Unlike his father Josiah who used his position as king to honor the Lord and help the people of Judah, Jehoiakim was all about himself. Even though he was under the thumb of the Egyptians, he still wielded what power he had to enslave his own people as workers to build himself a grander palace. Through the prophet Jeremiah, the Lord sent a message to the self-absorbed Jehoiakim:
“What sorrow awaits Jehoiakim, who builds his palace with forced labor. He builds injustice into its walls, for he makes his neighbors work for nothing. He does not pay them for their labor. He says, ‘I will build a magnificent palace with huge rooms and many windows. I will panel it throughout with fragrant cedar and paint it a lovely red.’ But a beautiful cedar palace does not make a great king!
Your father, Josiah, also had plenty to eat and drink. But he was just and right in all his dealings. That is why God blessed him. He gave justice and help to the poor and needy, and everything went well for him. Isn’t that what it means to know Me?” (Jeremiah 22:13-16).
“Isn’t that what it means to know Me?” Josiah may have made a big mistake in going out to fight against the Egyptians, but the rest of his life was spent in faithful service to the Lord. “He was just and right.” “He gave justice and help to the poor and needy.” And what were the results of these actions? “God blessed him.” “Everything went well for him.” The proof that Josiah truly knew the Lord was in the way he treated other people. And the way Josiah treated other people aligned him to receive God’s blessings.
The Lord’s message through Jeremiah continued: “‘But you! You have eyes only for greed and dishonesty! You murder the innocent, oppress the poor, and reign ruthlessly.’ Therefore, this is what the Lord says about Jehoiakim, son of King Josiah: ‘The people will not mourn for him, crying to one another, ‘Alas, my brother! Alas, my sister!’ His subjects will not mourn for him, crying, ‘Alas, our master is dead! Alas, his splendor is gone!’ He will be buried like a dead donkey – dragged out of Jerusalem and dumped outside the gates!” (Jeremiah 22:17-19).
Suffice it to say the people of Judah wouldn’t miss having Jehoiakim as their king. So how did Jehoiakim leave the throne?
“King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came to Jerusalem and captured it, and he bound Jehoiakim in bronze chains and led him away to Babylon” (II Chronicles 36:6).
From a puppet ruler under the Egyptians, Jehoiakim descends to the level of prisoner in the hands of the Babylonians. In his eleven years of rule, he’d left quite a mark on the land – or more correctly, quite a scar. Jehoiakim’s track record was as appalling as his end.
“Live so that when the final summons comes you will leave something more behind you than an epitaph on a tombstone or an obituary in a newspaper.” (Billy Sunday)
Copyright © 2013
Judy Woodward Bates