Friday, April 29, 2011

Darkness Has Fallen

By the end of II Kings, the nation of the Hebrew people is no more, north and south alike.  The temple is no more.  The kings are no more.  Praise and worship are no more.  It is a dark time.  Exile has the people's ears ringing.  How could such a thing have happened?  What went wrong?  What will happen next?

II Kings wrestles with the first two questions, but it ends on a cliff-hanger.  It doesn't provide us with an answer to the third question.  There is no final message of hope.  There is no assurance of what is to come.  As I closed my Bible today, I couldn't help but feel the tension of II Kings, the still unanswered question hanging in the air, "Surely this isn't the end...?"Although one of my pet peeves is when people automatically jump to the New Testament to explain everything in the Old Testament, the end of II Kings is one of those moments when it is hard not to look forward to Jesus.

There are many such moments in the Old Testament, moments of groaning and despair, moments where people ask, "What will happen to us?  Will anyone rescue us?  Will we ever be free?"  Abraham wanders through the fertile crescent with no place to call home.  What will happen to him and his family?  The Israelites find themselves in Egypt under a Pharaoh who did not know Joseph.  Will anyone rescue them?  The northern nation of Israel is gone forever; the southern nation of Judah is taken into exile.  Will they ever be free?  To jump ahead in history, the Greeks occupy Palestine and Hellenize the land.  Rome overthrows the Greeks and sets up their own cronies as high priest and king.  What will happen to the disenfranchised, the poor, God's people under foreign rule?  Dark times...exile was supposed to be over, but the Hebrews had a nagging feeling that they weren't quite home.

But then light breaks into the darkness.  The Messiah, the true king of Israel, has come to reclaim his thrown and set his people free.  In the context of the Old Testament we discover that the coming of Christ is about far more then dealing with some nebulous idea of sin.  Jesus was the answer to the question. What will happen next?  Not exile.  Not feeling oppressed in your own land.  Not being abused by your own leaders.  Darkness does not have the final say, but light.

Jesus is the only positive answer to the question, "What will happen to us?"  That answer is: we will discover what it means to be home within the community of restored humanity.  Will we be rescued?  Absolutely, resoundingly, yes...from oppression, from disillusionment, from hopelessness, from separation, from death.  Will we ever be free?  Again, yes, but not just from a foreign tyrant, but from the type of existence that creates foreign tyrants to begin with.  Because of Jesus, we are not just freed from something but to something, to the calm of peace, to the joy of an altruistic life, to the celebration of relationship, to the fulfillment of life.

Thank God the Bible does not end at II Kings.  Exile does not have the final word.  Mourning and loss are not the end of the story.  God and humanity are not separated for all time.

Stopping point: II Kings 25

2 comments:

  1. It's interesting that it's when a people forget what God has already done that they start asking what He is planning to do next. One of the resounding messages of Exodus and something that is recounted via the celebration of Passover is the fact that what God has already done for us is sufficient.

    This is no better illustrated than in the traditional Jewish hymn "Dayenu" (translated 'It would have been sufficient') that is sung at Passover. Each verse of the hymn proclaims the numerous acts of redemption performed by God in his freeing of Israel from Egypt. Each verse is then followed by the word "Dayenu" In other words, if at any point in the story, God had decided to stop the flow of blessings, what he had done up to that point would have been completely sufficient.

    When we see Israel at a point where they have forgotten Passover and the story of their salvation we see them disappointed in the insufficient involvement of God. Thank God that He is so forgiving and so willing to take yet another step to reclaim His people.

    This of course holds increasingly deeper meaning to us on the other side of the cross. I could preach on it, but I'll leave that to BJ :)

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  2. It is really shocking to me how much ancient Israel did forget. It wasn't until the Exile that Israel started doing some self-history and rediscovered who they were meant to me. It just floors me that from King Saul to the fall of Jerusalem, only King Josiah hosted a Passover. Like you said, if you forget what God has already done, you certainly don't know what he might do next.

    At the same time, I feel pity for Israel. No matter that during the Exile the Israelites discovered that they had brought their punishment upon themselves (as we usually do), it is still hard to read about Israel's fall. And as you said, thank God that he is a God of forgiveness, or we would all be in trouble.

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