Well, this is it. The chapters that describe the last days of the Southern Nation of Judah. Their last three disasterous Kings, the invasion of Babylon and the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple.
This is a sad bit of reading, but it is a bit of reading that we should take as warning. Although God is loving, merciful, patient and kind (all New Testament attributes that we fail to attribute to the Old Testament pictures of God, even though I have tried to point out that those attributes are very present in the Old Testament scriptures), we must also remember that he will only be ignored, disobeyed, rebelled against so long. Even in our New Testament grace soaked faith, we must remember that judgement and punishment WILL come at the end before God’s eternal Kingdom is established. Those who refuse God’s offer of mercy through the blood of Jesus Christ will face judgement, just as God acted out judgement here against Judah.
I hope you notice that even at the end, even during the reign of King Zedekiah, God was offering the people a way out. Submit to Babylon and you will not be completely destroyed. But even this warning goes unheeded as Zedekiah joins with Egypt and the other nations to oppose the Babylonian invasion…an opposition that was doomed to failure from the beginning.
It is interesting to note that Babylon destroyed Judah in stages. After military victories, they took the learned, the gifted, the wise, the military and the craftsmen and deported them to Babylon (this is likely when Ezekiel, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were taken to Babylon). A nation is in pretty dire straights when the cream of the crop is removed. Those people were then “integrated” into Babylonian culture. They were given jobs, put in positions of leadership, adopted into the Babylonian army. They learned the language, studied their philosophy, were given their clothes to wear, their food to eat. They became Babylonian. In the process, Babylon got stronger.
Then, after the nation had fallen, Babylon would bring in foreigners to fill the fallen nation, people already familiar with Babylonian culture, religion, commerce. So the conquered nation slowly became Babylonian. It was a brilliant means of expanding their culture through conquest and cultural expansion.
But let’s be clear about something. Babylon did not destroy Judah. Judah destroyed Judah from the inside out. A British political leader named Richard Cobden once remarked “Every great nation fell by suicide.” Both Judah and Israel committed suicide by allowing spiritual and moral decay. Their rebellious hearts, their disobedient ways, their refusal to follow God led to their destruction. Babylon was merely the tool God used to strike the final blow.
It is a warning for us to make sure we are not allowing the same decay into our own lives and hearts.
- What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
- What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
- Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
- How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
- What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?
Tomorrow’s Reading: Habakkuk 1-3