Tuesday, March 26
II Chronicles 36:11-23 (CEB)
11 Zedekiah was 21 years old when he became king, and he ruled for eleven years in Jerusalem. 12 He did what was evil in the Lord his God’s eyes and didn’t submit before the prophet Jeremiah, who spoke for the Lord. 13 Moreover, he rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar, despite the solemn pledge Nebuchadnezzar had forced him to swear in God’s name. He became stubborn and refused to turn back to the Lord, Israel’s God.14 All the leaders of the priests and the people also grew increasingly unfaithful, following all the detestable practices of the nations. They polluted the Lord’s temple that God had dedicated in Jerusalem. 15 Time and time again, the Lord, the God of their ancestors, sent word to them through his messengers because he had compassion on his people and his dwelling. 16 But they made fun of God’s messengers, treating God’s words with contempt and ridiculing God’s prophets to such an extent that there was no hope of warding off the Lord’s rising anger against his people.
17 So God brought the Babylonian king against them. The king killed their young men with the sword in their temple’s sanctuary, and showed no pity for young men or for virgins, for the old or for the feeble. God handed all of them over to him. 18 Then the king hauled everything off to Babylon, every item from God’s temple, both large and small, including the treasures of the Lord’s temple and those of the king and his officials.19 Next the Babylonians burned God’s temple down, demolished the walls of Jerusalem, and set fire to all its palaces, destroying everything of value. 20 Finally, he exiled to Babylon anyone who survived the killing so that they could be his slaves and the slaves of his children until Persia came to power. 21 This is how the Lord’s word spoken by Jeremiah was carried out. The land finally enjoyed its sabbath rest. For as long as it lay empty, it rested, until seventy years were completed.
22 In the first year of Persia’s King Cyrus, to carry out the Lord’s promise spoken through Jeremiah, the Lord moved Persia’s King Cyrus to issue the following proclamation throughout his kingdom, along with a written decree:
23 This is what Persia’s King Cyrus says: The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the earth’s kingdoms and has instructed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Whoever among you belong to God’s people, let them go up, and may the Lord their God be with them!
Points of Interest
- The two part book of Chronicles retells the story of Samuel and Kings from a different vantage point. Samuel and Kings were written earlier, during exile, trying to make sense of the end of the nation. Chronicles is written after Israel is reengaged in developing a collective civic and religious life, in a rebuilt temple. In Kings, the temple is Solomon’s, in Chronicles it is God’s. The Bible doesn’t have a single angle on many things. Authors, though inspired by God, are influenced by their times, their culture, and their perspective. God lets God’s children tell the story.
- One thing that can be helpful or challenging for readers of Chronicles is the author’s insistence that a just God is orchestrating all events. King Zedekiah was godless and didn’t listen to the prophet or keep his promise to his international colleague. The leaders and the priests assimilated to the faith of surrounding cultures, messed up Jerusalem’s religious practice, and wouldn’t listen to God’s warnings. Therefore God gets angry and uses a bigger country to wipe them out. The black and white clarity and a certain kind of justice proposed are encouraging from one angle – the world is not chaotic or nihilistic; there is order and justice. Everything happens for a reason. On the other hand, the idea that an angry God set in motion mass killing, raping, destruction, and exile is difficult for most of us to swallow. Is this consistent with a faithful God of love? Was this really necessary?
- All we can say is that the authors of Chronicles thought so, and this gave them comfort. God lets God’s children tell the story. Part of faithful Bible reading is to question what we read, ask if it is consistent with what we know of God revealed in Jesus Christ, and to draw our own conclusions.
- There’s a bit of ecological justice woven into the story. God’s people needed a timeout of sorts, but the land did as well. As crop scientists know, land needs rest, not just people.
- The Jewish Bible orders some books differently than do Christians. This is the last chapter in Jewish Bible. There’s a hopeful ending here, a fast-forward to the time when Jews were commissioned to restore their temple and nation, and an invitation to all God’s people to worship and do the work of God in our time.
A Direction for Prayer
Pray for your church, that each time people gather to worship, they will honor and love God with their whole hearts, and be inspired to hope and to do God’s work in their time.
Spiritual Exercise of the Week
Growing Hope – This week, the exercise will vary slightly from day to day. Each day, though, you’ll be invited to grow hope in your own wild place of exile – a loss that you or your culture has suffered, a dream that has died, some way that you don’t belong, don’t fit, or aren’t understood in your current context.
The temptation in exile is to a death of faith or a loss of hope. Today, follow the lead of this passage, and look for signs of hope in your life or your generation. Make a list of what gives you hope for the future; consider sharing this list with a friend.