Josiah or Jehoiakim Which Are We?
In Jeremiah 22 the prophet Jeremiah speaks of judgment against the evil kings of Judah that followed after the “good” king Josiah. In verses 13-19, a scathing denunciation of King Jehoiakim is recorded. All verses are from the New International Version of the Bible.
“Woe to him who builds his palace by unrighteousness, his upper rooms by injustice, making his countrymen work for nothing, not paying them for their labor. He says, ‘I will build myself a great palace with spacious upper rooms. So he makes large windows in it, panels it with cedar and decorates it in red.” Jeremiah 22:13, 14
Obviously God does not think highly of “slave labor” which is what making people work for nothing and not paying them for their labor amounts to. God lays out in His Word in numerous places the principle that a laborer is worthy of his hire. God does not expect people to work for someone else and never receive any compensation. Tyrants and despots force their people to work for only bread and water. Tyrants and despots do not know or love God.
“Does it make you a king to have more and more cedar? Did not your father (Josiah) 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.” Jeremiah 22:15, 16
What a brilliant commentary of our current times! Does it make you “special”, or a “VIP”, or someone who is to be bowed down to and worshipped just because you have a “bigger, better, more and more” house, vehicle or yacht? Is your church better because it has a bigger, better and newer building? Josiah was a humble king who refused to put up with evil. He enjoyed life because he did what was right and just, just like his ancestor David. He did not seek to impress others with palaces and such. He simply did what was right and just and all went well with him.
What specifically allowed Josiah to enjoy life and have things go well for him was that he had his priorities in the right order. Instead of devoting all his energy to pleasing himself by using others to build him elaborate palaces and throne rooms; he defended the cause of the poor and needy. Any King, President, Prime Minister or other ruler who’s first and foremost concern is not the welfare of the poor and needy is nothing but a hypocrite, egotistical fool and a tyrant. Time and again in the Old Testament there are records where God makes it perfectly clear that the primary function of those in authority is to care for the needs of those who are poor and needy. This is one of the primary functions of any government.
Do you want to know the Lord? Verse 16 states that to know the Lord is to defend the cause of the poor and needy. It is to advocate, do justice, treat equitably and otherwise HELP those who cannot help themselves. Anyone who wants to know the Lord HAS to be involved helping those who are sick, homeless, old, disabled and broken. This is what the true fast of the Lord is about in Isaiah 58. Jesus speaks of this in Matthew 25 and states that many who think they know the Lord, in reality do not because they won’t help the poor and needy. You cannot know, understand or love the Lord unless you have a heart of compassion willing to “stand in the gap” and advocate for those who are not able to help themselves.
“But your eyes and your heart are set only on dishonest gain, on shedding innocent blood and on oppression and extortion.”” Jeremiah 22: 17
There you have the stark comparison between Josiah and Jehoiakim. Josiah knew, feared and loved the Lord because he took care of those who were afflicted and downtrodden. His son, Jehoiakim, used the people for self-gain and his only concern was to make himself the most powerful and wealthy man on earth. When power and wealth are the most important things to a person, they will stop at nothing to get them. This includes murder, blackmail, extortion and fraud, if that is what it takes. Human rights and human lives are meaningless to a tyrant who only wants to please himself.
People in high places whose only desire is power and wealth do not care if they hurt people or their families. People are nothing but a means to an end for these evil people. They will kill and destroy anyone standing in their way. From their unbridled love of money and lust for power comes the intense motivation to do whatever it takes to achieve their goals. These people are especially adept at gaining their power and wealth at the expense of and on the backs of the poor and huddled masses. Truly their eyes and hearts are set only on dishonest gain through whatever means necessary to get it.
What did Jehoiakim have to look forward to in life? Did Jeremiah tell him he would end up being richer and more powerful than Solomon? Was the end result of all his disgusting evil going to be the title of “King of the Universe For Ever and Ever”? Look at what the Lord says about Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah:
“He will have the burial of a donkey—dragged away and thrown outside the gates of Jerusalem.” Jeremiah 22: 19
Instead of the eternal glory Jehoiakim thought he was gaining through his lust for wealth and power, he ended up being dragged through the streets of Jerusalem and thrown outside the gates, which is how they disposed of all the other dead asses. Isn’t it interesting how some of the most evil people who ever lived, ended up dying some of the most horrible deaths. People will all ultimately “reap what they sow” in this life. If they sow evil, then in due time evil will befall them, no matter important they thought they were or how immune from justice they envisioned themselves.
I pray that we all could have the heart of Josiah. I pray that we all are willing to give our lives and resources with love and compassion to those who are “poor and needy”. I pray we never are found guilty of the lust for power and wealth that doomed people like Jehoiakim and countless others who have lived and died on this earth. I pray we understand that our purpose in living is not to become rich and famous but to lovingly serve others in the shadows of worldly obscurity but in the light of the very glory of God. Are we going down in the annals of God’s history books as a Josiah or a Jehoiakim; the choice is ours and it is predominantly dictated by our decision to pursue God’s love and compassion or the world’s glory, fame and fortune.
God Bless you and keep you safe.