The focal passage, Jeremiah 22:13-21 excerpts an important part of God’s chastening words through Jeremiah. It deals with God’s expectation of justice and compassion on the part of rulers in society. Following these chapters there is an extended biographical section on Jeremiah [26-45] showing how his prophecies and the reaction to them affected his personal life. Within the background text for this week, however, one must take note of several powerful themes that go beyond the single focus on social justice. We find that the failure to extend justice to the helpless is simply a manifestation of damming depravity. Their failure of love to fellow Israelites, fellow sinners, fellow humans arose from a despising of the claims of a holy God over their lives.
I. Jeremiah 22 - The Kings abused their position and used it to show how privileged and unfettered depravity manifests itself given sufficient power and wealth. Lord Acton: “Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
A. Jeremiah was told to go immediately to the king’s house. This certainly could be viewed as bold confrontation for one that had so recently been beaten and put in the stocks and that already had threats against his life. 22:1; The king was to be reminded that his was not the throne, but the throne of the Father of the Messiah, David. He did not possess independent arbitrary authority but was only tolerated because of the covenant to David and should manifest Messianic mercies in his own short time to occupy that throne
B. Those mercies characteristic of the final one that would occupy David’s throne [note verses 4 and 30 as well as 21:12 for the importance that God placed on this being David’s throne] should be manifest in all those that sat on that throne. The offense of Zedekiah and those others that followed Josiah was that they not only exhibited personal evil in their abuse of authority, but they had no sense of awe and wonder and reverence for their position of occupying the throne of the infinitely merciful Messiah.[ This matter had been fully explicated in Isaiah 9:6, 7 and 11:1-10 and Isaiah 29:17-21 and also compare Luke 6:18-23]
C. Even yet, should they repent, the nation would stand and be a place noted for its stability and prosperity. 22:4
D. Failing such repentance, and left to their sinful hearts that failure was certain, they would be ruined by the invasion and their rebellion against their God would be noted even by other nations. The exile would not be kind for most that went, and verse 10 indicates that death would be preferred. There were exceptions as 24:4-7 makes clear.
E. The sons of Josiah all despicable, unlike their father.
1. Shallum, already in exile never to return, used his position to enrich himself, not to be a responsible ruler. Note the irony of the rhetoric, “Do you think you are a king because you compete in cedar?” 22:11-15a Look at verse 17 for a thoroughly sad description of a life used only for personal gain and, thus, for evil. Shallum sounds much like the Renaissance Popes Sixtus IV and Alexander VI, the father [illegitimately] of Cesare and Lucrezia Borgia.
Comparison with Josiah [Look at 2 Kings 23:25 for a statement on the
exalted place that Josiah has among the kings of
3. The judgments against Jehoiakim (“with the burial of a donkey he shall be buried”)and Coniah (even if he were a signet ring, God would tear him off and hurl him into the land of exile, he is “a despised, broken pot, a vessel no one cares for.”) are filled with loathing and condemnation and descriptions of the most humiliating kinds of judgment.
II. The Righteousness Branch 22:1-8
A. Contrast with the false shepherds that do not tend the flock. The words seem to indicate that the exile (“You have scattered my flock”) can be substantially attributed to their failure to teach truth and give proper warning and admonition. 23:1, 2. Note Paul’s admonition to Timothy, “Reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” 2 Timothy 4:2.
B. God will save a remnant. [3, 4]
compare with Isaiah 10:20-23. The remnant of
C. God will deliver them through
the “righteous Branch.” This deliverance will be superior to that of the Exodus
III. The Prophets contributed to this perversion of office, by giving false messages and conniving at the kings’ injustices.
A. Jeremiah, in a statement combining his own reaction with the words of God, shows distress at the message he is to deliver to the prophets for their false and dangerously misleading words. 23:9-11
B. The prophets of
C. Out of their own manufactured visions they give a message that everything is just fine and that no disaster will befall this evil and rebellious people. 23:16-17.
D. Had they been in the council of God, they would have prophesied the wrath and anger of God bursting forth on the people. They would have issued stern warnings.23:16-22
E. God declares that he is against the prophets, who claim to have revelatory dreams, and thus lead the people into recklessness. Their word is like straw but God’s word is like a fire and like the hammer that breaks the rock.23:23-32
F. God issues a warning that they are no longer to speak as if they have a divine message in their minds that they simply must deliver. Instead of having the prophetic burden of a message to deliver, they themselves are a burden to the land, and will receive from the hand of the Lord, not a message to deliver, but “everlasting reproach and perpetual shame.” 23:33-40
IV, The Lord Chooses a remnant 24. The good figs and the bad figs symbolize on the one hand those that will receive divine mercies in having their hearts changed (24:7), and thus being a precursor of the new covenant that would come into full operation at Pentecost, when the people of God from over the entire world would have the spiritual mark of circumcision of heart. The bad figs, on the other hand, are those upon whom God will execute his justice, to be a “horror . . . a reproach, a byword, a taunt, and a curse.” 24:8-11
V. No People exempt from the Lord’s righteous judgment. “Take from my hand this cup of the wine of wrath, and make all the nations to whom I send you drink it.” (25:15)
A. God will punish the nation for its persistent hostility to the true prophets.
They will go into exile under Nebuchadnezzar in
C. Then after seventy years, that nation with its king will be punished for their iniquity. [Mene, Mene, tekel upharsin]
D. Jeremiah lists all the nations to which he was sent and then gives a summary of the amazingly wrathful message that he was to deliver. 25:17-38. As the saving of a remnant becomes a type of the calling of the elect from all nations, so this judgment foreshadows the final great assize. “For behold, I begin to work disaster at the city that is called by my name, and shall you go unpunished? You shall not go unpunished, for I am summoning a sword against all the inhabitants of the
earth, declares the Lord of hosts.
A. The fallenness of humanity is severe indeed and the severity of the offenses we commit regularly against God, left to our selves make us subject to severe wrath.
B. Our ability for self-deceit is alarming. Giving and welcoming a rosy analysis of our condition in order to create a (false) sense of well-being merely compounds the legitimacy of divine anger against us.
C. We should see ever more clearly the necessity of a divine energy for the transformation of our affections that we might love God and walk humbly with him and consequently do justice and love mercy.
D. God’s preservation of a remnant according to grace among the Jews kept alive the Messianic line and laid the foundation for the fulfillment of the promises to come through a Messiah.
E. God judges all nations, He is the only God, none can hide from his gaze, and his judgment will be thorough. Though by far the emphasis in these chapters is on the holy wrath of God, the prospect of mercy peeks through the dark and billowing clouds of divine thunder.