Scripture: “when the commander of the guard found Jeremiah, he said to him, ‘the Lord your God decreed this disaster for this place.’” (Jeremiah 40:2)

Observation: if you are using the “life Journal” as your daily reading guide, today’s readings pull together three different Old Testament books. The readings found in 2 Kings 25, 2 Chronicles 36, and Jeremiah 40-41 all deal with the Babylonian conquering of Jerusalem, the destruction of the Jerusalem temple and the exile of many Jews into Babylon. Each book has its own focus. The writer of 2 Kings does not write about the return of the Jews after the exile, so his tone is a bit more somber and final. The writer of Chronicles, however, writes his history knowing that the Persians would conquer the Babylonians and eventually (after 70 years) allow the Jews to return to their land. Jeremiah the prophet does not witness the return of the Jews from exile, but he experiences his own “return from Babylon” of sorts as he is removed from custody and allowed to stay with the remnant that is left in Israel-the poor farmers who must tend the land and yield crops for the benefit of the Babylonian government. The king of Babylon gives the prophet Jeremiah special treatment. And through the words of Nebuzaradan, the commander of the guard in 40:2, demonstrates the source of this inexplicable kindness-the power of God. Nebuzaradan tells Jeremiah in no uncertain terms that all of this destruction has been decreed by God as a judgment against Israel. In fact in today’s readings alone, we see three kings of enemy nations pronouncing the word of God against Israel. In 2 Chronicles 35:21, Neco the King of Egypt says to Josiah the king of Judah: “What quarrel is there between you and me, O king of Judah? It is not you I am attacking at this time, but the house with which I am at war. God has told me to hurry; so stop opposing God, who is with me, or he will destroy you.” And in 2 Chronicles 36:23, the last verse of the book, we hear Cyrus the King of Persia say “the Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah.”

Application: people often struggle with God’s presence in destruction. And they often struggle with the apparent success of God’s enemies. Today’s readings make it clear that God used the nations around Israel time and time again to meet out his justice against the people of Israel. We see three different kings (Egypt, Babylon, and Persia) all speaking of how God is working through them to do his work among his people-even to the point of protecting a prophet and returning the people to their land. For you and me, this can be both a harsh reminder and a comfort. It reminds us that God is no respecter of peoples. Those who are doing his will receive his favor and those that are opposed to him receive his judgment. But it also comforts us in knowing that even during times of destruction, God is at work protecting his people-even while the wars and the nations rage.

Prayer: Dear Lord, please remind me that you are perfectly righteous and just, that your blessing and your judgment fall on the wicked and the righteous alike. Please preserve us in strength and hope during these trying times knowing that you are at work through it all. Amen.