Summary: “Shout this message for all to hear: ‘This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: My love for Jerusalem and Mount Zion is passionate and strong
The Times of Zechariah
(originally for June 15, revised and preached on July 6, 2008)
Last month we began a study of one of the small books tucked at the end of the Old Testament that often go unnoticed, the book of Zechariah. We talked about how the thing that makes these books difficult for us to understand, and thus to hear God speaking to us through them, is that we don’t know the context, we don’t know what was going on in the lives of the people to whom these words were originally spoken, we don’t know what challenges they faced and thus the words we read seem very foreign to us.
We saw where Zechariah fits in the grand story of Biblical history. He wrote near the end of Old Testament times, beginning around 520BC. This was after the great times of King David and Solomon, after the northern Kingdom of Israel had been destroyed by the Assyrians. The southern Kingdom, Judah, which included the city of Jerusalem and the amazing Temple build by King Solomon, thought they were safe. But they weren’t living any differently, they weren’t obeying God, they weren’t listening. That is where I want to start the story today.
Warnings Ignored, Jerusalem Punished:
Jeremiah 25 Seventy Years of Captivity
1 This message for all the people of Judah came to Jeremiah from the Lord during the fourth year of Jehoiakim’s reign over Judah. (605BC) This was the year when King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon began his reign.
2 Jeremiah the prophet said to all the people in Judah and Jerusalem, 3 “For the past twenty-three years—from the thirteenth year of the reign of Josiah son of Amon, king of Judah, until now—the Lord has been giving me his messages. I have faithfully passed them on to you, but you have not listened.
4 “Again and again the Lord has sent you his servants, the prophets, but you have not listened or even paid attention. 5 Each time the message was this: ‘Turn from the evil road you are traveling and from the evil things you are doing. Only then will I let you live in this land that the Lord gave to you and your ancestors forever. 6 Do not provoke my anger by worshiping idols you made with your own hands. Then I will not harm you.’
7 “But you would not listen to me,” says the Lord. “You made me furious by worshiping idols you made with your own hands, bringing on yourselves all the disasters you now suffer. 8 And now the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: Because you have not listened to me, 9 I will gather together all the armies of the north under King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, whom I have appointed as my deputy. I will bring them all against this land and its people and against the surrounding nations. I will completely destroy you and make you an object of horror and contempt and a ruin forever. 10 I will take away your happy singing and laughter. The joyful voices of bridegrooms and brides will no longer be heard. Your millstones will fall silent, and the lights in your homes will go out. 11 This entire land will become a desolate wasteland. Israel and her neighboring lands will serve the king of Babylon for seventy years.
12 “Then, after the seventy years of captivity are over, I will punish the king of Babylon and his people for their sins,” says the Lord. “I will make the country of the Babylonians[e] a wasteland forever. 13 I will bring upon them all the terrors I have promised in this book—all the penalties announced by Jeremiah against the nations. 14 Many nations and great kings will enslave the Babylonians, just as they enslaved my people. I will punish them in proportion to the suffering they cause my people.”
That was what Jeremiah prophesied in 605BC – let’s jump ahead 17 years and 27 chapters and see that this is exactly what happened: Jer 52
3 These things happened because of the Lord’s anger against the people of Jerusalem and Judah, until he finally banished them from his presence and sent them into exile. Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon. 4 So on January 15, (588BC) during the ninth year of Zedekiah’s reign, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon led his entire army against Jerusalem. They surrounded the city and built siege ramps against its walls. 5 Jerusalem was kept under siege until the eleventh year of King Zedekiah’s reign.
6 By July 18 in the eleventh year of Zedekiah’s reign, (586BC) the famine in the city had become very severe, and the last of the food was entirely gone. 7 Then a section of the city wall was broken down, and all the soldiers fled. Since the city was surrounded by the Babylonians, they waited for nightfall. Then they slipped through the gate between the two walls behind the king’s garden and headed toward the Jordan Valley. (they got caught though…)