People have often remarked that Scripture can be difficult to read. Ancient words, customs, and concepts can be hard to relate to our lives and times. That’s not at all the case with these passages-- this is a word that speaks to all people in all eras. Yahweh makes a bold, essential declaration in these verses: that to know Him is to act justly to all (v.16, emphasis added). Please note that this is His justice, not our skewed human version. The Lord promises blessing, honor, and prosperity to authority figures who employ His guidelines. To those who disregard them He promises utter and complete destruction.
Behaving justly toward all requires intentional action on our part. We must learn to seek justice on every level of our personal relationships-- in our families, workplaces, churches, and larger communities. No situation (or person) is ever “too small” for us to do this. Consistently leading this way provides a blueprint for those we influence to continue this pursuit.
The second half of these verses is a comparison between Shallum, an unrighteous king of Judah, with Josiah, his righteous father. It is noted that kings are already wealthy beyond imagination-- they automatically have choice food, drink, clothes and property whether they behave righteously or not. It’s impossible to become “more” of a king (or president, etc.)-- and even if it was, oppressing people, accumulating things, and killing the vulnerable is certainly no way to accomplish it! Shallum, like so many before and after him, clearly did not believe this. The text says he was “set only on dishonest gain”; he was bent on bloodshed, extortion, and the removal of the very humanity of others so that he might benefit and experience glory. In contrast, his father Josiah behaved with the Lord’s justice in mind. He was benevolent and concerned with the welfare of His people. Both kings enjoyed lavish riches beyond compare-- it was how they used it and how they treated those under their charge that made the ultimate difference.
The choice of kings and all rulers is the same choice we all face when put into positions of leadership and authority by the Lord. Do we care more for ourselves and do we accumulate more when we have enough-- or do we care more for those God has lovingly placed under our guidance?