For the Sake of Expediency
The officials said to the king, “Jeremiah ought to be put to death, because he is discouraging the people who are left in this city.” King Zedekiah said, “Here he is – I won’t stop you.” So they took Jeremiah and threw him into the cistern. – Jeremiah 38:4-6 (adapted)
King Zedekiah is a politician of convenience, a man who avoids conflict when possible and – when it’s not possible – casts his net wide in hopes of a bailout from any possible source.
Trying to get out from under the thumb of the Babylonians? Zedekiah’s solution is to call the Egyptians and Jeremiah and every prophet he knows for protection.
Enjoying a brief reprieve from war? Zedekiah appeases his politicians who want Jeremiah silenced and locked up so they can maintain the illusion of peace in the city.
Frightened again by Babylonian advances? Zedekiah secretly approves Jeremiah’s release in hopes that God will do the same for Jerusalem.
“By any means necessary” is Zedekiah’s slogan, even if it means throwing someone under the bus, out on the street, or into the cistern’s mud. Temporary peace, by any means necessary. Silencing critics, by any means necessary. Saving face, by any means necessary. And when all else fails: lie that you never said such a thing, send the women and children out to seek peace, or run away and hide.
Stay at the top by any means necessary. It’s a strategy of power that has been taught through the generations: pledge allegiance to many gods (wealth, nation, race, religion, war) to guard what you believe to be yours.
Of Zedekiah’s foolish game, Jeremiah prophesies, “The women and children will say of you: ‘Your allegiances have betrayed you, and your feet are stuck in the mud.’”
How stuck are we by our own allegiances?
We have taken the blessed dust of which you made us, and the holy rain of which you made the earth, and we have made a muddy mess. Forgive us, not for the sake of expediency, but for the sake of your name.
Rachel Hackenberg serves on the national staff for the United Church of Christ. She is the author of Writing to God and the co-author of Denial Is My Spiritual Practice, among other titles. Her blog is Faith and Water.