*September 21 - 27
The Curtain Falls on the Southern Kingdom
MEMORY TEXT: And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me (Jeremiah 32:40).
AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE. And now therefore thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning this city, whereof ye say, It shall be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence; Behold, I will gather them out of all countries, whither I have driven them in mine anger, and in my fury, and in great wrath; and I will bring them again unto this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely: And they shall be my people, and I will be their God: And I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me for ever, for the good of them, and of their children after them: And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me (Jer. 32:36-40).
THE WEEK AT A GLANCE: What was the foundation of Josiahs reforms? How do they relate to what it means for our faith as Christians? What ultimately happened to Josiah? Who ruled after him? What was the basic message of the prophets to the nation? Is it any different than their message to us today? Even after all their sin, all their rebellion, and all their apostasy, what was Gods message to His people?
*Study this week's lesson to prepare for Sabbath, September 28.
Sunday September 22
According to Josephus, a Jewish historian who lived in the first century A.D., Josiah was a man of most excellent disposition, who was naturally virtuous and followed the actions of David as a pattern in the whole conduct of his life.Antiquities, book X, p. iv, adapted. Though Josiah diligently and faithfully attempted to reform Judah, Ellen White wrote that it was, nevertheless, clear to him that Judah had little hope of escaping final destruction (see Prophets and Kings, p. 398).
Read the account in 2 Chronicles 35 about the Passover. Did we not read about another king who attempted to do the same in Judah? (See 2 Chronicles 30.) To review: What was it about the Passover, and what the Passover symbolized, that made it so crucial to a revival?
Josiahs attempted revival centered around two things (besides the eradication of pagan practices): the law and the sanctuary service (the temple itself). The sanctuary service, we understand, is basically a model of the plan of salvation: the gospel of Jesus Christ (2 Tim. 2:8; Heb. 4:2; Rev. 14:6). In short, what Josiah did was center his revival around the law and the gospel, which are, really, the foundation of all true faith and worship.
What is your understanding of the role of the law in the plan of salvation? See Rom. 3:20; 7:7; James 2:10-12; 1 John 3:4.
What is your understanding of the role of the gospel, as foreshadowed in the sanctuary service and fulfilled in Jesus, in the plan of salvation? (See Col. 1:14; Heb. 9:26; 10:10-12; 1 Pet. 1:18, 19.)
How do the law and the gospel complement each other?
Why, in light of the role of the law and the gospel, would any attempt at reform that excludes one or the other be doomed to fail?
|If the reforms ultimately did not spare the southern kingdom from destruction, what was the purpose of them? If it were too late for the nation as a whole, why bother with the reforms at all?|
The story in Chronicles contains more details than does the account in Kings regarding the death of Josiah in a battle with Pharaoh Necho of Egypt. Necho was allied with Assyria against the Babylonians, who were expanding toward the west and would soon become a threat to Egypt itself. Judah found itself caught geographically between Babylon and Egypt. According to Jeremiah, a strong pro-Egyptian party arose in Palestine. The struggles between this party and the pro-Babylonian party would eventually tear Judean society apart and lead to the capture and destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians.
Read the account of Josiahs death in the battle against Egyptian forces (608 B.C.) in 2 Chronicles 35:20-24. Why would a good king, one who attempted to restore true faith and worship in Judah, face such an untimely death? Or was it really untimely? See 2 Chronicles 34:28. How does that single verse help us understand Josiahs fate?
During the reign of Josiah, the political and military situation of the region was drastically changing. The mighty Assyrian nation to the north, who, about a hundred years earlier, overran and ended the Israelite nation, was crumbling, a situation that could have, at least for a while, made it easier for Josiah to attempt his reforms in Judah. At the same time, however, as Assyria crumbled, the Babylonians were rising in power. This, of course, is the Babylon that eventually destroyed the southern kingdom and took many of its elite into captivity and formed the background for the book of Daniel.
After the death of Josiah, it was not long before the curtain fell on the nation. Four kings came after him:
1. Jehoahaz (2 Chron. 36:2, 3)
2. Eliakin (2 Chron. 36:4-8)
3. Jehoiachin (2 Chron. 36:9, 10)
4. Zedekiah (2 Chron. 36:11-14)
The texts regarding them speak for themselves.
|Read 2 Chronicles 36, which in one chapter describes the final days of Judah and the end of the first temple period. Write down in a short paragraph what major spiritual lesson we can learn from the demise of Judah.|
And the Lord God of their fathers sent to them by his messengers, rising up betimes, and sending; because he had compassion on his people, and on his dwelling place: But they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against his people, till there was no remedy (2 Chron. 36:15, 16).
Perhaps some of the saddest verses in all the Bible are the two quoted here. In many ways, they capture not only the story of the southern kingdom but the story of the entire great-controversy drama, beginning with Lucifer in heaven and ending with the demise of this present world.
Read what Ellen White wrote about the earliest stages of the great controversy, even before it reached earth: God in his great mercy bore long with Lucifer. He was not immediately degraded from his exalted station when he first indulged the spirit of discontent, nor even when he began to present his false claims before the loyal angels. Long was he retained in heaven. Again and again he was offered pardon, on condition of repentance and submission. Such efforts as only infinite love and wisdom could devise were made to convince him of his error. The spirit of discontent had never before been known in heaven.The Great Controversy, pp. 495, 496.
Notice the principle: the Creator pleading, offering pardon and forgiveness to the creature, who spurns that offer. How often this scenario has been repeated here on earth, as well.
Write down other examples from the Bible of this same principle: God pleading with His people to repent, to obey, to accept pardon, and the people mocking or rejecting Him. Write down, too (where the information is given), how much time God spent trying to get the people to listen. It is the same thing, over and over again, even if the specific conditions change. Are things any different today?
Sample: Cain rejecting Gods pleas to obey in Genesis 4.___________________________________
Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness (Isa. 55:1, 2).
What is the milk, the wine, the bread, that God offers without price? What are the good things that God is calling everyone to eat? Why is it without price? What does that mean?
However sad Judahs fate, the Lord never stopped pleading with them, as a nation or as individuals. Isaiah, who ministered during the rule of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah (Isa. 1:1), uttered the most eloquent pleas for the people to turn away from the useless, vain, and empty things that were leading to their destruction.
His words in 55:1, 2 capture the essence of that message: Why struggle and work so hard for what, in the end, cannot satisfy you, cannot meet your most basic needs? Only the Lord can meet all those needs, and He can do that only to the extent that we allow Him to. Thus, whether you are living in seventh-century (B.C.) Judah or twenty-first-century Argentina or France or Zaire, the basic issue between humanity and their Creator remains the same.
Look up the following verses, all from Isaiah (30:7; 41:29; 52:3; 44:9; 57:13; 59:4) and then write down the essence of their message, the common theme in these verses:
|No matter how different our circumstances from Judahs, we face the same issue: Whom do we serve? Is it the living God who alone can satisfy our needs, or do we serve the vain, empty, useless things, the things of wind, confusion, and vanity? The answer, of course, is obvious, but it probably would have seemed obvious to the people living back then too. Knowing the right answer is not the hard part the hard part is acting upon it. Why is that so? Look at your own life. How might the words of Isaiah 55:1, 2 apply to you? If you think they do not, at least, to some degree, more than likely you are kidding yourself.|
When the Romans hung Jesus on the cross, He prayed, Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34). In other words, despite all that these people had done, despising His words, rejecting His teachings, mocking His messengers, and now finally crucifying Him, the Lords desire was for only one thing: that even these sinners, despite their sins, be forgiven.
Over the centuries, some commentators have claimed that the God of the New Testament, the God who reveals Himself to us in the person of Jesus Christ, is different; that is, kinder, more loving, more forgiving than the scowling, complaining, and threatening God of the Old Testament.
However, when one reads texts such as Jeremiah 32:36-44, a view of the same compassionate God appears here in the Old Testament, as well. Here is the same God who sought forgiveness for His assailants while He hung on the cross.
Read Jeremiah 32:36-42. What is the Lord saying to His people? Write down the specific promises. In what ways can you see the character of Christ represented in these words?
Vss. 40, 41 _______________________________________________________
How amazing: After thirteen weeks of reading about one king after another who did evil in the sight of the Lord or about a people who followed one abomination after another, despising Gods words, rejecting His teachings, mocking His messengers, we now read these verses in which the God whose words were despised, teachings rejected, and messengers mocked still offers promises of hope, restoration, and healing to the nation that did the despising, the mocking, and the rejecting.
Then, again, all we have to do is look at Jesus, at His willingness to heal, to forgive, and to restore those who, however undeserving, are willing to accept what He offers, and suddenly it all makes better sense.
Thus, in many ways, the message of Kings and Chronicles is not so much about the apostasy and sins of Gods people but about the compassion, forgiveness, and mercy of a God who loves us despite our sins, a God who loves us so much He cannot keep silent about our sins, which do so much damage to those whom, indeed, He does love.
The battle of Carchemish was the turning point for the Babylonians when Nebuchadnezzar defeated Necho in 605 B.C. The book of Jeremiah outlines the play and counterplay of the pro- and anti-Egyptian forces within Judah. Jeremiah, instructed by the Lord, clearly told the people that Babylon would be victorious and that Egypt would not save them (Jer. 2:36).
The final years of Judah record continual apostasy and internal political fighting that ultimately led to the Babylonian captivity.
Read The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 2, pp. 89-99, for more information on these years.
The first years of Jehoiakim s reign were filled with warnings of approaching doom. The word of the Lord spoken by the prophets was about to be fulfilled. The Assyrian power to the northward, long supreme, was no longer to rule the nations. Egypt on the south, in whose power the king of Judah was vainly placing his trust, was soon to receive a decided check. All unexpectedly a new world power, the Babylonian Empire, was rising to the eastward and swiftly overshadowing all other nations.Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings, p. 422.
Robin Willison, ADRA South Sudans program director, was on his way by ship from Britain to Australia. When the ship stopped in the Canary Islands, the captain announced that the passengers could leave the ship and tour the island. But they must return at a given time.
The captain said, When you hear a long blast from the ships horn, you have only one hour to return to the ship. One half hour later you will hear two blasts. If you are not already on the ship, you better start running. The ship will leave promptly, and there is no way to know who has not returned.
The passengers streamed down the gangplank. At the appointed hour, a single long blast echoed across the island. Willison made his way toward the dock. Thirty minutes later he heard two horn blasts. He hurried toward the gangplank with the other passengers. He joined the other passengers crowded along the ships rail. The ships deck trembled as the huge engines roared to life. The crew hauled in the lines that had held the ship in place. Only the gangplank remained to be taken up.
Suddenly they saw in the distance a horse-drawn carriage racing toward the dock. A man jumped from the carriage and started running. He reached the gangplank and placed one foot firmly on it and the other on the shore, hoping to prevent the ship from sailing.
The man looked frantic as the ship began to swing slowly away from shore, and the space between the gangplank and land widened. But he kept his feet planted. Some folks on shore pulled him off the gangplank just in time to prevent an unplanned swim.
They called to the family to get into a small boat anchored nearby. The tiny boat sped across the water to catch up with the ship. It maneuvered around the side to where a door opened just above sea level, and the family managed to board the ship.
Willison finished his story by saying, That man was the first Seventh-day Adventist I ever met. Later we studied the Bible together, and I joined the Adventist Church. But whenever I think about this event, I wonder how many of us are still trying to keep one foot on this earth and the other on the ladder to heaven!
When she wrote this, Barbara Trecartin was the administrative assistant for ADRA South Sudan and lived in Nairobi, Kenya. She and her husband have since returned to the United States.
Join the SSNET moderated email discussion group. You are also warmly invited to join a group discussion of this lesson Sabbath morning with your local Seventh-day Adventist congregation.
Editorial Office: 12501 Old Columbia Pike, Silver
Spring, MD 20904.
Principal Contributor: James W. Zackrison
Editor: Clifford Goldstein
Associate Editor: Lyndelle Brower Chiomenti
Editorial Production Manager: Soraya Homayouni Parish
Art and Design: Lars Justinen
Pacific Press Coordinator: Paul A. Hey
Copyright © 2002 General Conference of Seventh-day Adventist. All Rights Reserved.
This page is Netscape
SSNET Web Site Home page.
Directory of adult SS quarterly Bible Study guides.
Prepared for the Internet by the SSNET Web Team
Last updated August 23, 2002.