Today’s Bible reading: 2 Kings 23:31-25:30; Acts 22:17-23:10; Psalm 2:1-12; Proverbs 18:13
God’s original desire and intention for Israel was for them to be so blessed that other nations would turn to God so they could have what Israel had. But by 2 Kings 23:21, Israel is just a vassal state. And this was just after their previous king, Josiah, had done such a great job of leading Israel. When we prostitute ourselves – either as a nation or as individuals – to sin and ungodly influences we become their slaves.
Notice that Eliakim didn’t even have control over his own name (2 Kings 23:34).
In 2 Kings 24:1-3 King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon (in modern-day Iraq) makes the first of his 3 attacks against Judah. This one, in 605 B.C., was found to be documented in great detail on stone tablets discovered around 1885. These tablets, known as the Babylonian Chronicles, are on display at the British Museum – more evidence that the events recorded in the Bible are 100% accurate.
Nebuchadnezzar makes his second attack (circa 597 B.C.) in 2 Kings 24:10-17 during the reign of Jehoiachin, another terrible king of Judah. Notice that there is no recording of any attempt by Jehoiachin to fight. He simply surrenders and is taken prisoner by Nebuchadnezzar. In this case God was bringing judgement against Judah for their on-going sin so its hard to say why Jehoiachin did not put up a fight. Maybe he was weak. Maybe he realized that resistance was futile. But I think when we are confronted by sin today we too often just give in to it. We think it is too strong for us. But if we turn to God he will provide a way to avoid it (1 Corinthians 10:13).
God writes something very interesting in 2 Kings 25:2. He dates an event not according to the reign of a king of Israel or Judah but to a foreign king and will continue to do so in the rest of the chapter. The relevance of Israel is completely gone at this point.
In 2 Kings 25 we see Nebuchadnezzar’s third, and final, attack in which he lays siege to Jerusalem. During a siege an enemy seals off a city to prevent anyone or anything (like food) from going in or out. It takes time, but eventually those inside either starve to death or surrender.
Nebuchadnezzar destroys the Temple (which had stood for over 400 years), other buildings, and the walls around Jerusalem (2 Kings 25:8-10). He also takes many more people captive back to Babylon including Daniel and Ezekiel – prophets whose writings we will read in a few weeks.
Notice that of all the items in the Temple that the Babylonians destroyed, the Ark of the Covenant – the most holy object of all – is not mentioned (2 Kings 25:13-17). This has lead many people to believe that it was hidden – and remains hidden to this day – by the Jews before their defeat and exile. Perhaps when the Temple is finally rebuilt – as we know it will be – the original Ark will again be set in its place in the Holy of Holies. Wouldn’t that be cool?
We read something interesting at the end of 2 Kings. In vereses 27-30 we see that despite His judgement on Judah, God provides some blessing. We’ve already seen God do this in our readings thus far this year. Even though God may bring judgement, He never stops blessing us in the process. He will never completely turn His back on anyone while they are alive on this earth.
Paul recounts more of his early life as a follower of Christ in Acts 22:17-21. Its interesting that during that time Paul tried to reason with Jesus. He (Paul) had a plan for his life that made sense to him. But it was not what God wanted for him. Don’t we all do this today? We decide for ourselves what we can and should do for God. But God may have other ideas, which are obviously better than our own.
The crowd listens peacefully to Paul until he utters the word “Gentiles” (Acts 22:21-22). Just a single word can turn a conversation on its head. Today we can talk about “God” and most people won’t have a problem with that. But mention “Jesus” and you’ll get all kinds of negative reactions.
Paul was a very unique individual. He was well educated and intelligent. He was also a Jew as well as a Roman citizen. We can see why God chose him to take His message to the majority of the world.
In Acts 23 Paul has yet another opportunity to present the message of Jesus – this time to the ruling council. This was a group that Paul used to be part of when he was a Pharisee.
Notice Paul’s clever defense in Acts 23:6. The council was made up of Pharisees and Sadducees, the latter of which say there is no such thing as angels or an afterlife. By mentioning the resurrection of the dead Paul is using a divide-and-conquer strategy to pit both these groups against each other (Acts 23:7-9).
Paul is led way in Acts 23:10 by Roman soldiers. From this point until the rest of his life Paul will be a captive of Rome. But this does not put an end to his serving God by witnessing to others. Some of his letters that we will read later this year were written from prison.
There is one thing that unites the world, and it is not technology or communication. It is an intense hatred for God (Psalm 2:2-3). The rulers of this world think they are in control, but they are not (Psalm 2:4, 9). God is always in control.
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