24–30 June 2018.
We all like stories with happy endings. But sadly the end of 2 Kings isn’t very happy at all. Earlier in the story of Judah, the Babylonian empire had attacked and defeated Jerusalem, taking many of its leaders and people into exile. But despite this defeat, there was still hope. The Babylonians chose Zedekiah to be a new king in Jerusalem, and as long as Zedekiah stayed loyal to Babylon everything would be ok.
The only problem was that after a while, advisors in the king’s court started encouraging Zedekiah to break this agreement and betray the Babylonians. Should Zedekiah do this? God’s prophets had said the peace agreement with Babylon was a good result, and that it would be foolish for the king to rebel. But the king’s advisors disagreed, and they constantly pushed Zedekiah until he gave in to their plans.
Not surprisingly, when the Babylonians heard Zedekiah was rebelling, their soldiers marched back on Jerusalem again – and this time they showed no mercy. They captured King Zedekiah and his children, murdering Zedekiah’s sons in front of him and pulling out Zedekiah’s eyes. The Babylonians then marched into Jerusalem and absolutely destroyed it. They stripped the great temple of all its riches, and they burnt it to the ground. They set fire to the whole city and left nothing standing.
Was it worth it? As Zedekiah was dragged to Babylon blind and in chains, knowing that his actions had killed his children, destroyed the temple, ruined Jerusalem, and enslaved its people, did he wonder why he had done such a foolish thing? Zedekiah had known it was a bad idea, but he had allowed himself to be convinced into doing it anyway.
I think we all know what that’s like. There have been times in our own lives when we too have known what was right, but like Zedekiah we let other people pull us away and encourage us to do what’s wrong. We often tell our children about the dangers of peer pressure, but we adults face that same dangers too.
In the business world, how many times do we see shareholders or bosses pushing companies and their workers to turn their backs on what is right and even do illegal things just to make a profit and get ahead. But like with the story of Zedekiah, the result of peer pressure in our own lives is equally destructive. Schoolyard bullying goes a step too far, and someone gets hurt; or people at work give into the temptations of corruption, and then get caught. In both cases, lives suddenly get destroyed, and people are left asking: Was it all really worth it?
Pastor Stephen Lakkis