01 July 2010


It makes so much difference when we listen!

In his book, A Commentary on Jeremiah: Exile and Homecoming, Walter Brueggemann applies this to King Zedekiah in chapter 37. The king sends delegates to Jeremiah, requesting prayer. Of course, Zedekiah has disregarded what the prophet has been trying to tell him about a number of things—like doing justice and not scheming against the Babylonians.

Brueggemann says, “The central issue is that the king did not ‘listen’ (shema`).” (354) He’s alluding to the Shema (which means “listen” or “hear”) in Deuteronomy 6. It’s a statement of faith that begins with verse 4: “Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone.”

He continues, “No one listened—not the king, not his royal entourage, not the city nor its citizens. ‘Listening’ becomes the key motif for this part of the text.…‘Listening’ is to acknowledge that Yahweh and the torah tradition provide the dominant clues to life and to power. Zedekiah’s refusal to listen is a decision to ignore the tradition, to reject the prophet, to scuttle a theological identity, and to disregard a transcendent purpose in power politics. A refusal to listen is to imagine that the king is autonomous and therefore destined for self-sufficiency. In his refusal to listen, so the text suggests, the king has sealed his own fate and that of his people. His future depends not upon his ingenuity nor his power, but upon his readiness to accept the theological reality of his life and his rule, that is, the reality of Yahweh’s rule.” (354-5)

Refusing to listen isn’t the sole domain of foolish kings. Can we think of ways in which we are Zedekiah-like by ignoring “theological reality”?

No comments: