Thursday, July 30, 2015

A Warning To Zedekiah

Jeremiah 22:1-30

“Thus saith 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, that sittest upon the throne of David, thou, and thy servants, and thy people that enter in by these gates: Thus saith the LORD; Execute ye judgment and righteousness, and deliver the spoiled out of the hand of the oppressor: and do no wrong, do no violence to the stranger, the fatherless, nor the widow, neither shed innocent blood in this place.  For if ye do this thing indeed, then shall there enter in by the gates of this house kings sitting upon the throne of David, riding in chariots and on horses, he, and his servants, and his people.” (Jeremiah 22:1-4

Josiah was the last of Judah’s good kings.  Egypt and Assyria were at war, and the Egyptian army crossed territory near Meggido that had been Israel’s,  but was controlled by the Assyrians.   Josiah attacked them there and was defeated and killed.  The Jews made Jehoahaz his son king in his place. Three months later the Egyptian forces took Jerusalem, Taking Jehoahaz captive and placing his brother Eliakim on the throne, changing his name to Jehoiakim.  He was a wicked king who reigned eleven years before being defeated and taken to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar.  His son Jehoiachin took the throne but was deposed by Nebuchadnessar, who made his brother Zedekiah king instead.  This prophecy came shortly after Zedekiah ascended the throne. 

If Zedekiah and Judah will obey God’s commands, executing justice to the poor, needy and the foreigner as fairly as to the rich and powerful, doing what is right, then He promises to bless them.  There would be future kings of Judah from the family of David, and both the king and Judah would have the luxuries of life represented by having a nice mode of transportation. 

“But if ye will not hear these words, I swear by myself, saith the LORD, that this house shall become a desolation.  For thus saith the LORD unto the king's house of Judah; Thou art Gilead unto me, and the head of Lebanon: yet surely I will make thee a wilderness, and cities which are not inhabited.  And I will prepare destroyers against thee, every one with his weapons: and they shall cut down thy choice cedars, and cast them into the fire.  And many nations shall pass by this city, and they shall say every man to his neighbour, Wherefore hath the LORD done thus unto this great city?  Then they shall answer, Because they have forsaken the covenant of the LORD their God, and worshipped other gods, and served them.” (Jeremiah 22:5-9)

If they do not keep His commands, then God will destroy the throne and the kingdom.  To God, Judah and the family of David are like a beautiful mountain valley or a well watered plain, but He will turn them into an uninhabited  desert.  They will be destroyed by military actions that will cut down their strongest and most renowned heroes, killing or enslaving them.   Their failure to serve God and its consequences would be the talk of the surrounding countries.
“Weep ye not for the dead, neither bemoan him: but weep sore for him that goeth away: for he shall return no more, nor see his native country.   For thus saith the LORD touching Shallum the son of Josiah king of Judah, which reigned instead of Josiah his father, which went forth out of this place; He shall not return thither any more: But he shall die in the place whither they have led him captive, and shall see this land no more.” (Jeremiah 22:10-12)

The dead would no longer suffer, but most those who had been carried away captive would never return to the land.  Jehoiakim had been made king because Josiah got involved in a fight that wasn’t his.   He would never return to Jerusalem but would die in Babylon.   
“Woe unto him that buildeth his house by unrighteousness, and his chambers by wrong; that useth his neighbour's service without wages, and giveth him not for his work;  That saith, I will build me a wide house and large chambers, and cutteth him out windows; and it is ceiled with cedar, and painted with vermilion. Shalt thou reign, because thou closest thyself in cedar? did not thy father eat and drink, and do judgment and justice, and then it was well with him?  He judged the cause of the poor and needy; then it was well with him: was not this to know me? saith the LORD.  But thine eyes and thine heart are not but for thy covetousness, and for to shed innocent blood, and for oppression, and for violence, to do it.” (Jeremiah 22:13-17)

God’s curse is upon those who try to gain power and wealth by dishonest means, ripping off the people who work for them, building themselves luxurious mansions with huge windows and fine paneling.  They need to understand that those mansions will not guarantee ongoing success.   Josiah had been richly blessed because he was one of the best kings Judah ever had, seeking to please god more than any king before him.  His son Jehoiakim and his grandson Zedekiah had a different attitude.  They were only concerned about getting what they wanted and would do anything to get their way. 

“Therefore thus saith 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 glory!  He shall be buried with the burial of an ass, drawn and cast forth beyond the gates of Jerusalem. “ (Jeremiah 22:18-19)

Because of his attitude and wickedness, Jehoiakim would die in Babylon and the Jews would not even mourn his death,  He would be buried with no more fanfare than if they were burying a donkey, just drug out of the way and left to rot.  He won’t even be missed .

“Go up to Lebanon, and cry; and lift up thy voice in Bashan, and cry from the passages: for all thy lovers are destroyed.  I spake unto thee in thy prosperity; but thou saidst, I will not hear. This hath been thy manner from thy youth, that thou obeyedst not my voice.  The wind shall eat up all thy pastors, and thy lovers shall go into captivity: surely then shalt thou be ashamed and confounded for all thy wickedness.  O inhabitant of Lebanon, that makest thy nest in the cedars, how gracious shalt thou be when pangs come upon thee, the pain as of a woman in travail!” (Jeremiah 22:20-23)

Zedekiah could go to Lebanon or travel to the area east of the Sea of Galilee and see the gods they had worshipped had not been able to save their lands.  God had spoken to them when they were still being blessed, and they had refused to listen.  It was the same attitude they had had from the beginning, refusing to obey God.  Their prophets and teachers would just blow away in the wind and their other god’s religions would be taken captive.  They will be ashamed of having wasted their time on those religions, and how hard will it be to be happy when they are suffering like a woman giving birth?

“As I live, saith the LORD, though Coniah the son of Jehoiakim king of Judah were the signet upon my right hand, yet would I pluck thee thence; And I will give thee into the hand of them that seek thy life, and into the hand of them whose face thou fearest, even into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, and into the hand of the Chaldeans.  And I will cast thee out, and thy mother that bare thee, into another country, where ye were not born; and there shall ye die.  But to the land whereunto they desire to return, thither shall they not return.
Is this man Coniah a despised broken idol? is he a vessel wherein is no pleasure? wherefore are they cast out, he and his seed, and are cast into a land which they know not?  O earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the LORD. Jer 22:30 Thus saith the LORD, Write ye this man childless, a man that shall not prosper in his days: for no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling any more in Judah.” (Jeremiah 22:24-30)

Even if Zedekiah had been the seal on God’s ring of authority, He would turn him over to the Babylonians and Chaldeans.  They would be taken into captivity and never return to Jerusalem either, dying like his father, in Babylon.  All of his children would be executed by Nebuchadnezzar, his eyes would be put out, and he would never accomplish anything for the rest of his life.  It was not because God hated him, but because he would not do what God said.  

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