Thus says the Lord: “Go down to the house of the king of Judah and speak there this word, and say, ‘Hear the word of the Lord, O king of Judah, who sits on the throne of David, you, and your servants, and your people who enter these gates. Thus says the Lord: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place. For if you will indeed obey this word, then there shall enter the gates of this house kings who sit on the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, they and their servants and their people. But if you will not obey these words, I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that this house shall become a desolation. For thus says the Lord concerning the house of the king of Judah:
“‘You are like Gilead to me,
like the summit of Lebanon,
yet surely I will make you a desert,
an uninhabited city.
I will prepare destroyers against you,
each with his weapons,
and they shall cut down your choicest cedars
and cast them into the fire.
“‘And many nations will pass by this city, and every man will say to his neighbor, “Why has the Lord dealt thus with this great city?” And they will answer, “Because they have forsaken the covenant of the Lord their God and worshiped other gods and served them.”’”
Weep not for him who is dead,
nor grieve for him,
but weep bitterly for him who goes away,
for he shall return no more
to see his native land.
For thus says the Lord concerning Shallum the son of Josiah, king of Judah, who reigned instead of Josiah his father, and who went away from this place: “He shall return here no more, but in the place where they have carried him captive, there shall he die, and he shall never see this land again.” – Jeremiah 22:1-12 ESV
There is no king in Judah, and there has not been since Zedekiah was taken captive by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. From that moment on, the only king Israel would know would be the puppet-king, Herod, who reigned during the time of Christ. He had been given the title of king by the Romans, even though he was actually an Edomite and not a Jew. He was not a rightful heir to the throne of David and so, was not respected or accepted by the Jews. But other than Herod, there had been no one to carry the title of King of Israel since the days of Jeremiah. And it would appear that the covenant God had made with David had been broken. God had made a promise to David to give him an everlasting dynasty, a lineage of kings who would sit on his throne and rule from and over Jerusalem. When God had chosen David to be the next king of Israel, He had told him:
“When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.’” – 2 Samuel 7:12-16 ESV
But the kings of Israel had proven to be corrupt, immoral and unfaithful. Only a handful of them in both the northern and southern kingdoms could be deemed to have been good kings. And even during the decades that Jeremiah prophesied over the nation of Judah, all the kings were evil except for Josiah. He was the only one who attempted to bring Judah back into line by instituting religious, social and civil reforms designed to reestablish the nation’s dependence upon Yahweh. But his efforts would prove futile. The people’s hearts would be far too stubborn to accept his changes. And his successor to the throne would reverse many, if not most, of his reforms. Which is why God gave Jeremiah instructions to go to the palace of the king of Judah and deliver a message:
Listen to this message from the Lord, you king of Judah, sitting on David’s throne. Let your attendants and your people listen, too. 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! – Jeremiah 22:2-3 NLT
God was making it clear exactly what the problem was. As we saw yesterday, it was a case of injustice. Their idolatry and sinful behavior was causing them to neglect the needs of the poor and oppressed in their midst. And in doing so, they were revealing that they had forgotten how they had once been poor and oppressed themselves. They had been slaves in Egypt, but God had shown them mercy. He had brought about justice and freed them from their captivity. And He had not done this because they had somehow deserved it. It was purely an act of grace and mercy on the part of God. Which is why God expected them to show grace, mercy and justice to all those around them – especially to the poor and helpless. And God told them:
“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.” – Jeremiah 22:4 NLT
God said He would fulfill His covenant and continue placing kings on the throne of David. But He reminded them what would happen if they refused to obey Him.
“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.” – Jeremiah 22:5 NLT
And because the kings of Judah did not obey God, their dynasty would come to an end. The great palace constructed by Solomon would be destroyed and reduced to rubble. The power, wealth and fame of the Davidic dynasty would become a thing of the past. And it remains so to this day. There is no king in Israel or Judah and the once great palace of Solomon is nothing more than an archeological site on a map. It’s glory is gone. And God describes how people will wonder what happened to the former city of David.
“People from many nations will pass by the ruins of this city and say to one another, ‘Why did the Lord destroy such a great city?’ And the answer will be, ‘Because they violated their covenant with the Lord their God by worshiping other gods.’” – Jeremiah 22:8-9 NLT
Even the pagan nations will answer their own questions, knowing that unfaithfulness was the cause of Israel’s downfall. They knew that the breaking of a covenant was cause for revenge, especially a covenant with a deity. So, it would be no surprise to them that Israel and Judah fell because of the failure to remain faithful to their own God. They had witnessed the incredible rebellion of Israel against their own God, something the pagan nations would never have thought of doing. The idea of abandoning their own gods was unfathomable to them. But they had watched Israel and Judah do that very thing.
And God tells the people not to weep over those kings who are gone, either through death or as a result of captivity to the Babylonians. Because of God’s anger, the king of Judah would end up a slave in Babylon and die there. He would never return to the land of Judah or sit on the throne of David again. His fate would be in keeping with his faithlessness. The king, as a representative of the people, had spurned the pleas of God to repent and return and, as a result, he and his people would face the judgment of God.
But the one thing we must remember is that, while there is currently no king in Israel, that does not mean God has broken His covenant. He is the covenant-keeping God. He is faithful and true, and one day His Son will return to earth to sit on the throne of David and rule from the city of Jerusalem. In the very next chapter, we will see the words of the Lord, promising to fulfill His covenant to David.
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.” – Jeremiah 23:5 ESV
English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.