Jeremiah was a prophet of God who wrote from Judea shortly before God allowed Nebuchadnezzar to destroy Jerusalem and the temple and take the Judeans into Babylonian captivity. The book contains many warnings and contains some powerful prophecies of the Messiah and the age he was to inaugerate.
(Jer 7:5-7) If you really change your ways and your actions and deal with each other justly, 6 if you do not oppress the alien, the fatherless or the widow and do not shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not follow other gods to your own harm, 7 then I will let you live in this place, in the land I gave your forefathers for ever and ever.
Before Nebuchadnezzar destroyed Jerusalem, Jeremiah promises that the Israelites may live there “for ever and ever” if they would treat each other with justice (translated “righteousness” in the New Testament) and do not shed innocent blood. The verse sure seems to say that the guilty may be killed in appropriate cases “for ever and ever,” that is, until the end of time when God himself will destroy the guilty.
(Jer 22:3) This is what the LORD says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of his oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the alien, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place.
God’s command is that we rescue victims from oppressors. This means there may be no shedding of innocent blood but not that there may be no shedding of guilty blood. Indeed, “Do no … violence” to the weak certainly suggests that violence should be done to those who oppress the weak.
Now, it’s easy to argue that Jeremiah was written before the cross, but Jeremiah is telling Judah what must happen for them to live in the Land forever. He is not saying, “This will work until the Messiah comes.” These are forever-commands.
Indeed, Jeremiah is defining God’s sense of justice and righteousness. When the New Testament speaks of “acts of righteousness,” it is speaking against this prophetic backdrop. “Just” and “right” translate mishpat and tseqadah: “justice” and “righteousness,” which are the same word in the Greek: usually translated “righteousness” but sometimes “justice.”
Remember, that Jeremiah contains some remarkable prophecies of the Messiah. Indeed, in parallel to 22:3, quoted above, Jeremiah writes,
(Jer 33:15) “‘In those days and at that time I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line; he will do what is just and right in the land.”
Do you see it? Jeremiah says: if you won’t do what is just and right, the Messiah will. What is “just and right”? “Rescue from the hand of his oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the alien, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place.”