The Lord sent Babylonian, Aramean, Moabite and Ammonite raiders against him to destroy Judah, in accordance with the word of the Lord proclaimed by his servants the prophets. Surely these things happened to Judah according to the Lord’s command, in order to remove them from his presence because of the sins of Manasseh and all he had done, including the shedding of innocent blood. For he had filled Jerusalem with innocent blood, and the Lord was not willing to forgive…
As the Lord had declared, Nebuchadnezzar removed the treasures from the temple of the Lord and from the royal palace, and cut up the gold articles that Solomon king of Israel had made for the temple of the Lord. He carried all Jerusalem into exile: all the officers and fighting men, and all the skilled workers and artisans—a total of ten thousand. Only the poorest people of the land were left…
It was because of the Lord’s anger that all this happened to Jerusalem and Judah, and in the end he thrust them from his presence.
—2 Kings 24:2-4,13-14, 20
Well, what did I tell you? The writers and editors of First and Second Kings did their work not only to document history but to tell a theological idea: The exile to Babylon was not God’s failure. What Yahweh promised in Deuteronomy came to pass. The nation’s kings did not create the society of justice and compassion God initiated after the Exodus and reminded them of again and again through the prophets. No, the kings led the nation in killing their own children and in seeking their own comfort through a society based on bloodshed and violence—all of which was entangled in their faith and religion.
The story of the exile is not summed up in this one book, to say the least. The vivid imagery of the prophets’ foretelling, real time description of, and later recalling God’s Spirit leaving the Temple as it is destroyed spans many books. It is as emotion-filled account as any on earth.
The author of Hebrews is concerned that this is happening again. Not because God is vindictive, always waiting to punish us for every slip. No, the fact of the matter is that when we choose destruction, we create destruction for ourselves. The kings of Israel chose to worship idols and sacrificed their own children. That wasn’t something done to them. They did that to themselves. We today embrace fear, suspicion, and even violence rather than the outpouring of love on all people as Jesus asked His followers—and we create fear, suspicion, and even violence in our lives and communities. No one is doing this to us. We have chosen it for ourselves.
The author of Hebrews warns…
Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. But land that produces thorns and thistles is worthless and is in danger of being cursed. In the end it will be burned. (Hebrews 6:7-8)
…then offers loving advice I pray we too will take to heart:
Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death (Hebrews 6:1a).
We’ll look closely at these “teachings about Christ” that are meant to lead us toward maturity tomorrow. For now, I’ll close with one more quote from Hebrews 6: God permitting, we will do so (vs. 3).
Questions for reflection and discussion: Based on your understanding, why was the books of First and Second Kings written the way it was? How is it instructive to us today, given that we don’t live in a land or nation promised or led directly by God? How is the warning of Hebrews likewise instructive to us? What elementary teachings of Christ do you still struggle with?