It's the year 586BC, more than half a millenia yet before the coming of God in the flesh, and his chosen people have been Exiled. No more kings, they are done. The next king to arrive will be Jesus, descendant of King David on bothi his father and mother's side. Israel's exile will not end until they become their own sovereign nation in 1948AD. That's a long time to go in exile. Yet even in that state, in captivity, under foreign rule, God still has mercy on his people. Within four decades the exiled king of Judah is shown mercy by his captors...a powerful symbol of God's steadfast love to his punished people.
This last book of the kings ends with fascinating stories of King Hezekiah, his son Manasseh, and his descendants...stories that reveal the impending collapse of God's covenant nation.
Hezekiah starts well but ends poorly.
Manasseh starts horridly but ends well.
His grandson Josiah starts well but is killed in battle - by God, so to speak.
And the few remaining kings start bad and end bad.
As went the kings, the leaders - so went the nation. Though there was always a remnant of faithful followers, even they were swept up into exile. I wonder what they thought as they trudged to Babylonia, shackled and bedraggled. How did they feel - justified? morally superior? humbled? sorrowful? steadfast? Did they wonder why it seems that so few follow the Father? Did they wonder if being a remnant still mattered, seeing as they were being exiled as well? Most of their kings failed them, most of their priests failed them, and most of the prophets failed them. Would their ever be a prophet, priest and king who would not fail them? Does God fail?
Christians today still ask hard questions. Believers in Sudan trudge bedraggled, feeling abandoned. Christ-followers in China face fierce opposition from family and friends. Obedience is difficult in secularized, greedy, dirty-handed European nations. We feel like we are living as Exiles, for God seems more absent then present; our captors have the upper hand at most times; grief and groans seep through the bloody and dying streets of most urban centers. We are Exiles also.