I already knew that the ending of 2 Chronicles would be sad. People of Judah and Jerusalem would be taken captive to Babylon, the city ravaged, and the Temple destroyed. But, God’s sovereignty and His love used these awful things to purify a remnant for Himself of people faithful to Him. He didn’t want to take such drastic measures. Yet, the wickedness of those whose purpose was to represent God on earth and proclaim His glory and holiness to the pagan nations around them demanded that God take action. God’s wrath cleans and restores. It is an extension of His love. I know that sounds crazy. Stiff-necked humans let themselves get absolutely filthy. But, God’s love provides a way for those who want to get cleaned up and restored to their purpose. That’s what happened to the Jews.
When Josiah became king at age 8, he must have had a child-like faith despite his wicked father. Maybe he had a great mother. We know that Hilkiah the High Priest was a strong influence in his life. 2 Chronicles 34:3 says that as a 16-year-old, he began to seek God. I’ve seen that happen in teens and young adults when they turn the childhood faith they got from their parents into a personal faith for themselves. Josiah sought God for himself as a teen. By the time he turned 20, he was ready to act as a godly leader for his people—purging Judah and Jerusalem of idolatry (verses 3-4). At 26, he tackled restoring the Temple (verse 8). He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord. And, for his people. In cleaning the Temple, the books of Moses were found (verse 14) and read to the king. This so moved him that he inquired of the Lord what to do. God’s answer through the prophetess Huldah spurred him to bring the people together so he could read God’s Word to the people (verse 30-31). Don’t you love that? After reading it, he renewed the covenant with God for himself (verse 31) then had the people do it for themselves (verse 32). That’s a good leader. As long as he lived, the people obeyed God (verse 33). Leadership makes such a difference to the direction people take. During this time also, the Passover was celebrated in huge fashion with great attention to detail (2 Chronicles 35). Yet, at the age of 39, Josiah acted against the better judgment of even a pagan ruler who said Josiah was opposing God by engaging him (Pharaoh Neco) in battle. Josiah was killed in battle leaving his nation reeling in shock and mourning, unprepared for what would take place next.
Then comes the downward spiral. 2 Chronicles 36 recounts the short reign of Jehoahaz (3 months) who was taken captive to Egypt (verses 2-4). Pharoah then placed his older brother Eliakim on the throne (name changed to Jehoiakim). Jehoiakim did evil in God’s eyes for 11 years (verse 5). By that time, Babylon was in charge of Judah so Nebuchadnezzar took Jehoiakim captive to Babylon along with a bunch of temple treasures (verse 6). Nebuchadnezzar put Jehoiakim’s son Jehoiachin on the throne, who did evil in God’s eyes, too, though ruling for only 3 months before being taken to Babylon along with more temple treasures (verses 9-10). Do you see a pattern here? Who would have willingly raised his hand next to become king? Not me! Well, Nebuchadnezzar made the choice—Josiah’s son Mattaniah (who would have been about 6 when his father died)—and gave him the name Zedekiah (verse 10-11), establishing his authority over him. The prophet Jeremiah was actively bringing God’s Word throughout the 11 years Zedekiah was on the throne. God offered through Jeremiah to spare Zedekiah, his family, and the whole city of Jerusalem from destruction if Zedekiah would simply surrender to Nebuchadnezzar (Jeremiah 38:17-18). He could have saved the lives of many people and the Temple from being destroyed! But, he refused to follow Jeremiah’s counsel! Zedekiah “became stiffnecked and hardened his heart and would not turn to the Lord. Furthermore, all the leaders of the priests and the people became more and more unfaithful following all the detestable practices of the nations (verses13-14).” He ended up being blinded, his family killed in front of him, the city ravaged and the Temple completely destroyed. Bad choice, Zedekiah!
Within 20 years of Josiah’s death, the evil cancer of idolatry had returned. God had to clean up the filth. The wicked and unrepentant died at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar while those whose hearts were pliable were taken captive to Babylon for 70 years. There, they learned to trust God alone and give up any idolatrous tendencies. After the 70 years, the faithful were allowed to return to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem and their homeland. God’s steadfast love brought back a remnant of faithful Jews to regain their land and their purpose to once again be a light for the Gentiles. Israel clung to their God for the next few hundred years, thus preparing them for the coming of their Messiah. I would have given up on such a stiff-necked people. God didn’t. Thankfully in His steadfast love, He is still wooing those whose hearts are pliable towards Him.
Reboot Renew Rejoice Bible Study of 1 & 2 Chronicles (download pdf)