Here we have,
I. Orders given to Jeremiah to go and preach before the king. In the foregoing chapter we are told that Zedekiah sent messengers to the prophet, but here the prophet is bidden to go, in his own proper person, to the house of the king, and demand his attention to the word of the King of kings (Jer. 22:2): Hear the word of the Lord, O king of Judah! Subjects must own that where the word of the king is there is power over them, but kings must own that where the word of the Lord is there is power over them. The king of Judah is here spoken to as sitting upon the throne of David, who was a man after God’s own heart, as holding his dignity and power by the covenant made with David; let him therefore conform to his example, that he may have the benefit of the promises made to him. With the king his servants are spoken to, because a good government depends upon a good ministry as well as a good king.
II. Instructions given him what to preach.
1. He must tell them what was their duty, what was the good which the Lord their God required of them, Jer. 22:3. They must take care, (1.) That they do all the good they can with the power they have. They must do justice in defence of those that were injured, and must deliver the spoiled out of the hand of their oppressors. This was the duty of their place, Ps. 82:3. Herein they must be ministers of God for good. (2.) That they do no hurt with it, no wrong, no violence. That is the greatest wrong and violence which is done under colour of law and justice, and by those whose business it is to punish and protect from wrong and violence. They must do no wrong to the stranger, fatherless, and widow; for these God does in a particular matter patronise and take under his tuition, Exod. 22:21, 22.
2. He must assure them that the faithful discharge of their duty would advance and secure their prosperity, Jer. 22:4. There shall then be a succession of kings, an uninterrupted succession, upon the throne of David and of his line, these enjoying a perfect tranquillity, and living in great state and dignity, riding in chariots and on horses, as before, Jer. 17:25. Note, the most effectual way to preserve the dignity of the government is to do the duty of it.
3. He must likewise assure them that the iniquity of their family, if they persisted in it, would be the ruin of their family, though it was a royal family (Jer. 22:5): If you will not hear, will not obey, this house shall become a desolation, the palace of the kings of Judah shall fare no better than other habitations in Jerusalem. Sin has often been the ruin of royal palaces, though ever so stately, ever so strong. This sentence is ratified by an oath: I swear by myself (and God can swear by no greater, Heb. 6:13) that this house shall be laid in ruins. Note, Sin will be the ruin of the houses of princes as well as of mean men.
4. He must show how fatal their wickedness would be to their kingdom as well as to themselves, to Jerusalem especially, the royal city, Jer. 22:6-9. (1.) It is confessed that Judah and Jerusalem had been valuable in God’s eyes and considerable in their own: thou art Gilead unto me and the head of Lebanon. Their lot was cast in a place that was rich and pleasant as Gilead; Zion was a stronghold, as stately as Lebanon: this they trusted to as their security. But, (2.) This shall not protect them; the country that is now fruitful as Gilead shall be made a wilderness. The cities that are now strong as Lebanon shall be cities not inhabited; and, when the country is laid waste, the cities must be dispeopled. See how easily God’s judgments can ruin a nation, and how certainly sin will do it. When this desolating work is to be done, [1.] There shall be those that shall do it effectually (Jer. 22:7): “I will prepare destroyers against thee; I will sanctify them” (so the word is); “I will appoint them to this service and use them in it.” Note, When destruction is designed destroyers are prepared, and perhaps are in the preparing, and things are working towards the designed destruction, and are getting ready for it, long before. And who can contend with destroyers of God’s preparing? They shall destroy cities as easily as men fell trees in a forest: They shall cut down thy choice cedars; and yet, when they are down, shall value them no more than thorns and briers; they shall cast them into the fire, for their choicest cedars have become rotten ones and good for nothing else. [2.] There shall be those who shall be ready to justify God in the doing of it (Jer. 22:8, 9); persons of many nations, when they pass by the ruins of this city in their travels, will ask, “Wherefore hath the Lord done thus unto this city? How came so strong a city to be overpowered? so rich a city to be impoverished? so populous a city to be depopulated? so holy a city to be profaned? and a city that had been so dear to God to be abandoned by him?” The reason is so obvious that it shall be ready in every man’s mouth. Ask those that go by the way, Job 21:29. Ask the next man you meet, and he will tell you it was because they changed their gods, which other nations never used to do. They forsook the covenant of Jehovah their own God, revolted from their allegiance to him and from the duty which their covenant with him bound them to, and they worshipped other gods and served them, in contempt of him; and therefore he gave them up to this destruction. Note, God never casts any off until they first cast him off. “Go,” says God to the prophet, “and preach this to the royal family.”