Bible reading for Nov 12.
2 Kings 25.
"And he burned the house of the LORD and the king's house and all the houses of Jerusalem; every great house he burned down." (2 Kings 25:9)
IT'S A WRAP, BUT NOT THE END. The day, month, and year of Zedekiah's reign reminds us that we are reading history and learning about real events. The year 586 BC is one of the saddest points in the OT -- the fall of Jerusalem and the exile of the Jews to Babylon. The city is hemmed in, under siege for a year and a half. Famine takes its toll, and finally the walls are breached. We cannot imagine the nightmare of the brutality of those days. As well, all of the beauty and wealth of the temple is destroyed or carried off. The temple was not a magic talisman for Israel. The Lord intended that his people would enjoy him in covenant relationship, and to enjoy the blessings of the land in his presence. What happened in this judgment was in complete accord with the Mosaic covenant as spelled out in Deuteronomy 28. Without a living, faithful relationship with the Lord, the people -- along with the temple, the city, and the land -- would not be blessed as it was in the past. They would go away into exile for seventy years. But God promised that they would come back. If the Lord was faithful to his word to bring judgment, then he would be faithful to bring the people back and rebuild the temple and city. The prophet Jeremiah, seeing the city being destroyed, would reflect, "But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness" (Lam 3:21-23). However, the people left in the land still do poorly (they kill Gedaliah). And the Babylonians, on the other hand, show mercy to Jehoiachin in exile. The Story is not over.
CERTAINTY AND PATIENCE. What is remarkable is how long it took for this judgment to come. The people had been warned repeatedly of the coming destruction of the city and exile away from the land. Over a hundred years before, Isaiah began prophesying this. In the decades leading up to the end (the reigns of Amon, Josiah, and the last four kings) the prophets Jeremiah and Habakkuk made it very clear what was coming. So, what is surprising is how slowly this judgment ripened. Likely, many people in those days dismissed the prophets, saying, "Yeah, yeah. You've been saying this since forever, but nothing's changed." This reminds us of the words in 2 Peter that "scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, 'Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation'" (2 Pet 3:3-4). The reason is, says Peter, "The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed" (3:9-10).
REFLECT. The Lord's word about judgment is certain and will come to pass just as foretold. Yet, the Lord is longsuffering and patient, inviting all to come to repentance. We must ask ourselves (and others), are we ready to face the Lord's judgment? Are we presuming upon his patience and the additional time he has given us? Do we think our nation and our churches are safe because of our wealth and the past blessing of God? Are we ready to meet him?
"Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens." (Hebrews 7:25-26)
WHO IN THE WORLD IS MELCHIZEDEK? The Messiah -- THE Anointed One -- would combine in himself the three offices of prophet, priest, and king. One practical problem was that the OT priests were descended from Aaron (the line of Levi) while the kings were descended from David (the line of Judah). Melchizedek was a real historical figure (Gen 14), but nothing is said of his lineage, his birth, his death, or his family descendants, which is a bit unusual for OT characters. He just appears on the pages of Scripture, as it were, without beginning and without end. His name means "king of righteousness", and he rules in what will become Jerusalem. Abraham (the ancestor of Aaron) recognizes his priesthood as being valid (Gen 14:18-20). So, the Messiah is a priest on the order (kind) of the pattern of Melchizedek by the decree of God (Psalm 110:4), possessing a holy and indestructible life. Conversely, the priests descended from Aaron were limited by their lifetimes, and by their own liability to sin.
INTERCESSION OF CHRIST. Jesus' priestly ministry is not limited to only one point in history (or in our lives). His death is a sacrificial offering on our behalf (John 1:29), indeed given once for all time (Heb 10:12). But this passage speaks of Christ's ongoing ministry of intercession (vv 25-26; cf Rom 8:34; John 17). As Prophet Jesus reveals God's will to us. As King he rules over us in righteousness. As Priest he brings us to the Father and keeps us there. Louis Berkhof in his Systematic Theology has a wonderful section on the intercessory ministry of our Lord Jesus:
"It is a consoling thought that Christ is praying for us, even when we are negligent in our prayer life; that He is presenting to the Father those spiritual needs which were not present to our minds and which we often neglect to include in our prayers; and that He prays for our protection against the dangers of which we are not even conscious, and against the enemies which threaten us, though we do not notice it. He is praying that our faith may not cease, and that we may come out victoriously in the end" (Berkhof, Systematic Theology, "Offices of Christ; VII. The Intercessory Work of Christ") Read more here.
REFLECT. Have you thought about this ministry of the Lord Jesus on your behalf? Think about this one last quote: “If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million enemies. Yet distance makes no difference. He is praying for me" (Robert Murray M’Cheyne). Have you praised him today for the blessing of his intercession?