The rule of King Jehoiakim is documented in several books of the Bible. In all accounts he was a lousy king. He attempted to establish a long and lasting tenure as king by building a lavish palace through oppression, fraud and other injustices on the people of Israel. An opposite in almost every way to his father, King Josiah, who “. . . Did what was right in the eyes of the Lord . . .” (2 Kin 22:2) and ruled God’s people with justice and integrity in the pursuit of holiness. The culmination of the Godless reign of Jehoiakim is documented in the book of Jeremiah Chapter 22. Like a judge dispensing his sentence to a convicted criminal, Jeremiah recount the evil in Jehoiakim’s attempts to secure wealth, prosperity and a long tenure as king.
One simple statement in verse 15 sums up succinctly Jeremiah’s damning indictment:
“But a beautiful cedar palace does not make a great king!” (NLT). Great kings in the eyes of the Lord are remembered as men who were focused solely on bringing glory, honour and praise to the Most High God in all things and not on the splendour and opulence of their palace and possessions. Jehoiakim was trying to use a great and magnificent palace to mask his weakness as a man after his own heart, a man of poor moral fibre and weak character.
In Matthew 5:6 the writer penned the 4th of Christ’s “tough love” challenges known as the Beatitudes:”God blesses those who hunger and thirst for justice (righteousness – NKJV), for they will be satisfied.” (NLT). Hunger, thirst; desperate, unrelenting pursuit fuelled by the desire to not just sample or experience righteousness, holiness, but to possess it. Or more aptly stated, to have it possess them. The contrast between Kings Josiah and Jehoiakim could not be more plainly revealed than when measured against these words of Christ.
Now let’s fast forward to our lives today, immersed in a Christian culture that proclaims our desire to pursue holiness, righteousness and justice in word and song on Sunday. But how does this fervour, this resolve, this holy pursuit resolve play out on Monday?
The pursuit of righteousness and holiness or the passion to allow these to possess us is inextricably intertwined with the heart-n-soul commitment to exercise justice in all things. Now I don’t think that I’m out on a limb to say that the big, hard core issues of injustice such as human trafficking, dictatorial oppression or abuse of any kind are an affront to the moral code of your soul and spirit. But what about the softer areas of injustice which present themselves to each and every one of us, every day? Like when the cashier at your grocery store gives you an extra $20 change or inadvertently discounts a product in your basket by mistake? When it comes to financial stewardship I am sure that you, like me, are astute when it comes to being overcharged or short-changed, but do we always correct the same errors when they benefit our side of the ledger? Is that hungering for righteousness?
Or when someone eats a large portion of their restaurant meal only to send it back because they found it to be “unsatisfactory” and ask for a new dinner or refund? Flagging a problem one or two bites is sometimes necessary, but after you’ve picked the T-bone clean? Sadly, I have heard brothers in Christ brag about such an experience with satisfaction and pride. Is that thirsting for righteousness?
What about those times when you have an opportunity to get back at someone who did you wrong and you let ’em have it. Feeling absolutely justified in our actions you savour the sweetness of revenge, but is this attitude or response consistent with the message of unconditional love that Christ spoke of in the second greatest commandments – to love our neighbour as ourselves (Matt 22:39)?
You see, just as “Cedar planks do not make a great King“, our pursuit of righteousness and justice is just a false front if we are unwilling to do the right thing at all times in our everyday. The purity of our pursuit for holiness and righteousness cannot be measure by how it looks but how it’s lived. Let’s live everyday possessed with the passion to “. . . to act with justice, to treasure the LORD’s gracious love, and to walk humbly in the company of your God.” (Mic 6:8, ISV)