From Jeremiah we recently studied about a slaughtered Lamb (Ch. 11-16), a deceitful heart (Ch. 17) and an unrepentant people (Ch. 18-20). From Jeremiah 21-23, we will see how unjust and unrighteous the leaders (shepherds) of Judah were. What is the solution?
Preamble: We human beings are happy when we have a good shepherd and mentor who watches out for us. God expects his people to care for others by doing justice and righteousness (Jer 21:11; 22:3). God is most displeased when his people, especially leaders, use their position to their advantage by using others for their own agenda and benefit (Jer 22:13-14). Worse yet, they do not listen to the word of God or respond to correction (Jer 22:21). Fundamentally, their root problem is that they do not know God (Jer 22:16).
Big Idea: (1) Knowing God = caring for others, the oppressed, the poor, the widows, the fatherless, the foreigner. (2) Do justice and righteousness…or you will experience God’s justice and righteousness (Jer 23:1-2). (3) God promises a truly just and righteous messianic king will come and save his people in a new and spectacular way (Jer 23:3, 5-6). (4) Jesus is our good shepherd (Jn 10:11).
Our human dilemma: "…two points... First, human beings, all over the earth, have this curious idea that they ought to behave in a certain way, and cannot really get rid of it. Secondly, that they do not in fact behave in that way. They know the Law of Nature; they break it. These two facts are the foundation of all clear thinking about ourselves and the universe we live in." C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity.
“This is what the Lord says to you, house of David: ‘Administer (execute, give) 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’” (Jer 21:12). “This is what the Lord says: Do what is just and right (Do/administer justice and righteousness). Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place” (Jer 22:3). [Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, 2 to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless” (Isa 10:1-2).]
- Help You? I’m Going to Attack You! (Jeremiah 21).
- I Warned You When You Felt Secure (Jeremiah 22).
- I Myself Will Gather the Remnant of My Flock (Jeremiah 23:1-8).
- False Bible Teachers have not Encountered God’s Presence (Jeremiah 23:9-40).
The common repeating and unifying theme running throughout Jeremiah 11-29 is the conflict, opposition and hostility against Jeremiah (and God's word) by the leaders of Judah--various kings, their priests and court prophets. Jeremiah 11-20 focuses on the active hostility from the leaders in Jerusalem against the prophet's message from God that soon grew into serious and dangerous persecution. The consequences of such hostility and opposition are serious, and God frequently proclaims the coming judgment on these leaders in clear and unequivocal terms. The focus on Jeremiah 11-29 is thus God's coming judgment on these leaders who have rejected his word and sought to persecute, even kill, God's prophet.
Just as the kings rejected God's word (Jeremiah 21-22), leading the people of Judah away from God, so too did the "religious" leaders (priests and court prophets). The priests (Jer 23:11, 33-34) but mainly the court prophets were contradicting Jeremiah with counterprophecies supposedly coming from God. So after proclaiming judgment on the kings of Judah (21:1-23:8), Jeremiah brings the judgment of God to bear on the false prophets (23:9-40).
In ch. (20) 21-22, Jeremiah critiques/denounces:
- Pashur, the chief officer of the temple (20:1-6).
- King Zedekiah (21:1-14), the last king of Judah. Reigned 11 years. Taken prisoner to Babylon.
- The kings of Judah in general (22:1-9).
- King Jehoahaz/Shallum (22:10-12). Reigned for 3 months. Deposed by Pharaoh Neco. Exiled to Egypt.
- King Jehoiakim/Eliakim (22:13-23). Reigned 11 years. Buried like a donkey.
- King Jehoiachin/Koniah (22:24-30). Reigned 3 months. Exiled to Babylon and died in captivity.
In the midst of this larger section that is condemning Judah's corrupt and unfaithful kings and prophets (ch.11-29), 23:1-8 comes as a shocking but beautiful contrast, for in this passage God describes the coming messianic king. The point of this insertion is to underscore the drastic contrast between the current leadership of Judah and the coming messiah.
- What was Zedekiah hoping from his petition (21:1-2)? Why was this ironic (1:2-3)? What was Jeremiah’s blunt response (21:3-7, 10)? Who is their ultimate enemy (21:4-7, 13-14)? What choice were they given (21:8-9)?
- What does God primarily expect of leaders (21:12; 22:3)? With what consequence (22:4-9)?
- What will happen to Jehoahaz/Shallum (22:10-12)? What angered God about Jehoiakim (22:13-14)? How was he different from his father Josiah (22:15-17)? What is the evidence that one knows God (22:16)? Why did he not heed Jeremiah’s (God’s) warning (22:21)? What will God do to Jehoiachin (22:24-27)?
- What grieves God about shepherds/leaders (23:1)? What will God do to them (23:2)? What will God do Himself (23:3; Eze 34:11-16)? What will God do in future days (5-8)? How does Jesus fulfill this prophecy (Jn 10:11-18)? Who are the “shepherds” [pleural] (23:4; Jn 21:15-19; Ac 20:28; 1 Pet 5:1-4)?
- Why is Jeremiah so distraught by the false prophets/Bible teachers (23:9)? What is their root problem (23:16-18, 21-32, 35-38)? Their influence (23:10, 13-14)? What will God do (23:33-34, 39)?
- Have you experienced disappointment when a leader failed you? What lessons did you learn?
- Jesus is righteous but just as importantly, he can make us righteous. Is this righteousness “just” a covering for our unrighteousness or is it a work of inner transformation of character?