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Today’s Reading

Devotional

IN THIS LAST CHAPTER OF 2 Kings (2 Kings 25), Jerusalem slouches off into shame and defeat. But there is a twist in the tale.

The narrative itself is grubby. Zedekiah, the caretaker king, was weak and corrupt. Jeremiah was preaching submission: God had decreed that Judah be punished in this way, and therefore the nation must not rebel against Babylon. Seven hundred miles away, Ezekiel was preaching much the same thing to the exiles: Judah and Jerusalem, he insisted, were much worse than most people thought, and God had decreed judgment upon her. Several years before the final destruction, he predicted that the glory of God would abandon Jerusalem, and the city would be destroyed (Ezek. 8–11)—a devastating message to the exiles, for to them it meant there would be no home to which to return, and an abandonment by God so total they scarcely had categories to comprehend it.

But Zedekiah rebelled anyway. Babylonian retaliation was as brutal as it was inevitable. By 588 B.C., the mighty Babylonian army was back at Jerusalem’s gates. The city was taken in 587 B.C. Zedekiah tried to escape, but was captured near Jericho and taken to Nebuchadnezzar’s headquarters at Riblah. There his sons were killed before his eyes—and then his eyes were gouged out. Most of the city was burned, and the walls were taken down stone by stone. Anyone of any substance was transported to Babylon. Over the poor who remained in the land to tend the vines, Nebuchadnezzar appointed Gedaliah as governor, who set up his administrative center at Mizpah, since Jerusalem was so thoroughly destroyed. A mere seven months later, Gedaliah was assassinated by stupid toughs of royal blood: apparently they were affronted that a governor had been appointed from outside the Davidic line. Realization of what they had done finally dawned. Fearing retaliation from the Babylonians, the remaining people fled to Egypt.

If that is the way 2 Kings ended, the themes of justice and judgment would be served, but the reader would be left wondering if there was any hope for the Davidic line and the sweeping messianic promises bound up with it. But in fact, the book ends with a twist in the tale. The last few verses (2 Kings 25:27–30) quietly report that in the thirty-seventh year of his exile, King Jehoiachin was released from his imprisonment. For the rest of his life, he was supported by the Babylonian state: He “put aside his prison clothes and for the rest of his life ate regularly at the king’s table,” receiving “a regular allowance as long as he lived.” The story of redemption is not yet done, the Davidic line not yet extinct. In the midst of crushing sin and slashing judgment, hope still beckons.

2 Kings 25

Fall and Captivity of Judah

25:1 And in the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month, on the tenth day of the month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came with all his army against Jerusalem and laid siege to it. And they built siegeworks all around it. So the city was besieged till the eleventh year of King Zedekiah. On the ninth day of the fourth month the famine was so severe in the city that there was no food for the people of the land. Then a breach was made in the city, and all the men of war fled by night by the way of the gate between the two walls, by the king's garden, and the Chaldeans were around the city. And they went in the direction of the Arabah. But the army of the Chaldeans pursued the king and overtook him in the plains of Jericho, and all his army was scattered from him. Then they captured the king and brought him up to the king of Babylon at Riblah, and they passed sentence on him. They slaughtered the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes, and put out the eyes of Zedekiah and bound him in chains and took him to Babylon.

In the fifth month, on the seventh day of the month—that was the nineteenth year of King Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon—Nebuzaradan, the captain of the bodyguard, a servant of the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem. 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. 10 And all the army of the Chaldeans, who were with the captain of the guard, broke down the walls around Jerusalem. 11 And the rest of the people who were left in the city and the deserters who had deserted to the king of Babylon, together with the rest of the multitude, Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carried into exile. 12 But the captain of the guard left some of the poorest of the land to be vinedressers and plowmen.

13 And the pillars of bronze that were in the house of the LORD, and the stands and the bronze sea that were in the house of the LORD, the Chaldeans broke in pieces and carried the bronze to Babylon. 14 And they took away the pots and the shovels and the snuffers and the dishes for incense and all the vessels of bronze used in the temple service, 15 the fire pans also and the bowls. What was of gold the captain of the guard took away as gold, and what was of silver, as silver. 16 As for the two pillars, the one sea, and the stands that Solomon had made for the house of the LORD, the bronze of all these vessels was beyond weight. 17 The height of the one pillar was eighteen cubits,1 and on it was a capital of bronze. The height of the capital was three cubits. A latticework and pomegranates, all of bronze, were all around the capital. And the second pillar had the same, with the latticework.

18 And the captain of the guard took Seraiah the chief priest and Zephaniah the second priest and the three keepers of the threshold; 19 and from the city he took an officer who had been in command of the men of war, and five men of the king's council who were found in the city; and the secretary of the commander of the army, who mustered the people of the land; and sixty men of the people of the land, who were found in the city. 20 And Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard took them and brought them to the king of Babylon at Riblah. 21 And the king of Babylon struck them down and put them to death at Riblah in the land of Hamath. So Judah was taken into exile out of its land.

Gedaliah Made Governor of Judah

22 And over the people who remained in the land of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had left, he appointed Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, son of Shaphan, governor. 23 Now when all the captains and their men heard that the king of Babylon had appointed Gedaliah governor, they came with their men to Gedaliah at Mizpah, namely, Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, and Johanan the son of Kareah, and Seraiah the son of Tanhumeth the Netophathite, and Jaazaniah the son of the Maacathite. 24 And Gedaliah swore to them and their men, saying, “Do not be afraid because of the Chaldean officials. Live in the land and serve the king of Babylon, and it shall be well with you.” 25 But in the seventh month, Ishmael the son of Nethaniah, son of Elishama, of the royal family, came with ten men and struck down Gedaliah and put him to death along with the Jews and the Chaldeans who were with him at Mizpah. 26 Then all the people, both small and great, and the captains of the forces arose and went to Egypt, for they were afraid of the Chaldeans.

Jehoiachin Released from Prison

27 And in the thirty-seventh year of the exile of Jehoiachin king of Judah, in the twelfth month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, Evil-merodach king of Babylon, in the year that he began to reign, graciously freed2 Jehoiachin king of Judah from prison. 28 And he spoke kindly to him and gave him a seat above the seats of the kings who were with him in Babylon. 29 So Jehoiachin put off his prison garments. And every day of his life he dined regularly at the king's table, 30 and for his allowance, a regular allowance was given him by the king, according to his daily needs, as long as he lived.

Footnotes

[1] 25:17 A cubit was about 18 inches or 45 centimeters
[2] 25:27 Hebrew reign, lifted up the head of

(ESV)

Hebrews 7

The Priestly Order of Melchizedek

7:1 For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him, and to him Abraham apportioned a tenth part of everything. He is first, by translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then he is also king of Salem, that is, king of peace. He is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest forever.

See how great this man was to whom Abraham the patriarch gave a tenth of the spoils! And those descendants of Levi who receive the priestly office have a commandment in the law to take tithes from the people, that is, from their brothers,1 though these also are descended from Abraham. But this man who does not have his descent from them received tithes from Abraham and blessed him who had the promises. It is beyond dispute that the inferior is blessed by the superior. In the one case tithes are received by mortal men, but in the other case, by one of whom it is testified that he lives. One might even say that Levi himself, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, 10 for he was still in the loins of his ancestor when Melchizedek met him.

Jesus Compared to Melchizedek

11 Now if perfection had been attainable through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need would there have been for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek, rather than one named after the order of Aaron? 12 For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well. 13 For the one of whom these things are spoken belonged to another tribe, from which no one has ever served at the altar. 14 For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests.

15 This becomes even more evident when another priest arises in the likeness of Melchizedek, 16 who has become a priest, not on the basis of a legal requirement concerning bodily descent, but by the power of an indestructible life. 17 For it is witnessed of him,

  “You are a priest forever,
    after the order of Melchizedek.”

18 For on the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness 19 (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God.

20 And it was not without an oath. For those who formerly became priests were made such without an oath, 21 but this one was made a priest with an oath by the one who said to him:

  “The Lord has sworn
    and will not change his mind,
  ‘You are a priest forever.’”

22 This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant.

23 The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, 24 but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. 25 Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost2 those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

26 For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. 27 He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself. 28 For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.

Footnotes

[1] 7:5 Or brothers and sisters
[2] 7:25 That is, completely; or at all times

(ESV)

Amos 1

1:1 The words of Amos, who was among the shepherds1 of Tekoa, which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah king of Judah and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel, two years2 before the earthquake.

Judgment on Israel's Neighbors

And he said:

  “The LORD roars from Zion
    and utters his voice from Jerusalem;
  the pastures of the shepherds mourn,
    and the top of Carmel withers.”

Thus says the LORD:

  “For three transgressions of Damascus,
    and for four, I will not revoke the punishment,3
  because they have threshed Gilead
    with threshing sledges of iron.
  So I will send a fire upon the house of Hazael,
    and it shall devour the strongholds of Ben-hadad.
  I will break the gate-bar of Damascus,
    and cut off the inhabitants from the Valley of Aven,4
  and him who holds the scepter from Beth-eden;
    and the people of Syria shall go into exile to Kir,”
      says the LORD.

Thus says the LORD:

  “For three transgressions of Gaza,
    and for four, I will not revoke the punishment,
  because they carried into exile a whole people
    to deliver them up to Edom.
  So I will send a fire upon the wall of Gaza,
    and it shall devour her strongholds.
  I will cut off the inhabitants from Ashdod,
    and him who holds the scepter from Ashkelon;
  I will turn my hand against Ekron,
    and the remnant of the Philistines shall perish,”
      says the Lord GOD.

Thus says the LORD:

  “For three transgressions of Tyre,
    and for four, I will not revoke the punishment,
  because they delivered up a whole people to Edom,
    and did not remember the covenant of brotherhood.
10   So I will send a fire upon the wall of Tyre,
    and it shall devour her strongholds.”

11 Thus says the LORD:

  “For three transgressions of Edom,
    and for four, I will not revoke the punishment,
  because he pursued his brother with the sword
    and cast off all pity,
  and his anger tore perpetually,
    and he kept his wrath forever.
12   So I will send a fire upon Teman,
    and it shall devour the strongholds of Bozrah.”

13 Thus says the LORD:

  “For three transgressions of the Ammonites,
    and for four, I will not revoke the punishment,
  because they have ripped open pregnant women in Gilead,
    that they might enlarge their border.
14   So I will kindle a fire in the wall of Rabbah,
    and it shall devour her strongholds,
  with shouting on the day of battle,
    with a tempest in the day of the whirlwind;
15   and their king shall go into exile,
    he and his princes5 together,”
      says the LORD.

Footnotes

[1] 1:1 Or sheep breeders
[2] 1:1 Or during two years
[3] 1:3 Hebrew I will not turn it back; also verses 6, 9, 11, 13
[4] 1:5 Or On
[5] 1:15 Or officials

(ESV)

Psalm 144

My Rock and My Fortress

Of David.

144:1   Blessed be the LORD, my rock,
    who trains my hands for war,
    and my fingers for battle;
  he is my steadfast love and my fortress,
    my stronghold and my deliverer,
  my shield and he in whom I take refuge,
    who subdues peoples1 under me.
  O LORD, what is man that you regard him,
    or the son of man that you think of him?
  Man is like a breath;
    his days are like a passing shadow.
  Bow your heavens, O LORD, and come down!
    Touch the mountains so that they smoke!
  Flash forth the lightning and scatter them;
    send out your arrows and rout them!
  Stretch out your hand from on high;
    rescue me and deliver me from the many waters,
    from the hand of foreigners,
  whose mouths speak lies
    and whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood.
  I will sing a new song to you, O God;
    upon a ten-stringed harp I will play to you,
10   who gives victory to kings,
    who rescues David his servant from the cruel sword.
11   Rescue me and deliver me
    from the hand of foreigners,
  whose mouths speak lies
    and whose right hand is a right hand of falsehood.
12   May our sons in their youth
    be like plants full grown,
  our daughters like corner pillars
    cut for the structure of a palace;
13   may our granaries be full,
    providing all kinds of produce;
  may our sheep bring forth thousands
    and ten thousands in our fields;
14   may our cattle be heavy with young,
    suffering no mishap or failure in bearing;2
  may there be no cry of distress in our streets!
15   Blessed are the people to whom such blessings fall!
    Blessed are the people whose God is the LORD!

Footnotes

[1] 144:2 Many Hebrew manuscripts, Dead Sea Scroll, Jerome, Syriac, Aquila; most Hebrew manuscripts subdues my people
[2] 144:14 Hebrew with no breaking in or going out

(ESV)