Thus said the LORD; Go down to the house of the king of Judah, and speak there this word,…
Here is the announcement of what Jehovah requires from the king and his executive in particular; although it will be seen that exactly the same principles apply to the conduct of the king as to the meanest of his subjects. But inasmuch as the king was in circumstances of special power, responsibility, and temptation, it was just what might be expected from the Divine consideration for every man's position, that the king should receive special counsels. If he acted wrongly, his conduct would be quoted and his example followed by every one who wished to act in the same way. This warning message here however, so timely and so plain, would take away all ground from those who thought they might do what a king did. Jeremiah, preaching righteousness to the meanest of the people, could insist on this, that he asked no more from them than he ha a been specially enjoined to ask from the very king himself. Note -
I. THOSE WHO WERE TO BE APPROACHED. This is a message for the king and for such people as live in palaces. Remarkable to notice how God's messengers have been brought into contact with the kings and grandees of the earth. Divinely guided, they have been able to find their way where others, even with large worldly influence, have been excluded. So Moses comes to deal with Pharaoh; Jeremiah with this king here; John the Baptist with Herod; Jesus with Pontius Pilate; Paul with Felix, Festus, and Agrippa. As God can make a way for his servants out of prisons, so he can also make a way for them into palaces. And once entered into the palace, the prophet was to address himself first and chiefly to the king. Kings have many counselors, and their temptation is to say what may he agreeable to the royal ears. This king, maybe, had not one honest, disinterested man about him; if so, all the more need for Jeremiah's counsels. Further, the king is reminded of a former distinguished occupant of his throne. In pondering this expression, "the throne of David," there was much to fill the heart of a king, who was also a true man, with noble purpose and endeavor. David, even with all his transgressions and vicissitudes, was a fine example of the success and glory following on sensitiveness to God's commandments. If David had not been enabled to do so much that was good, his successors would not have found scope for the doing of so much that was evil. Then from the king there is a turning to those around them. Kings cannot help being a great deal influenced and even limited by those who stand next to them. God, who knows all conditions of life, sees the peculiar difficulties of kings and sympathizes with them. One of the greatest troublers of David's life was his headstrong servant Joab.
II. GOD'S DEMAND UPON THOSE WHO HOLD POSITIONS OF AUTHORITY. He sent his servant to show how a king's government may become stable, glorious, and happy. Nothing is said about victorious armies and increased territories. These were the things the Gentiles sought after, but God wished the powers and opportunities of the kings of his people to be used for far other ends. There was plenty of room for this king to make conquests, and conquests not easily made. He had his own selfish inclinations to repress, and the selfish proceedings of many of his people to undo. He is commanded to execute judgment and righteousness. He must not neglect the ever necessary functions of a judge; righteous principles must rule in all his decisions; and thirdly, he must see that the decisions are carried into effect. How can any human government be approved of God unless there are both righteous laws and a resolute execution of them. The king must also be the vigilant guardian of the weak and defenseless. From out of his palace his servants should go forth commissioned to champion those who are unable to protect themselves. Never should a strong man more exult in his strength than when it enables him to become sword and shield to the feeble. A righteous government will not wait until it is dinned with importunities. In many instances the king was the only one who could rescue from the hand of the oppressor. Every temporary occupant of the throne of David was in his turn a type of that abiding King and anointed One, of whom it is true in the highest sense that salvation is in no other (Acts 4:12). And as the king was to deliver from the oppressor, so he was to be careful not to oppress. So subtle is selfishness in its influence upon us that we need to be peculiarly on our guard against taking advantage of the weak. Lastly, the king is not to be a shedder of innocent blood. He must not be weakly indulgent as to the blood of the guilty. If a man by the laws of the land has deserved to die the death, there must be no tampering with just deserts. And so, on the other hand, a king was not to allow his fury free course against some one who had offended him, and seek his death simply to gratify resentment. It is easy to see that the despotic character of Eastern kings in ancient times would make this injunction against the shedding of innocent blood to have an application such as it fails to have with the constitutional governments we are accustomed to.
III. The prophet has to point out that ACCORDING TO THE RECEPTION OF THESE COUNSELS THERE WILL BE CORRESPONDING RESULTS. The king is plainly told that it is for him to determine whether his reign shall be glorious and his palace continue and increase in splendor. The king who can rise above all temptations to mere outward show; who can be gloriously independent of selfish traditions and examples; who can show the spirit of a real king by living for his people, instead of expecting his people to drudge and sweat and groan for him; - this is the king whom God will reward. The reward will come in the very way such a man will desire. His throne will become more stable for his successors; the land more prosperous and better worth living in. On the other hand, if there is negligence of these counsels, the ruin of the negligent ruler will be correspondingly terrible. No man, however great his resources, can build up anything glorious and satisfactory on a foundation of disobedience to God. Against that tree of temporal prosperity which has been planted in Selfishness and nurtured in selfishness, a consecrated axe is laid - laid at the root of the tree to cut it down altogether. The greatness of the prosperity measures the greatness of the ruin. We must delight in the Law of the Lord if we would be as trees of God's own planting; and then, assuredly, no weapon formed against us can prosper. - Y.
Parallel VersesKJV: Thus saith the LORD; Go down to the house of the king of Judah, and speak there this word,