“Wolf, Wolf, There is a Wolf” – 2 Chronicles 36

April 28th,  2013

2 Chronicles 36

(see also 2 Kings 23:31-25:50; Jeremiah 21:3-7; 22:18-23; Ch 24; 25:1-26; 27:6-8; Ch 36; 39:1-10; 52:4-27; Ezekiel 17:11-21; 20:1-32; Daniel 1:1-2)

“Wolf, Wolf, There is a Wolf”

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Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken from him.”  — Luke 8:18

 

Background Information:

  • The pace of the narrative noticeably quickens in this passage.  If chapters 33-35 depicted ascents to glory, here there is a rapid plunging to ruin.  Like so many lemmings, king after king tumbles into exile.  They topple to destruction as if possessed by the demons of the Gadarene swine.  (Leslie Allen, Mastering the OT, 1, 2 Chr, 435)
  • Three of the last four kings of Judah are known by more than one name: Shallum/Jehoahaz, Eliakim/Jehoiakim, Mattaniah/Zedekiah, the latter two receiving their throne names from the monarchs who installed them.  The right to assign a name to an individual implied authority over him.  (Raymond B. Dillard, Word Biblical Commentary, Vol. 15, 299)
  • King Nebuchadnezzar and Pharaoh Neco battled again in 601 B.C.  The resulting stalemate between Babylonia and Egypt afforded Jehoiakim the opportunity to throw off the yoke of vassalage and rebel against Nebuchadnezzar.  The Babylonian king was occupied with rebellion elsewhere in his kingdom and was unable to retaliate against Judah until December 598 B.C., the very month King Jehoiakim died.  Jehoiachin succeeded his father as king of Judah but surrendered to Nebuchadnezzar after a three-month siege (2 Kgs 24:10-11; 2 Chr 36:9).  Jehoiachin was deported to Babylonia along with the queen mother, other high-ranking officials, and numerous craftsmen and artisans (2 Kgs 24:12-17).  Jehoiachin’s uncle, Mattaniah (also called Zedekiah) was installed as a puppet king in his stead by the Babylonians.

Zedekiah was a weak king, unable to control the resurgent nationalism in Judah and apparently easily manipulated by the nobles and advisers around him.  After a series of political missteps, Zedekiah finally rebelled against the king of Babylon in 589 B.C.  The Babylonian response was swift and thorough.  King Nebuchadnezzar lay siege to Jerusalem early in 588 B.C.  The end came in July of 587 B.C., with the carnage so appalling and the devastation so sweeping that survivors could only sit aghast in silence as they mourned “the Daughter of Zion” (see the book of Lamentations).  (Andrew E. Hill, The NIV Application Commentary: 1 & 2 Chr, 640-41)

  • (v. 1) With the early, unexpected death of Josiah, the people of the land once more step forward, and name Josiah’s youngest son Jehoahaz king in his father’s place (see 1 Chr 3:15).  That the youngest son should be made king is unusual, but not without precedent.  Solomon and Abijah were both youngest sons, named as heirs by their fathers; presumably, in naming Jehoahaz, the people of the land were carrying out Josiah’s wishes.  However, this choice is not permitted to stand.  Within three months of Jehoahaz’s accession, Neco, whose troops now occupy Palestine, deposes Jehoahaz and deports him to Egypt (36:4//2 Kgs 23:34).  The Pharaoh lays a heavy tribute on Judah, and appoints a new king of his own choosing: Jehoahaz’ older brother Jehoiakim.  Judah is now an Egyptian vassal.  (Steven S. Tuell, Interpretation: 1 & 2 Chr, 242-43)
  • (vss. 1-3) Jehoahaz was the fourth son of Josiah, so it is somewhat unusual to see him assume power ahead of his brothers.  Some commentators put forth an interesting opinion to explain this.  They assert that the people of the land supported Josiah’s desire to remain free from Egyptian influence, so the Israelites put a son of his on the throne whom they knew would continue his father’s policies.  Certainly it is true that the choice of Jehoahaz was not at all pleasing to the Egyptians, since Neco replaced him with his brother while on the way back to Egypt from Carchemish (see 35:20; 2 Kgs 23:31, 34).  The Chronicler also gives us one piece of information that might lend more credibility to the idea.  Not only did Neco depose Jehoahaz, he also imposed a fine (the word translated “levy” in v 3 means “money due as a penalty”) on the land of Judah.  A punishing fine makes perfect sense if the Egyptian king saw the act of the people of Judah as one of rebellion against himself.  (Paul O. Wendland, The People’s Bible, 2 Chr, 422-23)
  • (v. 3) The political misfortune was the providential beginning of the end for Judah.  It was a far cry from the glorious reigns of David and Solomon, when tribute money flowed into Jerusalem.  Neco’s heavy-handedness in taxing the people reminds the reader of another king of Egypt, Shishak, who rode roughshod over Judah and Jerusalem in an expression of God’s wrath (12:1-12).  Once more the Judeans are “servants” (12:8) to an Egyptian king.  (Leslie Allen, Mastering the OT, 1, 2 Chr, 436)
  • (vss. 3-4) The reign of Jehoahaz, otherwise known as Shallum (Jer 22:11), is the least fully documented, perhaps because of its brevity.  2 Kgs 23:32 records that “he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord”, a fact which Chronicles leaves us to infer.  Jeremiah also records his exile to Egypt (22:11f.).  In the immediate aftermath of Josiah’s fall at Megiddo, Judah was under Egyptian control until the decisive battle of Carchemish (605 B.C.).  It was thus that Pharaoh Neco could determine who reigned there.  His alteration of Eliakim’s name to Jehoiakim effects no real change of meaning except to substitute part of the Lord’s personal name Yahweh (=Jeho-) for the more general name for God.  This amounts to an acknowledgment by Neco that Yahweh ruled in Israel.  (J. G. McConville, The Daily Study Bible Series, 1 & 2 Chr, 266)
  • (vss. 5-6) One main source of information about Jehoiakim is the Book of Jeremiah, which deals in much more detail with the period which Chronicles here passes over quickly.  Jehoiakim appears there as one who showed flagrant and haughty disregard for the word of God as spoken by the prophet (see especially Jer 36:9-26).  It is only in Chronicles, however, that we are told that Nebuchadnezzar “bound him in fetters to take him to Babylon” (v 6).  (J. G. McConville, The Daily Study Bible Series, 1 & 2 Chr, 266)
  • (v. 6) Three different times Nebuchadnezzar deported Jews from Jerusalem.  The first one occurred under Jehoiakim.  The Babylonians carried off treasure and a few young men.  This first deportation included Daniel and his three friends (Dan 1:1-4).  (Broadman & Holman Pub, Shepherd’s Notes, 1, 2 Chr, 90)
  • (v. 6) It is unclear whether or not Jehoiakim was actually taken to Babylon.  The Chronicler merely noted that he had been bound in order to be taken.  Perhaps the threat of exile sufficed to subdue Jehoiakim.  If the king was actually taken away, he left in 605 BC when Daniel and his companions were exiled (36:7; see Dan 1:1-3; Jer 46:2).  (Richard L. Pratt, 1 & 2 Chr, A Mentor Commentary, 502)
  • (v. 6) In 605 B.C., the third year of Jehoiakim’s reign (Dan 1:1, 2), Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon put an end to Egyptian power in Palestine by defeating King Neco at the battle of Carchemish.  As Nebuchadnezzar pursued the Egyptian king back to his homeland, he stopped off at Jerusalem to collect some tribute from “the temple of the LORD” (v 7).  From now on Nebuchadnezzar wanted Jehoiakim to acknowledge Babylon’s power as supreme.  (Paul O. Wendland, The People’s Bible, 2 Chr, 423)
  • (v. 6) Jehoiakim remained loyal to Babylon only so long as there was no chance of desertion, but after the Egyptians had fought Nebuchadnezzar to a draw in 601, he withheld tribute.  The great king revamped and strengthened his army and returned in 598, laid the city under siege and captured it on the second of Adar, 597, 15/16 of March by our calendar.  (Jacob M. Myers, The Anchor Bible, 2 Chr, 220)
  • (v. 10) The identification of Zedekiah as Jehoiachin’s “uncle” is probably a case where the Hebrew word “brother” should be understood in the broader sense of “relative” (2 Chr 36:10; cf. 2 Kgs 24:17; this means the genealogy of Josiah in 1    Chr 3:15-16 mentions two different Zedekiahs).  (Andrew E. Hill, The NIV Application Commentary: 1 & 2 Chr, 641)
  • (v. 10) The second deportation occurred under Jehoiachin.  This time Nebuchadnezzar expatriated thousands of Jews and relocated them to Babylon.  These people were designated for slave labor on a canal excavation project.  Among them was Ezekiel (Ezek 1:1).  Thus, a sizeable number of Jews was already in Babylon by the time Jerusalem finally fell.  (Broadman & Holman Pub, Shepherd’s Notes, 1, 2 Chr, 90)
  • (v. 10) On 22 April 597, King Nebuchadnezzar had Jehoiachin deported from Jerusalem; and he was “brought…to Babylon” along with a second and more extensive deportation (see on v 7).  This included the prophet Ezekiel and ten thousand of the leaders and skilled workers that made up the backbone of Jewish society (cf. 2 Kgs 24:10-16).  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 4, 557)
  • (v. 11) As the last of the 20 monarchs of the southern kingdom, his (Zedekiah’s) 11-year reign extended from 597 to 586 B.C.  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 4, 557)
  • (vss. 11-13)  The Book of Jeremiah depicts Zedekiah as an insecure, weak, hunted man, under pressure from his “hawks” to resist Babylon, yet not unwilling to appeal to Jeremiah and hear his message of non-resistance.  (See e.g. Jer 38:19-26; cf. 37:3.)  Finally bending, however, to the pressure to declare independence, he pays a heavy price, himself deported, with the loss of his sons and his eyes (2 Kgs 25:7).  Chronicles condemns his rebellion because it constituted the breach of an oath to the Lord, v. 13 (cf. Ezek 17:12-21, which elaborates this aspect of Zedekiah’s disobedience).  (J. G. McConville, The Daily Study Bible Series, 1 & 2 Chr, 267)
  • (v. 18) The third deportation involved the destruction of Jerusalem and most of the people of Judah.  Only the aged and infirm were allowed to remain.  Jeremiah the prophet ministered in Jerusalem in the years leading up to its destruction (Jer 39).  Assyrian policy had been to substitute new people for those taken into Exile; the Babylonians did not bother.  (Broadman & Holman Pub, Shepherd’s Notes, 1, 2 Chr, 91)
  • (v. 19) On 15 January 588, the Lord “brought up” against Judah “the king of the Babylonians”; and on 28 July 586, the Hebrew capital at Jerusalem fell (Thiele Numbers, 169).  For greater detail on the city’s capture and pillage, see 2 Kgs 25:1-21 and Jer 39:1-10; 52:4-27.  The 586 destruction of Judah is also the subject of the biblical prediction that involves more verses than any other direct prophecy that is to be found within Scripture–608, distributed among 17 different books of the Bible (Payne, Prophecy, 641-82).  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 4, 559)
  • (v. 21) Jeremiah’s “70 years” have been variously dated, and the biblical text itself may show multiple understandings of the span of time intended in the reference.  At least three possibilities offer themselves.  (1) The exile ran from the first deportation (605/4 B.C.) until the decree of Cyrus (539 B.C.).  The time period is not exactly 70 years, but close enough.  This seems to be the understanding of Dan 9:25 where the end of the 70 years is associated with the decree to rebuild; Daniel himself would have been an exile for this period.  The Chronicler (36:20-22) clearly associates the end of Jeremiah’s 70 years with Cyrus’ decree.  (2) The exile ran from the destruction of the temple in 586 B.C. to the dedication of the second temple in 516 B.C.  This may be the understanding of a passage like Zech 1:12-17: Zechariah, from his vantage in 520 B.C., still looks for an end to the 70 years; the end of that period is associated with the reconstruction of the city and God’s return to the temple.  (3) It is possible that the 70-year figure is not intended to have a literal referent, but is symbolic for a less defined period of judgment.  It is striking that both Daniel and Chronicles use the 70-year figure as symbolic of larger time periods which also do not have clear referents (36:21; Dan 9:24-27).  (Raymond B. Dillard, Word Biblical Commentary, Vol. 15, 301)
  • (v. 21) Since each of Jeremiah’s 70 years represented an unobserved sabbatical year, it is also natural to ask whether the Chronicler had in mind some definite 490-year period during which the laws regarding the sabbatical year (Lv 25) had not been observed.  Many suggestions have been offered: C-M (524) related the 490 years to the beginning of the period of the judges.  Williamson reckons the period as beginning with the monarchy, a suggestion which is commended by the fact that this is the period covered by the Chronicler’s narrative.  Yet these and other suggestions are all problematic; it would seem best to take this number, like the number of years for the exile itself, as symbolic of an indefinite period.  (Raymond B. Dillard, Word Biblical Commentary, Vol. 15, 302)
  • (v. 23) The verb “go up” is also the primary root for the “burnt offering,” one of the animal sacrifices required by the law for atoning for sin (cf. Lv 1:3-17).  Thus, the Chronicler’s closing paragraph becomes a directive to his own audience to “go up” to the temple now built, “offer up” appropriate worship to God, and in this way rebuild Judah and Jerusalem spiritually.  Israel’s hope for the future lies both in an unswerving faith to the promises of God and in the proper worship of God.  (Andrew E. Hill, The NIV Application Commentary: 1 & 2 Chr, 652)
  • Consider the almost bewildering array of kings and empires that pass before our eyes in this brief space.  First Egypt, then Babylon, and finally Persia.  First Neco, then Nebuchadnezzar, and finally Cyrus.  Kingdoms rise; kingdoms fall.  The kingdom of God endures over all.  (Paul O. Wendland, The People’s Bible, 2 Chr, 420)
  • As the books are arranged in the English Bible, where Ezra immediately follows Chronicles, they are unnecessary.  In the Hebrew Bible, however, where Ezra and Nehemiah are printed before Chronicles, this device was a clever indication to the reader that he must turn back now to Ezra for the rest of the history.  (Robert C. Dentan, The Layman’s Bible Commentary, 1Kgs-2 Chr, 154)
  • At the ending of his first volume, the Chronicler recorded David’s confession of faith, from which we read the above except.  At the end of his second volume, the Chronicler reproduces what is essentially the same confession, only this time coming from the mouth of a gentile king.  “The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah” (v 23).  God rules over all to make his saving ways known to every nation and to gather his people together from every place.  (Paul O. Wendland, The People’s Bible, 2 Chr, 431)

 

The questions to be answered are . . . What is the Chronicler’s message to us here in 2 Chronicles 36?  What does this have to do with Christ and me?   Why should I care?

 

Answers:  For the last 65 chapters the Chronicler’s message has been the same:  Repent, come back to God and worship and love Him as you should and He will return you to your former glory.  The problem with the Chronicler’s post-exilic audience is the same problem today.  We fail to hear and respond to the Chronicler’s message.  We are prideful, arrogant, stiff-necked, self-willed creatures with calloused and hard hearts who refuse to bend our wills to the Creator of the Universe.  Therefore, we continue to reap what we have sown.  Pray that God’s Spirit will intercede on your behalf and assist you to break the chain of apathy, rebellion and godlessness from which we all suffer.

 

The Word for the Day is . . . Callous

 

What does the Chronicler desire for us to learn from 2 Chronicles 36?:

I.  We will reap what we sow (2 Chr 36 see also: Ezra 5:12; Zech 7:12-13; Gal 6:7)

 

During his “eleven years” Jehoiakim “did evil.”  As explained in Ezra’s more detailed sources, this monarch first taxed his land to provide tribute to the Pharaoh (2 Kgs 23:35)–though he himself lived in luxury (Jer 22:14-15).  He perverted justice and oppressed the poor (Jer 22:13, 17); and he persecuted the prophets that God sent to reprove his sin (cf. 2 Chr 36:8, 16; Jer 26:21-24; 32:36).  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 4, 556)

 

The general categories of sins attributed to the people (“detestable practices” and “defiling the temple,” 2 Chr 36:15) serve as warnings to the Chronicler’s contemporaries.  God’s people are always at risk of those things that are “idolatrous” (i.e., any substitute for God; cf. Jer 7:9-11) and those things that are “irreverent” (i.e., any denial of God’s holiness, cf. Jer 32:34).  (Andrew E. Hill, The NIV Application Commentary: 1 & 2 Chr, 643)

 

Zedekiah was the king whose sins sealed the final destruction of Jerusalem.  For this reason, the Chronicler gave special attention to the evil he did.  (Richard L. Pratt, 1 & 2 Chr, A Mentor Commentary, 503)

 

II.  Humility opens the way for God’s grace (2 Chr 36:12 see also: Jas 4:6)

 

The Chronicler focused on humility on a number of occasions in his history.  Humility averted disaster (see 7:14; 12:7, 12; 33:12-13; 32:26) and pride brought tragedy (see 25:19; 26:16; 32:25, 26).  In addition, the Chronicler added that Zedekiah did not yield himself  before Jeremiah the prophet (36:12).  (Richard L. Pratt, 1 & 2 Chr, A Mentor Commentary, 504)

 

To refuse humility before the prophet was to resist God himself.  (Richard L. Pratt, 1 & 2 Chr, A Mentor Commentary, 504)

 

III.  Beware of a stiff-neck, hard or calloused heart (2 Chr 36:13,15 see also: 2 Chr 30:8; 2 Kgs 17:14; Prv 1:24-32; 29:1; Jer 7:13, 26; 19:15; 22:18-23; 25:1-26; 35:14; 44:10)

 

He also rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar: cf. 2 Kgs 24:20b.  This is interpreted by the Chronicler not simply as political folly, but as disobedience to God.  who had made him swear by God: it is made particularly clear in Ezek 17:11-21 that Zedekiah was in a covenant relationship with Nebuchadnezzar.  His rebellion thus involved contradicting his oath sworn in God’s name.  (H.G.M. Williamson, The New Century Bible Commentary, 1 & 2 Chr, 416)

 

Jehoiakim is probably best known to us as the king who showed his contempt for God’s Word by cutting up a scroll on which Jeremiah had written his prophecies and methodically feeding the pieces to the fire (Jer 36:23-25).  Jeremiah had predicted that his wickedness would earn for him the “burial of a donkey” (Jer 22:19).  (Paul O. Wendland, The People’s Bible, 2 Chr, 423)

 

Zedekiah reminds us of another hardened sinner–Herod the tetrarch.  Weak, vacillating, and easily influenced by others, both rulers were intensely curious about what the prophets had to say and yet were unwilling to put it into practice (Jer 37:16; 38:14; Mk 6:20).  The Chronicler characterizes Zedekiah by reading off a bill of indictment containing all the Lord’s charges against him.  “He…did not humble himself”–with this phrase the Chronicler again recalls God’s promise once made to Solomon, “if my people…humble themselves…, then will I hear” (7:14).  This was a king who trifled with grace and who despised God’s promises.  He obstinately refused to listen to Jeremiah’s warnings, which were the Lord’s own words to him (v 12).  Furthermore he “rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar, who had made him take an oath in God’s name (v 13; see also Ezek 17:19).  Thus in one act of rebellion, he broke not only the Fourth Commandment but also the Second.  This constant, willful despising of God’s Word led inevitably to a settled state of impenitence.  “He became stiff-necked and hardened his heart and would not turn to the LORD, the God of Israel” (v 13).

How sad that this should be the last word spoken about the house of David in the Chronicler’s book!  But perhaps the author intended for us to view it differently.  From this point on, there is no more mention of Zedekiah.  He simply drops from the narrative.  What is even more striking is that no mention is made of his death.  And this is true not only in Zedekiah’s case, but of all four kings whose reigns are described for us in this chapter.  (Paul O. Wendland, The People’s Bible, 2 Chr, 427)

 

Narratives and sermons in Jeremiah (Jer 27:1-28:17; 34:1-22; 37:1-38:28) once again provide more background on the reign of Zedekiah.  Though the prophet repeatedly urged the king to submit to the Babylonians rather than look to Egypt (cf. Ezek 17:12-15) for help, Zedekiah took instead the advice of his “hawks” and rebelled.  (Raymond B. Dillard, Word Biblical Commentary, Vol. 15, 300)

 

Zedekiah’s rebellion against Babylon is, more seriously, a rebellion against God, and an act of impiety.  Oaths of fealty in the ancient world were sworn in the name of the gods, who were called upon as witnesses and guarantors of the covenant between the king and his vassals.  Nebuchadnezzar had made Zedekiah “swear by God” (36:13).  By breaking this covenant and rebelling against Babylon, Zedekiah has sworn falsely in the Lord’s name, and brought condemnation upon himself. (Steven S. Tuell, Interpretation: 1 & 2 Chr, 244-45)

 

Jeremiah had urged Zedekiah to submit to the Babylonian emperor (see Jer 27:1-28; 17; 37:1-38:28), but the king of Judah refused.  To explain why this act ranked among Zedekiah’s great sins, the Chronicler noted that Nebuchadnezzar had made him take an oath in God’s name (36:12).  This oath is not mentioned in Kings or Jeremiah, but Ezekiel noted it (see Ezek 17;12-17).  By rebelling against the Babylonian king, Zedekiah not only rejected the prophet, but also broke his sacred vow in the Name of God.  As a result, Zedekiah became stiff-necked (see 30:8); he hardened his heart against God rather than serving him wholeheartedly; he also refused to turn to the LORD in repentance.  (Richard L. Pratt, 1 & 2 Chr, A Mentor Commentary, 504)

 

IV.  God’s mercy and patience ends when you become irredeemable (2 Chr 36:16 see also: Lv 26:11-35; Prv 1:30-31; Jer 17:23; 30:12; 36:20-25; 37:2; 52:3)

 

Throughout his history, the Chronicler pointed to the dire consequences of rejecting the prophetic word.  Here God’s anger was so aroused that there was no remedy (see Prv 29;1; Jer 7:26; 20:8; 25:4; 30:12).  Although the prophets spoke to bring repentance, the repeated rejection of prophetic warnings eventually led to a course of events that could not be averted.  God became so angry that no annulments, mollifications, or postponements were possible.  (Richard L. Pratt, 1 & 2 Chr, A Mentor Commentary, 506)

 

God tries to warn them over and over again by sending them prophets, but they refuse to listen and mock the messengers of God.  God’s long-suffering has come to an end, and the people and the nation have come to the point of no return (Jer 32:1-5).  (Dr. Tremper Longman, Quicknotes, 1 Chr Thru Job, 101)

 

We are constantly reminded of the fact that God is merciful.  But there is a limit to the mercy and forbearance even of God.  This is evident–1. From the fact that it is impossible always to continue His warning and judgments on the impenitent.  If the obstinacy of one person cannot be overcome it were unjust on that account to remove the chance of salvation from others.  2. From the inevitable progress of temporal affairs.  Death comes on with his rapid step and cuts short the life and with it the opportunities of repentance from the obdurate spirit.  Then the door of mercy must be shut for ever.  3. From the very nature of the refusal.  Is it likely that He, the Lord of all, will continue offering heavenly treasures to human swine who only trample His gifts in the mire?  Oh, it is a sad and an awful truth that man may presume too far even on infinite love!  (Joseph S. Exell, The Biblical Illustrator, 2 Chronicles, 166)

 

Notice how their unfaithfulness is depicted in the strongest possible terms, and that it is particularly condemned in relation to the desecration of the Temple which had been a consequence of their worship of other gods.  The theme of intensity and of persistence in sin is further emphasized by the statement that the people had refused to be dissuaded from their evil ways even by God’s prophets.  What constitutes the greatest evil for the Chronicler–and it is a theme that is taken up elsewhere in the Bible–is not wrongdoing in and of itself, but wrongdoing in defiance of the clear knowledge of what is right (Mk 12:1-12; Lk 16:31; Isa 1:2f.).  (J. G. McConville, The Daily Study Bible Series, 1 & 2 Chr, 267-68)

 

With language which again echoes Jeremiah (e.g. Jer 26:5; 29:19, etc.), the Chronicler summarizes the root cause of the exile.  Despite God’s compassion, which led him to send persistently to them by his messengers, the people refused to listen.  his words and his prophets are again presented as virtually parallel; cf. 20:20.  till there was no remedy: this is another echo of 7:14, where the same word is translated ‘heal (their land)’.  (H.G.M. Williamson, The New Century Bible Commentary, 1 & 2 Chr, 417)

 

The holy writer shows us how the people of Judah in their own ungodly lives perfectly reflected the obstinacy of their king.  They “became more and more unfaithful” (v 14)–the Hebrew here is very emphatic.  Literally we might render it, “They did much in respect to faithlessly committing faithless acts.”  In other words, their sins were more than mere slips or momentary lapses.  For them sin became a consistent way of life, with their acts of unfaithfulness being repeated over and over again.  They were also flagrant–“detestable practices of the [heathen] nations” (v 14).  (Paul O. Wendland, The People’s Bible, 2 Chr, 427)

 

God’s response?  At first “he had pity on his people and on his dwelling place” (v 15).  He sent word to them repeatedly through his messengers, the prophets, “but they mocked God’s messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets” (v 16).  The final stage of hardening has arrived when people not only refuse to listen to God’s Word but also show their utter contempt for it by laughing at it.  This is a sin for which there is no remedy, because its essence is to despise the only remedy God has provided.  (Paul O. Wendland, The People’s Bible, 2 Chr, 427-28)

 

The people’s sin reaches its climax in their ‘mocking’ and ‘scoffing’ at the prophets and ‘despising’ God’s words by them.  So then, an evil life has its roots in an alienated heart, and the source of all sin is an obstinate self-will.  That is the sulphur-spring from which nothing but unwholesome streams can flow, and the greatest of all sins is refusing to hear God’s voice when He speaks to us.  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, 2 Kgs – Eccl, 271)

 

The first point to note is that a time arrives when even God can hope for no amendment and is driven to change His methods.  His patience is not exhausted, but man’s obstinacy makes another treatment inevitable.  God lavished benefits and pleadings for long years in vain, till He saw that there was ‘no remedy,’  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, 2 Kgs – Eccl, 272)

 

Prophets were certainly sent.  Again the Chronicler borrows from the testimony of Jeremiah’s book: “rising up early and sending them” (v 15) was the phrase used there for God’s persistence in giving the people chance after chance (e.g. Jer 7:25; 35:14).  Ominously it is always associated with the failure of God’s prophetic mission, as here.  The upshot was that the promise of 7:14 was blocked and could not come into effect.  “There was no remedy” (v 16) or healing:  God’s compassionate longing to forgive and “heal” (7:14) was frustrated.  The “accepted time” (2 Cor 6:2) came and went.  Could not God have tried again?  No, at last even God has to desist.  “I believe,” wrote C. S. Lewis of such divine finality, “that if a million chances are likely to do good, they would be given.  But a master often knows, when boys and parents do not, that it is really useless to send a boy in for a certain examination again.  Finality must come sometime, and it does not require a very robust faith to believe that omniscience knows when.”  (Leslie Allen, Mastering the OT, 1, 2 Chr, 440-41)

 

The Exile comes about primarily not because of a broken law but because of the rejection of God’s offers of forgiveness and a second chance.  It is the spurning of the gospel invitation that is the sin of sins in the Chronicler’s book (cf. Jn 16:9).  For him the breaking of God’s standards drives no one beyond the pale.  What does so is the refusal of the sinner to repent and start all over again with God.  Lest Christians smugly agree and complacently contrast their security with the state and destiny of unbelievers, it is well to remember that the Chronicler was essentially thinking of falling away from within the believing community.  Repentance is a Christian quality:  the letters to the churches in Rv 2-3 commend it to their readers no less than 8 times.  It is urged too in 1 Jn 1:9, which may be regarded as the NT equivalent of 2 Chr 7:14.  (Leslie Allen, Mastering the OT, 1, 2 Chr, 441)

 

The blessings and curses theology of the Mosaic covenant is foundational to prophetic ministry because it is on this basis that these divine messengers forecast either blessing or judgment for God’s people (e.g., Isa 1:10-20; Jer 9:13-16).  The series of participles describing the people’s response to the message brought by God’s servants (“mocking…despising…scoffing,” 2 Chr 36:16 NRSV) suggests this is habitual behavior, making the rejection of the prophetic voice a theme in Kings and Chronicles (2 Kgs 17:12-14; 24:2; 2 Chr 24:19).  (Andrew E. Hill, The NIV Application Commentary: 1 & 2 Chr, 643-44)

 

“Why should that sin be unforgivable?  What differentiates it so terribly from all other sins?   The answer is simple.  When anyone reaches that stage, repentance is impossible.  If people cannot recognize the good when they see it, they cannot desire it.  If they do not recognize the evil as evil, they cannot be sorry for it and wish to depart from it.  And if they cannot, in spite of failures, love the good and hate the evil, then they cannot repent; and if they cannot repent, they cannot be forgiven, for repentance is the only condition of forgiveness.  It would save much heartbreak if people would realize that the very people who cannot have committed the sin against the Holy Spirit are those who fear that they have, for the sin against the Holy Spirit can be truly described as the loss of all sense of sin.”   (Barclay, Commentary on Matthew Vol 2, 52)

 

It is now a hate-crime for you to hold a Biblical view of homosexuality.  It is now primitive and archaic for you to hold a Biblical view on pre-marital sex.   It is now narrow, close-minded and ridiculous for you to hold a Biblical view on creation.  It is now elitist and arrogant for you to hold a Biblical view on truth.  Much of the United States laughs at silly ideas that we Christians hold.  Don’t let them discourage you or convince you otherwise.  The people of Judah laughed at Jeremiah and Ezekiel and Malachi.  But, guess who’s laughing now?  — Pastor Keith

 

William Hendricks explains in Keeping Your Ethical Edge Sharp: “What we do in the small issues of life sets the stage for bigger issues.  What we do at the copier, on the phone, in front of the mail machine are important and set the stage for how we will respond to greater temptations that will come!  It is also true that once we violate our conscience in an area it is easier to do it the next time.  Before long, our heart becomes callous.”  (R. Kent Hughes, Disciplines of Grace, 148)

 

V.  God commands you to recognize his Lordship over all creation via the Sabbath (2 Chr 36:21 see also: Lv 25:1-7; 26:34-43; Dt 29:22-29; Jer 17:19-27; 21:3-10; 25:9-12; 29:10-14; Ezek 20:1-32; Dan 9:1-2; Zech 1:12; 7:5; Mt 12:1-14) 

 

Taking up the language of Lv 26:34f., he shows that the 70 years of exile had functioned so that the land might “enjoy its Sabbaths”.  The reference is to Sabbath years, not days, according to the law which provided that every seventh year the land should remain uncultivated, so that the Lord might demonstrate that his bounty was independent of the people’s labor (Lv 25:1-7.  The same thinking underlay the Sabbath day.)  The exile is thus interpreted as a “catching-up” period, in which the land is left fallow for a number of years equal to the number of Sabbath years neglected in the whole period of the monarchy.  (That period is thus reckoned as 490 years, which may be a round figure, or may correspond exactly to the time from Saul’s accession–whose precise date is unknown–to the restoration.)  The exile is presented, therefore, as the repayment of a debt which is now satisfied.  (For “the word of the Lord by Jeremiah” see Jer 25:11; 29:10.  The 70 years can be reckoned either from the date of Babylonian ascendancy in Palestine, c. 605 B.C., to the release from exile, 527 B.C.–which is approximate, or from the final sack of Jerusalem, 586 B.C., to the dedication of the new Temple, 516 B.C., which is exact.)  (J. G. McConville, The Daily Study Bible Series, 1 & 2 Chr, 269-70)

 

Zedekiah’s political rebellion involved the breaking of an oath made in the very name of God.  The Chronicler borrows the expression “he stiffened his neck” from the Book of Jeremiah, where it is associated with rejecting the prophetic word of God (Jer 7:26; 17:23; 19:15).  (Leslie Allen, Mastering the OT, 1, 2 Chr, 440)

 

In Lv 26:14-33, the consequences for violating God’s commandments, particularly regarding the land’s Sabbaths, are presented in an escalating scale.  The ultimate penalty is devastation and exile; “Then the land shall enjoy its Sabbath years as long as it lies desolate, while you are in the land of your enemies; then the land shall rest, and enjoy its Sabbath years” (Lv 26:34).  (Steven S. Tuell, Interpretation: 1 & 2 Chr, 245)

 

The Sabbath instructed all humankind that there is more to life than work. (R. Kent Hughes; Disciplines of Grace, 71)

 

Now, for most of us Sabbath is first to be achieved in the practice of solitude and silence.  These must be carefully sought, cultivated, and dwelt in.  When they become established in our soul and our body, they can be practiced in company with others.  But the body must be weaned away from its tendencies to always take control, to run the world, to achieve and produce, to attain gratification.  These are its habitual tendencies learned in a fallen world.  Progress in the opposite direction can only be made in solitude and silence, for they “take our hands off our world” as nothing else does.  And that is the meaning of Sabbath.  (Dallas Willard;  Renovation of the Heart, 175)

 

As we become secure in His Lordship and control, the compulsion to control other people and circumstances is reduced until we are ultimately able to enter the ‘Sabbath rest” of God.  Only then are we truly fit to serve in positions of authority.  (Rick Joyner, There Were Two Trees in the Garden, 105)

 

When Jesus was with the Pharisees on the Sabbath he said, “I am not just someone who can instruct you to take rest; I am rest itself.”  Now by his actions here Jesus is demonstrating, “I am not just someone who has power, I am power itself.  Anyone and anything in the whole universe that has any power has it on loan from me.”  (Timothy Keller, King’s Cross, 52)

 

There was a defining moment in my spiritual life.  It happened when I realized that if I insisted on becoming consumed by every major sporting event or political race, every move of the stock market, or even every worry of parenting, if I let these things seize my heart, I simply could not enter into a true celebration of the Sabbath or the joy of a baptism, or the Lord’s Supper, or Christmas or Easter, or any other true and significant celebration.  I have learned the necessity of “guarding my heart” (Prv 4:23) because my heart does not have an infinite capacity to rejoice or be alarmed.  By becoming preoccupied with passing things, I exhaust my heart’s ability to care about the things that really do matter.  (Gary L. Thomas, Seeking the Face of God, 110)

 

Observing the Sabbath, along with all the consequences of observing sabbatical years and Years of Jubilee, appeared to be a weighty mandate.  For observing the Sabbath was clearly the proof of the pudding.  Would God’s people keep the reins in their own hands, or would they confidently entrust their lives to the Lord?  Someone who wants to keep control of his own affairs would experience the interruption of business on the Sabbath day as a hindrance.  Observing the Sabbath day requires faith.  Where faith is destroyed, the Sabbath is destroyed along with it.  One who violates the Sabbath violates the covenant.  For that reason, it is understandable that Sabbath violation could even be identified as the reason why Israel suffered calamity (Neh 13:18; Ezek 20:13).  (J. Douma, The Ten Commandments, Manual for the Christian Life, 117)

 

There is an epidemic of spiritual amnesia going around, and none of us is immune.  No matter how many fascinating details we learn about God’s creation, no matter how many pictures we see of His galaxies, and no matter how many sunsets we watch, we still forget.  (Francis Chan, Crazy Love, 29)

 

VI.  God is loving, gracious, merciful, wise, powerful and sovereign.  Worship, love, trust and obey Him. (2 Chr 36:12 see also: 1 Chr 29:10-14; Isa 44:28; 45:1; Hab 1:6)

 

The psalmist uses the verb “go up” to depict ascending the Temple Mount and worshiping in God’s holy place (Ps 24:3; 122:4).  Like the psalmist, the Chronicler recognizes that the formal worship of Yahweh is the integrating component of life lived in a fallen world.  (Andrew E. Hill, The NIV Application Commentary: 1 & 2 Chr, 357)

 

The last two verses of 2 Chronicles ultimately determine the mood of both books.  They are not about the failure of man, but about the power and promises of God.  Out of the ruins of human effort, the chronicler shows that God’s purposes can never fail and that all He purposes to do will be accomplished.  Isaiah states it well: “the zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this” (Isa 9:7).  (John Sailhamer, Everyman’s Bible Commentary: 1 & 2 Chr, 115)

 

The judgment falls in terms of Babylonian invasion.  It is God himself who uses Babylon as his instrument (cf. E.g. Jer 27:6; Ezek 21:19ff.); and we may in fact translate the verbs all with God as subject: ‘he’ SLEW THEIR YOUNG MEN… ‘he’ HAD NO COMPASSION… HE GAVE THEM ALL INTO HIS (Nebuchadnezzar’s) HAND.  (Peter R. Ackroyd, 1 & 2 Chr, Ezra, Neh, 209)

 

The book ends, therefore, on a high note.  On one level it points the reader forward to the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah, which tell the story of the re-establishment of the returning community in the land.  On another, it points forward to the endless possibilities for a people that walks with its God.  (J. G. McConville, The Daily Study Bible Series, 1 & 2 Chr, 270)

 

The effect of all this is similar to that of watching a large tree being chopped down.  Each blow with the ax cuts deeper until, finally, the entire tree comes crashing to the ground.  The ax of God’s judgment was being laid at the root of David’s royal house.  In the end there was nothing left of the monarchy but a stump, to show where it once had been (Mt 3:10; Isa 11:1).

We should, however, not suppose that death and destruction are going to be God’s last words to his people in this book.  The Chronicler concludes his massive work with a song of hope in the Lord who rules over all and who promises us the victory by his grace.  (Paul O. Wendland, The People’s Bible, 2 Chr, 421)

 

Even God’s judgments serve the interests of his grace.  Out of death and destruction, he brings life and salvation.  The dramatic turning point of the chapter comes at this verse.  God set a limit to the destructive force of his anger against his people.  As he had promised through Jeremiah, “a remnant” survived, escaping the sword (v 20; see also Jer 23:3).  (Paul O. Wendland, The People’s Bible, 2 Chr, 429)

 

In his last verse, the Chronicler has given us the goal of God’s rule.  God works in history to restore his people to the Land of Promise, where they may live a life centered around his dwelling place and bask in the joy of his presence.  (Paul O. Wendland, The People’s Bible, 2 Chr, 432)

 

The closing words of this chapter, not included in the passage, are significant.  They are the first words of the Book of Ezra.  Whoever put them here perhaps wished to show a far-off dawn following the stormy sunset.  He opens a ‘door of hope’ in ‘the valley of trouble.’  It is an OT version of ‘God hath not cast away His people whom He foreknew.’  It throws a beam of light on the black last page of the chronicle, and reveals that God’s chastisement was in love, that it was meant for discipline, not for destruction, that it was educational, and that the rod was burned when the lesson had been learned.  It was learned, for the Captivity cured the nation of hankering after idolatry, and whatever defects it brought back from Babylon, it brought back a passionate abhorrence of all the gods of the nations.  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, 2 Kgs – Eccl, 273-74)

 

Only a sovereign God of infinite power and eternal goodness is able to use human sufferings to cultivate godly virtues in the righteous that lead to the crown of life (Rom 5:3-4; Jas 1:12).  (Andrew E. Hill, The NIV Application Commentary: 1 & 2 Chr, 649)

 

No doubt the threefold repetition of “Cyrus king of Persia” is intended to call to mind Isaiah’s word about Cyrus as God’s “shepherd” for Israel (Isa 44:28).  Well in advance of the fact, God through the prophet Isaiah named Cyrus as the subduer of nations and deliverer of the exiles from the land of Judah (Isa 45:1-4, 13).

This echo of the oracles of Isaiah is yet another reminder from the Chronicler that God’s word is sure.  Even more, the restoration community in Jerusalem can be assured of God’s ongoing sovereignty over the nations.  By the time of the Chronicler, King Cyrus is long dead and little more than a fading memory as a symbol of Persia’s past greatness.  Yet the temple is now rebuilt in Jerusalem and God’s people are once again settled in their land.  Although still under Persian control, postexilic Judah has the guarantee of God’s word for complete restoration and the historical evidence that Israel’s God controls the destinies of the nations.  (Andrew E. Hill, The NIV Application Commentary: 1 & 2 Chr, 653)

 

CONCLUSION/APPLICATION: What does this message have to do with Christ (the final King of Israel and Son of David) and me?:

 

With Jeremiah we look to another king, one who would be our righteousness.  He too would endure exile (Mt 27:46; Mk 15:34), not for his own sins, but rather bearing the sins of others.  He too would know restoration, and as the embodiment of the faithful remnant would become the nucleus of a new Israel; he would reign until all enemies be put under his feet.

In this new Israel Jew and Gentile together (Gal 3:7-9, 28-29; Eph 3:6) build, even constitute, a new dwelling for the Spirit of God (1 Cor 3:9-17; 1 Pt 2:5; Eph 2:19-22).  This new Israel lives in anticipation of yet a further renewal–the renewal of the heavens and earth, when the dwelling of God will be with men (Rv 21:1-3).  (Raymond B. Dillard, Word Biblical Commentary, Vol. 15, 303)

 

 

A.  If you allow Him, Christ will reap what you have sown and will allow you to reap what He has sown. (Isa 53; Rom 3:21-26; 6:23; 2 Cor 5:21)

 

For the essence of sin is man substituting himself for God, while the essence of salvation is God substituting himself for man.  Man asserts himself against God and puts himself where only God deserves to be; God sacrifices himself for man and puts himself where only man deserves to be.  Man claims prerogatives which belong to God alone.  God accepts penalties which belong to man alone.  (John Stott, The Cross of Christ as quoted by Kenneth J. Collins, The Evangelical Moment, 50)

 

B.  All of God’s gracious blessings are opened up for us through humble Jesus (2 Chr 7:14; 2 Cor 1:20; 8:9; Phil 2:1-11; Jas 4:6)

 

C.  The love Jesus has for you can loosen any stiff neck and soften any calloused hard heart (Jn 3:16; Rom 8:32-39; 2 Cor 5:14; 1 Jn 3:1-24; 4:7-21

 

D.  The only thing that can keep you from God’s grace and mercy is your refusal to accept God’s grace and mercy (Josh 24:20; Judg 10:13; 1 Kgs 9:9; 2 Kgs 22:17; 1 Chr 28:9; 7:19-20; 15:2; 24:20; 34:25; Mt 12:30-32; Mk. 3:29; Lk 12:8-11)

 

Early Americans, despite their faults, knew that God hated sin and punished it in the unrepentance, including unrepentant believers and churches.  Because they feared God and His ability to punish, they sought to lead their people in quick and thorough repentance.

They were alert to signs of God’s manifest displeasure among them.  Natural calamities, which some of us treat with a shrug of a shoulder, were dutifully examined, prayed over and improved by godly men of old.  Even the unexpected death of a pastor, a youth, a government official, a farmer or a housewife had power to provoke them to inquire if God had a grievance against His people.

Their attitude of brokenness and contrition before God made them sensitive to what He was saying to them, just as the arrogancy and self-sufficiency of today’s church make it virtually immune to the voice of God and the promptings of His Spirit.  If they passed into dry seasons spiritually, they took this as a message from God and sought His face in renewed repentance an dedication.” (Roberts; Sanctify the Congregation; xii)

 

Men know their course is evil and such as God condemns.  They know that this and that and the other practices which they indulge in are sinful.  They dare not justify them, but they still their consciences with the thought that they intend to repent later.  They reckon upon no great difficulty in this, assuming the repenting is theirs, under their control, and all will be well.   They do not seem to realize that these purposes to repent in the future abundantly harden and make them bold to continue in sin against all counsel and reproof.  But alas, repentance is not so easy a work.  The heart that is now so much in love with sin and so full of enmity against holiness will not be easily changed.  A deceitful heart will find other excuses when the present ones are answered.  The old man will struggle hard before it is subdued.  Perhaps they do not know that repentance is a grace of God’s giving.  The heart of stone is too hard for any created power to break.   Repentance is a gift that only God can give and fortunately when He gives it He does so freely.  Because men can only repent when God enables, Paul said to Timothy, “God peradventure will give them repentance” (2 Tm 2:25).  Many that presume upon having repentance at leisure find themselves disappointed.  Either a sudden death arrests them or a hard heart and a sleepy conscience seizes upon them.  It is a very bold adventure to reject God’s gracious offers, presuming upon future time or grace.  (Roberts; Sanctify the Congregation; 131)

 

Sin God can deal with.  That is what the cross is all about.  It is stiff-necked, hard-hearted, unrepentant religious, pious, do-gooders who are lost and without hope. — Steve Brown

It may be said to those who have been tormented by fear that they have committed the unforgivable sin that their concern is itself a sign that they have not committed the sin envisaged in Jesus’ teaching here. Lane’s interpretation also helps to explain the distinction drawn between blasphemy against the Son of man and blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. The distinction suggests that “while an attack on Jesus’ own person, as son of Man and therefore ‘hidden’, is pardonable, any speaking against the power by which he works (i.e. the divine endowment for his messianic ministry) will not be pardoned” (D. Hill, The Gospel of Matthew, New Century Bible, 1972, 318). For such an action would be deliberately to attribute to Satan the action of God himself. (NIDNTT, v. 3, 343-44)

 

What is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? Though many suggestions have been offered, I think the answer lies in the context here (Lk 12:7-12) and in the context of redemptive history. Remember that the Holy Spirit had not yet been poured out, and it is the Spirit who causes men to recognize who Jesus is. Hebrews 6 and 10 contain discussions of unforgivable sins, but the distinction between blasphemy against Christ and the Spirit has disappeared. Jesus seemed to be saying this:  Because the Holy Spirit has not yet been poured out in fullness, the Jews will be forgiven for blaspheming the Son of Man. They will be given a second chance to repent, as we see in the book of Acts.  If, however, they continue to blaspheme after the Spirit has come, they will not be forgiven.  But what is the sin, specifically?  Since it is blasphemy, we must see it essentially as a verbal sin.  In context it is the sin of saying that Jesus Christ is of the devil.  Jesus was willing to excuse this blasphemy before Pentecost; but, in the new covenant era it is not longer excusable.  If a person curses Jesus, but does not really know who Jesus is, that sin is forgivable.  But if the Holy Spirit has borne witness to a person that Jesus is indeed the Son of God, and that person curses Him, it cannot be forgiven. (R. C. Sproul, Tabletalk, July 12, 1990)

 

E.  Rest in Jesus (Mt 11:28-30; Rom 8:1; Heb 3:7-4:16); 1 Jn 3:19-24; Rv 14:13)

 

This truth of the divine presence in the midst of the faithful is the great hope of the postexilic restoration community, namely, the Lord’s returning and dwelling among his people again (Hag 2:4-5, 7; Zech 1:16-17).  All this is in fulfillment of the promise of Ezekiel’s temple vision, renaming the city of Jerusalem “the LORD is there” (Ezek 48:35).  The idea of God’s presence is perhaps the great theme of the Bible, beginning with the intimate fellowship with God experienced by that first human pair (cf. Gn 3:8-9) and ending with the paradise regained when God himself will live with his people (Rv 21:3).  More than this, we experience what the Chronicler could only anticipate through the word of the prophets as Immanuel has indeed come (Jn 1:14; cf. Isa 7:14) and the deposit of the Holy Spirit has been given as the pledge that God will once again have an “address” among his people (Eph 1:13-14).  (Andrew E. Hill, The NIV Application Commentary: 1 & 2 Chr, 657)

 

F.  The more we see Jesus as He really is, the more we will worship, love, adore, trust and obey Him and thus the more the way is opened for God’s abundant life to become available for those in Christ.  (Jn 10:10; Eph 1:15-23; 3:14-21; Phil 4:13, 19; Col 1:3-14; 2:1-5; 3:1-17;  Heb 12:2; 1 Jn 3:1-2)

We see all these things come to their completion in Christ.  He is the Ideal King who was born in fulfillment of his people’s yearnings (Lk 1:331-33).  He is the true Temple, the incarnate God come to live among us (Jn 1:14, 2:19).  He is the one who gathers all the exiles scattered throughout the nations into one people that belong to God forever (Eph 2:19-21).  (Paul O. Wendland, The People’s Bible, 2 Chr, 432)

 

The final restoration of all things has not yet happened, and the last chapter of God’s kingdom work is still to be written.  And so we wait for our Lord to come back, faithfully gathering around Word and sacrament in the meanwhile, so that we can continue to perceive all things from the sure, firm center of God’s gracious will.  Our exile too one day will end.  What joy will then be ours!  (Paul O. Wendland, The People’s Bible, 2 Chr, 433)

 

How much more sure we can be of our Savior’s promise.  He said, “I am going…to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (Jn 14:2, 3).  The way to that land he has promised us also leads through the dying of all our earthly hopes until our hearts rest secure in his promise alone.  He went the way of suffering before us, the way of God’s wrath and of hell’s destruction.  He went the way of the cross and rose again to make his promise to us absolutely certain: “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me” (Jn 14:6).  (Paul O. Wendland, The People’s Bible, 2 Chr, 430)

 

Just prior to the Babylonian exile the prophet Habakkuk called the people of Judah to a similar experience.  Given the impending invasion of King Nebuchadnezzar and his marauding hordes, Habakkuk encouraged the people to gain perspective on God’s plan for Israel and the nations by acknowledging his presence in his holy temple and revering him in silence (Hab 2:20).  Only as the finite contemplates the Infinite One, only as the creature ponders the Creator, only as the filthy consider the Holy One, can the temporal take on meaning in the light of the eternal.  The Chronicler’s call for postexilic Judah to “go up” to the temple and worship makes the apostle Peter’s words all the more penetrating when he says: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light (1 Pt 2:9).  (Andrew E. Hill, The NIV Application Commentary: 1 & 2 Chr, 658)

 

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a Great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’  That is the one thing we must not say.  A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher.  He would either be a lunatic—on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell.  You must make your choice.  Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse.  You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit on Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God.  But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher.  He has not left that open to us.  He did not intend to. (C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, 55-56)

 

Worship point: Our worship tends to be so pathetic because we are so hung up on the material when the God of the universe knows that the material has little or nothing to do with our spirit.  God didn’t send His Son to die to make you rich.  He died to make you rich in faith that can overcome the world.  God did not send His Son to die to make you attractive.  He died so that you might have a countenance or spirit about you that transcends mere outward appearances.  He died so that you might have an inner beauty that would be a light for the entire world.  

 

Spiritual Challenge: Be careful how you listen (Ps 34:11; 78:1; 81:8, 11, 13; Prv 1:33; 4:20; 5:1, 7, 13; 7:24; 8:6, 32-34; 23:19; Eccl 5:1; Isa 28:23; 30:9; 46:12; 48:16; 51:1; 55:2; 65:12; Jer 6:10, 17, 19; 7:13, 24, 26-27; 11:8-11; 13:10-11; 17:23; 19:15; 22:21; 25:3-4; 25:7-9; 35:15-17; 44:5, 16Ezel 3:6-7; 20:8; Zech 1:4; 7:12-13; Mal 2:2; Mat 15:10; 17:5; Mk 7:14; 9:7; Lk 8:18; 9:35; Jn 6:45; 9:31; Acts 3:22-23; Jms 1:19, 22-23; 1 Jn 4:5-6).  Especially when the God of the Universe is speaking. 

 

“We innoculate the world with a mild form of Christianity so that it will be immune to the real thing. (William Willimon and Stanley Hauerwas; Resident Aliens, 90)

 

If you want to be somebody, if you want to go somewhere, you better wake up and pay attention  — Sister Act II

 

 

Will the United States ever return to her former glory?  That will depend in large part if we can once again become sensitive to the work of God’s Spirit in our lives and look to the Son of David, the Messiah, the Christ as the author and perfecter of our faith.

 

Quotes to Note:

Thus the exiles came “to Babylon” where “they became servants”; and yet, after an initial period of discouragement (Ps 137) and oppressive service (cf. Isa 14:2-3), at least some Jews gained favor and status (2 Kgs 35:27-30; Dan 1:19; 2:49; 6:3).  Those who were among the more worldly grew indifferent and drifted away from their faith (Ezek 33:31-32), but the more godly increased in their spiritual maturity (cf. Neh 1:4; Esth 4:14-16; Dan 1:8).  (Frank E. Gæbelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 4, 559)

 

Patriotic historians make it a point of pride and duty to gloss over their country’s faults, but these singular narrators point them as strongly as they can.  Their love of their country impels them to ‘make known to Israel its transgression and to Judah its sin.’  There are tears in their eyes, as who can doubt?  But there is no faltering in their voices as they speak.  A higher feeling than misguided ‘patriotism’ moves them.  Loyalty to Israel’s God forces them to deal honestly with Israel’s sin.  That is the highest kind of love of country, and might well be commended to loud-mouthed ‘patriots’ in modern lands.  (Alexander MacLaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, 2 Kgs – Eccl, 270)

 

The tabernacle, first and second temples were all built in part with funds provided from gentile nations.  Cyrus’ authorization for the rebuilding of the temple included not only the return of the implements taken from the first temple by the army of Nebuchadnezzar, but also funding from the Persian exchequer (Ezra 6:4-5; cf. Isa 44:28; 45:13).  (Raymond B. Dillard, Word Biblical Commentary, Vol. 15, 302)

 

Ending on these words, Chronicles has come full circle.  The temple, built by Solomon in accordance with David’s design, had been destroyed–brought to nothing by the faithlessness of God’s people.  But now, the temple is to be rebuilt; the ancient liturgy is to be celebrated once more.  The fate of this temple, the Chronicler implies, is in the hands of his community.  The invitation has been issued: “Whoever is among you of all his people, may the LORD his God be with him!  Let him go up” (36:23).  It is left to the reader to respond.  (Steven S. Tuell, Interpretation: 1 & 2 Chr, 246)

 

 

 

 

 

Bulletin Picture here

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chronicles:

Return to Glory

 

 

 

                                                                                               

 

 

 

 

Hillsdale Free Methodist Church

Sunday, April 28h, 2013

 

Christ:

The softener of hard hearts

 

 

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