2 Chronicles 36

2 Chronicles 36
by Pastor Mark Hudson

In 2 Chronicles 36, we arrive at the last chapter of the Hebrew Bible that our Lord read – probably.  We don’t know for sure, but this ends the Bible since the order of the Old Testament was different.  For us it is Malachi.  This provides an interesting perspective if we keep this in mind.

Josiah dies in chapter 35, so the people make Jehoahaz king.  He didn’t last long because Egypt deposed him.  This chapter tells the last few years of a kingdom under judgment.  It is not pleasant reading. But this severity of God comes after years of warnings, the northern kingdom already removed from the land, and prophet upon prophet warning them.  Finally, when God could not remove the Canaanites from within God’s people and His own people would rather be Canaanite, God treated them the same way He treated the Canaanites when Israel first entered the land: God removed them.  You want to be pagan?  God seems to say, “Pagans see My judgment, wrath, and punishment.  But if you insist, so be it.”

So where can we find hope in this judgment?  We see why this happened in vs. 15-16.  God had compassion but they mocked, despised, and scoffed.  Living in such a godly country we may wonder at that.  The U.S. is so attentive to God’s Word, our leaders so humble and moral, and our churches full of holy people.  Compared to II Chronicles, not a long has changed.  The author provides a brief summary of why all this destruction.

So where exactly is the hope?  In verse 17, we see once again this simple truth: God in complete control.  God is doing all this.  It sure did not seem like God is in control to the people at the time.  “He (God) gave them all into his (King of the Chaldeans) hand.”   This is no small comfort.  I would rather be disciplined by God than loved by the world.  All discipline is not bad according to the book of Hebrews.  Discipline and wrath on earth may save us from a greater wrath in the next life.  When God disciplines us, He wants good for us.  We endure His discipline because we know He loves us (Heb. 12:5ff).

Notice verse 21, that the exile to Babylon was part of God’s plan.   The exile to Babylon was partly due to God fulfilling the words of Jeremiah who died in 570 in Egypt.  The prophet Jeremiah told God’s people they would be in exile 70 years.  God confirmed His word to Jeremiah.  Even the awful judgment of exile that was so destructive at the hands of God’s enemies was under God’s loving, wise, and just hands.  Things appeared to be out of control and chaotic but not to God.

We are also reminded that when God commands, we do not break His laws (in one sense).  He breaks lawbreakers.  Since the people of God did not allow the land to have a sabbath every 7 years, God would see to it that the land would get its sabbath in 70 consecutive years.  His sovereign will shall be accomplished.

This chapter does not depict the carnage, the loss, the heartache of the exile.  So much damage, destruction, and disregard for a culture.  Entire families, communities, cities, and a nation uprooted.  Yet, in verse 22, there is a ray of hope.  To fulfill Jeremiah’s word, “the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia.”  If you asked Cyrus if he was consciously following the will of the God of Israel, the best outcome would be for him to scoff.  The worst outcome might be the king allowing you to spend a few nights in his prison.  Yet, God made Cyrus do His bidding.

This book ends with a call to go to Jerusalem and build Him a house. So less than 200 years later, that is exactly  what happens.  What is striking about this is that a people banished into exile are allowed to return.  When does that happen?  Imagine our nation giving back the land to the various peoples we replaced?  God is using whomever He desires to fulfill His purpose.

I doubt the people walking to Babylon felt God’s presence nor were they rejoicing in His sovereign purpose with dust covering their faces, hot and going to an unknown destination.  I even wonder if those returning from exile and for the first time saw what was once a glorious city but now a city in shambles thought God was in control.  I can’t begin to understand the disappointment of those who died in Babylon or the elderly returning to a charred and disordered Jerusalem.   Nor can I imagine how persecuted believers, or their families feel.

Yet, all that happened to Jerusalem was not just allowed by God but planned by God.  God is fulfilling His Word in so many different ways.  This dreadful upheaval, as confusing as it had to be, was part of God’s will for these people.  God records these events in the Scriptures.   These things did not just “happen;” they were ordained.

That might be difficult if I changed it slightly and said that the deepest disappointments in your life were not just allowed but ordained and directed by God.  That firing, death, divorce, loss of health, early loss of a parent, experience so bad you have never spoken of it, and the most embarrassing event of your life, is God’s will for you.  I don’t think anyone finds that this rests easy upon us.  Some people endure tragedies.  But as one person loved to say, “There is not one maverick molecule in the universe.”

Dear heavenly Father, we praise You for Your goodness, grace, and love.  You are far better than we could ever imagine.  Your justice, righteousness, and holiness overwhelms our minds and heart.  We also praise You when You judge and pour out Your fury.  We are not entirely as ease with Your anger at sin but know that is due to our inherent limitations and our sin-twisted mind.  All that You do and all that You are is perfect . . . and that includes Your wrath.  In Christ’s name Amen.