NO JUSTICE: NO FUTURE
Loving Father, wherever I walk today, help me to walk where you lead me; whatever I do, let it be according to your will.
Read JEREMIAH 21
God Rejects Zedekiah’s Request
21 The word came to Jeremiah from the Lord when King Zedekiah sent to him Pashhur son of Malkijah and the priest Zephaniah son of Maaseiah. They said: 2 “Inquire now of the Lord for us because Nebuchadnezzar[a] king of Babylon is attacking us. Perhaps the Lord will perform wonders for us as in times past so that he will withdraw from us.”
3 But Jeremiah answered them, “Tell Zedekiah, 4 ‘This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: I am about to turn against you the weapons of war that are in your hands, which you are using to fight the king of Babylon and the Babylonians[b] who are outside the wall besieging you. And I will gather them inside this city. 5 I myself will fight against you with an outstretched hand and a mighty arm in furious anger and in great wrath. 6 I will strike down those who live in this city—both man and beast—and they will die of a terrible plague. 7 After that, declares the Lord, I will give Zedekiah king of Judah, his officials and the people in this city who survive the plague, sword and famine, into the hands of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and to their enemies who want to kill them. He will put them to the sword; he will show them no mercy or pity or compassion.’
8 “Furthermore, tell the people, ‘This is what the Lord says: See, I am setting before you the way of life and the way of death. 9 Whoever stays in this city will die by the sword, famine or plague. But whoever goes out and surrenders to the Babylonians who are besieging you will live; they will escape with their lives. 10 I have determined to do this city harm and not good, declares the Lord. It will be given into the hands of the king of Babylon, and he will destroy it with fire.’
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.’”
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
ReflectHow do you understand the idea of justice? Do you think it applies differently to individuals and to nations?
This is the very end of the history of Judah as a nation. (Remember that Jeremiah’s book is not chronological.) The prophet might well have seen the irony, as now, finding themselves in desperate straits, the leading officials finally come to him for advice (vs 1,2). There is also a melancholy about the wistful thought of the king: ‘Perhaps God will do wonders as he has in the past.’ Whatever they deserve, it is sad to contemplate the fate of Judah.
The people’s shared memory, steeped in the stories and glories of Gideon, Joshua, and David, is now diminished as they face ignominious defeat. Will God still be absent? It’s worse—God is there but on the enemy’s side (vs 3-10)! His righteous plan is for his people’s exile. Losing their land, independence, and freedom will actually be better for the people in the long run. This is what Zedekiah is unwilling to hear. How often do we reject God’s guidance because it is not what we hope for and because we cannot yet comprehend the bigger picture?
Overlaying this story of national defeat and humiliation is another idea. Leaving aside current affairs, verse 12 declares an eternal principle, one we can strive for regardless of our circumstances. ‘Administer justice every morning,’ say the Scriptures, again and again (v 12).
Reflect, too, on Micah 6:8, Amos 5:24, and Luke 18:1-8. What are the implications of these words for our lives today?
Lord God, author of justice, open my eyes, not just to see inequity, but to acknowledge wrongdoing and fight against it in ways that please you.
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