Day 272: Habakkuk 1-3; Habakkuk's complaint to God

For the most part, we have seen the prophets in one primary function of the prophetic office, the function bringing the Word of God to the people.  Often times this was a message of warning or judgment, a call to repentance or a description of what was to come for God’s people.  There were, of course, also the times when the prophets would deliver messages for or against other nations as well, warning them of the coming judgment that would be upon them if they did not repent.  This is the way that I’m sure 95% of people view the prophets.  Habakkuk kind of puts a spin on that view of the Hebrew prophets giving us a glimpse of the other side of the prophet; the side in which they also go before the Lord and take with them the cries and laments of the people.

However rare this is to see in the prophetic literature, it is not actually new to us.  We see this rather often in fact in the writings of Jeremiah as he both delivers the messages of God to the people and the surrounding nations, but also laments before God the coming calamity.  Laments like this could also be seen in many of the psalms that we read a couple months ago, pleading with God to save them from the struggles that they are currently facing.  Dr. Tom Boogaart, a professor at Western Theological Seminary writes this in relationship to this dual role of the prophets,

“The prophets were travelers on the road between heaven and earth.  Like the angels, they deliberated with God and carried the words that help the world together.  First they ascended to the throne room and pleased the people’s case before God in the words of laments, many of them now collected in the Psalms.  Second, they descended and pleased God’s case before the people in the words of indictments now collected in the books of the prophets.”  -Dr. Tom Boogaart, Travelers on the Road Between Heaven and Earth.

Habakkuk brings a complaint before God that the oppression of the Assyrians is too great.  Violence and destruction are all around him and it seems as though the Lord has forgotten His people.  The answer that God gives the prophet though, it rather unexpected; God even says that it is something that would amaze the people.  God says that He will raise up the Babylonians, even though they are a wicked people, and they will execute judgment upon the Assyrians and upon the nations of the world.

Even in this though, Habakkuk protests.  How is it that the Lord can use the wicked to punish his own people?  Are they just another fish in the sea?  To this God shows him the way that He is going to work.  While He may use wicked people to work His own will, He will not reward their wickedness.  Even Babylon the great will fall before the Lord.

As I read this, two things come to mind. First, the way of the Lord is indeed mysterious.  We cannot and do not know how it is that the Lord works in the lives of His people or in the larger world either.  It seems like things continuously go south, everything just being negative and destructive.  However, in reading this, God tells Habakkuk to pay attention and see what is to come because the Lord is working in ways that will shock and amaze him.  Second, even after God gives Habakkuk a direct answer, he still protests before the Lord bringing more complaints and questions before God.  Too often I think that we are simply resound to “playing the hand we are dealt” or just “taking it like a man,” but Habakkuk shows us that it is ok to bring our complaints before God.  Like many of the Psalmists, he goes straight to the source, not accusing but asking and petitioning.  Habakkuk knows and understands his place in the presence of God, but he also knows that God is not one who is uninterested in him either and invites the questions.  We too can come before God with questions and concerns… and should do so because God wishes to hear them.  Perhaps God will indeed change His mind, perhaps He will act on our behalf.  He might say “no” or “wait,” but the fact is that when we turn toward God in a time of difficulty, we are correctly oriented to face that trial by keeping our focus on God.

Lord, I have heard of your fame;
    I stand in awe of your deeds, Lord.
Repeat them in our day,
    in our time make them known;
    in wrath remember mercy.



Day 271: Nahum 1-3; Prophecy against Nineveh

It seemingly is a contradiction when God raises up a power in the world to use as a tool of His judgment only to bring forth a prophecy like this one about their coming demise.  If this is true, the whole book and prophecy of Nahum is a contradiction in terms, seeing God raise a nation only to smash it to pieces.  This isn’t, however, the first time that we’ve heard a prophecy or a reasoning for impending doom of Nineveh or the nation of Assyria which it was the capitol of.  And God has a perfectly good reason as well, one that has been cited for His own people’s impending judgment as well.  The simple fact is that God will not stand for any nation, no matter their purpose, who takes pride in their own physical strength, does evil before the Lord, and oppresses others.

Ultimately, God is working His will in all things.  History not some string of random events but rather the continuing revelation of God as He works His will and reveals Himself to His people.  Often times His workings are mysterious to us and we don’t understand why we go through what we go through.  When we look back on this though and remember the whole narrative of all that happened with the people of Israel, we can see how God is working to judge the Hebrews, but also make it known that He is God and He is almighty and in control.  No nation rises or falls without the will of God.  No military or political power can overpower the most high.  Whether He raises up a nation to be a tool of His work or He brings them low for their disobedience, God is the one that makes it happen; the one who ordains it all.

I do wonder about our own nation sometimes when I read things like this.  I don’t believe that Nahum was secretly referring to Washington or anything like that, but I do think that the words we read here do speak to our situation as a nation.  Personally, I don’t believe that the U.S. is a “Christian nation” in the way that Iran is an “Islamic” nation.  But it is abundantly clear that we have been blessed as a nation being arguably the strongest nation in the world just about every aspect that might involve a sort of “power” or “might” category.  Yet so often we act as though this was completely the result of our own works and our own ingenuity.  There is no nation or authority under heaven that is not raised up, or lowered by God.  This means that, no matter what we have accomplished as a nation, it is God who has blessed us and raised us up.  Are we going to glorify Him for that?  Or are we going to rest on our own works and “strength?”  It seems to me, as we continue in the prophets that we could learn something from these nations… that we need to truly acknowledge the true authority in this world… and it certainly isn’t us.



Day 260: Hosea 1-4; Hosea, Prophet to Israel

Today we take a chronological step backwards in time to before the time of Isaiah, the exile, and even the judgment of the Northern Kingdom of Israel.  Here we encounter the prophet Hosea, one of the few prophets that we read about as being sent to the kingdom of the north to deliver God’s call to repentance.  If you remember back with me a ways, you’ll remember that Israel was conquered by Assyria in 722 B.C. after a long line of unfaithful, idolatrous and wicked kings.  As a matter of fact, if you remember the books of the Kings, there wasn’t a single good king in the whole existence of the Northern Kingdom, also known as Samaria and Ephraim.  There was only one king that would have been considered “less bad” than the others, but when you have to measure kings on a scale of less bad vs. more bad, you know that its a very bad situation.  For more information on the kings of Israel and its destruction, check out the “Destruction and Exile of Israel.

Hosea the prophet, Russian icon from first qua...

Hosea the prophet, Russian icon from first quarter of 18th cen. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hosea has a somewhat unique story at the beginning of the book that has to do with his wife and the names of his kids.  God calls Hosea to take a wife from among the prostitutes, an act that would have been… frowned upon in those days to say the least.  Yet Hosea obeys God marries Gomer and ends up having three children with her.  Each of these children are named symbolically for reasons which the Lord spells out to Hosea.  Yet it seems that Gomer, despite her marriage is continually unfaithful to Hosea.  By the Law, this is a sin and a crime that is punishable by divorce at the least and death at the worst.  However, the Lord commands Hosea to go and love his wife despite her adultery, to redeem her and take her home once again and Hosea obeys the Lord.

On the whole, this seems like a very odd story for a prophet, but if we take some time to think about what the prophets were and how they functioned, it may start to make sense.  Ezekiel was commanded to lay on his side for a certain amount of time to represent the length of the judgment for Israel and Judah.  Here Hosea’s actions are also representing things that are going on in the life of Israel.  We have heard the language used here before as well, the people of God are often referred to as His bride and their actions against God are always considered synonymous with prostitution.  The people that God called to Himself to be His people were constantly unfaithful to Him, running off after other gods.  Yet like Hosea and Gomer, God does not simply allow His beloved to run away.  He does not leave her to her prostitution, to her whoring, but He goes to her and brings her back to Himself.  He cleans her up, washing the filth from her body and makes her clean once again.  No more will she wallow in her own filth, desolate and alone.  The language of Hosea 2 is beautiful, God speaking about how He is going to allure her back and speak tenderly to her.

Does it remind you, perhaps, of your own experiences with God?  He never leaves you in the pit of despair, nor will he allow you to wallow in your own sin.  Always calling, always speaking tenderly, bringing you back into His arms and redeeming you.  This is the story of Israel, but it is the story of our lives as well!  God is relentless in pursuing us and will never let us go.



Day 201: Isaiah 14-16; Oracles Against The Nations (Part 1)

If we look back at the first graph in the introduction to Isaiah, we come to the section in the book called “God vs. The Nations.”  This is a section in which God is speaking through Isaiah the judgments that will be carried out on all of the other nations around and including Israel.  Today we cover Assyria, Philistia, and Moab, three of the nations surrounding Israel that they had the most contact and conflict with.  Philistia especially, located to the southwest of Israel, continually brought war and strife to the nation of God; the struggle against them was never brought to an end.  One might be bold enough to say that the war is still going on today between Israel and the Palestinians, who live in the same area as the Philistines did in the time of Biblical Israel… though this would be a bold and rather not provable statement I think.

In any case, the next three days we will be reading through these Oracles that contain within them and majority of judgmental messages spoken against these nations.  That being said though, even in here we can find glimpses of hope and restoration that give the dark future a glimmer of light.

One might be tempted to think that it isn’t fair of God to judge the nations that He hasn’t revealed Himself to directly.  They clearly didn’t know the law and didn’t know what was considered sin and what would have been good behavior for them.  In many ways, these people could have been considered innocent by plea of ignorance to the law.  Yet that is not so in God’s eyes.  In fact, to God they stand as guilty as the sinful Israelites did, and were to face the same judgment as them too.

One might also be tempted to say that these other nations were just victims of unfortunate circumstances.  God raised up nations to judge His sinful, disobedient people and they happened to be collateral damage.  Isaiah seems to be saying that this is not so; their destruction and judgment was  also intentional.  This alone indicates to us that they too are under the same Law and judgment of God, even if they didn’t know it, which actually makes sense when you give it some thought.

If God chose Abraham and built Him into a great nation so that through His children all the people of the world would be blessed, then it is clear that God’s plans for the world do indeed go far beyond the boarders of His people.  That too would mean that God has been working for them as much as He has for the people of Israel themselves, and that they fall under the same blessing / curse formula that was laid out in the Covenant at Sinai.  Ultimately one of Israel’s main purposes was to be a light to these nations.  They were to be the ones that would reveal God and God’s will to the nations around them.  This was the way in which God’s love, holiness, and justice was to be communicated.  Clearly, Israel failed at this, but that doesn’t mean that the nations were any less responsible.  God did communicate Himself to them in many ways and we saw the nations of the world coming to Israel in several different circumstances, seeking the will of God through the prophets.

In the end, however, none could live up to the way of life God called them to.  No one was able to live the righteous life that God had commanded and all fell into sin.  Yet even here, found within the words of Judgment against these three nations can be found a word of hope for them as well.  God is not done with any of these nations, or any of the nations of the world.  Indeed God is still at work.  These judgments will come to pass for them for sin needs to be punished, but forgiveness also comes.  Isaiah writes in chapter 16 verse 5:

…then a throne will be established in steadfast love,
    and on it will sit in faithfulness
    in the tent of David
one who judges and seeks justice
    and is swift to do righteousness.

This is a prophecy of the coming Messiah, right in the middle of the judgment that will be coming on the nation of Moab.  Though judgment comes, so too will love, faithfulness, justice and righteousness… the true way of God.  Many times in Scripture, God is portrayed as a gardener amongst the nations.  He tends to his garden, carefully guiding and watering the plants that they may grow.  Sometimes though, a plant needs to be pruned back, for it has grown to big and reached too far.  Sometimes plants need to be pruned all the way down to the stump.  Always though, pruning happens for the good of the plant.  The loving gardener holds no malice for the plant he is pruning, but instead understands that doing this will ultimately lead to a stronger, healthier plant that will bear even more fruit than it already has.

This is the picture that is set before us for the nations as well.  God’s wrath against sin is clear, His judgment on it is righteous, and His purpose ultimately is to bring restoration to the people and all of creation that He has made and sustains.



Day 200: Isaiah 10-13; Judgment of the Judgers

Again we come to the book of Isaiah reading familiar verses within the greater context of verses probably less familiar.  Isaiah 11, especially the first section, is a text likely familiar to a church goer as it too is one of the more famous prophecies of the coming of the Messiah to the people of Israel.  It too, however, is found within the greater context of Isaiah’s message of Israel and Judah about the coming judgment that will befall them, one that they cannot and will not escape.  Yet amid the questions that were likely raised, which I mentioned yesterday, once again God is showing His grace and His commitment to His covenant people.  Though it seems a funny way of doing it, God’s ways are clearly higher than any human understanding and, like a the loving Father that He is, God understands better than any human father the need to teach His people rather than allowing them to continue in their sinful ways.

Interestingly though, the instrument of judgment, in this case Assyria, is no less sinful than the people that they are judging.  This is a clear message from Isaiah as well.  Keep in mind that Isaiah is saying all of this before it has actually happened yet.  While I’m sure there were rumors of the growing Assyrian power, this is actually being written at a time when Israel and Assyria are join in force against Judah.  Isaiah is prophesying about the future, when sinful Israel will be wiped off the map after which Assyria will come as far as the gates of Jerusalem before being turned away.  This is recorded in 2 Kings 18-19 and 2 Chronicles 32 and takes place during the reign of King Hezekiah.

Looking at today’s text more carefully, I think that we see something else that would bring comfort to the people of God apart from the promise of a Messiah.  If I had to guess, I think it is an answer to another question that was posed yesterday about God’s commitment to the people He has chosen.  I mentioned that, if God was using other nations against His own people, wouldn’t they have wondered if perhaps He had abandoned them?  That question is answered, in a way, by the way God acts towards them as well.  Assyria, and even Babylon later, are under the same judgment, punished by God for their sin and arrogance.  One of my favorite lines of these chapters is:

Shall the axe boast over him who hews with it,
    or the saw magnify itself against him who wields it?
As if a rod should wield him who lifts it,
    or as if a staff should lift him who is not wood!

Its a rhetorical statement really because the answer is obvious.  Yet it is clear that these nations and their leaders have come to that point of declaring themselves better than the God who empowered them in the first place.  This makes me wonder about a lot of things in a more contemporary context.  Do we as a nation fit this category?  So many people call America a “Christian Nation” that has been blessed by God with extraordinary prosperity, power, and prominence in the world.  Yet lately, it seems like there has been a lot of talk about how we have gotten here on our own, a wholesale turning away from giving God the credit for bringing us to this point in history.  I wonder what Isaiah might think about that?  I bet he would have something to say…

As a worship leader, this is something that is also on my mind when it comes to leading in a Church.  The praise team I work with has grown a great deal in the last two years!  We have become more cohesive as a group and together have become stronger musicians.  I would say that we have become pretty good at what we do, despite having a great deal of the “normal issues” that a church faces (sound quality, stylistic differences, etc).  I think Scripture like this applies to us as well, and to Christian leaders everywhere really.  We can look at how God has blessed us, how we are growing and how good things are happening within our churches, but do we give God the credit?  There are a great many mega-churches out there right now that have grown by leaps and bounds over a very short amount of time for one reason or another.  Many that I know center around the preaching of one particular pastor or program, but do we thank God for this and give Him all the credit?  Or do we foolishly think that it is our own work and ability to speak, plan, or target certain groups that has made us grow?  Brothers and Sisters in Christ we need to remember that we are the axe, not the wielder, we are the tool not the carpenter.  Let us remember that it is to God that all glory and honor goes.

PSALM 115

Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory,
    for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!

Why should the nations say,
    “Where is their God?”
Our God is in the heavens;
    he does all that he pleases.

Their idols are silver and gold,
    the work of human hands.
They have mouths, but do not speak;
    eyes, but do not see.
They have ears, but do not hear;
    noses, but do not smell.
They have hands, but do not feel;
    feet, but do not walk;
    and they do not make a sound in their throat.
Those who make them become like them;
    so do all who trust in them.

O Israel, trust in the Lord!
    He is their help and their shield.
O house of Aaron, trust in the Lord!
    He is their help and their shield.
You who fear the Lord, trust in the Lord!
    He is their help and their shield.

The Lord has remembered us; he will bless us;
    he will bless the house of Israel;
    he will bless the house of Aaron;
he will bless those who fear the Lord,
    both the small and the great.

May the Lord give you increase,
    you and your children!
May you be blessed by the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth!

The heavens are the Lord’s heavens,
    but the earth he has given to the children of man.
The dead do not praise the Lord,
    nor do any who go down into silence.
But we will bless the Lord
    from this time forth and forevermore.
Praise the Lord!



Day 198: Isaiah 4-6; The Introduction to and Call of Isaiah

Overview of Isaiah Photo Credit: www.visualunit.me/tag/isaiah

Overview of Isaiah
Photo Credit: www.visualunit.me/tag/isaiah

The book of Isaiah is the first, and arguably the most well written book of the prophets.  Isaiah is a very eloquent writer, doing a superb job of weaving together prophecy and the call to redemption, but not leaving the people without the hope of the coming kingdom of God.  This is the longest book of the prophets as well, separated into two sections.  The first half of Isaiah talks very heavily about the coming judgments on Israel, Judah, and the nations around them as well.  He does this by pointing out the sins that they are caught in and calling them to repentance, warning that if they do not repent they will face the judgment and wrath of the Lord.  There is a is bridge between the two sections around chapters 36-39, which leads into the second section which in which Isaiah speaks God’s comfort to a nation that has been punished with exile.  In it, Isaiah talks of a coming restoration and a time in which all things would be made right.

Part of the comfort that Isaiah speaks of is that of a coming messiah, a servant of the Lord who will bring peace and restoration.  However, this isn’t the only purpose of the coming man of God, the messiah that is promised more in Isaiah than in any of the other prophetic books.  Much of what we look to when it comes to the time of Lent in the church calendar comes from Isaiah’s prophecies of Jesus’ coming.

Timeline of Isaiah Photo Credit: www.visualunit.me/tag/isaiah

Timeline of Isaiah
Photo Credit: www.visualunit.me/tag/isaiah

The actual writing of the book of Isaiah takes place over the course of many years in the history if Israel and Judah during the middle of the 8th century through the beginning of the 7th century B.C.  In fact, Isaiah’s call to be a prophet starts in the year that king Uzziah dies and his ministry takes place throughout the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah in Judah and Pekah and Hoshea in the kingdom of Israel.  He wrote during a very turbulent time in both Israel and Judah, dealing with the rise of the Assyrian Empire to the north, the empire that would eventual decimate and deport the northern kingdom of Israel.  However, as Isaiah will say later, even Assyria was under the judgment of God and fell to the Babylonians.

Isaiah's Vision in Isaiah 6 Photo Credit: www.patheos.com

Isaiah’s Vision in Isaiah 6
Photo Credit: www.patheos.com

Today we pick up the beginning of the ministry of Isaiah.  The first five chapters could be considered the introduction to the whole book, and chapter 6 the actual event of Isaiah’s calling and commissioning as a prophet of God.  As I said yesterday, it is entirely possible that Isaiah was a priest, likely the high priest, working in the Temple of God when he saw this vision.  It is also entirely possible that this vision happened on the day of atonement, when the High Priest was allowed to go into the Most Holy Place and commune directly with God.  He starts his account of the vision as if he wasn’t expecting anything out of the ordinary, and then he sees this amazing vision of God.  The description that follows is one full of beautiful images of the throne room of God.  Many of the images are ones that we see repeated in other visions in the Bible, from the prophets to the vision of John in Revelation.  This is called “apocalyptic writing,” imagery that is very representative of things that would have been already well known by the Hebrew people.

The Angel Touches Isaiah with a burning coal Photo Credit: www.anthonyuu.wordpress.com

The Angel Touches Isaiah with a burning coal
Photo Credit: www.anthonyuu.wordpress.com

The part of the vision that strikes me the most, as a seminary student and preacher, is the vision of the angel touching the mouth of Isaiah with a burning coal.  This strikes me in several different ways.  Isaiah’s confession of being unclean has a very familiar ring to it in my life, and likely in yours as well.  As we all work through the calling of God on our lives, or even as we encounter God in worship and/or devotions, it is very easy to recognize our own weaknesses and defects.  We are indeed a people of unclean lips and we often succumb to the lie that we are not able or even worthy to do the things that God has called us to.  Isaiah recognizes this too, and something happens to him in his vision that has happened to us as well, he is touched by a burning coal from the alter of God.  This cleanses his lips and prepares him for the service which the Lord has called him to.  We too have been touched, cleansed in the blood of Jesus Christ.  The gifts that we are given and the things that God has called us to do are made righteous, cleansed from any sin that may taint them as we truly offer them to God.  Like Isaiah, the words that we say come from God, the actions that we take are ordained by God.  On our own we are not worthy, but we are not on our own are we?  The Spirit walks with us each moment of each day, directing, counseling, and sanctifying us in Christ Jesus as we seek to live for him



Day 132: 2 Chronicles 30-32; Hezekiah's Reign

If we take a look at the chart from yesterday, we see that Hezekiah‘s reign was a complete 180 degree turn from his father Ahaz.  He actually turns out to be one of the best Kings in Israel, second only to Josiah, who we’ll read about in the next two days, because of the amount of reforms that take place in Judah during his reign.  Right from the get-go Hezekiah goes after cleaning up the temple and getting things back in order so that the people that worship the one true God once again.  He tells the priests to consecrate themselves and the Temple as well.  They do so happily and offer so many sacrifices that there isn’t enough priests to do all the sacrificing!

Hezekiah Celebrates the Passover Photo Credit: www.whataboutisrael.blogspot.com

Hezekiah Celebrates the Passover
Photo Credit: www.whataboutisrael.blogspot.com

Second, Hezekiah reinstate the Passover Celebration which, if you remember back in 2 Kings, hadn’t been celebrated since the time of the Judges.  This is an important celebration for the whole of the people of Israel, both the Northern and Southern Kingdoms in that it was commanded by God in Exodus 12 to be kept every year for all generations.  It might have been kind of understandable for the people not to keep this during some of the bad seasons that they endured, like the evil king Ahaz or others like him.  But to find out that they had been completely unfaithful in following the command of God and hadn’t practiced it since the time of the Judges (several hundred years earlier)??? wow… just wow…

I think in many ways this is a confirmation of the Hebrew idea of backing into the future, the notion of the Hebrew concept of time and identity that we talked about that the beginning of 1 Chronicles.  The locus of their identity was found in who they were as a people.  This was especially true of them as a people of faith, chosen by God to be a nation that was to represent God to the rest of the world.  Apart from the narrative of God’s choosing Abraham and calling him out of the land of Ur in Genesis 12, the Exodus was really the defining moment in Hebrew history.  This moment was surrounded by God’s power on both sides, from the killing of the first born to the crossing of the Red Sea.  In reality, if the people of God weren’t remember this, they were likely not remembering the true nature of their identity.  Not knowing who you are makes it a lot easier for the things around you to define you.  This may be one of the reasons that the people of God continually fell into sin.

Sennacherib's Siege on Jerusalem Photo Credit: http://fontes.lstc.edu/~rklein/Documents/judah.htm

Sennacherib’s Siege on Jerusalem
Photo Credit: http://fontes.lstc.edu/~rklein/Documents/judah.htm

If we follow in this, we see the strength that comes with remembering who you are and living into it.  When Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, invades Judah, the people could have crumbled in fear before him, turned to other gods, or just plain given up.  Yet that doesn’t happen here… not in the slightest.  Hezekiah not only leaps into action making physical preparations for war, he also makes spiritual preparations, reassuring the people of who they are and whose they are.  They are not where they are today because of what they have done, but because of the blessing of the Lord and His continual faithfulness.  Sennacherib may say whatever he wants to say about God, but as Paul so eloquently writes many hundreds of years later in Galatians 6, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.”  The people of God stand firm in their faith to God and God is faithful, as He always is, to His people as well.

It is interesting that this particular passage would come up on a Sunday, during the Easter season, when we have celebrated one of the 3 high points of the Christian year and are about to celebrate another.  In a time that the Church is struggling to find its identity in a changing culture, we are reminded today of the power and faithfulness of God in times of trouble.  We celebrate our identity in the risen Lord on Easter and yet we struggle day after day, week after week with the many things that would otherwise seek to define us.  While I am not saying that this shouldn’t be a struggle, it absolutely is a struggle… we are about to celebrate another major identifying mark of our faith: PENTECOST.  Next Sunday, a week from today, we will gather to remember that our Risen Lord did not leave us on earth to fend for ourselves, but that the Holy Spirit has been given to us as a seal of Christ in us.  We do not face the hordes of evil in this world alone.  No… we walk every day with the Spirit of God in our hearts and in our minds, that we may stand up to the whatever Sennacheribs we might encounter knowing that God is forever faithful and always with us.



Day 113: 2 Kings 24-25; Destruction and Exile of Judah

English: Map of the Assyrian Empire Português:...

English: Map of the Assyrian Empire Português: Extensão do Império Assírio Español: Extensión del Imperio Asirio Polski: Mapa Asyrii. Dostępna też polska wersja pliku: Mapa Asyrii.png For translations of this map, contact Ningyou. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We have seen in the past two days, the decline of the kingdom of Judah.  After Assyria came and carried off the kingdom of Israel, Judah and King Hezekiah were able to hold out against the military might of Sennacherib through the providence of God.  Ultimately, though, because of the sins of Manasseh, Judah’s end was sealed.  Even though God relented from His wrath for the sake of Josiah.  In this time in history, a great transition of power was taking place.  Neco, Pharaoh of Egypt, who was actually installed by the Assyrian King, was asserting his power against the Assyrian Empire, which was rapidly loosing power at this time.  Though Josiah was killed when he went to meet Neco (whether he went to do battle, to help, or advise the Bible doesn’t say), Egypt’s campaign was one of the many from several different nations that led to the fall of the Assyrian Empire.

Here, however, is where we pick up the narrative today, with the rise of Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian Empire.  Sadly, I must quote Wikipedia here, for the sake of historical background: “Assyria finally succumbed to a coalition of BabyloniansMedesScythians, and others at the Fall of Nineveh in 612 BC, and the sacking of its last capital Harran in 608 BC.”

During this time of power transition, we read that Nebuchadnezzar came up to Jerusalem (likely with some military power behind him) and make Jehoiakim his servant.  Judah became what is known as a vassal state.  This meant that the leader of the nation chose to serve the king of the greater empire rather than be taken over and burnt to the ground.  The people of Israel, however, both Judah and the no longer existent Northern Kingdom, didn’t take well to serving anyone and rebelled.  It was at this time that Judah was attacked by several other nations.  When Jehoiakim dies, his son Jehoiachin takes over.  Unfortunately, the rebellion of his father only serves to bring the Babylonian army to Jerusalem.  This is the first time that Jerusalem falls, Jehoiachin is taken prisoner and his uncle, renamed Zedekiah, is set up as leader.

English: Map of the Neo-Babylonian Empire as o...

English: Map of the Neo-Babylonian Empire as of 540 BC (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is what is considered to be the first exile of Judah.  Nebuchadnezzar takes thousands of people, all of Jerusalem away in Exile.  However, this isn’t the end of Judah… at least not yet.  Zedekiah, set up as leader, decided after a short time that he didn’t like being ruled either and rebelled.  When Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian army returns, they are ruthless and utterly destroy Jerusalem leaving only a few to work the land.

The narrative for today is a horrific end to the story of the nation of Israel, God’s chosen people.  It leaves us with many questions about what happens next.  What about the Covenant?  What about God’s promise to David?  What about the fulfillment of them being a blessing to all nations?  These questions and many more plague our minds as we read of Judah’s destruction.  Some of these questions are answered, others will go unanswered for some time.

First, we do read that king Jehoiachin, who was taken prisoner during the first exile, isn’t tortured like king Zedekiah, but is put in prison and released to live in Babylon.  God has not forsaken David or his house, but has allowed for Jehoiachin to live and be provided for by, of all people, the king of Babylon.

Second, God is acting in accordance to the Covenant relationship with His people.  His actions are prescribed for at the end of the book of Leviticus.  Yet we are really only getting a part of the story here.  To date, our readings have been fairly chronological, proceeding throughout the passage of time.  However, from here on out, things change a bit.  What we haven’t heard much of in the books of Kings, and won’t here much of in the books of the Chronicles, is the words of the prophets regarding God’s work in this, and about Judah’s fate in exile.  There is much to be said about what has happened here that we have yet to hear.  Judah’s exile is not the end… in fact it is somewhat of a new beginning for them.  It could even be considered a new “wilderness experience” for them.  Many other thoughts and motifs come wrapped around this time of exile… we will talk about these in the coming days.

We believe that God cannot act in a manner contrary to God’s self, which means that God cannot forsake the Covenant that He has made with the children of Abraham, which is an everlasting covenant.  That means that God is still working, and therefore there still is hope.  Things may look pretty grim for the people of Israel and Judah, but there is hope.  However, we will have to wait and see what happens, filling in the gaps and looking to the future in days to come.