2 Kings 25. Some of our favorite Old Testament children’s stories occur when the people of Judah, the southern kingdom, are taken into captivity to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are the three young men thrown into the fiery furnace for not bowing down to the statue of Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel is thrown in the den of lions for not praying to Nebuchadnezzar. Jehoiachin was the king of Judah and surrendered to Babylon and so began a period called the Babylon captivity. It involved the destroying of Jerusalem and the Temple, and the carrying off of leaders, officials and artisans to serve in Babylon. Only the poorest were left in the city. Chapter 24 ends, “It was because of the Lord’s anger that all this happened in Jerusalem and Judah, and in the end he (God) thrust them from his presence.” This was a horrible time indeed. Chapter 25 describes what happened as idolatry and turning from God increased in Judah. This was about 600 BCE.
Many of us remember the shock of watching the Twin Towers tumble on 9-11 but the terrors of war, the humiliation of loosing and then being carried off to captivity have been spared for most of us. Perhaps we know the disruption of the sudden death at an early age of a parent or even the pain of divorce. Others experienced the reorganization of life after a major car accident. Now we see the fires sweeping places in our country and know many are displaced. These situations are not caused by idolatry and God’s wrath so our empathy is limited but they do involve much soul searching and reorganizing of life.
Others of us might understand the problem of “captivity” as we struggle with addictions that undermine our lives and to which we are enslaved. Dieters or Alcoholics Anonymous not to mention drug addiction all involve a kind of life lived in the shadows.
I see two lessons for us in the Babylonian Captivity. The Lord was angry with the people of Israel and removed his presence, his protection and his blessing. We like to think that God is love and surely will understand our situation. God becomes a kind of Force for Good, loving us. That is true but it is also true that God is a real being interacting with us and can withdraw.
Even as I say that, we have stories of God’s unseen presence being with the faithful who are drawn into this captivity like Daniel and the three men in the fiery furnace. God will become angry if we become involved in idolatry and allow us to go our stubborn ways as we are not robots and God is a real being. But likewise, God is faithful to his covenants and ready to receive us when we return to him. There is hope for those in “captivity” and those living in dire situations. God sees and God cares about us. Blessings in your struggles.