Judah Taken Captive
- Sense God's sadness at Judah's and our disobedience.
- Thank God for the promise of salvation.
- Ask God to forgive us for the wrong things we've done.
- Review the stories from this unit.
Three kings followed Josiah as king of Judah in Jerusalem---two sons and a grandson. Despite the example of their father, they stubbornly refused to follow in his ways, or to obey the books of the law he had rediscovered. Finally, the prophecy of Huldah, Jeremiah, and many of the other prophets became reality.
After trying to play off Egypt against the Babylonian empire, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon moved in against the tiny Judean kingdom and crushed it like an ant underfoot. There were actually two exiles. In the first, as was his typical practice, Nebuchadnezzar took the best and brightest of the people of Judah (eg., Daniel) and installed them in his own government. But those left behind continued to rebel, and finally Nebuchadnezzar moved in and turned Jerusalem into a pile of rubble.
In the end, the king is seized, his eyes put out. The precious temple is stripped of all its treasures and burned to the ground, as are the palace and other important buildings.
The exile in Babylon was not only a personal, political, and national tragedy; it was a spiritual crisis. God had made a covenant with Israel. The temple was God's symbolic dwelling place and the center of Israel's worship. God had promised that a king would reign on David's throne forever. And now, God seems to have abandoned all those promises.
You can hear the terrible crisis of faith in the Psalms that come from that time:
"By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion" (Ps. 137:1).
"O God, why have you rejected us forever?...Turn your steps toward these everlasting ruins, all this destruction the enemy has brought on the sanctuary" (Ps. 74:1, 3).
How could God allow this to happen? Will God still be faithful to his covenant? These are the questions that consumed God's people.
God sent the prophet Jeremiah to give guidance to the people. Jeremiah told them that God had not abandoned his covenant, but was punishing them for their sins. "'Bow your neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon; serve him and his people, and you will live'" (Jer. 27:12). That's not what the people wanted to hear. They wanted to fight and rebel, but God told them to accept the punishment and wait for his deliverance.
It's important to note that, in this sad story, God is still the main actor. It is God who is grieved and angry at the sins of the people. It is God who hands them over to the Babylonians and to exile. And it will finally be God who will prove faithful to his promises and bring them back under King Cyrus (2 Chron. 36:22).
God is just, and the sins of his people will not go unpunished. But this same God will be faithful to the covenant of grace he made with Abraham. Again we find ourselves looking forward to that true Son of David, the King of Peace, who will deliver all his people from sin and death.
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