TRAGEDY AND HOPE
Lord, help me to refrain from rash decisions.
Read 2 KINGS 25:18–30
18 The commander of the guard took as prisoners Seraiah the chief priest, Zephaniah the priest next in rank and the three doorkeepers. 19 Of those still in the city, he took the officer in charge of the fighting men, and five royal advisers. He also took the secretary who was chief officer in charge of conscripting the people of the land and sixty of the conscripts who were found in the city. 20 Nebuzaradan the commander took them all and brought them to the king of Babylon at Riblah. 21 There at Riblah, in the land of Hamath, the king had them executed.
So Judah went into captivity, away from her land.
22 Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon appointed Gedaliah son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, to be over the people he had left behind in Judah. 23 When all the army officers and their men heard that the king of Babylon had appointed Gedaliah as governor, they came to Gedaliah at Mizpah—Ishmael son of Nethaniah, Johanan son of Kareah, Seraiah son of Tanhumeth the Netophathite, Jaazaniah the son of the Maakathite, and their men. 24 Gedaliah took an oath to reassure them and their men. “Do not be afraid of the Babylonian officials,” he said. “Settle down in the land and serve the king of Babylon, and it will go well with you.”
25 In the seventh month, however, Ishmael son of Nethaniah, the son of Elishama, who was of royal blood, came with ten men and assassinated Gedaliah and also the men of Judah and the Babylonians who were with him at Mizpah. 26 At this, all the people from the least to the greatest, together with the army officers, fled to Egypt for fear of the Babylonians.
27 In the thirty-seventh year of the exile of Jehoiachin king of Judah, in the year Awel-Marduk became king of Babylon, he released Jehoiachin king of Judah from prison. He did this on the twenty-seventh day of the twelfth month. 28 He spoke kindly to him and gave him a seat of honor higher than those of the other kings who were with him in Babylon. 29 So Jehoiachin put aside his prison clothes and for the rest of his life ate regularly at the king’s table. 30 Day by day the king gave Jehoiachin a regular allowance as long as he lived.
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“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it” (Heb. 12:11).
Today’s episode confronts us with the question of how we respond to God’s discipline. After the execution of some key leaders (18–21), a pro-Babylonian Jewish governor is appointed in Judah, who encourages the people to accept their fate and submit to Babylonian rule (23,24). This echoes Jeremiah’s advice to the exiles in Babylon (Jer. 29:4–7). Simply stated, God has disciplined his people, and they need to accept and learn from it. However, the ones who remain resist God’s will in this regard. Ishmael’s approach is one of rebellion. Submission to Babylon is like treason to him, an army officer who is also of royal descent (25). Although he is not of David’s line, royal connections may have made him proud, defiant and overconfident. He slays Gedaliah.
The remnant in Judah responds by trying to escape from the consequences. Although not directly responsible for the assassination, they are terrified and flee to Egypt (6). Returning to the land of their former slavery shows lack of trust and is symbolic: because they refuse to accept God’s discipline where God placed them, they will remain enslaved, entangled again in the worship of other gods until they become completely assimilated and disappear (cf. Jer. 42:7–22).
The last incident recorded, however, offers hope. First, it is notable that there is no report of rebellion from Babylon: apparently, the exiles have accepted their fate. In fact, the post-exilic prophet Zechariah explicitly says that they repented in exile (Zech. 1:6). The release from prison of Jehoiachin (27–30), the last of the Davidic line (son of Jehoiakim and grandson of Josiah; 2 Kings 24:6; 23:34), is the first sign of hope. God has not completely abandoned his people. Once they have endured his discipline, they will be brought back into the land.
Lord, help us to learn from the consequences of our sins, rather than try to wriggle out of them. Teach us to respond humbly to Your discipline.
Lord, bring me to a place in my walk with You where I do not need to experience Your discipline.