Quill and writing

Do you Know the Lord?

“Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness and his chambers by injustice, who uses his neighbour’s service without wages and gives him nothing for his work, who says, ‘I will build myself a wide house with spacious chambers, and cut out windows for it, panelling it with cedar and painting it with vermilion.’ “Shall you reign because you enclose yourself in cedar? Did not your father eat and drink, and do justice and righteousness? Then it was well with him. He judged the cause of the poor and needy; then it was well.

Was not this knowing Me?” says the LORD.

“Yet your eyes and your heart are for nothing but your covetousness, for shedding innocent blood, and practicing oppression and violence.”      [Jeremiah 22:13-17]

These words were spoken by Jeremiah to the sons of Josiah and in particular, Shallum and Jehoiakim, who we are told reigned instead of Josiah and who was carried away to Babylon in captivity where he died.  (see Jer 22: 11-12,18).

They are most striking!  Notice first that they are addressed to the civil authority.  The king of Judah was especially to implement the Law of God in his exercise of jurisprudence in the community.  That community was, of course, the commonwealth of Israel/Judah, redeemed by God under Moses & led by Joshua into Canaan to establish a kingdom of light to the surrounding gentile nations.  (See Deut 4).

Alas, the politics of man had slowly but surely overtaken the politics of God in Judah.  Equity & justice were in short supply.  Houses were being built by slave labourers; bricks & equipment were being stolen; dubious (unprincipled mortgages?) were being legered; selfishness and pride were the underlying motivations of property owners; complacency towards God – and especially His providential protection of the country – was commonplace.

They were reminded (see v15) of David’s manner of life; in particular they were challenged to reflect on the fact that David enjoyed the pleasures of life (see 1Tim 6:17) whilst retaining his concern for the Law of God to be honoured in the public square.

What did David discover during that season of his life?  Was there a cause/effect relationship that we are to notice?  See v 15b…. ‘Then it was well with him’!!  Wow!  David’s disposition inclined him to practice the application of God’s Law as it pertained to social justice; i.e. the politics of his own day.  As David consistently sought to apply God’s Law in the civic realm he was blessed and prospered in his soul.  In v16 we read the same thing again: ‘He judged the cause of the poor and the needy’.  And we are told AGAIN what happened as a result, ‘Then it was well’!

Now, the simple repetition of this identification ought to suffice as a basis of instructing us to push and press for God’s Law to be implemented by our own civil authorities today.  It is about as plain as the proverbial pike-staff that God attaches providential blessings to those persons who lobby for the implementation of God’s Law.  But notice, moreover, what God through Jeremiah says next: “Was not this knowing Me, says the Lord?”.  Huh?  Just a minute; I/we thought that ‘knowing God’ was an existential matter.  We have been taught persistently and expressly that ‘knowing God’ is essentially about “experiencing the love of Jesus in our hearts as the after-effects of the ‘Four Steps to Life’”.  Aren’t those the true saints of God who meet week in week out at Church to raise their voices in songs of worship, who read Christian books, who attend missionary prayer-meetings and who pass out tracts on the bus?  [Yes, of course I approve of all such activity!]

But notice how God evaluates the politics of man: ‘Yet your eyes and your heart are for nothing but your covetousness, for shedding innocent blood, and practicing oppression and violence.’ (v17)

Now, this indictment must have seemed a bit extreme to Jehoiakim & Shallum.  “What?” I can hear them asking.  “Huh?!”  What did we do?  God tells them, notwithstanding the ferocity of their appeal, they were each guilty of oppression and violence.  How so?  Because the failure to prosecute justice in the courts APART FROM GOD’S LAW is tantamount to the prosecution of INJUSTICE.  Such is the nature of justice.  As Van Til laboured over a lifetime to demonstrate, there really is NO NEUTRALITY!  There is no such thing as ‘natural law’ or ‘natural justice’.  There is only God’s (i.e. TRUE) justice and man’s (i.e. FALSE) justice – i.e. injustice!

Now it takes a moment of thought to see the antithetical nature of justice, but it stems ultimately from the character of God who is light and in whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.

And so, we are inevitably left with this stark choice for ourselves today: ‘Theonomy or Autonomy?’ There is no third way; there is no conceivable alternative.

Alas, the contemporary Christian Church is swamped with voices pushing ‘natural law’ theory just as Jehoiakim and Shallum promoted it five centuries BC.  Will they begin to wake up & heed the call of Jeremiah?  Will they have the courage to abandon the legacy of 19th century rationalism & 20th century humanism?  Will they repent of their antinomian principles and discover afresh – like Josiah the child! – the rich treasures of God’s Law right under their noses (in the OT)?

In a word, will they learn truly, existentially & practically what it really means to ‘KNOW THE LORD’?