Out of the frying pan, into the fire
2Kings 24: The threat from Egypt was now over.
Aside from the remaining wealth amassed by Solomon Judah is a minor player on the world stage. The real action has been between mighty Egypt and mighty Babylonia. Egypt is the old power and Babylonia is the new. The small kingdoms that are unfortunate enough to be between the two are mere pawns in their chess match for domination of the region. Babylon wins. Having driven Egyptian forces out of the region, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon now turns his attention to subduing the small kingdoms of the region. Judah has been defeated once, but as Nebuchadnezzar’s attention has been on other matters, Jehoiakim, king of Judah revolted, leading to a series of attacks by other smaller armies against Jerusalem. Judah has been driven to her knees as Nebuchadnezzar, himself, arrives to direct the assault on the small beleaguered country. Jerusalem surrenders and Babylonian forces plunder the city. There will be a few more stories to tell, but the grave is already dug and the end of Judah is at hand. There have been some less than perfect opportunities for Judah to remain a nation. For instance, Jehoiakim didn’t have to rebel and could have continued to pay tribute to Nebuchadnezzar. Still, as we’re reminded several times here, “God said it would happen.” For them, this is Judgment Day. Anyone who thinks God is “too good” or “too kind” to pronounce condemnation on those who reject him should read the final chapters of 2 Kings.
Take Away: Never doubt that the holiness of the Lord means he will judge sin.
How inspiration works
Jeremiah 36: There were also generous additions, but the same kind of thing.
Babylon isn’t the only threat to Judah during Jeremiah’s ministry. Egypt also invades and conquers the nation. Jehoiakim is made king of Judah by the Egyptian conquerors. It’s during his years in power that the Lord tells Jeremiah to write down a recap of all the prophecies that have been made concerning Israel and Judah. Jeremiah obeys, dictating his messages to Baruch, who serves as his secretary. The prophet sends Baruch down to the Temple to read it all to the people and the message creates uproar. Before long, Baruch, scroll in hand, finds himself before king Jehoiakim. The king, though, isn’t impressed with Jeremiah’s message. As Baruch reads, the king takes a small knife and trims away each column as it’s heard. He then, in an act of rejection, throws what has been cut off into the fire. When Baruch returns to Jeremiah and tells him what’s happened, Jeremiah starts all over again, dictating another message from God, this one more elaborate than the first. Obviously, there’s a lot here, but I find myself thinking about how God brought about the Sacred Writings that make up our Bibles. In this case, God doesn’t dictate a message to Jeremiah to dictate to Baruch. Instead, the Lord just tells Jeremiah to write down a summary of all the prophecies he’s given concerning Israel and Judah. Jeremiah goes to work, dictating to Baruch who faithfully writes down what he hears. The real kicker to me is that when this process is done a second time, we’re told that Jeremiah adds some stuff to it. In other words, there isn’t just one way for this scroll to be written. The Lord wants Jeremiah to tell the story, and I have no doubt that the Lord helps Jeremiah remember many specifics. However, for the second round, Jeremiah wants to add some stuff. It isn’t that he’s making things up; he just remembers more and decides to include it. We have here a pretty neat example of how the Scriptures were given to us. The Lord doesn’t dictate word for word (that is, unless it says he did). Instead, he says, “write about this event or tell the message you received from me.” From there, the writer’s free to frame things in his own words and even from his own perspective. Because of that we hear from the Scriptures not only the “big message” of God’s intentions, but also the “little message” of how the writer views the world. If you think about it, that’s a pretty good example of how God works in this world: partnering with humanity and even accepting some of our limitations.
Take Away: The Lord wants us to partner with him in what he’s doing in the world.