Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4-7

07 February 2009

A Great Start to Saturday Morning

I have been reading through 1 and 2 Kings lately. This morning I finished off the last few chapters of 2Kings. These chapters describe the final years of the nation of Judah collapsing under the weight of kings who "did evil in the eyes of the LORD" – the repeating description found throughout 1 and 2 Kings of all the kings of Israel and most of the kings of Judah. The nation of Israel had already met its demise, being carried into captivity by the Assyrians back in chapter 17. And today I read about the demise of Judah, taken into captivity by the Babylonians.

Not a great start to Saturday morning? Well, actually, yes!!

As I read these sad, sorry chapters I tried to imagine what it might have been like for the people of Judah during those last years and days living under oppressive rulers, in the midst of war and famine, watching the national treasures being pilfered from Solomon's temple and the palaces and ultimately being dragged from their homes into captivity in a foreign land.

It is easy enough to read over these chapters and take in the narrative without thinking about the detail. But when you stop to imagine what it would have been like for an ordinary citizen to live through those times – well, it is horrible.

And throughout these chapters (and in the preceding chapters as Israel came to a similar end) there are verses such as,

The LORD sent Babylonian, Aramean, Moabite and Ammonite raiders against him [Jehoiakim, the king of Judah]. He sent them to destroy Judah, in accordance with the word of the LORD proclaimed by his servants the prophets. (2 Kings 24:2)

These nations were warned and God caused this to happen because they did not heed the warning. Hard verses like this appear several times in these last chapters. How would those involved have responded, knowing that what was happening was in God's hands and perhaps more pointedly, at His command? I imagine most took no comfort at all. Their eyes were so far from God that they may not even have been cognizant of God's hand in their sufferings.

But we know, as we read further along the Bible, that there was a faithful remnant that travelled into Babylon. There must have been ordinary citizens who still loved and obeyed God in the midst of that mayhem and suffering. I wonder, just as we find comfort in God even in the midst of trials, if they too found comfort in seeing God in all His holiness at work, even though it came at such a great and personal price?

It was helpful for me to step into the story this morning and imagine what it would have been like. But I was also blessed and encouraged as I took a step back. Here in these hard chapters we get a glimpse of the immediate from the perspective of God's bigger picture. We see humanity in one particular time and place and at the same time we see God working out His eternal purposes in very clear view.

A great start to Saturday morning? Well, actually, yes!!

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