“Furthermore, tell the people, ‘This is what the Lord says: See, I am setting before you the way of life and the way of death. Whoever stays in this city will die by the sword, famine or plague. But whoever goes out and surrenders to the Babylonians who are besieging you will live; they will escape with their lives. I have determined to do this city harm and not good, declares the Lord. It will be given into the hands of the king of Babylon, and he will destroy it with fire.'” (Jeremiah 21:8-10 NIV)
As I read the above text the other day, I did a bit of a double take. Putting myself in the shoes of the people of Judah, I couldn’t help but think that in their minds, surrendering to the Babylonians would be the worst possible thing to do! After all, they were the enemy! We are programmed in our genes to fight to the end. How on earth could God be saying to these people that they would be better off surrendering to the Babylonians? How could He say that it was only in surrender that would they save their lives?
As we read more about the Babylonian captivity, we see that the king Jeremiah was speaking to was Zedekiah, a puppet king placed on the throne by Nebuchadnezzar when his nephew, Jehoiachin, was deported to Babylon. Further glances at history show that Jehoiachin actually did surrender to Nebuchadnezzar. He was then taken alive to Babylon and was later released. He did not die, and even in exile, the Jews considered Jehoiachin to be their king.*
Zedekiah, on the other hand, though appointed by Nebuchadnezzar, broke his oath of loyalty to the king of Babylon and entered into an alliance with the king of Egypt. He was urged by the prophet Jeremiah to surrender to Nebuchadnezzar, but he would not. In the end, Jeremiah records that Nebuchadnezzar, “…killed the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes; he also killed all the officials of Judah. Then he put out Zedekiah’s eyes, bound him with bronze shackles and took him to Babylon, where he put him in prison till the day of his death.” (Jeremiah 52:10-11 NIV)
Wow. When you see the whole picture, you realize how much better it would have been for Zedekiah to have followed Jeremiah’s advice!
It is certain that none of us are in ancient Jerusalem with the Chaldean army pounding on our walls, but we are all struck by different kinds of evil. Our “Chaldean army” may be illness or any other kind of hardship. We want out. We want resolution. We want healing. We want our “Chaldean army” to simply go away.
But sometimes God calls us to “surrender”.
Because God sees the end from the beginning, and He knows that sometimes surrender is the best way. This was God’s message to me when I went through cancer five years ago. Why didn’t God intervene? Why did He ask me to “surrender” to His will rather than miraculously heal me? I don’t have all the answers because I don’t know what would have happened in my life if He had simply removed the cancer. But I can tell you this: The day I surrendered the cancer and all of its implications into His hands was the day I found peace. Not only that, but it was also the day that my relationship with God began to grow as I learned to trust Him with every aspect of the disease and its treatments. In looking back over those sweet times with my loving Heavenly Father, I wouldn’t trade them for anything in the world.
Yes God does still perform miraculous healings. Yes, we need to put our trust in His healing power. But we must also understand that sometimes the paths of suffering are actually the “preferable” path over what might otherwise be, and during those dark moments, we can trust in our God to carry us through. When we do, we can be assured that we will not rot in a prison as Zedekiah did. Rather, like Jehoachin, we will eventually be set free and go on to be the people of God we were created to be.
Yes, there is a time to take a stand in faith, and there is also a time to surrender the circumstances to God and let Him be in charge. Only then can we be assured of the best possible outcome.
In His love,
Lynona Gordon Chaffart, Speech-Language Pathologist, mother of two, Author — “Aboard God’s Train — A Journey With God Through the Valley of Cancer”, Author and Moderator for The Nugget, a tri-weekly internet newsletter, and Scriptural Nuggets, a website devoted to Christian devotionals and inspirational poems, with Answers2Prayer Ministries. Follow Lyn on Twitter @lynchaffart.