November 13

II Chronicles 5-Ezra 2

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Commentary by Dr. Drake Travis

Dear Lord God, even when punishment needs to be delivered, and it is hurtful, even then you are planning restoration.  We are grateful that you are always planning to redeem and restore us.  Amen.

In our reading today, the inevitable occurs. The southern kingdom, the core of God’s agenda, the ones who have known Him the most and the most dynamically, they have taken God past the edge of His grace and patience. Jerusalem falls.  It cannot be healed as is. Not with these people and their deep commitment to stray from truth.  The Babylonians arrive to pillage. Then we jump about 50 years to a new era when the exiles are returning.

35 – We are in the middle of Josiah’s reign.  His reforms were marvelous and right to the utmost.  His celebration of the Passover was, a “show stopper” (forgive the Broadway verbiage).  It was immense and complete.  Josiah was committed in this sense.  When God asked Josiah “for a buck” – he gave three.  The zeal is good, though it gives him problems at the end.  At any rate, Josiah does it big for God.  And remember that he pulls off this Passover celebration as a leader and he is 26 years old. Many 26 year olds don’t even have their studio apartment furnished past “refugee status” at 26!  And here was Josiah celebrating (leading!) the Passover in the greatest way it had ever been commemorated in 500 years.  Josiah is a legendary.   And yet his dreadfully unfortunate death tells us something that was not a yielded matter in his heart.  He was king at 8. He was not eager to learn from mommy, memorize his times tables, he is King.  It’s too much power too young. But what do you do about timing at this stage of the game? If he had not had a core attitude of “hey, I’m king!” that goes back as far as he could remember, perhaps he would have listened to the advice of one older who knew better. He had no fight with the Egyptians. He had latent commitments to Assyria that were not right to have, but he did. He thinks Assyria will honor him for attacking their attackers.  But it turns out to be a fool’s move.  It’s dumb as jumping off a dock  to save a stray cat that accidentally fell into a feeding frenzy of sharks.  You get killed and save nothing!

36 – The son of Josiah is made king and quickly removed and taken to Egypt by Pharaoh Neco. Jehoiakim is installed as king in Jerusalem by this same Pharaoh Neco. Being installed by a pagan, he has no impetus to do anything but act pagan – and he does.  His reign was dark and tumultuous. He deserved all the rough treatment he got from those who oppressed him. Jehoiachin, the son, was on the throne for just a number of weeks before being hauled to Babylon. Zedekiah assumed the final kingship as the last ruler of Jerusalem.  He was there 597 to 586 B.C.  He was duplicitous; honest with no one.  He always had secondary deals going, like a politician, and when Babylon finally stormed in at the end, they were doubly determined to make Zedekiah suffer.  They did.  We didn’t cover the brutal details of this last 23 years in Jerusalem. That is in II Kings’  final chapters.  You can review that if you wish.  It’s gory stuff.  Ungodliness always leads to such horror. Jeremiah 26 &36 contains some insight into how wretched these final kings were.
Jump forward from 586 B.C. to 538 B.C. and King Cyrus of Persia is releasing tens of thousands of Jewish souls to return to Jerusalem.  Since Babylon destroyed Jerusalem, they too have been overthrown. Persia is now the grand force in the Middle and Near East.  And Cyrus, fond of the Jewish story, has a heart to allow them to return to Israel.
Ezra 1 –  The process of returning to Israel/Jerusalem begins.  Remember, God spurred this to happen and Jeremiah had prophesied this would happen.  The planning, packing, taking inventory, returning of valuables to Hebrews for the trip home, all this is well underway.
2 – Here is the “packing list” of all the leaders and groups and their numbers heading back to Israel. They are the families, priests, Levites, gatekeepers, Temple servants, and more.  There are nearly 50,000 people commencing upon a 900 mile walk.  What a sight!  Imagine running a convenience store along the way back!

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