I want to quickly jot down a couple thoughts and the blog seemed as good a place as any. The power of God in the weakness of man is not just the theme of 2 Corinthians (see 2 Cor 12:9) – the book which I’m currently expounding in our church – but one that courses through the whole of the Bible. I think of Psalm 20:7-8:
Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand upright.
Yet, I was surprised to find it again in Jeremiah 38, this morning. In this chapter, Jeremiah presents the rebellious regent, Zedekiah, with his options before the encircling Babylonians in vv. 17-18:
Then Jeremiah said to Zedekiah, “Thus says the LORD, the God of hosts, the God of Israel: If you will surrender to the officials of the king of Babylon, then your life shall be spared, and this city shall not be burned with fire, and you and your house shall live. But if you do not surrender to the officials of the king of Babylon, then this city shall be given into the hand of the Chaldeans, and they shall burn it with fire, and you shall not escape from their hand”
Now that’s counter-intuitive! Surrender and survive? That would’ve seemed highly unlikely for Zedekiah. With his leadership in the rebellion against Babylon, his execution would have been a given should Jerusalem fall and he be captured. And Zedekiah expresses that very fear next in vv. 19-20:
King Zedekiah said to Jeremiah, “I am afraid of the Judeans who have deserted to the Chaldeans, lest I be handed over to them and they deal cruelly with me.” Jeremiah said, “You shall not be given to them. 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.”
And there it is again in Jeremiah’s assurance, obey the Lord’s voice and it shall be well with you. Trust nothing you really want to trust, Zedekiah – your military, your power, your walls, or your national alliances – and enter the path of (human) weakness to know that the Lord’s power will be enough. Your life will be spared. This was a path that Jeremiah himself walked in this chapter, as he spoke God’s truth to wicked power and was preserved from the evil men who attempted to take his life (Jer 38:2-6, 13). Even to the end amid the siege, Jeremiah was spared (Jer 38:28).
Jeremiah’s call to Zedekiah at that unique point in history is the call that the Lord extends to all His people at all times – enter the counter-intuitive path of weakness and obey His voice. Obey His voice, irrespective of how weak of a position it puts you in and how uncertain or insecure the path of obedience appears. Do not rely on your money, your reputation, your career and its network(s), or your bodily strength. Rely on the Lord and know that He is able to spare your life even in the path that would otherwise seem to be certain death.
Stephen Magee has penned an appropriate prayer for Jeremiah 38 in A Book of Prayers:
Merciful God, the servants of Your Word are in great need. Some are being threatened by those around them. Others are already in prison or have had their property confiscated from them. Appoint someone to help them today, that they might have food to eat, healing for their illnesses, aid for their financial distress, friendship for their loneliness, and especially Your strong presence in their lives. Make them to be men of great courage. Though the wicked seek their lives, You are able to preserve Your servants again this day. Through all this distress, help those who are true messengers of Your Son to continue with the fullness of Your holy counsel. Though their homes and even their families be destroyed, preserve Your servants through every trial.
God is able to preserve His servants, for His power is made perfect in their weakness (2 Cor 12:9).