1-3 God’s orders: “Go to the royal palace and deliver this Message. Say, ‘Listen to what God says, O King of Judah, you who sit on David’s throne—you and your officials and all the people who go in and out of these palace gates. This is God’s Message: Attend to matters of justice. Set things right between people. Rescue victims from their exploiters. Don’t take advantage of the homeless, the orphans, the widows. Stop the murdering!
Jeremiah is told to go to the palace and speak a bold message of truth, designed to be counter to the corruption which had taken hold in the land.
The kings and their ruling counsels are condemned for manipulating the judicial process in a manner that results in the denial of true justice (equity). The outcome of such manipulation was an intolerable oppression of the people—unsettled discrepancies, exploitation of the marginalized, no resolution for violent crime. As a result, the time will come, says the prophet, when the leaders will call on the Lord in distress, only to find that He will not hear them.
*While God is patient, there is a limit to the withholding of divine judgment. When that limit has been reached, we can expect correction.
4-5 “‘If you obey these commands, then kings who follow in the line of David will continue to go in and out of these palace gates mounted on horses and riding in chariots—they and their officials and the citizens of Judah. But if you don’t obey these commands, then I swear—God’s Decree!—this palace will end up a heap of rubble.’”
We know the difference between right and wrong. There is something deep within every single person who recognizes this. Our actions, however, many times are contrary to what we know to be true. When our consciences become seared we will fall into choices and follow through of things that are completely opposite to doing the right thing.
This comes from our own justification. It tangibly shows itself when we are driven by our own will over what is the right thing to do. It doesn’t mean the Spirit of God doesn’t wrestle with us over such matters, He most certainly does. But the more we make excuses for why we can’t do the right thing, the easier it becomes to continue on the path of deception.
“Do what is just and right.” God says. His statement speaks toward not just believing the right things about God Himself, but taking action on them. It’s living in obedience. And many times, that living in obedience is sacrificing our will again and again so we can heed the Spirit’s voice. No matter of human maneuvering can mitigate God’s justice.
*For the Christian, the ultimate decision of life—embracing or rejecting God’s salvation, through Jesus—the same matter-of-fact reality prevails. God has declared that salvation is available only through Jesus. The remaining question is, “How will we respond?” No matter of our maneuvering can overrule this reality.
6-7 This is God’s verdict on Judah’s royal palace: “I number you among my favorite places—like the lovely hills of Gilead, like the soaring peaks of Lebanon. Yet I swear I’ll turn you into a wasteland, as empty as a ghost town. I’ll hire a demolition crew, well-equipped with sledgehammers and wrecking bars, pound the country to a pulp and burn it all up. 8-9 “Travelers from all over will come through here and say to one another, ‘Why would God do such a thing to this wonderful city?’ They’ll be told, ‘Because they walked out on the covenant of their God, took up with other gods and worshiped them.’”
The main point to be drawn from this verdict of God is not that justice will prevail despite God’s love; the main point to be drawn from this verdict of God is that justice will prevail because of God’s love. Too often, we rely on justice being withheld because God’s love prevents harshness. But the word from the prophet, on behalf of God is that, “Because I love you, I will bring correction to you.”
Concerning God’s justice, we are invited to consider the following:
1. God’s love is the cause of His justice. Love will not permit God to do anything but what is righteous. He can no more be unjust than He can be unholy or unloving.
2. God’s will is the supreme rule of justice; it is the standard of equity. God’s will is wise and good. God wills nothing but what is just; thus, it is just because He wills it.
3. Within God’s justice is mercy. God does not go according to the rigor of the law; He takes something off of His severity. He could easily inflict heavier penalties than He does (Ezra 9:13). Our mercies are more than we deserve; our punishments less.
10 Don’t weep over dead King Josiah. Don’t waste your tears. Weep for his exiled son: He’s gone for good. He’ll never see home again.
This final verse of our printed lesson, in actuality, is the opening of a new paragraph in the prophetic word that Jeremiah gives. It is a word that specifically lists the sins and punishments of Josiah’s progeny, Shallum and Jehoiakim. Despite the sterling example of spiritual uprightness that Josiah left, his children were led by a different spirit. As a result, they made poor choices and suffered terrible ends.
*Righteousness is not inherited or bequeathed. All of us are charged to leave the best example that we can for those who follow us. But ultimately, their choices are their own. Sadly, when it comes to leaders, the consequences of those choices are often radiated out to impact those that they lead.