Is Not This to Know Me? Declares the Lord

In the days of the sons of king Josiah, the prophet Jeremiah was given an oracle from the Lord as an indictment of both Shallum (presumably Jehoahaz) and Jehoiakim.  The indictment dealt with what it meant to be a king of Israel, a king pleasing to God.  Neither of these sons of Josiah matched the life of their father, and therefore, they were sent into exile.  The word of the Lord through Jeremiah was a straight dart into the heart of these kings – “Do you think you are a king because you compete in cedar” (Jer 22:15a)?  The answer, of course, was “No!”  Competition in cedar makes no king.  But what does make a king?  The Lord offers the life of their father, Josiah, as an example: “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.  Is not this to know me? declares the Lord” (Jer 22:15b-16).  That is simply to say that one is a king insofar as he knows the Lord and makes Him known.  And the way that Josiah made the Lord known was by attending to the cause of the poor and needy.

In the New Testament, James, our Lord’s brother, would call this “pure and undefiled” religion “before God, the Father,” that we “visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (Jas 1:27).  Thus, Christianity is not so much a religion of words, although it is that, but especially a religion of loving and holy action; and it is this sort of lifestyle that is the expression of one who has not only heard the word, but sought to apply it.  It seems, then, that the life which the word reveals, and is therefore to be done, is the life of attending to the cause of the poor and needy as a response to our God who has revealed Himself in that word as One who has had mercy on the poor in soul in the life, penal-substitutionary death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ.

The apostle Paul, seeking to encourage the Corinthian church in such a task, sets before them, not a new idea but one that they already knew: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor 8:9).  As we have received such mercy, is it not incumbent upon us to seek a similar exaltation of the poor, an exaltation that stands as a visible representation of saving grace?

And should this care and love for the poor and needy not be the very air that the Christian breathes?  I say, it must be as prevalent an atmosphere as that of regeneration (the life of the new birth)!  For John, in the same breath as he mentions regeneration, writes of love for one’s brother, to express the inseparability of the two, indeed, the one flows from the other.  If you ask, “how often am I regenerate once I have been regenerate,” the answer is quite simple: “I am regenerate unceasingly.”  Therefore, laying down our lives for one another because Christ laid down his life for us; expressing the indwelling love of God by, first, exercising stewardship over what God has  providentially given to us, and secondly, intentional identifying with the needs of our brothers and sisters, so as to meet their needs; and loving, then, not only in word or talk but in deed and in truth (1 John 3:16-18) – such mercy must be as unceasing as our regeneracy is unceasing, for the two, apparently, cannot be separated one from the other.

If we take mercy and attendance to the needs of our siblings in Christ seriously, as an expression of our covenant relationship with God (Jer 22:3 cf. 22:9), then we must strive to be that sort of body wherein “there was not a needy person” (Acts 2:34).  It is with this in mind that I suggest a “no needs” initiative, the sort of inward and outward looking ministry that is not satisfied with isolated events of mercy as we are prone to be (see checklist mentality), but seeks instead a pervasive, “this is the air we breathe,” ministry grounded in the glorious Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.  For fundamental to all mercy is the sacrifice of Him who bled and died for the forgiveness of sins and the granting of His righteousness and eternal life to we who were (and millions still are) bankrupt of any saving merit.

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