In the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to Jerusalem and besieged it. And the Lord delivered Jehoiakim king of Judah into his hand, along with some of the articles from the temple of God. These he carried off to the temple of his god in Babylonia and put in the treasure house of his god.
Sometimes we are confused, maybe even shocked, to see what the Ruler of heaven and earth allows to happen on this earth.
More so, if it seems he allows evil to triumph. Still more confusing is when he tells us that, at times, he causes evil to succeed—at least for a while.
Jesus taught us to pray to his Father: “Deliver us from evil.”
It might be scary to learn that sometimes he delivers people to the strongholds of evil.
Jehoiakim, king of the land that contained Jerusalem, learned this lesson. He learned it the hard way.
The ancient kingdom of Babylon had its capital north of Baghdad. It was a wealthy, powerful, but heathen kingdom. The Lord God used this powerhouse nation and its king, Nebuchadnezzar, to carry out his judgment.
We call the seventy years of judgment the Babylonian captivity.
The Assyrians had already decimated the northern ten tribes of Israel. One would have thought the southern tribes, called Judah, would have learned not to defy the Holy One of Israel.
They did not. They paid the price.
Destruction is always the result of rebellion against the Creator and Judge of the universe. The pages of Israel’s history are stained with blood and tears as they report the massive attacks, the destruction of the temple, and the dragging off of captives to the land of a tormenting enemy.
Most of these people never saw their homeland again.
Perhaps it does not surprise us to learn that such defiant people were punished. But that does not prepare us for the news that not just the people were dragged off, but so were the sacred items of worship of the one true God.
Why would the Holy One allow the divinely appointed temple of worship to be destroyed? Why permit items consecrated to the only true God to be desecrated by being in the temple of an idol?
We hear, “These he carried off to the temple of his god in Babylonia and put in the treasure house of his god.”
Were the Babylonians not taunting the Lord? Were they not showing that he was lower than their idol—that he was a servant of the idol?
At another time, he killed a person just for touching his ark of the covenant to steady it while moving (2 Samuel 6:6,7). And now he turns a blind eye to this desecration.
Why did God allow these things?
The answer is: Because he wanted to. That was his will.
Israel would be punished. But that is not the end of the story.
Believers like Daniel would survive, even thrive, in the captivity. Others would make it back home and rebuild the temple. The sacred items would be returned. Judah would survive.
Babylon would die.
When the promised Redeemer arrived, he would walk within the walls of the rebuilt temple. He would warn that those walls would be torn down again. But he would accomplish his mission.
There, in the land of Judah, he would bleed and die so that his people could be free from the captivity they had been born into—slavery to sin.
The Lord can use evil to bring good to his people.
He who taught us to pray, “Deliver us from evil” also bid us pray, “Thy will be done.”
We trust that his will always ends up delivering his people from evil.
It always has. It always will.
The will of God is always best and shall be done forever.
And they who trust in him are blest; He will forsake them never.
He helps indeed in time of need; He chastens with forbearing.
They who depend on God their friend, shall not be left despairing. Amen.
(Christian Worship 435:1)
Written by Rev. Paul Ziemer, WELS National Civilian Chaplain and Liaison to the Military, Belle Plaine, Minnesota.
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