Jeremiah 22:13–21comment (0)
July 14, 2011
By Douglas K. Wilson
Related Scripture: Jeremiah 22:13–21
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Professor of Christian Studies, School of Christian Studies, University of Mobile
KEEP YOUR BEHAVIOR IN LINE
Kings of Judah knew that they descended from David. The Law of Moses was to be their guiding covenant (Deut. 17:18–20). Knowing what their constitution established and reigning according to it turned out to be two entirely different realities. Even with a godly heritage, the latter kings of Judah proved incapable of leading according to God’s righteous standard.
Over and over in Scripture, Christians are reminded that we are to live according to the truth revealed by God. Jesus likened a person who ignores His words to a man who builds his house on shifting sand (Matt. 7:26–27). James wrote that we are to be doers of the Word, not hearers only (James 1:22). He further explained that knowledge of proper behavior is insufficient; we must do what we know is right (James 4:17).
What Is Your Reputation? (13–14, 17)
A brief synopsis of Judah’s history is necessary to understand Chapter 22. Josiah was the last godly king of Judah, a major reformer who had no equal in his zeal for Yahweh (2 Kings 23:25). Shallum (Jehoahaz), son of Josiah, was taken captive to Egypt. Jehoiakim, another son of Josiah, ascended the throne under the hand of Pharaoh Neco. Jehoiachin, also known as Jeconiah or Coniah, succeeded his father, Jehoiakim, briefly before being replaced by his uncle Zedekiah (Mattaniah), the last king of Judah. None of these latter kings walked in covenant with God.
Being born with a godly legacy is something to celebrate, not take for granted. These men were aware of their heritage through King David, as well as the reformers Asa, Hezekiah and Josiah. One’s reputation, however, is not based solely on the past, for even a child is known by his or her actions. By the personal patterns and misguided leadership of each new monarch, Judah wandered farther away from God.
How Can We Know God? (15–16)
Does the accumulation of possessions prove God’s favor and peace upon an individual? A quick glance through Ecclesiastes should convince the reader that this is not the case. Does a cedar palace prove that its possessor is a king? Josiah demonstrated kingliness and godliness through his careful keeping of the Law, including his concern for justice and generosity toward the indigent. “Is this not what it means to know me?” God asked.
In recent days, Pastor David Platt has reminded us that Christian success is not defined by acquiring the “American dream” but by declaring the glory of God through the gospel to the ends of the earth. Spirit-led stewardship and genuine concern for others demonstrate a true covenant intimacy. A “radical” knowledge of God is borne out in practical concern for the helpless here and in all nations.
What Are Sin’s Consequences? (18–19)
Sin requires a death sentence. No exemption exists for rulers of God’s people. Jehoiakim was accountable for crimes against God and humanity. No one would mourn when he died. The king would be treated like a donkey, whose carcass was simply thrown out to rot.
By God’s grace, His death sentence on sin is not always immediate. God often grants time for repentance to be expressed, though it seldom is. A life characterized by self-indulgence and apathy toward others invites God’s judgment. May God grant us repentance from apathetic attitudes and selfish goals.
How Is Your Behavior? (20–21)
In the final two verses, the attention moves from the wayward kings to the wayward city of Jerusalem. Though this is not evident in the English text, the original language indicates God was addressing “you” as feminine singular. City is a feminine noun in Hebrew.
Jerusalem followed the pattern of its neighbors to the north. It prostituted itself both spiritually and physically to the fertility deities. In addition, it refused to heed the voice of Yahweh. Such action was in clear rebellion against God’s most fundamental statement: “Hear, O Israel; the Lord our God, the Lord is one” (Deut. 6:4). Jerusalem’s response was “I will not listen!”
How is your behavior? How is mine?