Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Jeremiah 22’ Category

We are looking at Jeremiah 22:13-19. This is an oracle, or prophecy against Jehoiakim, one of the last kings of Judah – before Jerusalem was destroyed and they were taken into exile in Babylon.

This oracle is a part of a larger set of prophecies against the kings of Judah which lay out what these kings were supposed to have been doing, but didn’t – and so were judged. Let’s look for a moment at . . .

What God Wanted

This comes from chapter 22:3. The kings were to “do justice and righteousness.” This verse goes on to expound what this means:

  • To do justice and righteousness means don’t take advantage of the weak, outcasts, the marginal, the needy in society, which is oppression. The verse itself says, “Do no wrong or violence to the resident alien (immigrant), the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place.” In other words, don’t be an oppressor.
  • And also, to do justice and righteousness means that you stand up for them; that you make sure the weak are not taken advantage of by others, that they are not oppressed. Again, v. 3 says, “deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed.” In other words, don’t let the rich and powerful take away what the poor and weak have.

This is what God wanted, and this brings us to our text in vs. 13-19 and . . .

Jehoiakim’s failure

Despite this charge from God, Jehoiakim decided to focus on living in great luxury; to focus on himself.

v. 14 speaks of him as saying – “I will build myself a great house with spacious upper rooms.” It goes on to describe him as one “who cuts out windows for it, paneling it with cedar and painting it with vermilion.” These last two were luxury items in that day: cedar paneling and red paint; and, of course, it was a luxury to have spacious upper rooms and a “great” house.

In v. 15 the Lord rebukes him. “Do you think you are a king because you compete in cedar?” Do you think you are great because you have more cedar paneling than the kings around you? The Lord is saying, you aren’t defined by your luxury; by your level of self-indulgence.

We also learn from our Scripture that Jehoiakim pursued this self-indulgent luxury by oppression. v. 13 speaks of him as one “who builds his house by unrighteousness, and his upper rooms by injustice, who makes his neighbor serve him for nothing and does not give him his wages.” We see here the exact opposite of God’s charge to do justice and righteousness.

v. 17 gives God’s assessment of him: “you have eyes and heart only for your dishonest gain, for shedding innocent blood, and for practicing oppression and violence.”

  • He was not concerned about the weak, but only himself, his luxury
  • And not only did he not take care of them, he used the weak to make himself richer

Jeremiah points out that Jehoiakim didn’t learn from his father – Josiah. Josiah was a model king. Even though he died on the battlefield, he was held up as one of the most righteous of all the kings and descendents of David.

v. 15-16 says, “Did not your father (Josiah) eat and drink and do justice and righteousness? Then it was well with him. He judged the cause of the poor and needy; then it was well.” He’s saying: Your father did just fine. He had all his material needs met, but he also did justice and righteousness; he took care of the weak; he took up the cause of the needy and poor. He kept the charge of God.

Finally, we hear of Jehoiakim’s judgment which speaks to the seriousness of God’s charge to do justice and righteousness.

In v. 13 the word “woe”, which begins our passage, comes from a funeral context. It is a pronouncement of death against Jehoiakim.

The prophet goes on to say, “With the burial of a donkey he shall be buried, dragged and dumped beyond the gates of Jerusalem.” – v. 19. And he will not be mourned – v. 18. A grim judgment for sure.

But this passage also helps us to see . . .

The root problem in Jehoiakim’s life

vs. 15-16 talk about doing justice and righteousness, and taking care of the poor and needy, and then God asks a question: “’Is not this to know me?’ declares the Lord.” Isn’t doing justice and caring for the weak what it means to know me, God asks. The answer, of course, is yes!

The root problem was that Jehoiakim didn’t know the Lord. He was in charge of representing God as king of Israel, but he didn’t know who God is; God’s character; God’s heart.

If he had known the Lord, then he would have known what Moses taught in Deuteronomy 10:18, that “the Lord executes justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the sojourner, giving him food and clothing.”

He would have known the sentiment expressed in Psalm 35:10, “O Lord, who is like you, delivering the poor from him who is too strong for him, the poor and needy from him who robs him?”

He would have known the truth of Psalm 146:7-9 which speaks of God as one “who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry. . ..” It says, “The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down . . .. The Lord watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless . . ..”

His actions showed that he obviously did not know the Lord.

This brings us to the question of the morning –

Do you know the Lord?

We each have to examine our lives and ask this question of ourselves, given that God calls all of us to “do justice and righteousness” not just the kings of old. As Amos 5:24 says to all God’s people – “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever- flowing stream.”

  • And so in as much as we have power and resources we are not to take advantage of the weak. As Isaiah 10:1-2 says to all God’s people, “Woe to those who . . . turn aside the needy from justice and . . . rob the poor of my people of their right, that widows may be their spoil, and that they may make the fatherless their prey!”
  • And, in as much as we have the ability and resources we also are to help those who are weak and in need.  As Isaiah 1:17 says to all God’s people, “Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.”

We are not to be like Jehoiakim who sought greater luxury and self-indulgence, without concern for the weak and needy around him. He built up his luxurious house and lived well – while the weak suffered all around him.

Rather, we are to do what is right and care for the needy. Those who are vulnerable and cannot care for themselves.

The message today is show that you know the Lord – that you know God’s heart, his compassion, his mercy, who God truly is; that God’s heart is your heart. Show that you know the Lord by acting to care for the weak; standing up for them and helping them.

There are so many situations of injustice in the world; where people are oppressed; where the innocent are victimized, taken advantage of; enslaved and killed.

Crushing poverty in Haiti and Bangladesh; a genocidal war in Darfur, the latest of several such over the past few decades; a humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe – one current example – and we will hear of many more before this new year is over.

The poor, the weak and the needy are all around us. And we learned last night about how the global food crisis affects those in the Gambia where Gary and Denise serve. The poor, the weak and the needy are also here in our own country, and in our own neighborhood.

And so we have many opportunities to act; to show that we know the Lord.

As you know, today many of our youth will begin fasting for 30 hours to raise money to feed hungry children. Perhaps you have seen the statistics that have been in your bulletin inserts:

  • Every day 26,000 children under the age of 5 will die because of hunger, disease and poverty
  • 14,000 will die from malnutrition alone
  • One child every 7 seconds

Many of you have already given – but if you haven’t it isn’t too late. I encourage you to do this. You will not only help children who are hungry, you will help our young people to gain more experience in doing what is right and caring for the weak. And we will all be doing what God wants; what is God’s very heart – standing up for and helping the needy.

Lets end with Jeremiah 9:24. This is the Lord speaking: “Let those who boast, boast in this, that they understand and know me, that I am the Lord who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the Lord.” Let us go forth and delight in these as well.

William Higgins

Read Full Post »