Prosperous and Rebellious.

Therefore thus says the Lord concerning Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah:

“They shall not lament for him, saying,
    ‘Ah, my brother!’ or ‘Ah, sister!’
They shall not lament for him, saying,
    ‘Ah, lord!’ or ‘Ah, his majesty!’
With the burial of a donkey he shall be buried,
    dragged and dumped beyond the gates of Jerusalem.”

“Go up to Lebanon, and cry out,
    and lift up your voice in Bashan;
cry out from Abarim,
    for all your lovers are destroyed.
I spoke to you in your prosperity,
    but you said, ‘I will not listen.’
This has been your way from your youth,
    that you have not obeyed my voice.
The wind shall shepherd all your shepherds,
    and your lovers shall go into captivity;
then you will be ashamed and confounded
    because of all your evil.
O inhabitant of Lebanon,
    nested among the cedars,
how you will be pitied when pangs come upon you,
    pain as of a woman in labor!”

“As I live, declares the Lord, though Coniah the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, were the signet ring on my right hand, yet I would tear you off and give you into the hand of those who seek your life, into the hand of those of whom you are afraid, even into the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and into the hand of the Chaldeans. I will hurl you and the mother who bore you into another country, where you were not born, and there you shall die. But to the land to which they will long to return, there they shall not return.”

Is this man Coniah a despised, broken pot,
    a vessel no one cares for?
Why are he and his children hurled and cast
    into a land that they do not know?
O land, land, land,
    hear the word of the Lord!
Thus says the Lord:
“Write this man down as childless,
    a man who shall not succeed in his days,
for none of his offspring shall succeed
    in sitting on the throne of David
    and ruling again in Judah.” Jeremiah 22:18-30 ESV

These are harsh words. God is not pulling any punches, but is expressing His divine wrath on the kings of Judah for the role they have played in leading His people astray. Their position as leaders in Judah have made them highly culpable and responsible for all that has happened within the nation. They had the authority, power and God-given responsibility to see to it that the people of God remained faithful to Him. But these various kings had failed in their responsibility and had led the people of God to follow false gods and commit spiritual adultery against Yahweh.

To King Jehoakim, the son of Josiah, God says, “I warned you when you were prosperous, but you replied, ‘Don’t bother me’” (Jeremiah 23:21 NLT). His prosperity had become a distraction for him and a source of pride. He had confused his wealth with the blessing of God and had allowed material possessions to replace his love and devotion for God. And God accuses him of life-long disobedience. It had begun as a child and had continued into adulthood. As a result, God tells him that he will lose all that he has: His friends, wealth, military alliances, and dignity. And as far as God is concerned, it will take this kind of disaster to wake Jehoakim up: “Surely then you will see your wickedness and be ashamed” (Jeremiah 23:22 NLT). But Jehoakim’s awareness of what he has done will be too little, too late.

Next, God has some very harsh words for Jehoiachin, the brother of Jehoakim, who became king of Judah after Jehoakim was taken captive by Pharaoh. The book of 2 Kings tells us, “And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father had done” (2 Kings 24:9 ESV). Jehoachin took the throne of Judah at the young age of 18 and his reign in Jerusalem would last only three months. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon would lay siege to the city and Jehoachin would end up surrendering. As a result, the young king of Judah would find himself a captive in Babylon, along with all the other leading officials, priests and residents of Jerusalem. And the Babylonians would end up plundering the city and the temple. 

Nebuchadnezzar took from there all the riches in the treasuries of the Lord’s temple and of the royal palace. He removed all the gold items which King Solomon of Israel had made for the Lord’s temple, just as the Lord had warned. He deported all the residents of Jerusalem, including all the officials and all the soldiers (10,000 people in all). This included all the craftsmen and those who worked with metal. No one was left except for the poorest among the people of the land. He deported Jehoiachin from Jerusalem to Babylon, along with the king’s mother and wives, his eunuchs, and the high-ranking officials of the land. – 2 Kings 24:13-15 NLT

This would be the beginning of the end for Judah and Jerusalem. And it would all take place just as God warned Jehoachin through the prophet Jeremiah.

Even if you were the signet ring on my right hand, I would pull you off. I will hand you over to those who seek to kill you, those you so desperately fear—to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon and the mighty Babylonian. – Jeremiah 23:23-25 NLT

A king’s signet ring carried special significance. It was a tool by which he sealed and certified official state documents. It would be pressed into wax to seal letters and other papers to assure that they were from the king. If it got in the wrong hands, it could prove to be a disaster because it gave the bearer power and authority. God informs Jehoachin that even if he had been as valuable as a signet ring, he would be discarded by God as worthless. God would cast him aside as if he was of no value.

And when God is done with Jehoachin, people will ask, “Why is this man Jehoiachin like a discarded, broken jar? Why are he and his children to be exiled to a foreign land?” (Jeremiah 23:28 NLT). The fate of Jehoachin will seem absurd. He had been the king of the people of Judah. He had been powerful, wealthy and influential. How had he fallen so far and his once great nation become a desolate wasteland? It was all because of rebellion against God. The people of Judah, who had once been the apple of God’s eye and His chosen possession, had squandered their unique relationship with Him. They had chosen to rebel against Him and give their love and affection to false gods. Despite all that God had done for them over the centuries, they had proven unfaithful. Their true hearts had been exposed and their sin natures had driven them further and further away from God. And their sin deserved punishment. Their rebellion warranted God’s displeasure and their own destruction. God had been faithful, but they had proven themselves incapable of being faithful in return.

The fate of Judah is a reminder to us of what lies in wait for all who rebel and resist the will of God. He is the sovereign, all-powerful and righteous God of the universe. Mankind, by virtue of the fact that we exist as His creation, are obligated to worship Him. He deserves our allegiance and honor. But generation after generation of human beings have turned their backs on God. The Jews were to be a special picture of what happens when God chooses to shower a people with His grace, mercy and love. He chose them, not because they deserved it, but simply because it was His desire to do so. But even while they enjoyed the undeserved blessing of God, they still could not remain faithful to Him. This reveals to us the real state of the heart of man. That without God’s help, we cannot remain faithful. We do not have the internal capacity to obey Him and to refrain from sinning against Him. The Jews did not have a heart for God. While they had the sacrificial system and a means by which they could be restored to a right relationship with Him, their hearts remained unchanged, hardened by sin and incapable of remaining faithful to Him. Only God could change that sad state of affairs. Only He could give the people of Judah the means by which they could one day worship Him in spirit and in truth, from their hearts. And the prophet Ezekiel tells of a day that is coming when God will do for Israel what they could never have done for themselves.

Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. Your filth will be washed away, and you will no longer worship idols. And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. And I will put my Spirit in you so that you will follow my decrees and be careful to obey my regulations. – Ezekiel 36:25-27 NLT

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.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

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