Sunday, June 10, 2012

Daily Bible Reading: 2 Kings 24-25 and Luke 17

2 Kings 24King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. Jerusalem Bible calls Nabu-kudur-usur founder of the Neo-Babylonian or Chaldean Empire, which succeeded Assyria from 605-562. The expedition to Palestine described here took place around 602. He defeated Pharaoh at Carchemish in 605. He comes to dominate Judah. Jehoiakim “became his servant for three years,” but then Jehoiakim rebels. “The Lord” sent against them bands of Chaldeans, Arameans, Moabites and Ammonites “to destroy” Judah “for the sins of Manasseh, for all that he had committed, and also for the innocent blood that he had shed; for he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood, and the Lord was not willing to pardon” (24:4).

When Jehoiakim dies, his son Jehoiachin (598-597) succeeds him. He was 18 and reigns three months; he did what was evil as his father had done.  The King of Babylon takes him prisoner, carries off all the treasure of the king’s house, cuts up the vessels of gold in the temple and carries off “all the officials, all the warriors, ten thousand captives, all the artisans and the smiths; no one remained, except the poorest people of the land” (24:14). He made Mattaniah, Jehoiachin’s uncle, king in his place and changed his name to Zedekiah. He reigned 11 years (597-587). Apparently he was Jehoahaz’ brother or half-brother.

2 Kings 25 – Zedekiah rebels against Babylon in the 9th year of his reign (589). The city is besieged for 3 years. There is severe famine. When a breach is made in the city wall, the king and his soldiers flee in the direction of the Arabah; but the army of the Chaldeans overtakes him in the plains of Jericho. All his army is scattered. They capture the king and bring him to the king of Babylon at Riblah. “They slaughtered the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes, then put out the eyes of Zedekiah; they bound him in fetters and took him to Babylon” (25:6-7). In 587, Nebuzaradan, the captain of the bodyguard, servant of Nebuchadnezzar, comes and burns all the great houses of Jerusalem; they break down all the walls of the city and carry into exile everyone except the poorest people “to be vinedressers and tillers of the soil?” (25:12) They take the chief priest Seraiah and the second priest, Zephaniah and the three guardians of the threshold. They were put to death at Riblah in the land of Manath. He appointed Gedaliah, son of Ahikam, son of Shaphan as governor. He tries to get people to cooperate but he is struck down by someone in the royal family, and they flee to Egypt. Meanwhile, in Babylon, Jehoiachin lives well, having been released from prison.

Luke 17Do not cause others to stumble. “It would be better for you if a millstone were hung around your neck. . .” (17:2). If a believer sins, you must rebuke him, and if there is repentance, you must forgive—even if the sins are repeated. The disciples beg Jesus to increase their faith.  He says if it is the size of a mustard seed, they could do anything.

Jesus is just teaching them what it is their duty to do.  Who among them would welcome their own servants back from the fields with a banquet?  Rather, they would tell the servant to serve them first and then satisfy themselves later.

On the way to Jerusalem, in the region of Samaria and Galilee, Jesus is approached by ten lepers. He heals them and tells them to show themselves to the priests.  But only one turns back to thank Jesus—a Samaritan leper.

Jesus is asked about the coming kingdom and the “last days.”  He tells the Pharisees, “The kingdom of God is not coming with things that can be observed . . .the kingdom of God is within you” [another translation is “among you”](17:21). To the disciples, however, he goes into other things.  He says they will look for “one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it” (17:22).  Do not pursue it. “For as the lightning flashes and lights up the sky from one side to the other, so will the Son of Man be in his day” (17:24). He must endure much suffering and be rejected “by this generation” (17:25—the 2nd prediction of his passion). As in the days of Noah, there will be eating and drinking until the floods come.  You must be ready to follow and not look back when the time comes.  When the time does come, people will be plucked away and some will be left.  Where to? He says, “Where the corpse is, there the vultures will gather” (17:37). 

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