Monday, November 12, 2012

2 Kings 24 & 25: The Fall of Jerusalem

2 Kings 24:12-17 In the eighth year of the reign of the king of Babylon, he took Jehoiachin prisoner. As the Lord had declared, Nebuchadnezzar removed all the treasures from the temple of the Lord and from the royal palace, and took away all the gold articles that Solomon king of Israel had made for the temple of the Lord. He carried into exile all Jerusalem: all the officers and fighting men, and all the craftsmen and artisans — a total of ten thousand. Only the poorest people of the land were left. Nebuchadnezzar took Jehoiachin captive to Babylon. He also took from Jerusalem to Babylon the king's mother, his wives, his officials and the leading men of the land. The king of Babylon also deported to Babylon the entire force of seven thousand fighting men, strong and fit for war, and a thousand craftsmen and artisans. He made Mattaniah, Jehoiachin's uncle, king in his place and changed his name to Zedekiah.

2 Kings 25:8-15 On the seventh day of the fifth month, in the nineteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, Nebuzaradan commander of the imperial guard, an official of the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem. He set fire to the temple of the Lord, the royal palace and all the houses of Jerusalem. Every important building he burned down. The whole Babylonian army, under the commander of the imperial guard, broke down the walls around Jerusalem. Nebuzaradan the commander of the guard carried into exile the people who remained in the city, along with the rest of the populace and those who had gone over to the king of Babylon. But the commander left behind some of the poorest people of the land to work the vineyards and fields. The Babylonians broke up the bronze pillars, the movable stands and the bronze Sea that were at the temple of the Lord and they carried the bronze to Babylon. They also took away the pots, shovels, wick trimmers, dishes and all the bronze articles used in the temple service. The commander of the imperial guard took away the censers and sprinkling bowls — all that were made of pure gold or silver.

Finally, the end came for Judah. Jerusalem and all its important buildings (including Solomon's temple) were burned to the ground and whatever that was of value that could be taken back to Babylon - including human talent, gold and silver - was carted away. Nebuchadnezzar deported the cream of Jewish society to Babylon as imported "foreign talent" and left the poorest behind to work on the vineyards and the fields. Such was the tragic end of Jerusalem and its holy places. But it was not the end of Judah as a people of God. The land must be kept holy and sinning Judah, like her sister Israel, had to be evicted from the land: "Surely these things happened to Judah according to the Lord's command, in order to remove them from his presence because of the sins of Manasseh and all he had done, including the shedding of innocent blood. For he had filled Jerusalem with innocent blood, and the Lord was not willing to forgive(2 Kings 24:3-4).

Such statement as "the Lord was not willing to forgive" seems to us New Testament believers a theological aberration. Was the Old Testament God different from the New Testament God? Was God now more tolerant and forgiving towards sinners compared to the Old Testament? I don't think so. In fact, calling the Hebrew Scriptures the "Old" Testament already shows us that we  think the Old Testament God is "passe". For Jesus and the apostles, the "Old Testament" was the only Scripture they had.

But let's read what the NT passages say about God's wrath:

Matt 3:7-8 (John the Baptist) said: "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance."

Luke 21:23-24 (Jesus said, speaking of the last days): "There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled."

John 3:36 (Jesus said): "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him." 

Rom 1:18-19 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.

Rom 2:5 But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.

Rom 5:9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him!

Rom 9:22-24 What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath — prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory— even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?

Col 3:5-6 Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.

1 Thess 1:9-10 They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead — Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.

Rev 6:16-17 They called to the mountains and the rocks, "Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?" 

God's attitude towards sins and sinners has not changed from the "Old" days -- He is "the same yesterday, today and forever" (Heb. 13:8). The only way anyone can escape God's wrath to experience His grace is by putting his or her trust in His Son Jesus Christ who through his atoning sacrifice at the Cross has turned away  God's wrath from us who were once sinners and now given the new status as sons/daughters and saints.

But let's not think that believers will escape God's wrath if we indulge in sins. God has never become more easy with sins in the "New" Testament. If we become  careless and casual towards sins, we are guilty of trampling the Blood of Jesus Christ: "How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," and again, "The Lord will judge his people."   It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God (Heb 10:29-31).

Father, thank You for Your amazing grace that delivers us out of wrath into Your loving arms because of the Blood shed for us. Help us fear Your wrath and judgement so that we will stay away from sins. Amen.

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