Week of September 11

Renewal after the Fire

Read: 2 Kings 25; 2 Chronicles 36; Jeremiah 40-41; Revelation 12
“But the captain of the guard left some of the poorest of the land to be vinedressers and plowmen.”
2 Kings 25:12, ESV


The Lord takes the darkest moment in your darkest day and causes the sun to rise upon it, so trust Him. The passages that we have before us today cover the climax to a time in Judah’s history where their hopes were dashed and their lives were forever altered. Nevertheless, God mercifully began the building process for Israel’s future from those dismal days, and He used the poorest of the poor to do it. Therein lies the great reversal that we see magnified in the birth, death, and resurrection of Christ (cf. Matthew 5:3; Philippians 2:9-11). Let’s see what the Lord will teach our hearts today about trusting Him in the most difficult moments of our lives.

Understanding the Bible Context

The moral reason by Judah’s downfall
We have a grim saying for difficult times: “Just when you think things cannot get any worse, they do!” Judah had already endured two deportations under Babylonian tyranny where the best and the brightest were led into exile. The last deportation removed all who could be of any possible service to the conquerors (2 Kings 25:8-12). Nebuzaradan, the commander of Nebuchadnezzar’s imperial guard, arrives on the scene in Jerusalem and begins “demo” day. He sets fire to Jerusalem’s permanent structures, including the temple and the palace. His men tear down the city’s walls (vv. 9-10). Only the poorest of the poor were left to plow the fields and care for the vineyards.
Here is the moral reason behind the horror. Judah’s travail should not have come as a surprise. “The 586 [B.C.] destruction of Judah is also the subject of the biblical prediction that involves more verses than any other direct prophecy that is to be found within Scripture—608, distributed among seventeen different books of the Bible” (Payne, Prophecy, 641-682, as quoted in EBC). The nation was horrified that God permitted the temple, His abode, to be destroyed (36:17-20). They were further dismayed that God permitted the entire judgment they faced to come by the hands of a godless people (36:17; cf. Habakkuk 1:12-13)! However, they had repeatedly failed to respond to God’s warnings to repent (cf. 2 Chronicles 36:15-16, 21). Could it get any better than this? You say, “What?!” Let me explain.
The cause for hope amid hopeless circumstances
First, God does not desert us even when He must discipline us (Hebrews 12:5-6). We must not overlook that this narrative in Israel’s history is one part of God’s larger story of redemption. We must not miss the point, or we may miss God’s purpose when we His people are disciplined. Look carefully at the following. The reason for the outside military attack was because of an inside insurrection of the heart—Israel had been rebellious (read again 2 Chronicles 36:15-17).
Secondly, God must judge sin because of His covenant love and to redeem His children (cf. Genesis 3:8-19; esp. 15; and 21-24). Even in Israel’s darkest hour, God had promised to restore a faithful remnant and His plan was still in motion (Jeremiah 23:3; see 2 Chronicles 36:22-23).
Thirdly, do not look with scorn or cast insults upon the poorest of the faithful poor and their dark circumstances, nor look upon their plight as hopeless (see Matthew 27:39-44). They will emerge as victors (cf. Revelation 12:10-11). Our Lord brought salvation to the world from a feeding trough in a manger, and eternal hope from a borrowed tomb! Cling to the Lord, even in your darkest hour of separation, because He always delivers His children.

Applying the Passage to Our Lives

Our North Texas region, like so many parts of the state, has endured a long season of drought. The land has been parched for months on end. Wildfires began to break out in recent weeks and the parched ground supplied abundant tinder for enormous conflagrations and destruction. A pasture near our Baptist Center offices caught fire and a large swath of an open pasture was burned. Thankfully, the flames were extinguished before any structures were placed in danger. Rains have come in the last two weeks, and I have been amazed to see the return of green grass where scorched earth had been. God restores His creation, and He does the same for His creatures. Turn to Him!
What hope do we have when our failure has left our lives in shambles? God’s grace shines through the clouds in the storm (cf. 36:22-23). Look again at 2 Chronicles 36:22-23. The Chronicler provides the ray of hope in the concluding verses of the book. Even though the nation suffered exile, God was using that time to “burn away the dross” and present to Himself a people that were refined by their trials and purified (James 1:2-3; 1 Peter 4:12-17). This dark moment in the nation’s history provided a step closer to the messianic kingdom that would one day be established (see Revelation 12 where the “woman” represents the people of God who emerge victorious through great tribulation). Friends, we sing it often but the song holds truth: God will make a way when there seems to be no way.

Reflecting Upon and Discussing the Passage

1. Recall a dark period in your life and expand the frame a bit. Expand the frame? Yes, we all too often write off a period of our lives as hopeless because we did not frame the entire picture—we left God out. Widen your frame of that circumstance to see the ways that God was at work to deliver you. Praise Him.

2. For Families: The profound truth in today's passage inspires hope when things look discouraging, even for children.While you are cooking supper one day this week, ask your children to come to the table and create some art to hang on your wall. Ask them to think about the hardest thing they have had to face at school in this new year. Now ask them to draw a picture of that situation or event, and then draw a frame around it.

After they have completed their picture, ask them to draw God in their picture, somewhere close by. He is there with them, and is helping them to overcome the hard times. Remind them that God is always with them. Now hang the art on the wall where you can see and talk about each of their situations together at supper, taking time to thank God for His presence and care.

May your paths be straight,
Larry C. Ashlock