As we near the end of our study of Old Testament, we find Judah conquered and its people exiled in Babylon. Where was God in all this? It turns out He was everywhere–He was all over it! And He is for us in our hard times as well.
God is with us in the hard times! It’s never been better demonstrated than in this part of Judah’s story!
Josiah was the last good king of Judah. He brought many reforms, but it was too late to keep back God’s judgment. The last four “kings” after him weren’t really kings in the traditional sense: Jehoahaz, Jehoiachin, Jehoiakim, and Zedekiah.
Then the King of Babylon destroyed the temple, the king’s house, all the great houses of the city, and tore down the city’s walls.
This was not just horrible, it was inconceivable to the people of Judah. The presence of God was in the Temple, and now there was no more Temple. The person the Babylonians made governor over them was a descendant of King David, but was hardly a king. What happened to God’s promise of an ongoing kingdom ruled by a descendant of David?
The best, brightest and most productive of the people were exiled.
Read Psalm 137 to see how the exiles mourned.
So where was God? The answer–everywhere.
First of all, God gave lots of warnings through many prophets.For example: Jeremiah 38:14-23! Then see Ezekiel 12:13 and Jeremiah 39:5-7.
All those prophets, giving warnings for decades, and some were incredibly precise!
Jeremiah 25:11-12 Jeremiah was writing about 100 years before it happened, and when it was unthinkable that Babylon would be that big of a power!
Is. 44:28–Isaiah names Cyrus 150 years before he was around.
Some scholars who don’t believe that there could be prophecy say that these prophecies of Isaiah were written later. But then what do we do about Daniel?
Daniel was a teenager when he was taken to Babylon in 605 BC. He read the Hebrew Scriptures, and was true to God’s law even while in a foreign country.
Daniel 9:1-2 God used him in bringing in the end of the exile when Daniel noticed that the 70 years that Jeremiah predicted were about up.
So what did He do? Daniel realized that the exile in Babylon was because of great sin, over a long period of time. Took spiritual responsibility as a member of the nation–even about 1000 miles away from Judah!
Dan. 9:3-19–one of the great prayers of the Bible.
The next interaction he had with God was receiving perhaps the most amazing prophecy in the Bible. Daniel 9:20-27.
WHILE Daniel was praying and looking to God, Gabriel came to Daniel and gave him a vision. There is a period of 69 weeks, which Bible interpreters believe to be 69 weeks of years, between the announcement of the rebuilding of Jerusalem and the coming of the Messiah. No matter which announcement you choose to use, the period of the Messiah comes to 27-33AD.
So what about us? It’s great to know what happened to Judah, etc., so that we can get more out of the Old Testament books by placing them in some kind of historical context.
But let’s go back to the exile– the ultimate “I can’t believe this is happening” situation. Ever been in one?
Maybe you are reaping what you sowed, and you know it. But maybe you just found yourself in a situation that is hard because sometimes life is hard. Other people don’t listen to warnings, and you can get hurt. Maybe someone failed, and repercussions fell on you. Or maybe you are just waiting, trying to remain patient.
Whatever your hard time is, let’s take a look at what God did in this hardest of times.
God warned His people, and if we really blow something and pay the price, we can generally look back at where we were warned.
Then what did the Lord do when His people just kept sinning and reaped judgment? He didn’t turn away, but gave more promises that He would return them back home. He’s the God of second chances, and thirds, and fourths. He never wants to leave us in the middle of a hard time!
But He did more than encourage them it would be over as He spoke through His prophets! He gave them direction and comfort in their new circumstances!
Jeremiah 29! God had a plan for them in the hard times! Perhaps our most quoted Biblical words of encouragement: Jeremiah 29:4-29–God cared, and gave them specific instructions on how to prosper where they were.
If you find yourself in a hard time, or WHEN you next find yourself in a hard time, remember that God has things to say to you in that time.
We look at these words and find so much encouragement. But God’s people were not really hoping for these kinds of words; they wanted to hear that it would be short. But God instead gave them direction for PROSPERING!
Our challenge is to be open to WHATEVER God might be telling us, and not just being upset that we don’t like our situation.
Then take a look at the life of Daniel as he stayed close to the Lord in captivity. He became a major advisor to the court, and survived every attempt on his life. And last, and the biggest–is what happened after his heartfelt, selfless prayer about his nation. He was pointed directly to Jesus! What incredible insight to be granted!
Finding the Lord where we are is God’s ultimate intention when we’re in a hard place. Whether we bring it upon ourselves, or if we are innocent victims of someone else or of forces beyond our control, finding Jesus is the best thing to do in the middle of it. Certainly when we need to know what to do, drawing close to God and even crying out for His wisdom.
Part of seeking the Lord is looking for HIS wisdom. Here is what it looks like: James 3
Daniel was clearly drawing near to the Lord when he prayed for the exile to come to an end and for Judah to be restored. Little did he know that his prayers would help bring about the restoration of a nation that centuries later would bring forth the Messiah.
If Daniel can draw near to God in exile, far from his homeland, with enemies constantly trying to bring him down–then we can be encouraged to draw close to God no matter what our situation. No matter where we are, Jesus is just on ahead of us, drawing us closer and closer to Him! Let’s set our hearts to look for Him.