June 29, 2010 David Balzer

2 Chronicles 29-36: When is war good?

When is war good? That’s a question the advertising agency for the Australian Army must have asked. “When is war good? How do you make such a violent job sound attractive?”

You’ve probably heard the old line “Join the Navy. See the world. Meet interesting people. And KILL THEM.”

You can imagine the ad agency meetings. “When is war GOOD? When is WAR good?” Round and round went the question. And my guess is they couldn’t believe their luck when EAST TIMOR came along. Because the army finally had something GOOD to do. You’ve seen the ads.

“My name’s Fred Spencer. And I’m an electrician in the Australian Army. When we went to East Timor, we were able to HELP the people. We rebuilt their hospitals, and got the electricity working again. And now the country’s back on track. All because of the Australian Army. Why don’t YOU join the Army, so you can help people too!”

And without doubt, the Army WERE a great help in East Timor. But it just seems a bit strange that that’s the ONLY part of the job they talk about.

“When is war good?” Whatever you’re opinion about Iraq, the Americans and John Howard would have us believe that the battle for Iraq is a GOOD war. Because we’re liberating a country. Removing a ist sympathizer. A dictator. That’s how the argument goes.

And I believe there are times when war IS necessary. When the evil you’re up against is SO bad, war is the only option. And as events are unfolding, it seems like this might be one of those times.

1. Wickedness, Warning and War

“When is war good?” The question gets asked again/ here in the last part of Chronicles. These chapters are about WICKEDNESS, WARNING AND WAR.

Judah is WICKED. And God is bringing WAR on them. But it’s WAR which is a WARNING. A warning to turn back to him. And that makes it a HOLY war. A GOOD war.

Judah is like a car that’s just about out of petrol. At the end of Ch 35 King Josiah dies. And he’s the last drop of petrol in the tank. The last whiff of anything good in Judah. And the car splutters, coughs, dies. And rolls to a stop.

And God knows that drastic action is needed. So he calls for the demolition squad. The wrecking ball is about to fall.

And the wrecking ball part 1 is Egypt. They’re on the rise. The biggest kid on the block. And it’s Josiah’s son Jeho-ahaz who feels the brunt of Egypt’s might. He’s the next king. That’s in 609 BC. And Ch 36 v3 tells us he only reigned 3 months. And for the whole time, Jerusalem is under siege from Egypt.

In fact, NONE of these last four kings experience any peace. It’s 23 YEARS OF WAR until the final destruction of Jerusalem in 587!

So poor old Jeho-ahaz only lasts three months. That’s all it takes for Egypt to finally overcome Judah. And they strip the land of riches. And impose a heavy war tax. And Jehoahaz himself gets taken off to Egypt.

His brother Jehoi-akim gets put on the throne instead. A puppet ruler for Egypt. And he lasts for 11 years. 11 years of WAR. But now Babylon’s starting to grow strong. And Egypt and Babylon are the two bullies beating each other up. And Judah’s caught in the middle.

And when Jehoiakim dies, his son Jehoiachin takes over. But HE only lasts three months. Three months and ten days to be precise. That’s v9 of Ch 36.

Because Babylon finally wins the arm wrestle. And they’re WRECKING BALL NUMBER TWO. And their eyes turn to little Judah. And it doesn’t take much to bring her into line as well. Not that there’s much left to take. It’s already up on bricks. Someone’s pinched the wheels and the stereo. But Babylon still manages to smash in a few doors. And strip the motor.

More of the temple treasures head off to BABYLON. And Nebuchadnezzar decides to take Jehoiachin there as well.

And he puts SOMEONE ELSE on the throne. Jehoiachin’s UNCLE Zedekiah. The LAST KING of Judah. And he lasts 11 years. But it’s 11 years under the thumb of Babylon. The threat of war constantly there. Cowering in a corner. Sending off payment every few months to keep the bully at bay. More and more gear getting stripped off the car.

But despite all the warnings/ nothing is bad enough for Zedekiah to turn to God. Look at v12.

(2 Chr 36:12 NIV)  He did evil in the eyes of the LORD his God and did not humble himself before Jeremiah the prophet, who spoke the word of the LORD.

Not that anyone else is any better. Look at v14

(2 Chr 36:14 NIV)  Furthermore, all the leaders of the priests and the people became more and more unfaithful, following all the detestable practices of the nations and defiling the temple of the LORD, which he had consecrated in Jerusalem.

2. Postponing War – God’s patience (36:15) – 2 Peter 3:8-9

And through all of this. God remains patient. They might think times are tough. But this is only the WARNING WAR. The war before the real thing. The entrée before the main course. God is actually POSTPONING WAR because he’s patient. Look at Ch 36.15

(2 Chr 36:15 NIV)  The LORD, the God of their fathers, sent word to them through his messengers again and again, because he had pity on his people and on his dwelling place.

Repent. Turn back to me. For the sake of David. For the sake of the temple. For the sake of my name. That’s the message of prophets like Isaiah and Jeremiah.

3. Holy War – God’s judgment

But it makes no difference. The people refuse to listen. The WARNING war has no effect. V16.

(2 Chr 36:16 NIV)  But they mocked God’s messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets UNTIL THE WRATH OF THE LORD WAS AROUSED AGAINST HIS PEOPLE/ and THERE WAS NO REMEDY.

Finally in 587 BC. The end comes. God’s PATIENCE runs out. Now it’s time for God’s JUDGMENT. V17.

(2 Chr 36:17-19 NIV)  He brought up against them the king of the Babylonians, who killed their young men with the sword IN THE SANCTUARY, and spared neither young man NOR young woman, old man OR aged. God handed ALL OF THEM over to Nebuchadnezzar. {18} He carried to Babylon all the articles from the temple of God, both large and small, and the treasures of the Lord’s temple and the treasures of the king and his officials. {19} They set fire to God’s temple and broke down the wall of Jerusalem; they burned all the palaces and destroyed everything of value there.

Almost total slaughter. Men AND women. Young AND old. Soldiers AND civilians.

And they destroyed EVERYTHING. Houses, public buildings. Palaces. The city walls knocked to the ground. Even the TEMPLE was completely destroyed.

And we might shake our heads at the cruelty of Nebuchadnezzar. But this WASN’T/ Nebuchadnezzar’s doing. It was God’s. The JUSTICE of God. He was the one behind it all. He BROUGHT UP Nebuchadnezzar. He HANDED Judah over. All because of Judah’s rebellion.

Yes, Nebuchadnezzar did the . But it was for God’s PURPOSES. This was a HOLY war. A JUST war. Dare we say it – a GOOD war.

4. When is war good?

A GOOD war? But when is war good?

Despite the terrible picture that’s painted. There IS good. A silver lining to the cloud. Because as God so often does, there’s GRACE in the midst of JUDGMENT.

It’s not COMPLETE destruction. Some are spared. V20.

(2 Chr 36:20 NIV)  Nebuchadnezzar carried into exile to Babylon the remnant, who escaped from the sword, and they became servants to him and his sons until the kingdom of Persia came to power.

And we get a clue that this is part of God’s MERCY from the word that’s used. Remnant. “SHERRIYT”.

Throughout the Bible it’s a term used for the FAITHFUL ones who God PROTECTS. And preserves. While the wicked are destroyed.

And so what’s good about THIS war. Is that God SAVED a REMNANT. They were his TRUE people of God. The TRUE Israel.

And the Babylon which had been THE DESTROYER. Becomes Babylon the PROTECTOR.

And it’s not just the PEOPLE who are protected. It’s the LAND ITSELF. Look at v21.

(2 Chr 36:21 NIV)  The land enjoyed its sabbath rests; all the time of its desolation it rested, until the seventy years were completed in fulfillment of the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah.

What’s good about this war. Is that the land gets a chance to rest. And be renewed. So that when the NEW God’s people come back to the Promised Land, they’re coming back to a brand new land. A complete fresh start. Ready to start from scratch.

That’s what’s GOOD about war!

And God still works the same way today. The New Testament teaches us that God chose SOME before the creation of the world. A REMNANT who he’d give his Spirit to. Open their eyes to see who Jesus was. And to understand what he demanded of them.

EVERYONE deserves , yet to SOME God gives life. Purely by grace. Nothing to do with worth. Have you responded to his offer of life in Jesus?

5. Hoping for a worthy king and an obedient people (36:22-23)

And then the last two verses of Chronicles jump forward seventy years. To the time when Babylon has fallen to Persia. And the Jews are still stuck in Babylon. But it’s time for God’s people to go home. V22.

(2 Chr 36:22-23 NIV)  In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and to put it in writing: {23} “This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: “‘The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Anyone of his people among you–may the LORD his God be with him, and let him go up.'”

And with that invitation, the connection between past and present is complete. Between God’s people of OLD, and the people at the time of the writer.

Remember who’s listening to this? The first hearers are THAT EXACT FAITHFUL REMNANT who’ve just been described. Who’ve ALREADY come back. Who’ve BEGUN rebuilding. And who’ve taken up Cyrus’ invitation.

(“That’s us!” They say to themselves as they hear these last words)

And they had wonderful prophecies to keep them going/ like that in Isaiah 11.

(Isa 11:1-13 NIV)  A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. {2} The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him– the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, …{3} and he will delight in the fear of the LORD. …{5} Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist. {6} The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them. …{9} They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. {10} In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious. {11} In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the remnant that is left of his people from Assyria, from Lower Egypt, from Upper Egypt, from Cush, from Elam, from Babylonia, …. {12} He will raise a banner for the nations and gather the exiles of Israel;

And the final message of the Chronicler/ is this. “This is what you’ve got the chance to claim. God’s given you a fresh start. A new chance to rebuild Israel. Even the land is refreshed and excited. It’s just waiting to become the Garden of Eden all over again.

It’s the chance to learn from the mistakes of the past. And to re-commit to God, and the temple. To recommit to serving under a faithful king. And godly priests. Who’ll lead you into a new glorious age.” It’s a wonderfully upbeat note to finish on.

And no doubt, the people continued to work hard for a while. And to hope for the dawning of a new age. Hoping for a worthy king, and a faithful people.

But the golden age never came. And the people quickly fell back into their old habits. Judah was always under the thumb of some foreign power After Persia it was Greece. And then after Greece it was Rome. And there was never any strong option to be king.

And so the people continued to hope for a WORTHY king, and an OBEDIENT people. But they never came. They continued to look to God to be faithful to his promises. But he didn’t deliver.

Not for another 500 years. When Jesus was born. A Son of David. From the shoot of Jesse. Just like Isaiah said he would.

And God’s Spirit was on him like no other person. And through his and resurrection, he won a victory like no other king. And initiated a kingdom like no other. And he called a people to follow him who were unique from any other nation.

A worthy king. And an obedient people. Judah’s hope was well-founded. God delivered. It just took a little longer than they thought. And it happened in a different way.

Flip over to the last book of the Bible. Revelation. Ch 5. (page 869). It shows us this worthy King Jesus from a DIFFERENT point of view. From the standpoint of heaven. From the position of the END OF TIME, rather than the MIDDLE.

The chapter starts with John still looking at a vision of God. And he’s holding a scroll. It represents God’s plans and purposes for human history. His Palm Pilot. But there’s no-one worthy to open it. No one who can carry out God’s plans.

And so John weeps. Will God’s plans be short-circuited? Isn’t there ANYONE who can see God’s plans through?

But wait! There IS someone. V5.

(Rev 5:5 NIV)  Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.”

A mighty King. A lion! Just like Isaiah’s prophecy. A WORTHY king! A triumphant warrior! Powerful in battle! It’s Jesus!

But he’s not what we’d expect. Look at the next verse.

(Rev 5:6 NIV)  Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne,

What sort of a triumphant lion is a slain lamb? Surely they’ve got the wrong person! How can HE be worthy?

But he IS. Perhaps the LION bit’s able to make up for the puny lamb bit. In v7. He takes the scroll. And yet it’s the very opposite of what we thought. Because those in the heavenly court sing a new song. V9

(Rev 5:9 NIV)  And they sang a new song: “You are WORTHY to take the scroll and to open its seals, BECAUSE YOU WERE SLAIN, and WITH YOUR YOU PURCHASED MEN FOR GOD from every tribe and language and people and nation.

King Jesus is WORTHY because he was SLAIN. It’s as the LAMB, that he can achieve God’s purposes. His purposes to make a NEW PEOPLE. A people from every language on earth. Just like Isaiah 11.

And look at what that new people will be like. V10.

(Rev 5:10 NIV)  You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.”

An obedient people. A victorious people. Who will reign. Just like Chronicles was hoping for. Priests. Who serve God faithfully. And represent him before men.

Jesus the WORTHY KING. Brings in a FAITHFUL people. A kingdom and priests. That’s what WE are. We are EVERYTHING Chronicles was hoping Judah would become.

And it’s all because of our WORTHY King Jesus. This Easter, let’s rejoice with the victory Christ won on the cross. And let’s WORSHIP Jesus. Joining with the whole crowd in heaven.

(Rev 5:11-14 NIV)  Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. {12} In a loud voice they sang: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” {13} Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” {14} The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

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