was his sons being killed in front of him. (2 Kings 25.6-7)

For most of us, the consequences aren't as obviously dire as they were for Zedekiah, but it's still worth our while to ask the Lord what kind of obstacle it is that's in front of us.

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