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Jeremiah 21:11-14

11 “Moreover, say to the royal house of Judah, ‘Hear the word of the Lord. 12 This is what the Lord says to you, house of David:

“‘Administer justice every morning;
    rescue from the hand of the oppressor
    the one who has been robbed,
or my wrath will break out and burn like fire
    because of the evil you have done—
    burn with no one to quench it.
13 I am against you, Jerusalem,
    you who live above this valley
    on the rocky plateau, declares the Lord
you who say, “Who can come against us?
    Who can enter our refuge?”
14 I will punish you as your deeds deserve,
    declares the Lord.
I will kindle a fire in your forests
    that will consume everything around you.’”
(Jeremiah 21:11-14 NIV)

In yesterday’s text, Jeremiah replied to King Zedekiah’s inquiry about the fate of Jerusalem.

In today’s passage, the Lord provides an unsolicited addendum to the king’s question.  The Lord is saying, “I have answered your question; now listen to what I have to say.”

In verses 11 and 12, the word “house” might be better translated “dynasty”.  This “dynasty” refers to the succession of kings from David through Zedekiah.

Today’s text is a reminder that one of the king’s primary duties was to administer justice (verse 12).  The king was to have God’s Law with him and available at all times so that he might remember, understand, and apply all that God required in every situation.  The king would usually sit at the city gate and hear disputes each morning.  The king would listen to both parties, consult God’s Law, and administer whatever God’s Law said to do.

As we already know, the kings of late had strayed far from God’s standard of justice found in the Law.  In Chapter 22, the Lord summarizes the legacy of each king since Josiah.

Verse 13 is a little confusing at first, as the prevailing attitude of “Who can come against us?  Who can enter our refuge?”  implies someone or something dropping down from a higher vantage point into the “nest” of the city.  Jerusalem sits on a high mesa (rocky plateau) surrounded on three sides (west, south, and east) by deep valleys.  The only place geographically and topologically higher was north of the city, where the hill country began.  And yet, God had said that the “armies from the north” (Babylon) would also attack Jerusalem on its north side where it was level ground.

Verse 14, is a little confusing, as it sounds like there is a real forest within the walls of the city.  The phrase “I will build a fire in your forests” is likely referring to all the cedar wood used to construct the city buildings.  In fact, 1 Kings 7:2 refers to the king’s house as “the Palace of the Forest of Lebanon”. Both yesterday’s text (verse 10) and today’s passage (verse 14) repeat the Lord’s promise to burn the city to the ground.  All the wood in the buildings (an entire forest’s worth) would make burning the city with fire a plausible reality.

May we remember to use God’s Word as our standard and guide in all matters of living, and not our shifting standard or what we want or what society or culture says.

May we demonstrate care and compassion to those around us, loving our neighbor as ourselves.   In our kindness, we can demonstrate God’s justice to help those who are not able to help themselves.  God’s Word says that even our enemies will see the Lord’s kindness when we show undeserved grace and mercy to them.


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