Day 90—The End of the Southern Kingdom —“How Grace Works” 2 Kings 22:1 – 25:30
March 31, 2021, 6:22 AM

Day 90—The End of the Southern Kingdom —“How Grace Works” 2 Kings 22:1 – 25:30

And just like that, it’s over! Both the Northern and the Southern kingdoms fall into the hands of powers greater than their own, but it happens after a period of time when we see the gradual dissolution of the moral and spiritual structure of both kingdoms.

Most notable for me today—King Josiah’s high priest, Hilkiah, re-discovers the Book of the Law given to Moses, and required to be read aloud to the peoples of the nations every year. Remember back in Deuteronomy when Moses tells the people that they must read the law aloud every seven years? (Deut 31: 11) What happened between the time of the Judges and the time of the Kings that they Law had been forgotten? I’m genuinely mystified—how could something this foundational, this important, simply get lost in the kingdom? For 600 years?

But King Josiah (good/good) at the ripe age of 18 recognizes the importance of the document that the High Priest has discovered, and Josiah begins, like Hezekiah many years before him,  a major clean up of the nation, destroying high altars to pagan gods, broke and burned images of other gods, and calling for the first celebration of the Passover in hundreds of years. What an amazing undertaking for such a young man, but his focus is clear—the land and all that it is in it must glorify the LORD, the one God.

But still the LORD determines that Jerusalem shall fall, just as Israel, the Northern kingdom, has fallen, and so we read of the removal of Kings of Judah who are captured and forced to serve King Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, or who live their lives imprisoned—except for the odd and abrupt release of Jehoiachin at the very end, who then dines at the King’s table every day and receives an allowance from the king??? Scholars don’t really have any good information about why that happened, but I imagine Jehoiachin was profoundly grateful.

Today’s reading makes me ask the question: what happens when we lose our foundational texts? What happens when we disregard, or forget, or stray from guiding principles or essential truths that God has given the people to know and to follow? What happens when God becomes a charming habit in our lives rather than a foundation we stand on? What happens when we entirely forget God?

First, God never forgets us, and that is consoling to me. Even in the midst of the worst disobedience, God was aware of what was going on in the world. Now, there were strong consequences for ignoring God or for being deliberately disobedient to God, but God never entirely gave up on his creation. I like to think that there are ways that people are able to access God’s truth even when it is not something that they are taught, and I have read enough to know that this can be true. In other words, we worry about those in our lives who may not know God, but God finds a way to introduce himself to people, whether it is through nature or music or life itself, God finds a way to get our attention, our affection, our allegiance.

Second, I have been talking about what I see for the past several years—when God becomes irrelevant to the culture, whether during the time of ancient kings or now, the people lose their sense of direction, and they lose, or never discover, their primary identity as children of God. Without that primary identity, we have to look elsewhere for the validation of who we are, what we are, why we are. Not all of this is bad because people are called to higher purposes all the time even without faith, but I find have found this at funerals, weddings, in the midst of pandemics or other unthinkable tragedies—when we do not find our identity in God, we may have a kind of bereft, unmoored sense of trying to find an identity. And our culture is rife with a variety of options for that. I am not at all a doomsday prophet, but I feel that there is a greater unrest, a greater dissatisfaction, a greater search for meaning and purpose in our world today, and the world is simply unable to completely satisfy that search. Notice I said ‘completely’, not that the world does not provide any ability to help us find our self and our purpose, but the guiding principles matter, which means that the texts that remind us of those principles matter.

What are you learning in the foundational texts of the Bible as you read through? I already told you that I am learning again about the corruption that power inevitably brings, I am learning how deep and how wide the care of the LORD is for his people, even when they turn away, I am seeing a kind of violence that shocks me, but I am reminded that I should be shocked at violence in my world right now as well, I am learning that I have to trust God even more, because while it seems impossible for the people of God to figure out how to effectively follow God, but we know that Jesus is coming.

Tomorrow we begin a retelling of alllllll the stories we just read. 1 and 2 Chronicles present the brighter picture of history, and it is retold because the Chronicler knows that the people who have been exiled in Babylonia have forgotten their story, their history, their essential texts, and the Chronicler hopes to remind and strengthen them as they come back to Jerusalem. The people will be called again to find their identity in the One God, the God of the nation of Israel, the God of the chosen people, the creator of all. And so are we.

Be blessed and be a blessing to others,

ML

 

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