January 16, 2023

He Didn't Listen

Devotion for the Week...

Last week I wrote about the importance of listening to wisdom. Sometimes that wisdom comes through our regular Bible reading, sometimes through other people who have learned lessons they pass on to us and sometimes through the teachings of experts such as doctors or financial advisors. We always have the choice to listen to the wisdom presented to us, or to reject it.

Jeremiah the prophet had a lot of experience with people not listening to his wisdom. His wisdom was actually direct messages from God, and started with the words "This is what the Lord says," but people still didn't listen to him! Jeremiah spent years telling the people to abandon their sinfulness and turn back to God, but the people ignored him. He warned them of the consequences that would come, including invasion by the Babylonians, but they continued on as they were, preferring to believe the false priests who told them everything was fine. And then the Babylonians came.

"One day King Zedekiah sent for Jeremiah and had him brought to the third entrance of the Lord’s Temple. 'I want to ask you something,' the king said. 'And don’t try to hide the truth'" (Jeremiah 38:14). I'm not sure why Zedekiah felt the need to remind Jeremiah not to hide the truth, since Jeremiah had been telling him the truth all along. Maybe the king was just accustomed to other people only telling him what they thought he wanted to hear, or maybe he hoped his words would cause Jeremiah to give him a different answer this time.

Jeremiah told him the truth, as always, passing on the message God had given him for Zedekiah: "This is what the Lord God of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says: ‘If you surrender to the Babylonian officers, you and your family will live, and the city will not be burned down. But if you refuse to surrender, you will not escape! This city will be handed over to the Babylonians, and they will burn it to the ground" (vv. 17-18).

But Zedekiah was afraid to surrender to the Babylonians (v. 19). Even with Jeremiah's repeated insistence that "Your life will be spared, and all will go well for you" (v. 20) and an explanation of what would happen to his family if he didn't surrender (vv. 21-23), when the Babylonians broke into the city, Zedekiah and his officials ran. The results were every bit as bad as Jeremiah predicted: death for many people, including Zedekiah's sons, Zedekiah himself was blinded, and the city was burned (Jeremiah 39:5-8).

Can you imagine what Jeremiah felt when he heard the news? I picture him crying and thinking, "But I told you this would happen. Why didn't you listen to me?" It doesn't take much imagination to think he'd be crying and lamenting the fate of his city, since he wrote an entire book expressing his sorrow. In Lamentations 1:16 he wrote, "For all these things I weep; tears flow down my cheeks. No one is here to comfort me; any who might encourage me are far away."

When we're the ones with wisdom to share, we really want people to listen to us. The more dire the consequences of not listening, the more we want them to take our wisdom to heart. Unfortunately, we can't make people listen. We can't make them do the wise thing, no matter how desperately we want them to. We can repeat ourselves over and over. We can appeal to their sense of self-preservation. We can get really specific about what will happen if they ignore our warnings. But through it all, we can't make them do what we think they should.
We can't make people do what we think they should | DevotedQuilter.com
When the thing we've been warning about happens, it's tempting to blame ourselves and think we should have done more, but that's not the case. If we've given warnings, then we've done what we can. Even Jeremiah, who had his message given directly to him from God, even he couldn't make Zedekiah listen to him.

We may lament, as Jeremiah did, but we have no reason to blame ourselves when others choose not to listen to our warnings.

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