*Good Monday morning. I pray that your week has started off well. Today we will finish the Books of the Kings. I hope you are enjoying this daily Bible Study, and if you are, pass along the word to others who may not have discovered it. It's a good way to read through the Bible, even though I don't cover every chapter and verse. Well, let's see what we discover in our work today.

"At that time the officers of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon advanced on Jerusalem and laid siege to it, and Nebuchadnezzar himself came up to the city while his officers were besieging it. Jehoiachin king of Judah, his mother, his attendants, his nobles and his officials all surrendered to him." (II Kings 24:10-11)

Jehoiachin was not the king's real name. We are told that after the death of Josiah (the last good king) that the people made Josiah's son Jehoahaz king. However, Pharaoh Neco (who killed Josiah) put Jehoahaz in chains. He then made Eliakim (son of Josiah) king and changed his name to Jehoiakim. The new king is really nothing more than a puppet king. It would be during the reign of Jehoiakim that God's judgment upon the land would fall. But, as with everything it didn't happen overnight.

According to history the Egyptians were defeated in battle by Nebuchadnezzar during the battle of Carchemish. Afterwards Jehoiakim thought it wise to side with Nebuchadnezzar. We are told that "Jehoiakin became his vassal (servant) for three years. " (II Kings 24:1b) However, the Egyptians eventually pushed the Babylonians back to their homeland and Jehoiachin felt the tide had turned. He then rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar. He asserted Judah's independence from Babylon and refused to pay tribute to Nebuchadnezzar. How did this turn out? Not well. Years ago when I went to work at Hutchins Industries in Mansfield, Missouri (Home of Laura Ingalls Wilder) I was asked to relocate to another branch of the industry. The reason? They wanted me to be certified to work with robotic welders. So, a buddy of mine and I went to this new place. From day one, I not only disliked the place, I hated it. Oh, it was a good paying job with benefits, but from day one, I missed the old location. On the first day (before the first break) I got my right thumb caught in a machine. I had to have it sown back together and to this day I have very little feeling in it. Then, the boss turned out to be simply unlikable. There were all kinds of things about this place that almost made working there unbearable. So,once we were certified and an opening came up to return to our old location, my buddy and I jumped at the chance to go. Our transfer was approved. So, on our last night at this particular location my buddy sent in a request to the radio station that we knew our supervisor listened to. At the very moment we were clocking out the radio station played for our, now former boss, "Take This Job and Shove It!" by the late Johnny Paycheck. Guess what? About three months later, because of production issues with the company, we were going to be returned to that location. Nebuchadnezzar may have been driven back, but he returned stronger than ever. He and his army laid siege to Jerusalem.

"he took Jehoiachin prisoner. As the Lord had declared, Nebuchadnezzar removed all the treasures away from the temple of the Lord and from the royal palace, and took away all the gold articles that Solomon king of Israel had made for the temple of the Lord. He carried into exile all Jerusalem: all the officers and fighting men, and all the craftsmen and artisans-a total of ten thousand. Only the poorest people of the land were left." (II Kings 24:12b-14)

At this point the temple is still standing. Keep in mind the Babylonians only take what will benefit them. The poor Judeans are left behind. A new king is named (by Nebuchadnezzar), but this king makes disastrous choices, just like those before him. I can just hear Nebuchadnezzar saying to him: "You have seen what my army can do. If we have to return we will not be so nice the next time." Well, they returned. And when he did; "He set fire to the temple of the Lord, the royal palace and all the houses of Jerusalem.." (II Kings 25:9)

Everything in Jerusalem is destroyed, including the city wall. More people are carried away captive, except "the commander left behind some of the poorest people of the land to work the vineyards and fields." (II Kings 25:12)

Can you imagine? I still remember the devastation from the tornado that hit Joplin, Missouri a few years ago. Virtually the whole town was wiped out. Hospitals, schools, homes and churches were destroyed. In a situation such as that life would never be the same as every aspect of one's life would forever be affected. Even one's identity would be affected. We are told: "Judah went into captivity, away from her land." (II Kings 25:21b)

How important is place to a person's identity? When I went through the ordination process I was asked the question: "Where is home?" Now, I wasn't being asked, "Where do you live?" Or, "Where are you appointed to at this time?" I wasn't being asked, 'Where are you dreaming about retiring?" No, I was being asked, "Where is that place that your roots are embedded forever. Where was your identity formed? Where is that place that will never leave your heart?" There is that place for everyone of us. There is that place where I can still smell certain aromas, hear certain voices and sounds, see particular sights. This place is home and always will be. To this day, when I smell the fragrance of hay after being cut, I think back to hauling hay for people such as Joe Tabor, Darrel Evans, and my Dad. When I hear the water trickle of the rocks in the branch behind our house, I think of being a kid, lying in bed at night listening to the creek, eager to be in it the next day. Yes, it will always be home, no matter what. Judah has been led away form home. They do not have a plan for a return home. They are also a long way away. But, that was not to be their biggest problem.

I had never been a part of closing a church building, nor had I ever wanted to be. I had not been a United Methodist Minister for very long when I received a call from a parishioner asking about the procedure for closing a church. This particular church had eight members, and sit on top of one of the steepest hills in the area. It was time, and the members knew it. They wanted to close and go to one of the other United Methodist Churches. Within months the church was closed, the money was allocated elsewhere, and the members were attending another church. (In which I was also the minister) Everything was great! Well...not quite. "Why did you all close that church?!!!!" "That church brings back so many memories!" "That church needs to be open!" Oh, I heard it all. The one question I kept asking these concerned citizens was: "When it was open, why weren't you there?" Folks associate with a church whether they go to that church or not. Let it be closed, burned, and torn down and they will let you know how they feel about it. The biggest problem in Judea is that the temple has been destroyed. Remember, the temple is where God is. Now, for the people there are two questions: One, where do we worship? Two, where is the God who dwelt among us?

Well, this lays the ground work for much of the remainder of the Old Testament. There is a lot of interesting material to cover before we get to the New Testament. So, try to keep all of this historical information in the back of your mind. Tomorrow, we will begin looking at the Books of Chronicles. Have a blessed day! -Pastor Rick

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