TiO 45 – The Story – The Kingdoms’ Fall (Chapter 17)
The Main Idea
Meanwhile, in Judah, the kings are bad. Hezekiah (the faithful king from chapter 16) had a son named Manasseh who was the worst of them all and, while it took 111 years in total, Manasseh sealed the fate of Judah. Judah was captured, Jerusalem (the capital city) was destroyed and so was the temple that Solomon had built. But, the prophets continued to declare both judgement and hope: one day the dead and dry bones of the people of God would be resurrected and they would experience God’s blessing again.
Warm Up Questions: (Choose 1 or 2)
Q1: Can you think of a time when hope kept you going during a hard circumstance? Why was hope so powerful in that situation?
Q2: Is there a difference between “wishing for something” and “hoping for something”?
Q3: Were there questions or insights that came out of Mark’s message on the weekend that you’d like to discuss with your group?
Dig a Little Deeper
So this is it for the people of Israel as a political entity. From their conquest of the land of Canaan (1375BC) to the fall of Jerusalem (586BC) they survived as a nation for almost 800 years. They cleared the land, survived endless battles, and established a Kingdom. But it was their disobedience to God that was their final undoing and his blessing and protection was finally removed, allowing their enemies Assyria and finally Babylon to overrun them and take the people into exile. However, through all of this, God’s prophets continued to speak into the lives of the people, bringing messages of judgement and messages of hope. Despite being exiled from their land, God never abandoned them and he continued to want to see his blessing return to the people.
Here is some information which is relevant to this story:
1) At the beginning of this chapter there are three important physical landmarks to note: Judah, the last of the land that the people of Israel (the Jews) held; Jerusalem, the capital city of Judah and the place where the bulk of the urban population of Judah lived; the Temple, the primary place of worship to God, a place which Solomon had built during his reign (chapter 13).
2) Manasseh, Hezekiah’s son (see chapter 16 for more on Hezekiah) was the second youngest person to be crowned king of Judah and had the longest reign.
3) Josiah, Manasseh’s grandson, was the youngest to be crowned king.
4) Manasseh was captured by the King of Assyria but the final destruction of Judah, Jerusalem, and the temple came at the hands of Babylon, the empire that was in control of the region at that time.
Act 1: Manasseh (pp. 231-232)
“[Manasseh] did evil in the eyes of the LORD ….”
Completely contrary to the example of his father, Hezekiah, Manasseh’s life was marked by evil. Not only did he choose to follow other gods but he rebuilt all the places of pagan worship that Hezekiah had torn down. He seemed intent on worshipping anything and everything and desecrated the temple by building altars to foreign gods within its walls. He went as far as to sacrifice one of his own sons to a pagan god. This was the trigger to the end of Judah and the king of Assyria defeated Judah and took Manasseh (and the royal court, we suppose) back to Babylon. Eventually Manasseh cried out to God and he was returned to Judah, but the damage was done.
Act 2: The Descendants of Manasseh and Subjugation by Babylon (pp. 233-234)
“Amon … did evil in the eyes of the LORD, … Jehoiakim … did evil in the eyes of the LORD, … Jehoiachin … did evil in the eyes of the LORD, [and] … [Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon] carried all Jerusalem into exile ….”
With the exception of Josiah, a good king, Judah experienced a series of evil kings after Manasseh’s death. And with that evil from within came evil from without at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, who laid siege to Judah’s capital city, Jerusalem, and when he had overrun it, took all the people back to Babylon and stole all of the treasures from the temple.
Act 3: Ezekiel the Prophet (pp. 235-238)
“[The LORD] said: ‘Son of man, I am sending you to the Israelites, to a rebellious nation that has rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have been in revolt against me to this very day.’”
God raised up Ezekiel to speak both judgement and hope. Ezekiel saw visions in which God spoke to him and, in turn, having been given courage and a calling by God, Ezekiel spoke to the people. He prophesied that not only would Judah be destroyed but also that there was hope for a return of the people from exile.
Act 4: Jeremiah the Prophet (pp. 238-240)
“‘My people have committed two sins: they have forsaken me [God], the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.’”
God raised up Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, who in his grief prophesied judgement against the people for turning from God, the source of their strength and their identity, and turning, instead to their own strength, a strength which failed them time after time.
Act 5: Zedekiah and the Razing of the Temple (pp. 241-245)
“On the seventh day of the fifth month, in the nineteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, Nebuzaran … came to Jerusalem. He set fire to the temple of the LORD, the royal palace and all the houses of Jerusalem. … [Nebuzaran] carried into exile the people who remained in the city, along with the rest of the population ….”
And that was the end of Judah. Its lands were overrun, all of its people—except for the poorest who were left to tend to the crops and vineyards—were taken to Babylon. Its capital was razed to the ground, and the most holy place, the temple that Solomon built as a place of worship to God, was a smoking ruin. All that was the visible identity of the people of God was gone and the land was virtually uninhabited.
But Jeremiah, while recognizing the horrible state of affairs, could already begin to speak of hope when he said, “Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.”
Act 6: The Promise (pp. 245-247)
“‘I [God] will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your Idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.’”
Somehow, in the midst of ruin, God was still calling out to his people through the mouths and in the writings of his prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel. Despite the fact that the people of God would never again rule their own sovereign nation, God promised that he would do a new thing in them. He would restore them to be a nation with him as their King. But the fulfillment of that promise was still 600 years away.
Looking back at the story of Manasseh, his descendants, and the prophesies of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, we see the effect of disobedience and we also see how much God’s active involvement in the nation of Israel/Judah kept them safe, for when he withdrew his hand, the nations of Assyria and Babylon easily overran first Israel and then Judah. But we also see how God never stopped chasing after his people, first calling them back and finally promising that no matter how difficult things became, he would restore them.
Q1: What was the final result of the disobedience of the kings of Judah and the people who followed them?
The prophecies of Jeremiah and Ezekiel are profound and speak of promise.
Q2: To whom are the prophecies/promises of Jeremiah and Ezekiel written?
Q3: What do the prophecies promise?
Some people say, “These promises are for us but they are not to us.”
Q4: Is there a danger in assuming that certain promises and prophecies in the Old Testament are written to us? What are those dangers?
It is often difficult to reconcile a God of infinite patience with a God of judgment. But in this chapter we see the effects, not of God’s lack of patience, but of his withdrawal of protection to let his people experience the natural consequences of their sin. And we experience the same thing in our lives: while God will always forgive us, there are often consequences of our sin that he will not simply wipe away.
Q1: Have you ever called on God to reverse the consequences of a situation you ended up in because of your sin or bad judgement? What was the result?
Q2: What would you say to a follower of Jesus who has committed a crime? How do you separate the spiritual consequences (or forgiveness) from the natural consequences?
A man came to his pastor and asked, “I am thinking of cheating on my wife. Does God have the grace to forgive me if I do such a thing?” The pastor paused and answered, “Yes, but it is likely that you will not ask him to forgive you.”
Q3: What are the dangers in knowingly choosing to sin? Does God forgive you if you “do evil in the eyes of the LORD”?
Q4: Restoration from sin is always possible but is most times difficult. If you are comfortable in sharing your story of forgiveness and restoration, do so.
God wants us to follow him, to be devoted to him. But even when we do not, he is always In the business of forgiveness and restoration. If you have specific needs in this area, have your group pray for you. You do not have to name your sin to the group but some find that this is helpful.