Jeremiah 22:15-16 – Josiah or Jehoakim?

Josiah sought the Lord when he was young

Does it make you a king to have more and more cedar? Did not your father have food and drink? He did what was right and just, so all went well with him. He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?” declares the LORD”. (Jer 22:15-16).

In this passage, the Prophet Jeremiah rebukes King Jehoakim (one of the last Kings of Judah shortly before the exile). He exhorts him to look at the leadership and conduct of his father – King Josiah. Josiah’s reign was synonymous in bringing reformation to Israel. It was King Josiah who began seeking the Lord when he was only sixteen (2 Chronicles 34:3). He purged the nation of its idolatrous practices and reinstated the traditional Passover (2 Chronicles 35:1-19). And, he humbled himself toward God when the Mosaic Law was discovered (2 Chronicles 34:27). Yet for all of Josiah’s religious reforms this passage provides insight as to the Lord’s perspective on truly knowing Him.

To know the Lord is to defend and help those in greatest need. Feinberg 1986 writes “He (Josiah) received the blessing and commendation of God because he was deeply concerned for justice and showed this concern in helping the needy and afflicted. His deeds reflect true kingly piety (v.16)— to love God so much that he would not allow any of his subjects to be neglected in their hour of need”.

God’s presence is not seen nor enacted in what we have or what we seek to possess. As Jeremiah states “Does it make you a king to have more and more cedar?” In taking more and more; the poor have less and less. Israel’s greed and disregard for the poor was part reason for God’s judgment (Amos 4:1-3). Foolishly they believed their material possessions to be a sign of God’s blessing. As the genocide of the Babylonian attack unfolded; Israel’s wealth meant for nothing.

The true sign of God’s blessing is the fruit of His Spirit in our lives (Gal 5:22). The virtues of charity, mercy, compassion, love and courage are of eternal value. Such qualities draw one closer to God. God’s heart is and always has been for the poor (Luke 6:20). The rich, more often than not, He calls to repentance (Luke 6:24; 12:13-21; 16:19-31; 1 Tim 6:10; James 5:1-3; Rev 3:17). In a world where children cry for food; does your ‘god’ care, or is he busy gathering wealth to ‘bless’ you? If so, this isn’t the God of the Bible. The God that came as the suffering servant – Jesus Christ – proclaimed “Blessed are the poor, for yours is the kingdom of heaven”.

God’s purpose is that we as Christians should be “conformed to the likeness of his son” (Rom. 8:29). Jesus was not a King shaped by His possessions – He openly rebuked the hoarding of them (Matt 6:19-24). This King’s wealth was displayed in his care of the poor, the suffering, the afflicted and the outcast.

If Jeremiah was to write concerning your reign – which King would you be – Josiah or Jehoakim?