Day 134: 2 Chronicles 35-36; Josiah Through Zedekiah and the Exile

The final chapters of the book of 2 Chronicles ends in much the same way the the book of 2 Kings draws to a close.  Josiah, after celebrating the Passover with the people of Judah and many that come from the decimated Northern Kingdom of Israel, makes a grave error (no pun intended).  All of this happens around 600 BC during rise of the Babylonian Empire.  Pharaoh Neco, also known as Necho II, honoring an alliance that has been formed with Assyria, needs to travel north to aid the Assyrian military in its resistance against Babylon.  To do this, he must travel through the land of Judah, something King Josiah doesn’t allow.  The resulting battle on the plains of Megiddo ends in Josiah’s death and the first “conquering” of Judah by Egypt.  Judah becomes a vassal state of Egypt, paying tribute to Pharaoh, having a king that was installed by Pharaoh Neco on the throne.

The Fall of Jerusalem: The Temple Burned Photo Credit: www.users.vic.chariot.net.au

The Fall of Jerusalem: The Temple Burned
Photo Credit: www.users.vic.chariot.net.au

Oddly enough, even in all of this turmoil, we can see in many ways how God is at work.  Unfortunately the first way is in the words of Neco, which the writer of Chronicles tells us is actually the words of God.  Somehow, in God’s grander plan, Egypt is meant to go up and fight against Babylon.  We could speculate on this for a good long while.  Perhaps Egypt and Assyria were being used to protect the now revived people of God from the increasing threat of the Babylonians?  Perhaps this was a test to see if Josiah was listening for the Word of the Lord?  Who knows… What happens though, is also an amazing act of God.  It is unusual for a leader of a foreign country to install a member of the country’s royal family as the ruler after deposing the current ruler.  Yet God is at work, preserving the line of David just as He promised He would.  Even in all of this chaos, God is still very much in control of things.

The decline of Judah is recorded in rapid succession in chapter 36, although the reality is that it took over 20 years from Josiah’s death for the final collapse of Judah to actually take place.  Josiah died in roughly 609 BC and the fall of Jerusalem takes place in 586 BC.  In that time we read that none of the kings that are in place do anything that remotely resembles anything good in the sight of the Lord.  Even during this time though we see that God tries and tries to get the attention of His people.  We read that God has compassion on them, despite all the evil they are doing.  He sends a number of prophets, many of whom we will read in the coming months to warn the people of the impending doom that is coming, to beseech them to turn back to God, yet all of it seems to be in vain.

Map of the Exile and Resettlement Photo Credit: http://levantnotes.blogspot.com/2007/10/of-israel-myth_20.html

Map of the Exile and Resettlement
Photo Credit: www.levantnotes.blogspot.com

There is a common thread that runs through these last few chapters that I see when I read them.  It has to do with the voice of God.  Throughout the life of Israel, both the united and divided kingdoms, we read a great deal about the voice of God.  It comes from the priests and the prophets, even from the book of the Law.  Sometimes it comes from random places, like the mouth of a Pharaoh.  Yet it is always present.  What is presented to us here is what happens when a ruler and a nation do not listen for, recognize, or pay attention to the voice of God.  Scripture says, “The Lord, the God of their fathers, sent persistently to them by his messengers, because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling place. But they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising his words and scoffing at his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord rose against his people, until there was no remedy.”  The result was the complete destruction of a nation and their exile.  While I hesitate to draw any direct connections to our country from the Bible, I think these words could ring loud and clear for the Church today.  Do we know where God is speaking?  Do we recognize the messengers that He is sending?  Or do we laugh and mock them… until their is no remedy for us either…

All is not lost… exile is not permanent… God is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.  We read at the end of this book the bridge into next books of Ezra and Nehemiah, which tell the story of those returned, those for which the books of the Chronicles were written.



Day 133: 2 Chronicles 33-34; Manasseh, Amon, and Josiah

Spiritual State and the Kings of Israel Photo Credit: http://www.flester.com/blog/2008/03/14/the-kings-of-israel-and-judah

Spiritual State and the Kings of Israel
Photo Credit: www.flester.com

Back and forth we seem to be going at this point.  Good king… bad king… good king… bad king… good king… and now we’ve come to Manasseh, arguably the worst king of Judah.  According to what we read today, Manasseh did more evil in the sight of God than the combined evil of all the nations that were present in the land of Canaan prior to the conquest of Israel back in Joshua.  This comment is made in a two-fold manner, I think, in that it is meant to communicate two particular things when it comes to the nation of Judah under the reign of Manasseh.  First, it is communicating the sheer quantity and quality of the evil that is being done.  Manasseh too has burned his sons and set up alters and places to worship other gods, even in the courts of the temple.  He also sets up an image of another god in the Temple itself.  All of which are utterly detestable in the sight of God.

Also, the phrase about the amount of evil done by Manasseh and the people of Judah during this time period is meant to draw a parallel between the people of God at this time and the many nations of people that were exterminated by Israel when they conquered the land of Canaan, a judgment that was brought on them because of the evil that they were doing in the sight of the Lord.  Judah, now, as we are told, has done more evil than all of them put together.  What happened to those nations?  Judgment.  The writer of Chronicles is drawing this parallel, showing that even though God is patient, there is a limit to it, and a limit to how long He will tolerate sin.  We see this in in Genesis 15 when God says to Abraham, “…for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete.”  When it was complete, they were wiped out.

Josiah Finds the Book of the Law: Photo Credit: www.kenrick.edu

Josiah Finds the Book of the Law:
Photo Credit: www.kenrick.edu

Unfortunately, this parallel is drawn and confirmed by Huldah the prophetess to King Josiah many years later after the book of the Law has been found.  God speaks through her to King Josiah saying, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: “Tell the man who sent you to me, Thus says the Lord, Behold, I will bring disaster upon this place and upon its inhabitants, all the curses that are written in the book that was read before the king of Judah.  Because they have forsaken me and have made offerings to other gods, that they might provoke me to anger with all the works of their hands, therefore my wrath will be poured out on this place and will not be quenched.

This is bad news for Josiah, due largely to the sins of his grand father.  Yet even today’s reading is not without its message and juxtaposition between good and evil.  Remember, the audience that is bring written to is the returned exiles of Judah.  The writer of the Chronicles is indeed recounting the history of Judah, that they may know who they are AND that they may better know the God that they worship.  Two times in today’s readings we see a profound repentance and the mercy of God.  One is of Josiah, the repentance of whom stays the wrath of God for at least a generation.  The other though, is a bit more profound in that the man classified as doing more evil than that of 10 Canaanite nations, and quite possibly responsible for bringing about the exile of Judah, also repents of his sins while in captivity in Babylon.  Does God leave him to his imprisonment?  NO!  In fact, God restores him to the throne and we read that it is then that Manasseh knows that the Lord is God and he turns from his evil ways.  Is this not true of us as well?  When we turn from our sin, we understand all the more how great and abundant the grace of God is.



Day 112: 2 Kings 21-23; The Beginning of the End of Judah

The narrative of the Kingdom of Judah after Israel’s exile is that of stark contrasts in leadership and therefore the people’s following of God.  After we read about King Hezekiah, one of the greatest kings of God’s chosen people, we read about his son, Manasseh.  This is a narrative of contrasts.  Hezekiah did what was right in the sight of the Lord, undoing all that his fathers had done before him.  Manasseh, on the other hand, undid all that King Hezekiah had accomplished and led the people of Israel down a road from which they would not be able to return.

English: Manasses was a king of the Kingdom of...

English: Manasses was a king of the Kingdom of Judah. He was the only son and successor of Hezekiah. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Manasseh was quite possibly one of the worst kings to ever rule over Judah.  I guess its one thing to inherit a kingdom of wickedness and just continue in it, but it is an entirely other thing to assume the throne of a kingdom that has been righted of its wrongs by your father, and then go after everything that had just been abolished.  Manasseh really had it made as far as the Kingdom of Judah was concerned.  His father had fixed everything, torn down all the idols and gotten rid of all the of the idol worshipers and such, yet he turned out wicked, incredibly wicked.  He shed innocent blood.  He rebuild alters and idols.  He even placed idols of Asherah in the Temple of the Lord.  In fact, he was so wicked that his actions provoked the Lord to anger in such a way that He pronounced the same judgment of Exile that He pronounced on Israel.

When Amon, the son of Manasseh, takes over, I’m sure you were hoping and praying that things would get better.  However, they didn’t.  Unfortunately, or fortunately I guess, Amon was assassinated by his servants after two years and was replaced by his 8 year old son Josiah.  Its pretty sad when people think that an 8 year old can run a kingdom better than  you can.

King Josiah hears the Law Photo Credit: http://lavistachurchofchrist.org/Pictures/Divided%20Kingdom%20Artwork/target1.html

King Josiah hears the Law
Photo Credit: www.lavistachurchofchrist.org

Josiah is the contrast to both Amon and Manasseh.  Like Hezekiah, Josiah is a good king.  In fact, he is a great king!  Scripture says that he did not turn from the ways of the Lord to the right or to the left.  He put forth money to rebuild the temple and during that process, the priests discovered the book of the Law of Moses.  It is interesting to think that the people of God, even those living in Jerusalem and/or serving in the Temple of the Lord had somehow lost this very precious thing.  So they examine it and read it and when they do they are cut to the heart.  Josiah weeps before the Lord and tears his clothes.  He realizes instantly how sinful they have been.  Josiah then devotes the rest of his life to setting things straight.  He does again what Hezekiah did, which was undone by Manasseh.  The idols are torn down, the idol worshipers are removed.  He kills all the priests of the false gods.  AND… King Josiah reinstates the Passover!!!  We read here that it hadn’t been celebrated since the time of the judges… that would be several hundred years at least.  Do you remember what God said about the Passover when it was first instituted?  Exodus 12:14 says,

This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast.

Seems like the people of God have forgotten their past, their history… their heritage.  It was God who got them to where they are now, and for hundreds of years they have just ignored it.  I wonder if this is something that has happened in the Church today… or even in our country.  I won’t go so far as to say this is a Christian nation, but I think that in many ways, it was believers that founded this country.  That’s not to say that we are perfect.  It was believers (some of them anyway) that committed some of the horrible atrocities against the native peoples of this land.  Yet many people came here seeking the ability and freedom to worship and serve God as they felt called.  Some 400 years later, the Church is in a steady decline and it seems that Christianity doesn’t matter anymore.  I wonder if we’ve forgotten our legacy… who brought us here… or why we are even here at all.

You see, the Church’s legacy isn’t America.  The Church’s history is not Western power or cultural influence.  The Church’s message is not the lights, the music, the “authentic community” or anything else that we can cleverly conjure up to make ourselves more relevant.  THE CHURCH’S LEGACY IS JESUS CHRIST.  He is our only message, our only hope, our only savior.  We are here today because of what He did for us 2,000 years ago.  Not because of what we have done, but because of what He did for us.  It is time we wake up and realize who we are… and whose we are…