22 This is what the Lord says: “Go down to the palace of the king of Judah and proclaim this message there: 2 ‘Hear the word of the Lord to you, king of Judah, you who sit on David’s throne — you, your officials and your people who come through these gates. 3 This is what the Lord says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place. 4 For if you are careful to carry out these commands, then kings who sit on David’s throne will come through the gates of this palace, riding in chariots and on horses, accompanied by their officials and their people. 5 But if you do not obey these commands, declares the Lord, I swear by myself that this palace will become a ruin.’”
6 For this is what the Lord says about the palace of the king of Judah:
“Though you are like Gilead to me,
like the summit of Lebanon,
I will surely make you like a wasteland,
like towns not inhabited.
7 I will send destroyers against you,
each man with his weapons,
and they will cut up your fine cedar beams
and throw them into the fire.
8 “People from many nations will pass by this city and will ask one another, ‘Why has the Lord done such a thing to this great city?’ 9 And the answer will be: ‘Because they have forsaken the covenant of the Lord their God and have worshiped and served other gods.’”
(Jeremiah 22:1-9 NIV)
In yesterday’s passage, the Lord said one of the primary roles of a king was to administer justice according to God’s Law on a daily basis (verse 12). Today, the Lord elaborates further on this theme of providing justice within the kingdom.
The phrase “Go down” in verse 1 means to go down in altitude, from a higher place to a lower place. The only place higher than the king’s home (his palace) was God’s residence among His people (His Temple). When the Lord told Jeremiah to go “down”, He meant it both literally and figuratively. Jeremiah was at God’s residence (the Temple) and was to proclaim the message in the king’s palace. God was also saying to the king, “I am in charge, and you, O king of Judah, and all who are in command under you, are under My authority.”
At first glance, it would be easy to assume that the timing of this message was to be given to the current king of Judah. From chapter 21, we know this was Zedekiah. Upon further examination of the context of chapter 22, we see this is a general directive to every king who sits on the throne. Verse 4 is the biggest hint that this was a continual message given to every king and was not specifically for the current king. The word “if” indicates there was still a choice as to what the king could do, either for good (justice) or evil (injustice). From chapter 21, we know the kings had chosen unwisely, and the Lord had said He would burn the city to the ground because of the sin of the nation. As we shall see in subsequent days, the Lord will comment on many kings and their issues.
Verses 3 – 5 are the Lord’s commands to the kings: provide justice to the defenseless Jeremiah was standing at the palace gates when he delivered this word from the Lord. He was an uninvited guest at the palace and was likely prohibited by the palace guard from going any nearer the king’s palace. So Jeremiah stood outside and used his loud, projecting voice and aggressive tone (see 20:8) to proclaim the Lord’s word to the king and his officials.
Verses 6 – 7 reiterate the discipline that the Lord will bring down if the kings do not obey God’s commands. Even though the Lord is pleased with the majesty of the buildings of Jerusalem as He is pleased with the abundant and majestic forests of Gilead and Lebanon, He will burn them all up like firewood if the kings do not honor and obey Him.
The Lord adds a final comment in verses 8 – 9: The message will be crystal clear that the kings are to follow God alone and provide justice in the land. Even foreigners passing by will understand the reason for God destroying the city if the kings do not obey. The reason is that the kings do not honor God and God alone, and have chosen to forsake Him and worship other gods.
Standing in Jeremiah’s shoes for a moment, this was another unpopular moment where he likely felt the verbal abuse from the king and the royal officials as well as the palace guards. Jeremiah probably felt the wrath of his peers (the other priests) as well. But Jeremiah remained faithful to his calling and proclaimed the word of the Lord despite the personal cost to himself and his reputation.
May we remember the Lord’s words to the nation of Israel, as they are as applicable to us today as they were when the Lord spoke them through His prophet so long ago:
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.
(Micah 6:8 NVI)
We may not be rulers or kings or royal officials, but we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves.
May we heed the Lord’s commands and seek His face to live this out today.