If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 2 Kings 24, Hebrews 6, Joel 3, Psalm 143. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can’t do all the readings today, read 2 Kings 24.
In 2 Kings 24 the Lord’s long-prophesied judgment on Judah arrived. We looked a few days ago at the thoroughgoing spiritual rebellion and idolatry of Manasseh (2 Kings 21). Here in chapter 24, Manasseh’s sin was revisited and specified as the reason for the destruction of Judah (vv. 3-4). Though idolatry had infected Judah for generations, nobody was as sold out to it as Manasseh. He not only worshipped every false god imaginable but he killed many innocent people (v. 4) as a result of his false worship. Verse 4b told us that “…the Lord was not willing to forgive.” This statement seems to contrast with yesterday’s passage from Joel 2:13-14: “Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.” If the Lord is who Joel said he was, then why would he not forgive Judah here in 2 Kings 24?
First of all, there was no repentance indicated in 2 Kings 24. The king during this time, Jehoiakim, “did evil in the eyes of the Lord, just as his predecessors had done” (2 Ki 23:37). The only thing he did in 2 Kings 24 was rebel against Nebuchadnezzar three years after becoming his vassal (v. 1). He did not rebel because the Lord told him to, nor is there any indication that he asked the Lord for his will or his favor. The implication of all of this is that Jehoiakim lived and governed out of “faith” in false gods rather than, like Hezekiah, calling on God in repentance and looking to him for help.
Second, it is important to remember that the idolatry of Judah lasted for many generations. Each of the 19 kings of Judah represented a new generation but only 8 of those kings were described by the Lord as “good.” Even among the good kings, idolatry continued to exist in the background; only Hezekiah and Josiah acted to fully extinguish idol worship in Judah. And, after they died, the high places of idol worship were quickly restored. God was very patient, therefore, with Judah sending them good kings periodically to lead them toward righteousness and sending them prophets to warn them about their disobedience.
Third, God had promised this judgment would come. He told Hezekiah it was coming after his lifetime (2 Ki 20:16-19). He sent prophets to Manasseh to warn him that it was coming (2 Ki 21:10-15). He even told Josiah that it would still come after his lifetime despite Josiah’s personal godliness and godly leadership (2 Ki 23:26-27).
All of this indicates that God’s mercy is great but that his justice is reliable. The repeated failures of Israel and Judah demonstrate that God’s law and great prophets are not enough. We need to grace of God through the spirit of God to turn our hearts in true repentance and faith. And we needed a redeemer to receive God’s judgment on our behalf and for God himself to be our true spiritual leader and king. Christ has begun this work and we benefit from it by his grace through our faith in him. We wait for him now to come and establish the New Jerusalem which will finally be filled with his righteousness. Until then, we live by faith by obeying his word and claiming the sacrifice of Christ for us when we sin.
Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we’ll talk scripture again tomorrow.