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.” Jeremiah 38:17
No doubt about it, King Zedekiah had not followed God’s laws, nor had he really listened to the voice of God through Jeremiah. he had sent his people down the wrong path. Now the enemy was knocking at the door, coming to take them all into exile, or worse, slaughter them. Yet Jeremiah says if the king accepts the punishment, God will spare him, his people and Jerusalem – all the important things.
What can we learn from this? God is a forgiving God if we turn from wrong and seek Him for what is right. But there are still consequences for our actions. Scenes need to play out. We set the ball in motion. Ask any prisoner who has found Christ if the cell doors suddenly flew open, their sentence erased and they walked out freely into the world no questions asked. Of course not. If they were incarcerated fairly as a punishment for something they did, there are consequences for their actions. But that doesn’t mean God has not forgiven them, that their soul is imprisoned. It doesn’t mean God won’t protect them during their sentence and protect their family as well. It doesn’t mean they won’t have peace in captivity, learn more about God and be with Him someday in Paradise forever. It does mean even in the most difficult of circumstances, often of our own doing, there can be blessings.
Often times we want a do-over. We want God to fix it, take it away, or rewind the tape. If only we had not said or acted in that way, things would be different. But there are consequences. What can happen is that while we are captive to the results of our own doing, we can grow in knowledge of who God is, rely on Him more, renew our strength, and remain calm and protected while the storms rage around us.
We can also rely on His promise that there is light in the darkness, sunshine after the storm, and the damage is not forever. Healing can take place, families and relationships restored, or hearts mended. How and when is up to God. We just have His promise, just like Zedekiah, that if we yield to Him, even during the exile, we will be okay.