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God’s Word for You

Jeremiah 21:1,2

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, February 2, 2015

The Lord Rejects King Zedekiah
21 This is the word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD when King Zedekiah sent to him Passhur son of Malkijah and Zephaniah the priest son of Maaseiah. They said, 2 “Inquire of the LORD for us, for Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon is making war on us. Perhaps the LORD will perform some of his wonders on our behalf as in the past so that Nebuchadnezzar will withdraw from us.”

In chapter 20 we met a man named Passhur who opposed Jeremiah because of his preaching and had him placed overnight in the stocks. That Passhur was in charge of temple security. This Passhur—the son of Malkijah—was a different man. He was much worse. We will find later that this new Passhur tried to have Jeremiah executed for treason and was part of a group that threw our prophet into a cistern (Jeremiah 38:1-13).

The other man we meet here, Zephaniah son of Maaseiah, was another kind of man altogether. He was not the prophet Zephaniah (whose genealogy we know extending back four generations to King Hezekiah and from there all the way back to Adam: Zephaniah 1:1; 1 Chronicles 1:1-3:13). This Zephaniah was a priest and a member of another delegation besides this one (Jeremiah 39:3). This Zephaniah doesn’t seem to have been hostile toward Jeremiah at all. In fact, both times he approached Jeremiah, we find the priest asking the prophet to pray on behalf of Israel.

King Zedekiah sent these men to Jeremiah to ask for a miracle. The Babylonian king had come with his Chaldean army (we’ll talk about the Chaldeans in the verses to come). Zedekiah knew that when the Assyrians had besieged Jerusalem in the days of Isaiah, God stepped in and destroyed the invading army (Isaiah 37:36-37; 2 Kings 19:35-36; 2 Chronicles 32:20-21). What Zedekiah seemed to ignore was the rest of the story. In those days, King Hezekiah had appealed to Isaiah to pray for the nation because God himself was ridiculed by the Assyrians (Isaiah 37:1-4). So Isaiah prayed (2 Chronicles 32:20), but King Hezekiah went into the temple and prayed, too (Isaiah 37:14-20).

In contrast, King Zedekiah’s request seems offhand, almost cavalier. “See if there’s any chance for a miracle.” Zedekiah’s prayer is like those offensive prayers we see on TV sometimes: “God, if you’re really up there, if there’s really anyone listening, I could use a little help….” God does not hear the prayers of people who do not believe in him: “Even if you offer many prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood” (Isaiah 1:15). In this case, however, God did respond. We will hear it in the verse to come.

Our prayers are a very different matter. We can say, “Our Father,” and be perfectly confident that God hears us and will answer us. Luther said, “With these words God tenderly invites us to believe that he is our true Father and that we are his true children, so that we may pray to him as boldly and confidently as dear children ask their dear father” (Small Catechism—Address of the Lord’s Prayer). And Paul said that through Jesus “we may approach God with freedom and confidence” (Ephesians 3:12). And Jesus himself assured us: “Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:9-11).

So pray. Don’t pray to hedge your bet, thinking that God might possibly be listening, but pray with confidence the way a beloved child asks a loving father. Because that’s the kind of Father we have: our Father in heaven.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.