“For, behold, I have made thee this day a defenced city, and an iron pillar, and brasen walls against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, against the princes thereof, against the priests thereof, and against the people of the land. And they shall fight against thee; but they shall not prevail against thee; for I am with thee, saith the LORD, to deliver thee.” ~ Jeremiah 1:18-19
The first chapter of Jeremiah closes with God announcing that He had (while speaking) made Jeremiah into three things:
God used these symbols to send a message through Jeremiah to the people of Judah, and He is still using them to speak to believers today.
Part 3: BRASEN WALLS
Except in Jeremiah 15:20, which is a reiteration of Jeremiah 1:18 (above), there are no other references to a brasen wall (a wall made of brass/bronze http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/brazen) in Scripture. Most brasen artifacts mentioned in the Bible were utensils, tools or artwork. The brasen pillars in the temple may have been (primarily) ornamental to match the Temple décor (1 Chronicles 18:8). The construction of a brass wall, though perhaps not as technologically challenging as an iron pillar, would have been very expensive: a luxury that only the wealthiest Hebrew families could afford.
Therefore, by making Jeremiah a brasen wall, God declared His definition of wealth, true wealth. For mankind, wealth has to do with the accumulation of things that other men value. However, God defines wealth as righteousness: a right relationship with Him.
He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? ~ Micah 6:8
Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. ~ Matthew 6:19-21
For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. ~ 2 Corinthians 4:6-7
In God’s economy, the righteous are rich for they are sons joint heirs (with Jesus) to His Kingdom (Romans 8:17). Conversely, in God’s economy, the poor are the unrighteous and they will have no inheritance (1 Corinthians 6:9; Galatians 5:21).
The people of Judah, like every other society, valued wealth over righteousness. But they should have known better, for they were God’s people: they knew the true and living God and they had His Word. However, they had rejected God’s truth and embraced the materialistic culture of their neighbors. So, God made His righteous representative, Jeremiah, a brasen wall to symbolize His value-system. Thus, He challenged the people to reverse their perspective and their priorities: to choose righteousness over riches.
Thus saith the LORD… Let not the rich man glory in his riches. But let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me, that I am the LORD which exercise lovingkindness, judgment, and righteousness, in the earth: for in these things I delight, saith the LORD. ~ Jeremiah 9:23b-24
Indeed, it was their wealth that made them so desirable to the Babylonians (2 Kings 20:12-18). An earlier king, Hezekiah, had unwisely invited the Babylonians to see the vast extent of the wealth in both the royal treasury and the Temple (including the brasen pillars and the brasen sea (floor) 1 Chronicles 18:8). So, later when the Babylonians wanted money to finance their quest for world domination, they knew where to come. And all the wealth that the nobles/princes of Judah had accumulated couldn’t stop them.
He [Nebuchadnezzar] carried away all Jerusalem, and all the princes [the wealthy]… none remained, save the poorest sort of the people of the land. ~ 2 Kings 24:14
Where wealth would (always) fail, righteousness would (always) triumph. The Babylonians could steal wealth but they couldn’t rob righteousness. When Daniel (himself a young noble) was stripped of his wealth and taken to Babylon, he purposed in his heart to remain faithful to God (Daniel 1:8). Daniel’s relationship with God sustained him in Babylon and he became instrumental in securing the repatriation of his people back to Judah. The loss of his wealth and his home didn’t matter, because righteousness kept him going from strength to strength, even in a foreign land.
The challenge for us today is the same as in the days of Jeremiah: Do we want to own brasen walls or be God’s brasen wall? Do we want to live in material treasure or have God’s true treasure live in us? The Babylonians of today, the greedy and corrupt both on Wall Street and Main Street, can still steal our material wealth (big or small). But who can steal the righteousness God invests in us because of His Son?
To be clear, wealth is not in itself a sin and the wealthy aren’t inherently more sinful than the un-wealthy, or vice-versa. Money/Material only becomes a problem when we value it more than the things of God. When (any amount of) money/material becomes our property, unavailable to God (before OR after tithings/offerings), then we have a problem. Judah was materially wealthy BECAUSE God had blessed them with it. But they were spiritually enslaved because the blessing had become more important to them than the Blesser.
But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. ~ 1 Timothy 6:9-11
To succeed in life (both before and after death of the body) we don’t need brasen walls, real wealth is not found in the accumulation of the things that men say are valuable. We become truly wealthy when God makes us His brasen wall, when He declares us valuable to Him because He can use us in His Kingdom. We don’t need brasen walls, we need God to make us righteous.