Monday, August 20, 2012
A HORRIBLE HARVEST
“On the seventh day of the fifth month, which was the nineteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, Nebuzaradan, the commander of the guards, a servant of the king of Babylon, entered Jerusalem. He burned the Lord's temple, the king's palace, and all the houses of Jerusalem; he burned down all the great houses. The whole Chaldean army [with] the commander of the guards tore down the walls surrounding Jerusalem. Nebuzaradan, the commander of the guards, deported the rest of the people who were left in the city, the deserters who had defected to the king of Babylon, and the rest of the population.” (2 Kings 25:8-10 HCSB)
The law of the harvest states that we reap what we sow. Satan has a sack of sinful seed in abundant supply. But, be warned, the seed of sin yields a crop of hard ship and heartache. It is hell’s horrible harvest.
Why would we sow it? Sin allures us with the promise of pleasure, but instead transforms into a cruel taskmaster that brings pain.
Now, the results of sin are not always immediate. We reap later than we sow and more than we sow. Because some sin and seem to get by with it for a while, they are enticed to sin even more. But one day the bitter harvest ripens. In our text we see the horrible harvest that comes from sowing sinful seed.
We observe first that IT LEADS TO BONDAGE. That sin brings bondage is illustrated in the reign of Jehoiachin as described in 2 Kings 24:8-16.
We see that HE EMBRACES SIN.
“Jehoiachin was 18 years old when he became king and reigned three months in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Nehushta daughter of Elnathan, from Jerusalem. He did what was evil in the Lord's sight as his father had done.” (24:8-9).
Sin is seductive, but it can be resisted. God will make a way of escape, if we choose to take it. Jehoiachin’s father had set a bad example and the environment he lived in was godless. These were potent forces to overcome. Still, he had the power of choice which would have given him grace to overcome. Sadly, he chose to reject God’s precepts and surrender to vile passions.
HE EXPERIENCES SLAVERY.
“At that time the servants of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon marched up to Jerusalem, and the city came under siege. Then King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came to the city while his servants were besieging it. Jehoiachin king of Judah, along with his mother, his servants, his commanders, and his officials, surrendered to the king of Babylon.” (24:10-12).
Sin promises freedom, but produces the exact opposite. It is not liberty, but chains that come when we choose our rebellious ways rather than God’s righteous will.
God will scourge the sinful. Nebuchadnezzar was God’s scourge. At least, Jehoiachin submitted to God’s discipline. There are those who continue to resist and must be dealt with more severely (as seen in his successor, King Zedekiah). Jehoiachin’s response will eventually lead to somewhat of a restoration, but he will never fully recover and know what might have been had he stayed true to God.
Further notice that HE EXTENDS SUFFERING.
“He also carried off from there all the treasures of the Lord's temple and the treasures of the king's palace, and he cut into pieces all the gold articles that Solomon king of Israel had made for the Lord's sanctuary, just as God had predicted. Then he deported all Jerusalem and all the commanders and all the fighting men, 10,000 captives, and all the craftsmen and metalsmiths. Except for the poorest people of the land, no one remained. Nebuchadnezzar deported Jehoiachin to Babylon. Also, he took the king's mother, the king's wives, his officials, and the leading men of the land into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon. The king of Babylon also brought captive into Babylon all 7,000 fighting men and 1,000 craftsmen and metalsmiths-all strong and fit for war.” (24:13-16).
Our sin affects others, like ripples from a stone dropped in a pond, extending outward and we know not how far. We reap more than we sow. It may be a bumper crop!
Sowing sinful seed not only leads to bondage, but IT LEADS TO BLINDNESS. King Zedekiah illustrates this blindness in 2 Kings 24:17-25:7.
We discover HIS OPPORTUNITY.
“Then the king of Babylon made Mattaniah, Jehoiachin's uncle, king in his place and changed his name to Zedekiah.” (24:17).
Zedekiah was placed in a position of influence. He had an opportunity to do right. But he did not. Opportunity is a wonderful thing, but is wasted if we do not seize it when it comes. For when it passes, it is gone—and maybe forever.
Opportunity was met with HIS OBSTINACY.
“Zedekiah was 21 years old when he became king and reigned 11 years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Hamutal daughter of Jeremiah, from Libnah. Zedekiah did what was evil in the Lord's sight just as Jehoiakim had done. Because of the Lord's anger, it came to the point in Jerusalem and Judah that He finally banished them from His presence. Then, Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon.
In the ninth year of Zedekiah's reign, on the tenth day of the tenth month, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon advanced against Jerusalem with his entire army. They laid siege to the city and built a siege wall against it all around.
The city was under siege until King Zedekiah's eleventh year.
By the ninth day of the [fourth] month the famine was so severe in the city that the people of the land had no food. Then the city was broken into, and all the warriors [fled] by night by way of the gate between the two walls near the king's garden, even though the Chaldeans surrounded the city. As the king made his way along the route to the Arabah, the Chaldean army pursued him and overtook him in the plains of Jericho. Zedekiah's entire army was scattered from him. The Chaldeans seized the king and brought him up to the king of Babylon at Riblah, and they passed sentence on him.
They slaughtered Zedekiah's sons before his eyes. Finally, the king of Babylon blinded Zedekiah, bound him in bronze [chains], and took him to Babylon. (24:18-25:7).
He rebelled against God’s authority by rejecting Heaven’s human representative, Nebuchadnezzar. We may not like our government leaders. We may not always agree with their policies, but unless they directly call us to disobey God, we are to obey the law, for government is ordained by God.
In Zedekiah, we learn some important principles. Sin in the heart is manifested in the life. God hedged him in and afflicted him, but instead of submitting, he ran. The results were tragic for his family was lost (25:7) and so was his vision. Defiance against God’s law leads to darkness and death. What a horrible harvest!
We have witnessed that when we sow sinful seed it leads to bondage, as Illustrated by Jehoiachin, and it leads to blindness as illustrated by Zedekiah.
But there is more—IT LEADS TO BROKENNESS. This is illustrated by the fall of Jerusalem in 2 Kings 25:8-30.
We find the city CONSUMED BY FIRE.
“On the seventh day of the fifth month, which was the nineteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, Nebuzaradan, the commander of the guards, a servant of the king of Babylon, entered Jerusalem. He burned the Lord's temple, the king's palace, and all the houses of Jerusalem; he burned down all the great houses.” (25:8-9).
Our God is a consuming fire. That’s what the Bible says. He burns up the chaff. He ignites the fruitless branches. What good are grapevines that bear no grapes?
Then they were CRUSHED BY FORCE.
“The whole Chaldean army [with] the commander of the guards tore down the walls surrounding Jerusalem. Nebuzaradan, the commander of the guards, deported the rest of the people who were left in the city, the deserters who had defected to the king of Babylon, and the rest of the population.
But the commander of the guards left some of the poorest of the land to be vinedressers and farmers.
Now the Chaldeans broke into pieces the bronze pillars of the Lord's temple, the water carts, and the bronze reservoir, which were in the Lord's temple, and carried the bronze to Babylon. They also took the pots, the shovels, the wick trimmers, the dishes, and all the bronze articles used in [temple] service. The commander of the guards took away the firepans and the sprinkling basins-whatever was gold or silver.
As for the two pillars, the one reservoir, and the water carts that Solomon had made for the Lord's temple, the weight of the bronze of all these articles was beyond measure.
One pillar was 27 feet tall and had a bronze capital on top of it. The capital, encircled by a grating and pomegranates of bronze, stood five feet high. The second pillar was the same, with its own grating.” (25:10-17)
They would not worship God, so the house of God was removed. They wanted paganism, so God would let them have their fill of it in Babylon. What they received was to be broken—crushed beneath the weight of their sin—a horrible harvest.
The Jews were CONQUERED BY FEAR.
“The commander of the guards also took away Seraiah the chief priest, Zephaniah the priest of the second rank, and the three doorkeepers. He took a court official who had been appointed over the warriors from the city; five trusted royal aides found in the city; the secretary of the commander of the army, who enlisted the people of the land for military duty; and 60 men from the common people who were found within the city. Nebuzaradan, the commander of the guards, took them and brought them to the king of Babylon at Riblah.
The king of Babylon put them to death at Riblah in the land of Hamath. So Judah went into exile from its land.
Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon appointed Gedaliah son of Ahikam, son of Shaphan, over the rest of the people he left in the land of Judah. When all the commanders of the armies-they and their men-heard that the king of Babylon had appointed Gedaliah, they came to Gedaliah at Mizpah. [The commanders included] Ishmael son of Nethaniah, Johanan son of Kareah, Seraiah son of Tanhumeth the Netophathite, and Jaazaniah son of the Maacathite-they and their men.
Gedaliah swore an oath to them and their men, assuring them, "Don't be afraid of the servants of the Chaldeans. Live in the land and serve the king of Babylon, and it will go well for you."
In the seventh month, however, Ishmael son of Nethaniah, son of Elishama, of the royal family, came with 10 men and struck down Gedaliah, and he died. Also, [they killed] the Judeans and the Chaldeans who were with him at Mizpah.
Then all the people, from the youngest to the oldest, and the commanders of the army, left and went to Egypt, for they were afraid of the Chaldeans.” (25:18-26).
Fear put them to flight. Proverbs 28:1 says, “The wicked flee when no one is pursuing [them], but the righteous are as bold as a lion.”
On a brighter note, we see an illustration of being CHANGED BY FAITHFULNESS.
“On the twenty-seventh day of the twelfth month of the thirty-seventh year of the exile of Judah's King Jehoiachin, in the year Evil-merodach became king of Babylon, he pardoned King Jehoiachin of Judah [and released him] from prison. He spoke kindly to him and set his throne over the thrones of the kings who were with him in Babylon. So Jehoiachin changed his prison clothes, and he dined regularly in the presence of the king of Babylon for the rest of his life. As for his allowance, a regular allowance was given to him by the king, a portion for each day, for the rest of his life.” (25:27-30).
God was faithful to His covenant made to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and David, even though King Jehoiachin had not been faithful to God. Jehoiachin receives mercy and that works a change in his life.
God is committed to mold his people one way or another. We are as clay in the Potter’s hands.
I have worked with pottery before, placing clay on the wheel. When the clay begins to be formed, if there is the slightest grit, the vessel being made will begin to come unraveled. What I had to do was remove the impurity and break down the clay so I might fashion it anew.
There is the need for brokenness in our lives to remove impurity. God as the Potter molds us by the pressure exerted from His hands through the circumstances we experience. Then, as a clay pot is fired in the kiln, so we are thrust into the fire—but not to destroy us. God is making us a vessel He can use to display His glory.
Here is a hopeful note, found in 2 Timothy 2:13, “if we are faithless, He remains faithful,
for He cannot deny Himself.” Then, we read, “Nevertheless, God's solid foundation stands firm, having this inscription:
The Lord knows those who are His, and
Everyone who names the name of the Lord
must turn away from unrighteousness.
Now in a large house there are not only gold and silver bowls, but also those of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable.
So if anyone purifies himself from anything dishonorable, he will be a special instrument, set apart, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work.” (2 Timothy 2:19-21)