Monday, December 31, 2012

2 Chron 34:29-32 Then the king called together all the elders of Judah and Jerusalem. He went up to the temple of the Lord with the men of Judah, the people of Jerusalem, the priests and the Levites — all the people from the least to the greatest. He read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant, which had been found in the temple of the Lord. The king stood by his pillar and renewed the covenant in the presence of the Lord-to follow the Lord and keep his commands, regulations and decrees with all his heart and all his soul, and to obey the words of the covenant written in this book. Then he had everyone in Jerusalem and Benjamin pledge themselves to it; the people of Jerusalem did this in accordance with the covenant of God, the God of their fathers.

2 Chron 36:15-21 The Lord, the God of their fathers, sent word to them through his messengers again and again, because he had pity on his people and on his dwelling place. But they mocked God's messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the Lord was aroused against his people and there was no remedy. He brought up against them the king of the Babylonians, who killed their young men with the sword in the sanctuary, and spared neither young man nor young woman, old man or aged. God handed all of them over to Nebuchadnezzar. He carried to Babylon all the articles from the temple of God, both large and small, and the treasures of the Lord's temple and the treasures of the king and his officials. They set fire to God's temple and broke down the wall of Jerusalem; they burned all the palaces and destroyed everything of value there. He carried into exile to Babylon the remnant, who escaped from the sword, and they became servants to him and his sons until the kingdom of Persia came to power. The land enjoyed its sabbath rests; all the time of its desolation it rested, until the seventy years were completed in fulfillment of the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah.

Despite the revival that took place under Josiah's reign, after he made Judah pledged to keep the laws of Moses and the massive celebration of the Passover, never done by any king before him since the days of Samuel, it was too little too late. The next few kings following Josiah (Jehoahaz, Jehoiachin, and Zedekiah) reverted back to the old evil practices and God's final judgement on Judah came during the ministry of Jeremiah who saw the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple under the Babylonians and the exile of the Jews into Babylon for 70 years until the Persians came to power. The northern kingdom of Israel was already carried into exile by the Assyrians in 722 BC. And now Judah, 136 years later in 586 BC was carried into exile by the Babylonians.

Despite God's sending prophets after prophets to warn Judah of the dangerous path they were treading, the nation continued its backsliding until God's patience ran out: "The Lord, the God of their fathers, sent word to them through his messengers again and again, because he had pity on his people and on his dwelling place. But they mocked God's messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the Lord was aroused against his people and there was no remedy" (36:15-16).

The rise of the prophetic movement (oral prophets like Elijah, Elisha, etc and literary prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah to Malachi), took place during the time of the monarchy as the divine response to Israel and Judah's continual backsliding. God always has his spokesmen to warn His people in times of crisis and danger. But we have to learn to listen to His prophets and not ignore them. Just as in the days of kings of Israel and Judah, God will remove the lampstand from our midst if we refuse to repent. The example in the New Testament of the seven churches is a warning to any church that thinks it can always carry on its business as usual with no regard to God's spoken or written word: "Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place" (Rev 2:4-5). The disappearance of all the seven churches located in Asia Minor (now Islamic Turkey) is a negative testimony that our Lord's warning through His prophets should not be soft-pedaled. Grace gives us an opportunity for repentance, but not an excuse for sin.

Lord Jesus, You came to make salvation possible by paying the great price of shedding Your blood at the Cross. Help us never to take this grace for granted because we know that when we reject Your grace, there remains only judgement. Amen.

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