The last four kings after Josiah can all be basically painted bad. Jehoahaz (known as Shallum in Jeremiah 22), Jehoakim, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah all were miserable failures as kings. We’ll take a closer look at the latter three later, but God makes his comment on the first three kings in Jeremiah 22. Basically, they were all more interested in themselves than in serving God or the people. They used their positions of power merely to enrich themselves while ignoring God and the needs of the people. And so God passes judgment on all three kings. In doing so, he compares them to Josiah, saying,
“Does it make you a king to have more and more cedar? Did not your father have food and drink? He did what was right and just, so all went well with him. He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well. Is that not what it means to know me?” declares the Lord. “But your eyes and your heart are set only on dishonest gain, on shedding innocent blood and on oppression and extortion.” (Jeremiah 22:15-17)
All of these men knew of God. They knew what he had done in the past. But they didn’t truly know him. And God makes crystal clear that knowing him doesn’t simply mean knowing about him. To know God means to acknowledge him with our lives and with our actions. To do what is just and right, things that these kings simply did not do.
James put it this way,
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that — and shudder. (James 2:18-19)
How about you? Do you simply know about God? Do you simply believe that he exists? Or do your actions and your life show it?