May 19, 2015

II Kings 24-25
It was during his reign that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon invaded the country. Jehoiakim became his puppet. But after three years he had had enough and revolted.  God dispatched a succession of raiding bands against him: Babylonian, Aramean, Moabite, and Ammonite. The strategy was to destroy Judah. Through the preaching of his servants and prophets, God had said he would do this, and now he was doing it. None of this was by chance—it was God’s judgment as he turned his back on Judah because of the enormity of the sins of Manasseh—

Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he became king. His rule in Jerusalem lasted only three months...  In God’s opinion he also was an evil king, no different from his father.  The next thing to happen was that the officers of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon attacked Jerusalem and put it under siege. While his officers were laying siege to the city, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon paid a personal visit. And Jehoiachin king of Judah, along with his mother, officers, advisors, and government leaders, surrendered.  In the eighth year of his reign Jehoiachin was taken prisoner by the king of Babylon. Nebuchadnezzar emptied the treasuries of both The Temple of God and the royal palace and confiscated all the gold furnishings that Solomon king of Israel had made for The Temple of God....  And then he emptied Jerusalem of people—all its leaders and soldiers, all its craftsmen and artisans. He took them into exile, something like ten thousand of them! The only ones he left were the very poor....

Then the king of Babylon made Jehoiachin’s uncle, Mattaniah, his puppet king, but changed his name to Zedekiah.  Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he started out as king. He was king in Jerusalem for eleven years.... As far as God was concerned Zedekiah was just one more evil king, a carbon copy of Jehoiakim.  The source of all this doom to Jerusalem and Judah was God’s anger—God turned his back on them as an act of judgment. And then Zedekiah revolted against the king of Babylon.  The revolt dates from the ninth year and tenth month of Zedekiah’s reign. Nebuchadnezzar set out for Jerusalem immediately with a full army. He set up camp and sealed off the city by building siege mounds around it. The city was under siege for nineteen months (until the eleventh year of Zedekiah). 

By the fourth month of Zedekiah’s eleventh year, on the ninth day of the month, the famine was so bad that there wasn’t so much as a crumb of bread for anyone. Then there was a breakthrough. At night, under cover of darkness, the entire army escaped through an opening in the wall... They slipped through the lines of the Babylonians who surrounded the city and headed for the Jordan on the Arabah Valley road. But the Babylonians were in pursuit of the king and they caught up with him in the Plains of Jericho. By then Zedekiah’s army had deserted and was scattered. The Babylonians took Zedekiah prisoner and marched him off to the king of Babylon at Riblah, then tried and sentenced him on the spot. Zedekiah’s sons were executed right before his eyes; the summary murder of his sons was the last thing he saw, for they then blinded him. Securely handcuffed, he was hauled off to Babylon.

In the nineteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, on the seventh day of the fifth month, Nebuzaradan, the king of Babylon’s chief deputy, arrived in Jerusalem. He burned The Temple of God to the ground, went on to the royal palace, and then finished off the city—burned the whole place down. He put the Babylonian troops he had with him to work knocking down the city walls. Finally, he rounded up everyone left in the city, including those who had earlier deserted to the king of Babylon, and took them off into exile. He left a few poor dirt farmers behind to tend the vineyards and what was left of the fields....Judah went into exile, orphaned from her land.

Regarding the common people who were left behind in Judah, this: Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon appointed Gedaliah as their governor. When veteran army officers among the people heard that the king of Babylon had appointed Gedaliah, they came to Gedaliah at Mizpah. Among them were Ishmael, Johanan, Seraiah, Jaazaniah, and some of their followers.
Gedaliah assured the officers and their men, giving them his word, “Don’t be afraid of the Babylonian officials. Go back to your farms and families and respect the king of Babylon. Trust me, everything is going to be all right.”

Some time later—it was in the seventh month—Ishmael (he had royal blood in him), came back with ten men and killed Gedaliah, the traitor Jews, and the Babylonian officials who were stationed at Mizpah—a bloody massacre.  But then, afraid of what the Babylonians would do, they all took off for Egypt, leaders and people, small and great.

When Jehoiachin king of Judah had been in exile for thirty-seven years, Evil-Merodach became king in Babylon and let Jehoiachin out of prison. This release took place on the twenty-seventh day of the twelfth month. The king treated him most courteously and gave him preferential treatment beyond anything experienced by the other political prisoners held in Babylon. Jehoiachin took off his prison garb and for the rest of his life ate his meals in company with the king. The king provided everything he needed to live comfortably.

Luke 4
Now Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wild.  For 40 wilderness days and nights he was tested by the Devil.  He ate nothing during those days, and when the time was up, he was hungry.  

The Devil, playing on his hunger, gave the first test, “Since you’re God’s Son, command this stone to turn into a loaf of bread.”  Jesus answered by quoting Deuteronomy: “it takes more than bread to really live.”

For the second test, he led him up and spread out all the kingdoms of the earth on display at once.  Then the Devil said, “They’re yours in all their splendor to serve your pleasure.  I’m in charge of them all and can turn them over to whomever I wish.  Worship me and they’re yours, the whole works.”  Jesus refused, again backing his refusal with Deuteronomy:  “Worship the Lord your God and only the Lord your God.  Serve him with absolute single-heartedness.”

For the third test, the Devil took him ot Jerusalem and put him on top of the Temple.  He said, “If you are God’s Son, jump.  It’s written, isn’t it that he has placed you in the care of angels to protect you:  they will catch you: you won’t so much as stub your toe on a stone’?”  “Yes, “ said Jesus, “and it’s also written, Don’t you dare tempt the Lord your God.’”  That completed the testing.  The Devil retreated temporarily, lying in wait for another opportunity.  

Jesus returned to Galilee powerful in Spirit.  News that he was back spread through the countryside.  He taught in their meeting places to everyone’s acclaim and pleasure.  He came to Nazareth where he had been reared.  As he always did on the Sabbath, he went to the meeting place.  When he stood up to read, he was handed the scroll of the prophet Isaiah.  Unrolling the scroll, he found the place where it was written:
    God’s Spirit is on me: he’s chosen me to preach the Message of good news to the poor,
    sent me to announce pardon to prisoners and recovery of sight to the blind,
    to set the burdened and battered free, to announce, “This is God’s year to act!”
He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the assistant, and sat down.  Every eye in the place was on him, intent.  Then he started in, “You’ve just heard the Scripture make history.  It came true just now in this place.

All who were there, watching and listening, were surprised at how well he spoke.  But they also said, “Isn’t this Joseph’s son, the one we have known since he was a youngster?”  He answered, “I suppose you’re going t quote the proverb, ‘Doctor, go heal yourself.  Do here in your hometown what we heard you did in Capernaum.‘  Well let me tell you something;  No prophet is ever welcomed in his hometown.  Isn’t it a fact that there were many widows in Israel at the time of Elijah during that three and a half years of drought when famine devastated the land, but the only widow whom Elijah was sent was in Sarepta in Sidon?  And there were many lepers in Israel at the time of the prophet Elisha but the only one  cleaned was Naaman the Syrian.”   

That set everyone n the meeting place seething with anger.  They threw him out, banishing him from the village, then took him to a mountain cliff at the edge of the village to throw him to his doom, but he gave them the slip and went on his way.

He went down to Capernaum, a village in Galilee.   He was teaching the people on the Sabbath.  They were surprised and impressed--his teaching was so forthright, so confident, so authoritative, not the quibbling and quoting they were use to.  In the meeting place that day there was a man demonically disturbed who shouted out to Jesus.... Jesus shut him up: “Quite!  Get out of him!”  The demonic spirit threw the man down in front of them all and left.  The demon didn’t hurt him.  That set everyone back on their heals...

Jesus left the meeting place and went to Simon’s house.  Simon’s mother-in-law was running a high fever and they asked him t do something about it.  He stood over her, told the fever to leave--and it left.  Before they knew it, she was up getting dinner for them.....

Jesus left the next day for open country.  But the crowds went looking for him, and when they found him, clung to him so he couldn’t go on....Meanwhile he continued preaching in the meeting places of Galilee.