Scripture reading before the lesson: 2 Kings 24:1-4 and 2 Chronicles 36:15-16 (Important to read before reading or hearing this lesson)
This week’s readings from 2 Kings 17 – 1 Chronicles 11 covers Assyria’s conquering of and scattering of the northern kingdom of Israel, to Babylon’s destruction of Jerusalem and the exile of the southern kingdom of Judah.
Then, interestingly enough, 1 Chronicles starts the entire Bible story all over again, beginning with Adam. The first 11 chapters are abbreviated to listings of genealogical records, names and places leading us back to the Monarchy of Israel. As we continue through the Chronicles notice the focus on Jerusalem and the Temple. We will see how this great place and structure were built and then destroyed, making Israel question if God had finally given up on them as His people.
Does God ever give up on us? More personally speaking: do we ever give up on God?
As for our reading through the Bible: It is time to wave a yellow flag and say, “Don’t give up!” Someone has said, “Once you have read the Bible all the way through, then… you are ready to read the Bible.” Many people who start the journey never finish. They never get there. But for those that are faithful to the end, there is a payoff. You will never regret reading through the entire Bible, especially in concert with others. This is one of the most important ministries of this church. The Bible is, for us, THE book. Through it we see God. We see ourselves. We see the beginning and the end of physical human history. This is not just an ancient piece of literature. It is God’s word. It is our story too.
Someone said that the first book God wrote is the Creation. All creation declares God’s praise. The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows His handiwork. All creation speaks of its creator: His divine power and wisdom, His provision, His eternal nature. You and I are part of that creation. But we are specially created, bearing the very image of our Creator and we are able to commune with Him, know Him, serve Him and ultimately spend eternity with Him in His intimate presence. All that is created reflects the Creator Himself.
God also wrote a second book, the Bible, given through and to God’s people, for us. This book gives us a much more personal view of God and it explains the creation to us: it’s origin, purpose, and destiny. Through the Bible we not only discover our identity as bearers of God’s image, but also our fall and how our hearts are not true to the divine image we have been given, nor to the God who gave it. Then the Bible unfolds history and destiny to us. We discover God’s interactions with humanity and His amazing plan to enter into our world and take the very form of humanity upon Himself as a redeeming gift to rescue us from the fall, and restore us to Himself.
The Bible describes the church as the house of God. “Upon this rock I will build my church,” said Jesus. We are the new creation. Created in Christ Jesus to do what the original creation was intended to do: Declare the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into His marvelous light. 1 Peter 2:9-10. We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works which He has prepared for us to do. Eph. 2:10.
We need to read the whole Bible to get the point that God as creator has a purpose and plan for His creation. But we also see that His creation does not always cooperate with His purpose and plan.
God created a nation out of the descendants of Abraham. This nation has the potential to be a holy nation of priests. Will they make it? Israel, in the Old Testament, is God’s Son. “Out of Egypt have I called my son,” says Hosea 11:1. Is this son true to his heavenly Father? God anoints David as King over Israel and promises to build a house for David and give David a lasting dynasty. Will David’s dynasty persist?
Interestingly, it is through these flawed and fallen but chosen people that God reveals what He will do in Jesus Christ, His only begotten Son. God’s purposes and plan will ultimately be fulfilled, in flesh and blood, by a human, right here on planet earth! One image bearer will make it. One will be true. One will persist to the very end, even though it costs Him the terrible price of death on the cross and punishment of divine wrath against sin.
He who knew no sin, became sin, so that in Him, we might become the righteousness of God.
When Israel was wiped out and scattered by Assyria, and when Judah and Jerusalem were demolished and the Temple of God destroyed and burned, it looked like the end for them as God’s people. It appeared that God had given up on them. The end of them as a kingdom, the end of their dreams of being the envy of the nations, abandoned by their God, they seemed in hopeless ruins.
There are times when God’s people face what appears to be utter rejection by God. Sometimes it’s their own fault. Sometimes, like Job, there are unknown, invisible, spiritual things at work. Sometimes, the cry: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me!” is spoken not because of personal guilt, but the crushing guilt of others.
God has a way of using even unjust suffering to fulfill His purposes. Some of God’s best works of glory and goodness had their birth in the crucible of pain.
Suffering gets our attention, like nothing else can. Israel and Judah are clearly receiving judgment from God for their idolatry and disobedience. Their suffering makes them ask the hard questions. Will they turn and seek God? Has He given up on them completely? Is there any hope?
The voice of God through the prophets not only warned Israel about the consequences of their sin, God also spoke hope through them. God made their crisis into a faith deepening experience as well as a purging experience for those who would never repent.