Walking with God is hard enough but walking away from God is to be avoided at all costs! Walking away from God leads to all kinds of messes that become almost impossible to “clean up in aisle seven.” Almost. I am a bit amazed by messes of our own making. Think about it. We wonder why we are in a mess without asking God why the mess has escalated. We go about life on our own, happily singing “I Did It My Way,” and wonder why our world, as we know it and controlled, it is suddenly crumbling.
We ask why our children are turning against us as they grow older as they seek activities of self that are self-soothing to them—just like we modeled in front of them with our behaviors. We worry over finances that have seemed to run amuck with our spending more than we make because maybe along the way we thought, “I deserve this”, so I’ll buy it anyway—on credit. Maybe we turned our eyes from what was precious to us to an enticing affair with someone who “understands more” what we are going through. Maybe as God’s leaders, the accolades from successful ministry made our pride swell to the point of being unresponsive to the needs of His people—or to God.
Messes come in all sizes and shapes—just like humans.
The prophet Jeremiah went personally to the palace to deliver God’s message about the mess God’s people have made of their lives. Their sins are out of control. Their messes beyond repair because they still refuse to come back to God. Zedekiah was sitting on David’s throne, in David’s house of cedar (See 2 Samuel), benefiting from the covenant God had made with David, and yet the king wasn’t serving the Lord as David had served Him. Jeremiah repeated what he had preached before (yesterday’s passage, Jeremiah 21) with passion, warning, and judgement from God. It was time for the king and his nobles to obey God’s law and execute justice in the land. They were exploiting the poor and needy, shedding innocent blood, and refusing to repent and turn to God.
God’s leaders chose to stay in their mess.
Jeremiah 22, The Message
Walking Out on the Covenant of God
22 1-3 God’s orders: “Go to the royal palace and deliver this Message. Say, ‘Listen to what God says, O King of Judah, you who sit on David’s throne—you and your officials and all the people who go in and out of these palace gates. This is God’s Message: Attend to matters of justice. Set things right between people. Rescue victims from their exploiters. Don’t take advantage of the homeless, the orphans, the widows. Stop the murdering!
4-5 “‘If you obey these commands, then kings who follow in the line of David will continue to go in and out of these palace gates mounted on horses and riding in chariots—they and their officials and the citizens of Judah. But if you don’t obey these commands, then I swear—God’s Decree!—this palace will end up a heap of rubble.’”
* * *
6-7 This is God’s verdict on Judah’s royal palace:
“I number you among my favorite places—
like the lovely hills of Gilead,
like the soaring peaks of Lebanon.
Yet I swear I’ll turn you into a wasteland,
as empty as a ghost town.
I’ll hire a demolition crew,
well-equipped with sledgehammers and wrecking bars,
Pound the country to a pulp
and burn it all up.
8-9 “Travelers from all over will come through here and say to one another, ‘Why would God do such a thing to this wonderful city?’ They’ll be told, ‘Because they walked out on the covenant of their God, took up with other gods and worshiped them.’”
Building a Fine House but Destroying Lives
10 Don’t weep over dead King Josiah.
Don’t waste your tears.
Weep for his exiled son:
He’s gone for good.
He’ll never see home again.
11-12 For this is God’s Word on Shallum son of Josiah, who succeeded his father as king of Judah: “He’s gone from here, gone for good. He’ll die in the place they’ve taken him to. He’ll never see home again.”
* * *
13-17 “Doom to him who builds palaces but bullies people,
who makes a fine house but destroys lives,
Who cheats his workers
and won’t pay them for their work,
Who says, ‘I’ll build me an elaborate mansion
with spacious rooms and fancy windows.
I’ll bring in rare and expensive woods
and the latest in interior decor.’
So, that makes you a king—
living in a fancy palace?
Your father got along just fine, didn’t he?
He did what was right and treated people fairly,
And things went well with him.
He stuck up for the down-and-out,
And things went well for Judah.
Isn’t this what it means to know me?”
“But you’re blind and brainless.
All you think about is yourself,
Taking advantage of the weak,
bulldozing your way, bullying victims.”
18-19 This is God’s epitaph on Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah:
“Doom to this man!
Nobody will shed tears over him,
‘Poor, poor brother!’
Nobody will shed tears over him,
‘Poor, poor master!’
They’ll give him a donkey’s funeral,
drag him out of the city and dump him.
You’ve Made a Total Mess of Your Life
20-23 “People of Jerusalem, climb a Lebanon peak and weep,
climb a Bashan mountain and wail,
Climb the Abarim ridge and cry—
you’ve made a total mess of your life.
I spoke to you when everything was going your way.
You said, ‘I’m not interested.’
You’ve been that way as long as I’ve known you,
never listened to a thing I said.
All your leaders will be blown away,
all your friends end up in exile,
And you’ll find yourself in the gutter,
disgraced by your evil life.
You big-city people thought you were so important,
thought you were ‘king of the mountain’!
You’re soon going to be doubled up in pain,
pain worse than the pangs of childbirth.
* * *
24-26 “As sure as I am the living God”—God’s Decree—“even if you, Jehoiachin son of Jehoiakim king of Judah, were the signet ring on my right hand, I’d pull you off and give you to those who are out to kill you, to Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and the Chaldeans, and then throw you, both you and your mother, into a foreign country, far from your place of birth. There you’ll both die.
27 “You’ll be homesick, desperately homesick, but you’ll never get home again.”
28-30 Is Jehoiachin a leaky bucket,
a rusted-out pail good for nothing?
Why else would he be thrown away, he and his children,
thrown away to a foreign place?
O land, land, land,
listen to God’s Message!
This is God’s verdict:
“Write this man off as if he were childless,
a man who will never amount to anything.
Nothing will ever come of his life.
He’s the end of the line, the last of the kings.”
WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?
The nation was decaying and dying while the king was admiring his palace—the spacious rooms, the large windows, and the decorated cedar paneled walls. Jehoiakim wasn’t much different from some modern politicians who profit from dishonest gain while ignoring the cries of the poor and needy. The “house” built on the legacy of King David, a “man after God’s heart”, became a house of self-seeking sin with no mercy or justice. Their enemy will be sent to take them away all because they refused to turn back to God. They walked away from God’s covenant, “I will be your God and you will be my people.” They walked away from under the wings of His protection. No God, no hope.
Turning from God to follow self-driven, opposite of God behaviors, will never go well for anyone. God will allow the rebellious to live with the consequences, without hope, without His help until we turn back to God. God, who loves us first and best and knows exactly what we need when we need it, intervenes right in the middle of our messes when we turn our hearts back to Him. He moves on our behalf when we surrender to Him. He is always at work.
Got a mess? In a mess? There is Hope for us, the rebellious, the mess-makers of this world! God sent His One and Only Son to become the Way-Maker, Miracle Worker, Promise Keeper, Jesus Christ, to save us from ourselves and the messes we have created. Jesus took our punishment for our sins. He has paid the price that we owe. Debt is paid in full. How relieving those words are to hear from a mess-maker, right?
The question is this, “Do I really believe God sent His Son to do this for me?”
Believe, repent of the mess, look up and be filled with Hope who is the person of Jesus Christ. Allow His Holy Spirit to transform your mess into a message of testimony, giving Him all the glory for the transformation. Leave self-will for God’s will. Jesus changes everything.
Or am I choosing to stay in my mess? That is a choice we must make. But know this, messes can be cleaned up. There is no mess that is so big that God cannot clean up. Know also, that we can do nothing without Him in the cleaning process. We can do all things with Him, guided by Him.
But, answer honestly before diving into this new life of Hope with change, “Do I really believe what God says is really real? If the answer is yes, then let the adventure begin!
I believe. I surrender to You and Your best for me. Clean me up and make me holy, set apart, ready to follow you.
In Jesus Name, For Your Glory, Amen