Wednesday, 11 June 2014

(163) June 12: 2 Chronicles 34-36 & John 19:1-22

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.

To discover:­­
As you read note why Judah went into exile.

To ponder:
Like Hezekiah, Josiah is a great king, not turning from the ways of David. He is also a challenge to teenagers, first seeking God when 16 years old (34v3 and 1). At 20 he then began the godly act of ridding Judah of her idolatry (see notes on 2 Kgs 23). At 26 he sought to “repair the temple.” 34v8 may read “when he had purged the land and the temple.” So having got rid of false worship he established true worship. Reform of the church takes time.
            The repairs were done with money brought in worship by Judah, Benjamin and the “remnant” of Israel who had emigrated there out of a desire to be faithful. We should not be surprised that the building the church has always been funded and performed by a core. All was done faithfully and under the supervision of the Levites, as they were responsible for the things of the temple.
            The book of the law was probably Deuteronomy (or its form then) as it recounts the curses for sin (34v24, Deut 27-28). Josiah’s response to reading it is a model for us as we come to scripture. He mourns his sin and that of God’s people, enquiring of God as to what should be done for him and them. He acknowledges God’s anger is “great” and already “poured out,” no doubt in the exile of the north and the hostility faced by the south. Moreover, he is clear this is because previous generations had not kept God’s word in the book. This assumes the words of Deuteronomy and God’s words are one, and ensures the reader understands why the north and later south were conquered. The prophetess Huldah predicts future disaster on both “the place” (ie. temple) and “people” because of their idolatry, and according to the curses in the book. This refers to the coming exile by Babylon. The note that God’s anger is unquenchable therefore means that it will not be extinguished and so these events will definitely happen, despite Josiah’s faithfulness. However, because of his repentance Josiah will be saved from the disaster through death – a reminder that we are saved from judgement by humbling ourselves with tears over our sin.
            In continuing his reforms anyway, Josiah shows we should not sit back from building the church because we have our salvation. Central is his celebration of the Passover. The note that the ark needed to be put in the temple suggests it had been removed elsewhere, perhaps to a high place. With it returned, Josiah and his officials contribute sacrifices and offerings, and are careful that the instructions of both David and Moses are followed. The sense is that during the feast, things hadn’t been as honouring to God since the time of Samuel! Yet Jesus celebrates a Passover of an even greater order, contributing his very life, rather than just animals, and having billions from all nations feast on him.
            As with previous kings, Josiah showed himself fallible, foolishly engaging in Egypt’s conflict without enquiring of the LORD, and ignoring the Egyptian king’s claim that he was doing God’s will and so Josiah was “opposing God.” Yet this proved God’s means of saving Josiah as promised (34v28), and didn’t detract from his supremacy, marked by the laments that were sung for him from then on.
            The next three kings all did evil. They reflect the decline of the southern kingdom as both the monarchy and temple (here, its items, assumed in 36v3), the two aspects of God’s promise to David, are repeatedly removed (Jehoakim may not have actually been taken to Babylon, 2 Kgs 24v1-6). The sin of the kings and people is then confirmed under Zedekiah. He refused to humble himself before God’s word through Zechariah, broke his oath in God’s name by rebelling against Nebuchadnezzar, and would not bow his head or soften his heart to God. Moreover, the leaders of the priests and people increased in their unfaithfulness, defiling the temple and mocking God’s prophets who he sent in pity. And so, just as defiled items might be destroyed to remove them from God’s presence, God handed the nation over to Nebuchadnezzar, who killed the people, including those serving in the sanctuary, plundered and burnt the temple, and destroyed Jerusalem’s wall and palaces. Although it wasn’t literally the case, the sense of 36v20 is that all God’s people were either killed or taken to Babylon to serve its king and his sons rather than God.
God’s people were no longer in his place and under his rule and ruler. His purpose therefore seems thwarted. But the book ends in hope: The note about the land enjoying its Sabbath shows God still had plans for it, and was just ensuring Israel’s failure to obey him was put right. And so, after the seventy years he specified, God moved Cyrus, the conqueror of Babylon, a pagan king, to build a new temple for him at Jerusalem and allow the people to return. God had not forgotten his promises to David, Israel or Abraham.

Praying it home:
Praise God that because of his faithfulness, nothing can hinder the fulfilment of his promises. Pray that you give your whole self to heeding God’s word as Josiah did.

Thinking further:
None today.
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