Session 30: The Exile
How deserted lies the city,once so full of people! How like a widow is she,who once was great among the nations! She who was queen among the provinceshas now become a slave. Lamentations 1:1
Lamentations. Key verses: 2 Chron. 36:15-16; Jer. 5:19; Lam. 1:1-2
Key personalities: Jeremiah, Josiah, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, Zedekiah, and Nebuchadnezzar
Timeline: About 650-586 B.C. This is during the last few years of the Divided Kingdom; Israel, the northern kingdom, is conquered by the Assyrians, and the areas were ruled by the Assyrians and the Babylonians who then conquered the Assyrians. The Iron Age is the main reason for the vast armies; however, bronze is still in the majority of weapons and farming tools. The Greeks were at the pinnacle of their power and influence with their philosophy, economic and legal reforms, tragedy plays, poetry, and ship-building for exploration and conquests. The Olmecs built Mexican pyramids, and Nebuchadnezzar rebuilds a magnificent wonder of the world--Babylon and its hanging gardens. Aesop writes his fables, and the Lao Tsu founds Taoism. Rome is growing by the destiny of Romulus and Remus who become builders of the first city sewer, the "Cloaca Maxima."
The Book of Lamentations (meaning funereal dirges and the weeping) is about God's anger over sin and Jeremiah's grief. This is about Jeremiah's angst over the people's sin and hatred to God and His precepts, as in "I told you so," without the gloating, rather crying. It is also the story of Judgment and tells the weeping story of the exile. This Book is placed after Jeremiah in the Septuagint, Vulgate and English Bible because it is like an appendix to Jeremiah--most likely written by him, too. It is in the "Writings in the Hebrew Text", and it is set like a succession of five poems of lament-passionate, strong, intense grief. Lamentations presents us with a Jerusulem with no temple, no priests, no ritual, no ceremony and no worship--just ashes and the vacating of people. Yet, God lives on. His mercy never goes away, He never stops loving us, He is always faithful, even when we sin and disobey Him. Jeremiah ends with a passionate prayer for God to reconcile, to which He does as He does with us (Lam. 3:22-26; 39; 5:1; 1 John 1:9).
The Exile is the most epic and terrifying event in Jewish history, even more than the events in the 20th century. The people lost everything--their homes, business, farms, vineyards, culture, way of life, and the most important, the Temple. The Temple was the center of their prestige and way of life. These things were lost to them because of their focus on the external promise and not the inward way of the heart that must be set to God. The people did not realize that God's laws and commands are how He enables us to be and serve for His Glory. Rather, they had to learn the lesson the hard way for two generations to get it right and move on to Him.
Key Happenings: A funeral for Jerusalem and God's Broken heart!
Lamentations is a sad Book furthering sad events and God who is above, Who lives on with His Love, compassion and care for us as it describes the siege and destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C.. Lamentations is the chronicle of how the people ignored and hated the preaching of Truth. Then, it presents a plea of repentance, but it is too late, judgment has come. Now, they have to deal with it, move on, rebuild their lives and faith, and they did. Its theme is weeping, or better stated, a funeral elegy over the destruction of Jerusalem as Jerusalem is the hub of culture, religion, commerce and government for Israel and its people. Finally, Lamentations is about hope and prayer that God will redeem His people and restore their homeland which He does in 70 years later under Ezra and Nehemiah (Lam. 8:21).
586 B.C., the first great holocaust occurred in the destruction of Jerusalem. In 70 A.D., the second holocaust--the second destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple-happens. The third Holocaust is the one of the 20th Century preceding and during World War 2. This first one is the worst, greatest nightmare. This is the epic fail and the biggest crises of Judaism--far greater than anything that happened since or prior. Extreme chaos and corruption centered in God's Promised Land. Prideful kings relied on pagan nations instead of the Lord of Hosts who created and saved them. They were at the hub of the worlds trade routes that bridged three continents. It was one of the great powers of the world with influences that went throughout the world, and it was brought down by pride and the refusal to head to God's Word. Even with the northern kingdom of Israel conquered and laid waste, the people did not get the point of God's call. So, 150 years later, with much warning from the Prophets like Isaiah and now Jeremiah, it all collapses and is taken away (2 Chron. 36:15-16; Jer. 5:19).
Judah got a reprieve! Manasseh was the worst of the Bad, but he repented; he was challenged by God through the prophets and repents--a rare thing--and his grandson, Josiah, king at age 8, refocused the people to trusting God and a real true worship, buys them that 150 years more to get it right, which they did not (Josiah 2 Kings 22: 11).
In 2 Chronicles 35, the battle of Megiddo, Josiah dies, yet his brief reign of reform delights God; his successor, Jehoahaz, reigned 3 months and brings the nation back to pride and contempt towards God and they spiral down. Then Jehoiakim, 11 years at the helm makes it worse, as Babolyn started sacking Jerusalem. He is replaced with Jehoiachin who reigns reigned 3 months, and Zedekiah, the last king of Judah, a vassal of Nebuchadnezzar. While under his watch, Jerusalem is destroyed in 586 B.C. He was set up by Nebuchadnezzar, and he betrayed him. He was taken prisoner to Babylon by Nebuchadnezzar. This starts off the 70-year Babylonian Captivity, Bad, and he was challenged by God through the prophets Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and Daniel, and he reigned, 597-586, 11 years (2 Chron. 35:25).
Who are the Babylonian and Chaldeans? They are the same people as Chaldean is the name of the people and Babylon refers to their capital and where they are from (modern Iraq) at this time. Abraham is from Ur, a precursor and the same people group that will be the Chaldeans. So, they are relatives genetically, but very different in culture. The Chaldeans were a very influential and educated group of people. They practiced astrology, sorcery and the occult arts; the Jews looked upon them with disdain. They were also war-like, builders, and creators of at least one of the seven wonders of the world--the hanging gardens. Also, the built aqueducts, palaces, and temples rivaling the Egyptians in size and splendor. Only the foundations, buried in modern Iraq, survive. After the Exile and time of Daniel, Persia conquered Babylon and the name Chaldeans referred to a special class of highly educated people like astronomers and astrologers, and the wise men, Magi, who will visit Jesus (Gen. 11:28; 12; Daniel 1:4; 2:10; 3:8; 4:7; 5:7-11: Matt. 2:1-12).
Rachel represents motherhood, her children leaving home, and God's children leaving their land. When God punishes Israel or us, it hurts Him more than it hurts us! One of Jeremiah's points is that True religion needs no Temple, only a heart after God's with trust and obedience. As, Jeremiah 31:15 refers the return of Israel from the exile, where the Hebrews would learn this valuable lesson (Gen. 37:28; 42:15; Jer. 31:15).
Asherah. The people were focusing on false gods and ignoring the One True God! This one was an ancient pagan Canaanite religion that worshipped a mother-earth type of goddess, called 'Ashtaroth,' and or another name of 'Ishtar.' They set up a polo, similar to a "Maypole," called the Asherah Pole. They danced around in a frenzy, drugged, perhaps with some kind of opium, in an extreme display of hedonism, promiscuous activity, and drunkenness. This was very destructive to the village by its use and the parts held cult-like control over its adherents. This was considered a fertility god and went hand-in-hand with Ba'al. This was a particular favorite with Jezebel. The good kings cut these down and punished its leaders; the bad kings set them up or allowed their practice (Isaiah 17:7-9; 27:8-10; Jeremiah 17:1-3; Micah 5:13-15).
Why the Exile? Isaiah and Jeremiah tell us that the Hebrews did not remain faithful, and they did not honor or trust in God, thus catapulting themselves into distress and captivity. This paved the way for Christ's way; now faith would be personal and more effectual.
One of the other main reasons for the exile is that it provided the perfect way to learn who and what God is. Ancient people believed their gods were territorial and only covered certain areas and things. God is presented as Onmnipresnt and Omnipotent; He IS Everything. But, the people had pagan thinking because of the cults all around them. During the Exile, the people finally learned that God is everywhere. He does not need a priest or a Temple, only a heart that will trust, obey and follow Him.
The exile happened because of pride, unfaithfulness and uncaring. The people today are becoming more like pious frauds, hypocrites who want to tickling messages and hate those who stand with God. How far are we going to this level in the Church today? Even those in the once good faithful churches are becoming like that. So what can we do to reform? Do what Jeremiah called for: Stand firm, be faithful, trust in God and point ourselves and others back to God with real heartfelt worship and obedience. Will we face revival or exile? The road will be paved by discipleship or disobedience.
What are we to do when others are apostate in our church? We are to stand firm in our faith and do the mission Christ has called, even if no one else does. Prayer and Fasting can be effective tools in seeking His Will (Jeremiah demonstrated that fasting will supercharge your prayer life, and reboot your spiritual growth). We can better understand what God wants of us, even when we are in spiritual confusion! Remember, God's commands are how He enables us (2 Chron. 20:3-4; Isa. 58:1; Jer. 14:10-12; 36:4-7: Lam. 3:22-26).
What is Jeramhiahs call doing for you? Now is the time to reform yourself and your church! Lay aside time to be in prayer and in His Word. Take a look under the hood of your will, life, relationships, motivations, goals, desires, and God's call, as Jeremiah called. Use this time to work on your relationship with Christ by reading His Word and praying. Do it with joy (James 1:2)!
Key Takeaway: A lesson that had to be learned: God's precepts are how He enables us! This was a paradigm shift for a Hebrew nation, a call to go from the ritual to striving to have a heart to worship God with trust and obedience which follows our gratitude for Him. The generation of Isaiah and Jeremiah refused to listen or accept the Father's hand; thus, they did not recognize that sins and willful disobedience to God would lead them and the next two generations into captivity. Even though every prophecy of Isaiah and Jeremiah came true, they denounced the prophecies, and refused to listen. Jesus faced a similar situation. Many today do the same with the Gospel--and many Christians do the same with the Word (Isa. 6:9-10; 1 Pet. 4:17).
The foreshadow of Jesus Christ? Jesus weeps as did Jeremiah for the sins of the people. Christ is the Reconciler. The Exodus was His refocusing His people and the Exile was the time to repent, refocus and reform the faith, to go from group religion to a more personal encounter with God that as a collective worships and serves Him. How the Israelites treat their great men of God is how they came against Jesus. The departure of Jesus and His family to Egypt is like the exile of Israel. When the people learn to trust Him, then they can come back, which they will do (Matt. 22:27-38; 23:37-38; Luke 13:34-35).
Questions to Ponder
1. What is it that you cry for? What makes you deeply saddened? Why is God sad with sin?
2. Why did the people desire their sins and would not listen or obey God? How do people make excuses of that today?
3. Have you ever warned someone of the consequences of their actions, and then saw it fulfilled? How did you feel? How does God feel?
4. What if you were warned of what you were doing is wrong and you kept it up and then saw the ramifications? How do you feel about the person who warned you?
5. Lamentations 3:39 asks, why should someone be mad for being punished for the sins? So why do we get mad at God when we delbertly mess up?
6. Have you even seen that God's laws and commands are how He enables us?
7. Are you willing to humbly serve, and even suffer persecution for Jesus?
8. Why does God not need a priest or a Temple? How does having a heart that will trust, obey and follow Him build His Church?
9. Take a look at your life and your circumstances; how do you see them in the Light of His love and Word? Are we affected by our happenstances, or by Christ as Lord over them and us?
10. What can you do to have your own paradigm shift to allow God's precepts to enable you?
11. What gets in your way to have a heart to worship God with trust and obedience? How would your gratitude for Christ help you in life? What are you going to do about it?
12. We must begin seeking, what is Jesus saying, what is He saying to you?
© 2013 R. J. Krejcir, Ph.D. Into Thy Word Ministries www.intothyword.org