While Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and all his army and all the kingdoms and peoples in the empire he ruled were fighting against Jerusalem and all its surrounding towns, this word came to Jeremiah from the LORD: “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: Go to Zedekiah king of Judah and tell him, ‘This is what the LORD says: I am about to hand this city over to the king of Babylon, and he will burn it down. You will not escape from his grasp but will surely be captured and handed over to him. You will see the king of Babylon with your own eyes, and he will speak with you face to face. And you will go to Babylon.
“‘Yet hear the promise of the LORD, O Zedekiah king of Judah. This is what the LORD says concerning you: You will not die by the sword; you will die peacefully. As people made a funeral fire in honor of your fathers, the former kings who preceded you, so they will make a fire in your honor and lament, “Alas, O master!” I myself make this promise, declares the LORD.’”
Then Jeremiah the prophet told all this to Zedekiah king of Judah, in Jerusalem, while the army of the king of Babylon was fighting against Jerusalem and the other cities of Judah that were still holding out—Lachish and Azekah. These were the only fortified cities left in Judah. (Jeremiah 34:1-7)
There’s good news and bad news. Which would you rather hear first? Zedekiah’s sons would be executed in front of him. Immediately afterwards, he was blinded and then he was hauled away to Babylon in chains. Meanwhile, the city of Jerusalem was torched and burned to the ground, along with God’s temple. All this God had told Zedekiah before it happened, warning him that unless he changed his ways, this is how it would turn out. Instead of heeding God’s words, given to him by the prophet Jeremiah, Zedekiah had resisted God’s will and attempted to achieve his own will by rebelling against Nebuchadnezzar. The outcome was just as God had predicted.
But, despite his poor choices, despite resisting God’s will, despite the terrible suffering he endured, the promise God gave him was fulfilled. God did not let Zedekiah die by the sword. Instead he died peacefully—but far from home. And as the last king of Judah to ever sit on David’s throne, when he died he was mourned by the people of God.
The outcome of Zedekiah’s life was because of the choices he made. God is in control of the universe, but he exercises that control through the choices we make.