Today’s Reading: 2 CHRONICLES 36:1-4; 2 KINGS 23:31-37; 2 CHRONICLES 36:5; JEREMIAH 22:1-23; JEREMIAH 26:1-24; 2 KINGS 24:1-4; JEREMIAH 25:1-14
Today we continue to read about the last days of Judah prior to the 70 year exile into Babylon. Judah continues to have bad kings. Foreign nations continue to demand payments or continue to send marauding bands to pester the Jews in Judah. Prophets continue to tell of Judah’s sin and it repercussions. Today, Jeremiah is nearly killed for prophesying the destruction of the temple (something that did actually happen about 660 years later). Another prophet, Uriah son of Shemaiah from Kiriath-jearim, was killed for the exact same prophesy.
While that long story of Israel and Judah’s sin and decline continues we find a little simple instruction from God through Jeremiah to the kings of Judah. While God is prepared to send Judah into exile, while God is disappointed and saddened by the by sin of his Kings and people, he still wants to provide the king with some instruction to make them better kings.
Jeremiah 22 – A Message for Judah’s Kings
1 This is what the Lord said to me: “Go over and speak directly to the king of Judah. Say to him, 2 ‘Listen to this message from the Lord, you king of Judah, sitting on David’s throne. Let your attendants and your people listen, too. 3 This is what the Lord says: Be fair-minded and just. Do what is right! Help those who have been robbed; rescue them from their oppressors. Quit your evil deeds! Do not mistreat foreigners, orphans, and widows. Stop murdering the innocent! 4 If you obey me, there will always be a descendant of David sitting on the throne here in Jerusalem. The king will ride through the palace gates in chariots and on horses, with his parade of attendants and subjects. 5 But if you refuse to pay attention to this warning, I swear by my own name, says the Lord, that this palace will become a pile of rubble.’”
This message to the king from God through Jeremiah is rather simple, the Lord gives a clear list of things to the King is supposed to do:
- Be fair minded and just.
- Do what is right!
- Help those who have been robbed; rescue them from their oppressors.
- Quit your evil deeds!
- Do not mistreat foreigners, orphans, and widows.
- Stop murdering the innocent!
As I look at this list today I try to apply the list in two different ways. First of all, I can apply the list to myself. How well am I following the instructions of God to the king of Judah?
The first two are easy: Sure, I strive to be fair minded and just. I desire and try to do what is right. Jesus even gave direction on this one…
Matthew 22:23 (NIV)
23"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.
The third one is harder – why? Because we just don’t see this on a regular basis in most of western civilization. Sure people get robbed and are oppressed, but it is not something I see every day on my way to work or while I am out doing errands. We do hear of people in foreign lands that are oppressed. We sometimes hear about Christians who are persecuted for their faith. Maybe there is something more that we can do?
The fourth one is easy to say and hard to do. We are a sinful people by nature and striving day after day to quit our evil ways is a constant struggle. Thankfully, we have the love and forgiveness of Jesus to help us not be overburdened and guilt ridden over this struggle.
1 John 1:9 (NIV)
9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
The fifth one seems also to be an easy one to comply with. Or is it? During my years here in the Netherlands I have difficulty seeing how to follow this command postively. I do not mean that I mistreat foreigners, orphans and widows. What I mean is that I don’t actively seek out ways to bless or serve them. When you live in a culture as a foreigner, it seems harder to see and reach out to other foreigners. Sure just yesterday I praised my church filled with foreigners, but what about the newcomers who have nothing and know no one?
Another problem I find with this command, in terms of being positive or a blessing to widows and orphans is that we live in a society where the government has taken on the role of caring for these unfortunately people. The government has taken on the role of the church in that we no longer see the church meeting the needs of its orphans and widows. We assume the government does it all and we sit by the wayside. But we all know humans need more than their physical needs met. Widows and orphans have spiritual and emotional needs that no government can ever meet. Maybe there are more opportunities out there for us than we realize. We need to open our eyes and see – and act.
The sixth one is personally easy, but corporately hard. I mean to say that you and I most likely are not murdering the innocent. But we may belong to a country or culture that allows the innocent to be murdered. There is the sudden violence of man when innocent people are killed – unfortunately there is little we can do here. But there is also the culturally accepted institutionalized murder of innocent unborn lives. In the USA there are still over 1,000,000 unborn babies murdered each year. In the Netherlands it is somewhere around 30,000 babies each year. To the credit of the Netherlands they have an average of about 8 pregnancies of a 100 that end in abortion while the USA has about 22 out of a 100 that end in abortion.
Lord please help me to learn from the teachings of your prophet Jeremiah.
Lord I pray that I can be fair minded and just. I want to do what is right and I need your Holy Spirit to guide me in my actions.
Lord help me to see those who have been robbed and help me to see how I can help them. Help me to see those that are oppressed and help me to see a way to rescue them.
Lord help me to quit my evil deeds. Help me turn for doing what is wrong in your sight. Help me to desire to do what is right, true and just in your eyes. Give me your eyes to see what is right and wrong.
Lord help me to not only no mistreat foreigners, orphans, and widows, but that I can also see a way to help them, reach out to them and to server and bless them.
Lord help me have make a stand in my society against the murdering of the innocent. Help me to raise my voice in opposition. Help me to not sit silently by as unborn babies are murdered.
Ultimately Lord, help me to have compassion for those around me, to see things as you see things and to respond to your Holy Spirit as I am prompted to do the right thing.