Day 40

The Last Kings of Judah

from the reading plan

2 Chronicles 36:1-23, Jeremiah 25:1-7, Romans 11:1-2

One of my favorite classes in college was Cinematic Theology. We spent all semester watching movies and discussing the theological themes embedded in the movie’s message. As I read through today’s passages, I was reminded of a scene in The Dark Knight that we spent a lot of time discussing in class. It is a brief scene I would have easily missed: Batman and the police are chasing the Joker through the streets of Gotham. It’s a high-action scene with lots of crashes and explosions. Then, for just a moment, the camera cuts to and lingers on a fire engine that is turned on its side and engulfed in flames. It’s a tragically ironic image. Fire engines are supposed to put out fires. They are there to help defeat the fire. This one was not only turned on its side but was itself on fire. The vehicle of rescue was consumed by the very thing it was supposed to extinguish.

That moment served its own purpose for the movie, but I thought of it reading through 2 Chronicles 36 because it’s emblematic of Israel and her kings. Over and again we get the name of the king, the age of the king and then this summary of his reign: “He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord.” Not only were the kings evil, but “All the leaders of the priests and the people multiplied their unfaithful deeds, imitating all the detestable practices of the nations” (2Chronicles 36:14). 

Israel was rescued from Egypt by God, welcomed into a covenant relationship with God, and commissioned to represent God to the surrounding nations. Their holy character was supposed to represent God’s holy character and serve as a redemptive invitation to the surrounding nations to follow the one true God. What we just read is a far cry from that calling. Instead of being a set apart people witnessing to the nations, they were people consumed by the evil they were supposed to oppose. They were like a vehicle of rescue engulfed in what should be extinguished. Verse 16 tells us they are so given over to evil and unrepentance they even reject God’s unwavering compassion. It is a bleak, tragically ironic picture.

The chapter and the book end with little conclusion. After pointing back to the failure to live faithfully, it points to an unknown future. It allows readers to ponder for themselves, “will you repeat the past or choose faithfulness?”

That kind of question turns our hearts to Jesus in this Lenten season. I do not want to live a life consumed by the very things God has redeemed me from and called me to fight against. I want to be a faithful vehicle of grace and good news. I choose faithfulness. Yet that can only be true if I trust in and lean on my Savior. He withstood the flames of sin and death and defeated evil. He is the rescuer Israel needed and the rescuer we still need today. Only through Him can we live fully and faithfully into the sacred calling to be his set-apart people. Lord, help us.  

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