“Do what is just and right. 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.”
Jeremiah stands before king Zedekiah with a message that the leadership of the nation was terribly wrong. All through the Bible, leaders are to be shepherds of the people, watching over them and taking care of them. This is what this king, and others like him, had failed to do. Leaders are to be an example of righteousness and justice before the people. It is a very serious thing when elected officials do things which are wrong because every leader is, as Paul makes clear to us in Romans 13, a minister of God. He may not be a believer, but he himself is an agent of God, and is to represent God’s standard of righteousness. Therefore, when these leaders of the land are guilty of wrongdoing, the effect of their wrongdoing is far greater than if they were just ordinary citizens. Jeremiah was sent to tell this king that this was what was wrong in his life. He had failed to correct the leaders of the land and to be an example of justice and righteousness.
Another thing that government leaders are to do: “Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow.” These are the minority groups in any country, the weak, the helpless. The king is told here that it is his task to watch that he does no violence to them. Here is a recognition of the power of government to hurt the weak. Bureaucracy can grow up, making it easy to turn a deaf ear and to be unavailable to those who are really in trouble. Special care must be taken by any government to watch over the weak among them.
Finally, Jeremiah is given a vision of the true shepherd. For the first time in this great prophecy he looks down through the centuries, and sees the coming of One who would fulfill God’s ideal, and on beyond that to the time when he will return again actually to carry it out in practice: “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The Lord Our Righteous Savior” (Jeremiah 23:5-6). That is the name applied to Jesus by the Apostle Paul in First Corinthians 1:30: “…Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God — that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.” He himself is our righteousness. So the prophet sees him coming as God’s rightful King, and one day to come again so that Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely.
Lord God of hosts, may my mind and heart be open to understand what you are doing in the nations of our day. Help me to bow before you and let you search my heart, that I may be a vessel fit for your use.
To whom are national leaders ultimately responsible? What essential characteristics does God require of these leaders? Who is the ultimate Shepherd and rightful King?