The last king of Judah, Zedekiah, was discontent and disobedient to his God. It destroyed him and his whole nation with him. How does his tragic experience inform and challenge us today?
Few Christians look at Jeremiah or the Old Testament prophets for guidance in modern life. Fewer still look at the wicked kings of Israel and Judah. But their folly and failure contain powerful lessons for followers of Christ today. Zedekiah is a good place to start.
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Every society includes the good, the bad, and the complacent. Isaiah shows us what to be, and how.
A small, fractious, religiously dominated country was paying tribute to a rich empire with an advanced military. In a fit of hubris, the oppressed people stopped sending their wagonloads of gold, hoping that a neighboring nation would come to their aid. The empire mobilized its forces and defeated the weak intervening armies of the neighboring nation. It then turned its greedy eyes and vengeful hands on the rebels.
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What happened in the Iron Age? Which empires rose and fell? How do these events interact with Bible events? Look here for answers.
This morning in Sunday School I was describing the background of the feast of Belshazzar in Daniel 5. In order to fully understand what this story, and what all Bible stories mean, we must understand the social, political, and cultural context. However it was hard for many in my class to remember and properly order each event so that they could grasp the full meaning of the passage. As a result, I promised to write and post a timeline of people and events that pertain to the eight centuries before Christ.
Keep in mind that these dates, specifically the dates of the reigns of kings, are approximate. Ancient chroniclers reckoned events by when they occurred in a sovereign’s reign (cf. Isaiah 6:1).
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In Exodus 33:3 God promised to take the Hebrews, recently freed from slavery in Egypt, to a “land flowing with milk and honey.” During my trip to Israel in March of 1995 when I approached Jerusalem, I was a little skeptical of the “milk and honey” description. Much of the land is dry and hilly, and it was warm even that early in the year. Israel more resembled where I grew up, arid Southern Calfornia, than the watered paradise I had envisaged. After many years and much study, I have come to realize that Israel truly was “a land flowing with milk and honey”, especially compared to the Arabian Desert and Egypt (beyond the Nile).
Even more important, it is impossible to understand much of the Bible without understanding the agriculture that it describes. Unlike modern industrial and information societies, in which food is so plentiful that only a small minority are involved in its production, Ancient Israel was agricultural. So was every nation around them. Every aspect of their lives, economies, religion, pleasure, and even war revolved around the cycles of nature in a way that few of us can understand.
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