1, 2. Why was it unwise for Jehoiakim to undertake his building project?
KING JEHOIAKIM was building a house, and it was to be grand. Plans called for spacious rooms on at least two stories. Large windows would allow sunshine to pour through as well as a constant flow of fresh air to keep the king and his family comfortable. The walls were to be paneled in aromatic cedar from Lebanon. Vermilion, an imported paint, would give the interior the rich red finish that was much-sought-after by the high and mighty of other lands.—Jer. 22:13, 14.
2 The cost of the project was considerable. About that time, the nation’s defense and the demands from Egypt for tribute had apparently depleted the treasury. (2 Ki. 23:33-35) But Jehoiakim found a way to pay for his new palace. He held back the wages of the construction workers! Jehoiakim treated them like slaves, using their sweat and toil as a contribution toward his monarchy.
3. What contrast was there between Jehoiakim and his father, and why?
3 Through Jeremiah, God condemned Jehoiakim for his selfishness.* He reminded the king that his father, King Josiah, had shown extraordinary kindness and generosity toward the working class and the poor. Josiah had even pleaded their legal cases in court. Calling Jehoiakim’s attention to Josiah’s consideration for the lowly, Jehovah asked: “Was not that a case of knowing me?”—Read Jeremiah 22:15, 16.
4. Why should knowing Jehovah be important to you?
4 As conditions deteriorate in Satan’s world, we need the help and protection that Jehovah gives to those who know him intimately. Thus, we should draw ever closer to God. We also need to reflect his fine qualities to have success in preaching the good news. You might wonder, though, ‘How can a Christian get to know Jehovah as well as King Josiah did?’
WHAT KNOWING GOD MEANS
5, 6. (a) What influence does a good father have on his children? (b) What should be our response to knowing Jehovah’s ways, in contrast with that of Jehoiakim?
5 Think of the ways that a good father influences the lives of his children. For example, when they observe how he shares with others who are less fortunate, they are likely moved to be openhanded. Their seeing how he treats their mother with love and respect will probably help them become considerate toward those of the opposite sex. They hear that their father is known to be fair and honest in money matters, which ought to move them to be fair and honest. Yes, by their coming to know their father’s ways and qualities, such young ones will probably grow up wanting to treat others as their father does.
6 In like manner, a Christian who knows Jehovah as Josiah did does not simply recognize Him as Universal Sovereign. By reading the Bible, the Christian comes to know how God treats others, and then he wants to imitate his heavenly Father. His love for Jehovah deepens as day by day he reflects God’s likes and dislikes. In contrast, a person who ignores God’s laws and reminders, thus rejecting any divine influence in his life, does not come to know the true God. He is similar to Jehoiakim, who threw into the fire Jehovah’s word through Jeremiah.—Read Jeremiah 36:21-24.
7. Why should you want to know Jehovah as King Josiah did?
7 Our success in sacred service and our prospects for life in the new world depend on our truly knowing Jehovah. (Jer. 9:24) Let us examine a few of God’s qualities as revealed in Jeremiah’s writings. During this consideration of God’s personality, look for ways that you personally can both know him and imitate him as King Josiah did.
Why can we say that King Josiah knew Jehovah intimately? What is involved in your knowing Jehovah as Josiah did?
“TO TIME INDEFINITE IS HIS LOVING-KINDNESS!”
8. What is loving-kindness?
8 The facet of God’s personality known as loving-kindness, or loyal love, defies concise definition in many languages. According to one Bible dictionary, the Hebrew term involved describes the interaction of strength, steadfastness, and love. That dictionary goes on to say: “Any understanding of the word that fails to suggest all three inevitably loses some of its richness.” Thus, someone showing loving-kindness is more than a nice person. With deep concern, he tries to help others satisfy their needs, especially their spiritual needs, as best he can. His main reason for acting in such a selfless manner is his desire to please Almighty God.
9. What did Jehovah’s treatment of Israel prove?
9 The best way to grasp the essence of the Biblical expression “loving-kindness” is by studying how God treated his true worshippers down through the ages. Jehovah protected and fed the Israelites while they spent 40 years in the wilderness. In the Promised Land, God provided judges to rescue them from their enemies and to bring them back to true worship. Because Jehovah stuck with them through good times and bad during all those centuries, he could tell the nation: “With a love to time indefinite I have loved you. That is why I have drawn you with loving-kindness.”—Jer. 31:3.*
10. As illustrated with the Jews in Babylon, how does Jehovah show loving-kindness in the way that he listens to prayers?
10 In our day, God continues to show loving-kindness in ways that directly benefit his worshippers. Consider the matter of prayer. Jehovah takes note of all sincere prayers, but he pays special attention when his dedicated servants pray to him. Even if for years we keep praying about the same chronic problems, he does not lose patience with us; nor does he tire of hearing our prayers. Once, Jehovah had Jeremiah send a message to a group of Jews already captive in Babylon. They were over 500 miles (800 km) away from the temple, far from family and friends in Judah. Their being far from the temple, however, did not keep Jehovah from hearing their requests for his favor and their expressions of praise. Bearing in mind your sincere prayers, think of the comfort the Jews felt when they heard God’s words, as found at Jeremiah 29:10-12.—Read.
11, 12. (a) What did Jehovah hold out for the people of Jerusalem? (b) What help is available for one who has received needed discipline?
11 We see another evidence of Jehovah’s loving-kindness in his positive outlook. As the fall of Jerusalem approached and the city’s inhabitants continued their rebellion, which amounted to a rebellion against God, what did the future hold for them? Perhaps death from famine or a Babylonian sword? At best, they might experience a long exile and death in a foreign land. Jehovah, however, held out a positive “good word” for those who repented and changed their lives. He promised to ‘turn his attention’ to them. He would bring them “back to this place,” their homeland, from faraway Babylon. (Jer. 27:22) As a result, they would cry out: “Laud Jehovah of armies, for Jehovah is good; for to time indefinite is his loving-kindness!”—Jer. 33:10, 11.
12 Because of his loving-kindness, Jehovah is a Source of encouragement to those who are in dire circumstances from a human standpoint. There are some today who were once part of the Christian congregation but who received needed and just discipline. They may feel overwhelmed by guilt and now hesitate to renew their association with God’s people. They may wonder whether Jehovah could ever forgive them and receive them back. Almighty God has a “good word” for all such ones. They can receive kind help to make any needed changes in their thinking and practices. And what we read in the preceding paragraph can in principle apply to them—Jehovah will ‘restore them to their place’ among his happy people.—Jer. 31:18-20.
13. Why should Jehovah’s support of Jeremiah encourage you?
13 As the God of loving-kindness, Jehovah also loyally supports his faithful servants. In these last days of Satan’s world, we have reason to trust that Jehovah will sustain and protect all who seek his Kingdom first. Bear in mind that during the last days of Jerusalem, Jeremiah depended on Jehovah for food and protection. God never let the prophet down. (Jer. 15:15; read Lamentations 3:55-57.) If you find yourself under great pressure of any kind, be assured that Jehovah remembers your acts of loyalty. Because of his loving-kindness, he desires to support you so that you will not ‘come to your finish.’—Lam. 3:22.
What aspect of Jehovah’s loving-kindness most attracts you to him? Why do you feel that way?
“AS JEHOVAH IS ALIVE . . . IN JUSTICE!”
14. What injustices have you observed recently?
14 Some people spend years in prison for crimes they did not commit. There have even been cases in which a court condemned a man to death and only after the execution did evidence of his innocence come to light. Parents in some countries are so desperate for food that they sell their children as slaves so that the family can get something to eat. How do you feel when you hear of such injustice today? How do you think Jehovah feels? The Bible makes it clear that he wants to remove all causes of suffering. He is the only One capable of doing so. Hence, the poor and innocent who suffer today can take heart. Jehovah, the God of justice, is taking steps to save them from their present distress.—Jer. 23:5, 6.
15, 16. (a) What reality about Jehovah did Jeremiah highlight? (b) Why can you trust in God’s laws and promises?
15 In Jeremiah’s time, some were aware of God’s superior quality of justice. For example, the prophet raised the possibility that Israel might repent of their sins and make a statement, as it were, attesting to this change of heart, saying: “As Jehovah is alive in truth, in justice and in righteousness!” (Jer. 4:1, 2) That is true because injustice has no place in Jehovah’s purpose. But there are other proofs that Jehovah is a lover of justice.
16 God unquestionably keeps his word and is unhypocritical. While many humans break promises they make to others, Jehovah does not. Even the laws of nature, which he has established and from which we benefit, are unbreakable. (Jer. 31:35, 36) We can also depend on his promises and his judicial decisions, for they are always good.—Read Lamentations 3:37, 38.
17. (a) What does Jehovah do when judging matters? (b) Why can you trust the elders’ handling of problems in the congregation? (See the box “They Judge for Jehovah,” on page 148.)
17 When judging, Jehovah is never satisfied with the mere outward appearance of a matter. He looks beyond the obvious to get all the facts. He also assesses the motives of those involved. Doctors can now use specialized equipment and techniques to look at a patient’s heart while it is pumping, thus gaining information about its condition. Or they can examine the kidneys, which are doing the work of filtering blood. Jehovah can do much more. He examines the figurative heart and assesses a person’s motives and the figurative kidneys, which reflect a person’s deepest feelings. He can thus verify what moved a person to act in a certain way and how he feels about his actions. And the Almighty is not overwhelmed by the abundance of details that his close examination reveals. Better than the most insightful human judge, He uses all that information correctly and in a balanced way to determine our future.—Read Jeremiah 12:1a; 20:12.
18, 19. How can knowing God’s quality of justice affect us?
18 You thus have a solid basis for trusting in Jehovah, even if at times you feel some pangs of conscience because of past mistakes. Never forget that Jehovah is not a tenacious prosecutor who looks for a reason to punish, but rather, he is a compassionate Judge who wants to help. If you have unsettled feelings over your past course or an issue involving some other person, ask Jehovah to take up “the contests,” or emotional struggles, so that you can put the matter behind you.* With his help, you can see the high value God places on your continued share in sacred service.—Read Lamentations 3:58, 59.
19 Understandably, the God of perfect justice desires that those seeking his approval practice justice themselves. (Jer. 7:5-7; 22:3) Preaching the good news without prejudice is an important way of displaying divine justice. When you are conscientious in making return visits and conducting Bible studies, you reflect God’s superior standard of justice in a truly beneficial way. How is that? He desires that all sorts of people learn about him and attain salvation. (Lam. 3:25, 26) What a privilege you have to be God’s fellow worker, reflecting his justice in that lifesaving work!
How does Jehovah’s justice bring you comfort? How can you comfort others by imitating God’s justice?
“I SHALL NOT STAY RESENTFUL TO TIME INDEFINITE”
20. (a) Jeremiah highlighted what aspect of God’s way of dealing with people? (b) What does ‘feeling regret’ have to do with Jehovah’s forgiveness? (See the box “How Does Jehovah ‘Feel Regret’?”)
20 Many view the books of Jeremiah and Lamentations as mere denunciations of badness. That view ignores the heartwarming offers of forgiveness that Jehovah made to his people, as recorded in these books. He urged the Jews: “Turn back, please, each one from his bad way, and make your ways and your dealings good.” Another time, Jeremiah exhorted them: “Make your ways and your dealings good, and obey the voice of Jehovah your God, and Jehovah will feel regret for the calamity that he has spoken against you.” (Jer. 18:11; 26:13) In our day, Jehovah continues to forgive all who are sincerely remorseful and stop wrong practices.
21. What does Jehovah want to accomplish when he forgives a person?
21 Yet, Jehovah goes beyond speaking about forgiveness. He acts accordingly. Jehovah used Jeremiah to exhort: “Do return, O renegade Israel . . . I shall not have my face drop angrily upon you people . . . I shall not stay resentful to time indefinite.” (Jer. 3:12) God does not feel lingering anger or bitterness toward any of his people whom he has forgiven. Rather, though a wrong has been committed, Jehovah wants to repair the damaged relationship. Despite the sins a person may have committed, if that sinner truly repents and seeks God’s forgiveness, Jehovah will ‘bring him back’ to His favor and blessing. (Jer. 15:19) That reassurance should encourage anyone now estranged from the true God to return to him. Do you not agree that Jehovah’s forgiveness attracts us to him?—Read Lamentations 5:21.
22, 23. As you imitate Jehovah in the matter of forgiveness, what should be your goal?
22 When someone offends you by thoughtless words and actions, will you imitate Jehovah? Regarding the ancient Jews, God said that he would “purify” those whom he forgave. (Read Jeremiah 33:8.) He is able to purify, or cleanse, in the sense of putting behind him the error of repentant ones, giving the person a new start in His service. Granted, gaining God’s forgiveness does not mean that the person is purified of inherited imperfection so that he is now perfect, sinless. Still, there is a lesson for us in what God said about purifying humans. We can strive to put behind us the error, or offense, of the other person, which figuratively amounts to purifying the view of that person that we have in our heart. How so?
23 Imagine that you received an heirloom bowl or vase as a gift. If it became soiled or stained, would your immediate response be to throw it away? Not likely. You would probably put forth effort to clean it carefully, removing any spots or dirt and perhaps eliminating the stain. You want to behold its beauty, the way it gleams in the sunlight. In like fashion, you can work hard to get rid of any lingering rancor or feelings of annoyance toward a brother or a sister who offended you. Fight the tendency to dwell on the painful words or acts. As you succeed in putting them behind you, you purify the image and memories you have in your heart of the one whom you have forgiven. With your heart cleansed of negative thoughts toward that one, you are more open to enjoy again the close friendship that had seemed lost for good.
24, 25. What benefits will you gain if you get to know Jehovah as King Josiah did?
24 We have examined just some of Jehovah’s qualities and dealings that we learn about as we come to know him better. We can see that the personal benefits of knowing Jehovah intimately are a strong motivation to worship him acceptably. If we get to know Jehovah as intimately as King Josiah did, our life will be brimming with happiness, which is another aspect of God’s personality.
25 Knowing Jehovah to a greater extent will enrich our relationships with others. By our working to show loving-kindness, justice, and forgiveness as Jehovah does, our friendships in the Christian congregation will deepen and become more precious. Moreover, we will find ourselves more capable of teaching as we make return visits in our territory and conduct progressive Bible studies. Interested ones will feel more comfortable with the pattern of Christian living that they see in us. Hence, we will be better equipped to help them worship Jehovah acceptably, to follow “the good way.”—Jer. 6:16.
What message does Lamentations 5:21 convey to you?
Regarding Jehoiakim’s tragic outcome, see Chapter 4, paragraph 12, of this book.
The New English Bible renders Jehovah’s words: “I have dearly loved you from of old, and still I maintain my unfailing care for you.”
If a brother or a sister has engaged in conduct that clearly violates God’s law, it should be brought to the attention of the congregation elders so that they can deal with the matter and provide Scriptural assistance.—Jas. 5:13-15.