Restoration Is Coming

In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing:

“Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel—he is the God who is in Jerusalem. And let each survivor, in whatever place he sojourns, be assisted by the men of his place with silver and gold, with goods and with beasts, besides freewill offerings for the house of God that is in Jerusalem.” Ezra 1:1-4.

The Bible is not all written chronologically. Ezra begins long after Israel is judged and taken captive. The books of the prophets actually take place before this book, filling in many details of the Jews’ captivity. Cyrus is not the king who took them captive, but who conquered Babylon. The Jews were merely acquired by the Persians.

Even when your government is dissolved and you are taken captive, if you believe, you are still a part of something bigger. We are the royal priesthood of God’s kingdom, whether we are free or in chains. Our identity today is in Christ, whether America survives or not.

Judgment is Inevitable

Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord his God. He did not humble himself before Jeremiah the prophet, who spoke from the mouth of the Lord. He also rebelled against King Nebuchadnezzar, who had made him swear by God. He stiffened his neck and hardened his heart against turning to the Lord, the God of Israel. All the officers of the priests and the people likewise were exceedingly unfaithful, following all the abominations of the nations. And they polluted the house of the Lord that he had made holy in Jerusalem.

The Lord, the God of their fathers, sent persistently to them by his messengers, because he had compassion on his people and on his dwelling place. But they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising his words and scoffing at his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord rose against his people, until there was no remedy. 2 Chronicles 36:11-16.

Judgment is like death. It is coming. It will arrive. We may be able to postpone it, delay it, buy time, but at some point we must accept it. For those of us who have believed in the one who took our judgment on the cross, death will be a time of passing into glory. For those who refused that gift, death is a terrifying portal to fears unspeakable. And that’s too bad. If you at least speak of it, process it, and consider it, you may think it’s foolish to deny it. After all, what other plan do you have?

After the High

After all this, when Josiah had prepared the temple, Neco king of Egypt went up to fight at Carchemish on the Euphrates, and Josiah went out to meet him. But he sent envoys to him, saying, “What have we to do with each other, king of Judah? I am not coming against you this day, but against the house with which I am at war. And God has commanded me to hurry. Cease opposing God, who is with me, lest he destroy you.” Nevertheless, Josiah did not turn away from him, but disguised himself in order to fight with him. He did not listen to the words of Neco from the mouth of God, but came to fight in the plain of Megiddo. And the archers shot King Josiah. And the king said to his servants, “Take me away, for I am badly wounded.” So his servants took him out of the chariot and carried him in his second chariot and brought him to Jerusalem. And he died and was buried in the tombs of his fathers. All Judah and Jerusalem mourned for Josiah.Jeremiah also uttered a lament for Josiah; and all the singing men and singing women have spoken of Josiah in their laments to this day. They made these a rule in Israel; behold, they are written in the Laments. Now the rest of the acts of Josiah, and his good deeds according to what is written in the Law of the Lord, and his acts, first and last, behold, they are written in the Book of the Kings of Israel and Judah. 2 Chronicles 35:20-27.

An otherwise great king does not stay in his lane and dies for it. You cannot just presume on God’s protection when you are warned that you may be opposing God.

Postponing Disaster

So Hilkiah and those whom the king had sent went to Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tokhath, son of Hasrah, keeper of the wardrobe (now she lived in Jerusalem in the Second Quarter) and spoke to her to that effect. And she said to them, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: ‘Tell the man who sent you to me, Thus says the Lord, Behold, I will bring disaster upon this place and upon its inhabitants, all the curses that are written in the book that was read before the king of Judah. Because they have forsaken me and have made offerings to other gods, that they might provoke me to anger with all the works of their hands, therefore my wrath will be poured out on this place and will not be quenched. But to the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the Lord, thus shall you say to him, Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Regarding the words that you have heard, because your heart was tender and you humbled yourself before God when you heard his words against this place and its inhabitants, and you have humbled yourself before me and have torn your clothes and wept before me, I also have heard you, declares the Lord. Behold, I will gather you to your fathers, and you shall be gathered to your grave in peace, and your eyes shall not see all the disaster that I will bring upon this place and its inhabitants.’” And they brought back word to the king. 2 Chronicles 34:22-28.

Josiah was only eight when he became King, but even a child knows when things are bad enough. Yes, his father had repented of his evil, but much of that sin had already been institutionalized. The idol industry and all its related services continued to roll along. When Josiah was sixteen, he began to seek the Lord and at twenty, he began to tear down the idols and utterly destroyed them. But it wasn’t until he was twenty-six that the book of the law was found and read to him. And that’s when he found out how much trouble he and his people were in with God.

The next step Josiah takes is to find out when the judgment will come. He has someone find a prophetess, named Huldah, who tells him these disasters written in the book are on the way, but not in his lifetime. God is honoring his tender heart by postponing the inevitable.

In 1981 my wife and I had discovered the Book. We recognized what trouble we were in and radically changed our priorities. We trusted in Jesus and turned from our sin. At that time, we discovered that a lot of people were also turning to God. It was a movement! But eventually, it slowed, stopped, and forgot the way. Eight years ago, we rediscovered our lost love and our zeal. We moved to Homosassa and found a lot of like-minded people. Then we moved back to Gainesville. Something is definitely missing here. There are many substitutes for obedience here, but we don’t have the real thing.

I think we gave forgotten that God is holy. He isn’t just trustworthy, loyally, helpful, courteous, kind, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent. He is not a boy scout. And he is not manageable. We are to obey him, fear him, worship him. As we love him more and fear him less, we must not forget that he is holy, and that he took away our sin so that we could be holy, too.

God Forgives the Wicked

The Lord spoke to Manasseh and to his people, but they paid no attention. Therefore the Lord brought upon them the commanders of the army of the king of Assyria, who captured Manasseh with hooks and bound him with chains of bronze and brought him to Babylon. And when he was in distress, he entreated the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. He prayed to him, and God was moved by his entreaty and heard his plea and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord was God. 2 Chronicles 33:10-13.

I must admit that if I were God, I would have smote Manasseh with weeping, open sores all over his body AND given him the kidney stone that never passes in the first month of his reign. And that is why it’s a good thing I am not God.

God gives us the freedom to do some pretty terrible things because He honors the agency He has given us. Then, He cares enough to chastise us, the forgive us when we return to Him.