There at Riblah the king of Babylon slaughtered the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes and also killed all the nobles of Judah. Then he put out Zedekiah’s eyes and bound him with bronze shackles to take him to Babylon (Jeremiah 39:6,7).
Some scenes cannot be unseen. Those who have seen the horrible often cannot get that sight out of their minds. It is burned into their memory.
For some, the unforgettable happened with a car crash, or a fire, or maybe, war. For King Zedekiah, it occurred as he was stripped of his power by the Babylonians. The last thing his eyes saw was the slaughter of his sons. His enemy could have killed him, too. But worse than death was making him live on with that memory.
We shudder at the thought. But much of the record of the descendants of Abraham causes us to shudder. Reading through that history is like watching a horror film. As one scene after another unfolds, we know that something awful is coming. The Assyrians are going to decimate the ten Northern Tribes. The Babylonians will invade the remaining two. Jerusalem will fall. The Temple will be demolished. Then, untold thousands will be carried off to modern-day Iraq as captives—including the traumatized and now-blind, King Zedekiah.
Horrible to look at, yet those are the very scenes that should be burned into memory. They teach a lesson: “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Hebrews 10:31).
We dare never forget it.
Another picture teaches another lesson: It is a fearful thing for the living God to fall into the hands of sinners.
The Scripture screen shows a picture of ultimate horror. A bloodied man is being executed by torture. The weight of his body pulls at the nails driven through the hands. Blood trickles down from thorns pressed into the scalp. Witnesses mock. Hours pass. A mouth screams: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”This scene must be burned into memory. If the slaughter of Zedekiah’s sons was horrible, the slaughter of God’s Son is beyond horror.
This is the cold killing that we cannot explain without admitting that we are in the picture. We are the cause. We are to blame. It teaches a lesson we dare never forget:
“You who think of sin but lightly nor suppose the evil great. Here may view its nature rightly, here its guilt may estimate.”
Then, we learn that this is actually a picture of mercy! After all, we are not the ones withering under the fierce anger of Justice. The bloodied One is our substitute. He was found guilty of our crimes. He was punished. We are set free.
It teaches a lesson:“What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!” We dare never forget it.
On its center screen Holy Writ then projects the breath-taking picture of an empty tomb with an angel saying, “He is not here, he is risen.” He is:
“Christ, the Life of all the living, Christ the Death of death, our foe.”
It teaches a lesson: We will survive death. How could we forget it?
Let that picture of Easter morning be forever burned into our memory! The Bible paints many such pictures of our salvation’s story. Some even show the future: “Look!” we are told, “ God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away’” (Revelation 21:3,4).
There, the eyes of Zedekiah can see again. There, his sons can stand alive and well. There, the captive is free, and the dead live. So do we. Burn that vision into memory!
We pray to the Lord of life:
“Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes, Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies. Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee; In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me!” Amen
Written by Pastor Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain
and Liaison to the Military, Cape Coral, Florida
Provided by WELS Ministry to the Military