Editor’s Note: AMI devotionals from Sept. 28-Oct.2 are written by Pastor Ryun Chang.
Devotional Thoughts for Today
2 King 25:1-7: And in the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month, on the tenth day of the month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came with all his army against Jerusalem and laid siege to it. And they built siegeworks all around it. 2 So the city was besieged till the eleventh year of King Zedekiah. 3 On the ninth day of the fourth month the famine was so severe in the city that there was no food for the people of the land. 4 Then a breach was made in the city, and all the men of war fled by night by the way of the gate between the two walls, by the king’s garden, and the Chaldeans were around the city. And they went in the direction of the Arabah. 5 But the army of the Chaldeans pursued the king and overtook him in the plains of Jericho, and all his army was scattered from him. 6 Then they captured the king and brought him up to the king of Babylon at Riblah, and they passed sentence on him. 7 They slaughtered the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes, and put out the eyes of Zedekiah and bound him in chains and took him to Babylon.
The final moment of Judah’s last king was a cruel and unusual punishment. Zedekiah, after the Babylonians gauged his eyes out, lived a while longer as a prisoner in Babylon (Jer. 52:11). Forever etched in his memory, however, was what his eyes last saw: the killing of his terrified sons. No one, even a terrible king, should suffer such a horrible fate.
Zedekiah was a bad king because “he became stiff-necked and hardened his heart and would not turn to the Lord” (2 Chron. 36:13). What led him to such a perilous path, however, was something we all struggle with: a desire to please people.
Once, several officials of Zedekiah who despised Jeremiah said to him, “This man should be put to death’” (Jer. 38:4). The king answered, “He is in your hands. . . . The king can do nothing to oppose you’” (v. 5). Shortly thereafter, when an official sympathetic to Jeremiah found out he had been thrown into a muddy cistern to die, he said to Zedekiah, “These men have acted wickedly in all they have done to Jeremiah” (vv.6-9). The king, who moments ago allowed Jeremiah to be put to death, now commanded the official to “take thirty men . . . and lift Jeremiah . . . out of the cistern before he dies” (v.10). In short, Zedekiah possessed no backbone; he went whichever way the wind blew.
Ultimately, Zedekiah feared man more than God. Certainly, what Jeremiah told him was difficult to swallow: “Surrender to . . . the king of Babylon” (v.17). Since by this time, God had handed the rebellious Judah over to the Babylonians, surrendering was His will. Zedekiah couldn’t do it because he feared that “the Babylonians may hand [him] over to” the Jews already exiled in Babylon who “will mistreat [him]” (v.19). Although God, through Jeremiah, assured him that “they will not hand you over. . . . then it will go well with you,” (v.20), Zedekiah disobeyed.
No matter how much we disobey God, we aren’t likely to suffer the cruel and unusual punishment that Zedekiah encountered; nevertheless, it will not go well with us when we disobey God. We obey God against our so-called “better judgment” when we fear Him more than man. Don’t over think or over analyze—be convicted by God’s word and simply obey!
I love You, Lord, with all my heart. When I fear man, acting as though I’ve no faith in God, please give me the strength to overcome that fear, so that I can boldly represent You with my gentle, yet firm words that speak of Your goodness and kindness. Help me to live boldly for you. Amen.
Bible Reading for Today: 1 Thessalonians 5
Lunch Break Study
Read 1 Samuel 15:20-24: And Saul said to Samuel, “I have obeyed the voice of the Lord. I have gone on the mission on which the Lord sent me. I have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and I have devoted the Amalekites to destruction. 21 But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the best of the things devoted to destruction, to sacrifice to the Lord your God in Gilgal.” 22 And Samuel said, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.23 For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry.
Because you have rejected the word of the Lord, he has also rejected you from being king.”
24 Saul said to Samuel, “I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice.
Question to Consider
- What made Saul to believe that he had obeyed the Lord?
- Put yourself in Saul’s shoes: what does it mean that he was afraid of the people?
- What does “to obey is better than sacrifice” really mean in our time?
- The command was to kill everything, including the animals, belonging to the Amalekites, the archenemy of Israel that always sought to annihilate her (Deut. 25:17-19)—but Saul spared its king and the choicest animals. Saul assumed that he had obeyed the Lord because he made himself believe that the animals were for God, even though that wasn’t real reason.
- He was afraid of their opinion. Surely, many people would have thought that killing of the choicest animals was a sheer waste that made no economic sense. Saul, like Zedekiah, wanted to be liked by people instead of being liked by God.
- God doesn’t want performance without the right heart; neither does He want what appears to be a flawless ministry that is executed without much prayer and dependence on the Holy Spirit. He certainly does not want us do any ministry according to our time instead of God’s.
What tough decision did you face today? Did you have an opportunity to present God’s word or truth today to someone at work or school? Did you face a situation in which the matter of obeying God became a reality? What does your response to these situations indicate with respect to the genuineness of your faith? Take a moment to reflect and evaluate. Ask the Lord for help.