As we continue to walk through the Word, we have discovered many insights about the Lord and about ourselves. This week, we are going to cover II Chronicles 36. Throughout the Bible, we see the Lord offering hope over and over to the people. In Jeremiah 31, in one of our previous lessons, we covered the transformational power of the New Covenant. In the midst of a very difficult time in the history of Israel, the Lord reminded the people of the hope found in the coming Messiah. This Messiah is going to bring a New Covenant between God and the children of Israel. The people of Israel were familiar with the Old Covenant. The Old Covenant was to point the people to the coming Messiah. The people were unable to obey the Old Covenant because of their sin nature. The New Covenant was going to deal with mankind’s sin nature so that those in the New Covenant would be able to obey the Lord and no longer be enslaved to their sin nature.
In our previous lesson, we took a look at the prophet Habakkuk. Times were difficult in Israel because of the people’s disobedience and Habakkuk was upset because of all of the suffering that he saw around him. He was also upset because he did not feel like the Lord was answering his prayers. By the end of the book, God had not changed. The circumstances had not gotten better yet, Habakkuk was changed by his encounter with God. This is the secret to overcoming difficult circumstances is to trust in the Lord and follow Him through those difficult situations.
This week, as we look at II Chronicles 36, we are going to discover that things are going to get worse for Israel and the people of Israel have no one to blame but themselves. Sometimes bad things happen to us, but, most of the time, bad things happen to us as a result of our poor choices in life. Even in the midst of suffering our own consequences, the Lord offers hope, the same way that He offered hope to Habakkuk.
I. Israel’s problems
In II Chronicles 36, we discover what he have known throughout the existence of mankind. We are our own worse enemies. King Josiah brought about some radical reforms in Israel. He removed all of the idols from the land. He repaired the Temple. While doing work in the dilapidated Temple, the people discovered a copy of the Bible and brought It to the king. Josiah read the Scriptures for the first time in his life and it broke his heart. He repented on the spot. Then he called all of the people together and he read the first five books of the Bible in their presence. At the end, the people repented and renewed their covenant with God. During Josiah’s lifetime, the people walked in obedience to the Lord. Josiah dies at age 39.
1 Then the people of the land took Joahaz the son of Josiah, and made him king in place of his father in Jerusalem.
2 Joahaz was twenty-three years old when he became king, and he reigned three months in Jerusalem.
The people chose Josiah’s son to become king. Joahaz is 23 years old. We can assume that Joahaz would have been a great king, continuing in the ways of his father Josiah but, he was removed by a foreign power after only a three month reign. The name Joahaz means “the Lord has a hold of me“. Based on his name and the meaning of his name, Joahaz had a relationship with God and was living in obedience to the Lord the way that his father Josiah had taught him to do.
3 Then the king of Egypt deposed him at Jerusalem, and imposed on the land a fine of one hundred talents of silver and one talent of gold.
4 The king of Egypt made Eliakim his brother king over Judah and Jerusalem, and changed his name to Jehoiakim. But Neco took Joahaz his brother and brought him to Egypt.
The king of Egypt removed Joahaz for his brother, Eliakim. The king of Egypt changes Eliakim’s name to Jehoiakim. There is a reason for the name change. Eliakim means “God raises up“. God did not raise up Eliakim, the king of Egypt did. Jehoiakim means “the Lord raises up” or it could mean “a lord (king) raises up“. The lord of Egypt raised him up to his position, not the Lord (God). So, the people have gone from a potentially good king to this man Jehoiakim.
5 Jehoiakim was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem; and he did evil in the sight of the LORD his God.
As you just read, Jehoiakim was not like his brother Joahaz or like his father, Josiah. He did evil in the sight of the Lord. He had eleven years to corrupt the people and he did just that.
8 Now the rest of the acts of Jehoiakim and the abominations which he did, and what was found against him, behold, they are written in the Book of the Kings of Israel and Judah. And Jehoiachin his son became king in his place.
9 Jehoiachin was eight years old when he became king, and he reigned three months and ten days in Jerusalem, and he did evil in the sight of the LORD.
After Jehoiakim, his son Jehoiachin became king. He grew up under the leadership of his father and he definitely was his father’s son. He was only eight years old when he became king and he only reigned for three months yet, at eight years old he did evil in the sight of the Lord because that is what he saw his father do during his lifetime. Jehoiachin was deposed by the king of Babylon and a new king began to rule.
11 Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem.
12 He did evil in the sight of the LORD his God; he did not humble himself before Jeremiah the prophet who spoke for the LORD.
Zedekiah was one of Jehoiachin’s relatives. His name means “the Lord is righteous“. Yes, the Lord is righteous, unfortunately, none of that righteousness rubbed off on Zedekiah. He also did evil in the sight of the Lord. Worse than that, when confronted by the prophet Jeremiah, Zedekiah would not humble himself and listen. Zedekiah did not have a teachable spirit. Zedekiah had twenty-one years to influence the people of Israel in a very negative way. Then, Zedekiah tried to rebel against the king of Babylon and the people suffered as a result. Because of this string of wicked kings, the leadership, both secular and spiritual had grown totally corrupt. The people followed in the footsteps of their leadership.
14 Furthermore, all the officials of the priests and the people were very unfaithful following all the abominations of the nations; and they defiled the house of the LORD which He had sanctified in Jerusalem.
How is God going to respond? He has every right to punish them severely for their actions.
II. God’s Warnings
Even as they have corrupted themselves completely, God still loves people and He wants the best for them. God chooses to show mercy to the people and not punish them right away. He also chooses to show grace to them by giving them a chance to repent of their ways and return to Him.
15 The LORD, the God of their fathers, sent word to them again and again by His messengers, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place;
God is moved by compassion. He wants the best for the people and He sends warnings their way. He sends His Word to them via His messengers, the prophets. How will the people respond to this compassion, mercy, and grace?
16 but they continually mocked the messengers of God, despised His words and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against His people, until there was no remedy.
The people mock the messengers of God. They make fun of the Lord’s messengers and scoff at the Lord’s Word. They despise the Word of the Lord. All of these words have very specific meanings that paint a vivid picture of human nature. The Bible has much to teach on the dangers of being a mocker. Mockers do what they do out of arrogance, out of their haughtiness and pride. When a person is prideful he is puffed up, but with air, which means that there is no substance, like a large balloon which can pop at any moment and be worth nothing. This is why mockers scoff at other people, because they (scoffers) have no substance to them and they know that so they put others down to lift themselves up. Most people do not like scoffer because they are irritating and destructive, full of criticism and cynicism. To despise the Word of God means to look down on with contempt. The idea is that you think that you know better than what is written in the Bible. People do this today when they call the Bible an outdated book written by backward thinking people. This is how corrupt the children of Israel had become. They laughed at the compassion, mercy, and grace of God. Little did they realize that consequences were coming their way.
III. Painful Consequences
God is gracious and merciful but, He is also just and righteous. There are laws such as the law of cause and effect. The people did evil in the sight of the Lord. God extended mercy and grace to them out of His compassionate heart. The people rejected those amazing gifts and now they have to face the consequences.
17 Therefore He brought up against them the king of the Chaldeans who slew their young men with the sword in the house of their sanctuary, and had no compassion on young man or virgin, old man or infirm; He gave them all into his hand.
18 All the articles of the house of God, great and small, and the treasures of the house of the LORD, and the treasures of the king and of his officers, he brought them all to Babylon.
19 Then they burned the house of God and broke down the wall of Jerusalem, and burned all its fortified buildings with fire and destroyed all its valuable articles.
20 Those who had escaped from the sword he carried away to Babylon; and they were servants to him and to his sons until the rule of the kingdom of Persia,
21 to fulfill the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed its sabbaths. All the days of its desolation it kept sabbath until seventy years were complete.
The punishment of the Lord was unleashed and the consequences were quite painful. Many people were killed in the attack by the Babylonians. Many more were taken into captivity, including the future prophet Daniel. Even this punishment should not have been a shock to the people. The prophet Jeremiah spoke of it and he even shared details about how long they would be in captivity. Daniel discovered that information while in Babylon, reading the prophet Jeremiah (see Daniel 9).
What about us and our modern society today, do we have corrupt leaders who have lead the people into corrupt lifestyles? Have we experienced God’s mercy and grace? How do we respond, as a society, to the Word of the Lord? Do we have a teachable spirit or, do we mock the Lord’s prophets and despise His Holy Word? What should we expect, consequences of our poor choices or, should we seek to be the next Josiah? God is always looking for one Josiah among the people. Are you ready to be a Josiah in this generation?
May the Lord help us understand His mercy, grace, and compassion so that we can be the Josiah of our generation!!!