The kings of Judah had special duties to shepherd the nation according to the Law of the Almighty. They should have rescued the needy and the oppressed from the hands of those who abused them. They were not to be agents of violence against the weak. If they ignored the Law of the Lord of Israel, their land would become a desolation. Though Jerusalem was precious in the Lord’s sight, He would make it an uninhabited city. He would appoint destroyers who would come against them and humble them. But if they instead obeyed the Word of the Lord, then all would be well with both the king and the people of Judah.
How could a man be a truly great king? Was the Lord pleased more with Josiah or with his sons and grandson who were the final kings in Judah? Was God impressed with a king who built the most glorious edifices? In the case of the great king Josiah, he led the nation in true repentance. We are told that he did “justice and righteousness,” and it went “well with him.” He “judged the case of the poor and needy” with equity. He used the authority of his station in order to bring justice to those who seemed to have no power. When he reigned in this way, he demonstrated that he truly knew God.
Josiah’s descendants did not follow in his good example. They had their hearts set on dishonest gain. They shed innocent blood and pursued a determined course of wickedness. Could they expect that everything would go well for them?
Jeremiah brought a message of devastation for both king and people. One of the sons of Josiah would have no more honor on the day of his burial than one would expect to find at the death of “a donkey.” Josiah’s grandson would be so utterly rejected that God announced, “I will hurl you and the mother who bore you into another country, where you were not born, and there you shall die.”
Having the right king is a very important matter. Jesus is our leader. We have been brought into the kingdom of God through a Man who was a servant of the weak. He came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many. (Mark 10:45)
This great King’s death is at the center of our faith. Though there were many in Israel who showed profound disrespect toward Him, no one would ever be able to take away the power of His death. The success of the cross was not dependent upon the opinion of the crowds or of the Jewish leaders. The death that Jesus died was for the satisfaction of the holiness of Almighty God. His resurrection was a public vindication of the full accomplishment of His mission. In His great work of sacrificial love, Jesus gave His life as a servant of His people. When He returns in glory, every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God, forever. (Philippians 2:10-11)
Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Lord God, we should use whatever power that we have to do justice and to care for the weak in accord with Your Word. One King of the Jews has done this perfectly. We have a Savior who has seen us in our great need and who has accomplished both justice and mercy through His death for us. The justice that we owed, He paid. The mercy that we longed for, He has granted. This Jesus is so different than other men of power. He looked upon our poverty and helped us. He had no oppression or violence in Him. Though He endured the unjust hatred of those who should have been His subjects, by His death He has redeemed many. We now hear His voice in every Word of the Scriptures, for all of the Law and the prophets testify of Him. Even wicked kings who are cursed by You today speak a Word of Christ, as the Scriptures are rightly preached, for our King shines in holiness by contrast with these evil rulers. He has become the source of fruitful blessing, though He was an object of Your wrath for our sake, taking upon Himself the curse that we deserved.