“40 Days and 40 Nights of God’s Word”
DAY 16: AUGUST 7
2 CHRONICLES 13 – EZRA 4:24
Today’s reading continues the review of the kings of Judah and Israel, up to and beyond the 70-year captivity in Babylon and the return of God’s people to Jerusalem. One of their first tasks upon arriving back in Jerusalem was to lay plans for the construction of what would eventually become known as the second temple.
- As we’ve seen over the past several days, many of the kings start out being right with God, but somewhere along the line go astray. After that, only a few find their way back to God. Most of the kings, though, start out evil and end up even more evil, with one notable exception – Hezekiah’s son Manasseh.
- Hezekiah was one of those kings “who did right in the sight of the Lord” and was celebrated by his people for being a great and godly ruler. But Manasseh came like a wrecking ball after him, destroying all of his father’s accomplishments. Things eventually got so bad for King Manasseh that he ended up in prison in chains, where he ultimately repented. Manasseh was released after his conversion and returned to his kingship in Jerusalem, at which time he undid everything he had previously undone of his father’s, finally doing, as scripture would say, “that which was right in the eyes of the Lord”. So he started out an enemy of God but ended his days in God’s grace. This is one of the happiest stories in the Bible.
- It’s not how you start that matters, it’s how you end. After the starting gun is fired, the first horse out of the gate doesn’t automatically win the race; the race has to proceed over time, and then the winner is declared at the finish line. You don’t win the race just because you’re in it or because you’re the first out of the gate, and you don’t lose the race just because you fall behind. You win it because you end in God’s grace. Manasseh was one of the last out of the gate and lagged far behind the others during the race, but he ultimately won because he ended in God’s grace.
- As I read through the stories about the kings of Israel and Judah and their people, I can’t help but think that God is immensely patient. He gives them chance after chance after chance, king after king after king, but then eventually his patience comes to an end. When that happens, punishment is swift, brutal, and thorough. In this part of scripture, punishment means the slaughter of the king and his people, the sacking and destruction of Jerusalem, and the captivity of whoever escaped the slaughter. It honestly doesn’t get much worse than that.
- Look around you wherever you are now and imagine everything destroyed – looted, smashed to pieces, and then burned in a great conflagration. Now imagine everyone you know slaughtered. And while you’re imagining that terrifying scenario, think about what might happen to you if it came to pass. Would you be among the dead, or would you escape?
- In hypothetical SHTF scenarios, we all like to imagine we’ll be one of the few who survive. But when it comes to God’s punishment, there is no escape. There’s nowhere to run and nowhere to hide; if you have it coming, you’ll get it.
- The sacking and wholesale destruction of Jerusalem and all the people in it reads like a horror story, but what makes us think we deserve anything less than those people? Our sins as “formerly Christian” nations are equally as horrendous as theirs. By some measures, our sins are even worse. God has not changed; he’s still patient until he isn’t. It’s hard not to think that a great punishment is coming our way.
What are your thoughts about the kings and their evil deeds in these past few readings? Does it strike you as odd or even frustrating that they seemed to have no understanding of right and wrong? God had not yet put his law into their hearts, so maybe that’s part of the reason why he was so patient with his people when they messed up. But after the book of the law had been found in the temple and read to all the people, they no longer had the excuse of ignorance.
As for us, we definitely don’t have the excuse of ignorance, not only because we know God’s law, but even more so because it’s now written on our hearts. That means we have ZERO excuse for doing evil. And since that’s the case, and since we continue as “formerly Christian” nations to do “that which his evil in the sight of the Lord”, how much worse – and how much more deserved – our punishment will be than that of the people we read about today.
The schedule for the BIBLE READ-THROUGH is given in the PDF below.