Strike three, in a sense. Under Moses, despite great deliverance, every adult who walked out of Egypt, hundreds of thousands of people, died wandering in the desert because of unbelief and rebellion. Moses himself failing to enter the promised land.
Then, under the Judges, unimaginable darkness! The post-conquest generation, those after Joshua and his generation, found that worshiping the idols of the nations around them was but the on-ramp for adopting their degrading pagan practices. Judges producing so many “heroes” because of the people’s repeated descent into being like the nations around them. Strike two.
But then a glimmer of hope. Under the kings, after a bad start with Saul, things looked promising . . . literally. God blessing David, a man after his own heart, with not only a kingdom but with a glorious, hope-filled promise, “Your throne shall be established forever” (2Sam. 7:16b). But that too, at least in appearance, was relatively short-lived. 1Kings starts with David’s death and 2Kings finishes with Jerusalem’s destruction. David handed over a kingdom to his son ready for peace and prosperity, but Judah’s last king sits in a foreign prison, his eyes blinded by cruel enemies after seeing them slaughter his sons and raze God’s city. The people in exile, the glory departed. Strike three. Heavy sigh.
So I was not expecting to see grace in the closing words of 2Kings. Not sure I ever noticed it before. But finding grace in the most unexpected places is something I’m chewing on this morning.
And in the thirty-seventh year of the exile of Jehoiachin king of Judah, in the twelfth month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, Evil-merodach king of Babylon, in the year that he began to reign, graciously freed Jehoiachin king of Judah from prison. And he spoke kindly to him and gave him a seat above the seats of the kings who were with him in Babylon. So Jehoiachin put off his prison garments. And every day of his life he dined regularly at the king’s table.
(2Kings 25:27-29 ESV)
The king of Babylon graciously freed Jehoiachin, the second to last king of Judah. The eighteen year old who, like so many kings before him, “did what was evil in the sight of the LORD” (2Ki. 24:9). The king who surrendered when Jerusalem was besieged by the Babylonians (24:12).
Other translations simply say he was “released.” But it was more than just a release. The old King James might have a better literal translation in that the king of Babylon “did lift up the head of Jehoiachin king of Judah.”
Lifted up his head. Not just released from prison, but also treated with kindness. Freed from bondage, and given a seat above other kings also taken to Babylon. His chains removed, but also given new clothes and a seat at the king’s table. No explanation as to why. Just an interesting epilogue at the conclusion of a tragic story in a land of such potential and promise.
But more than just an interesting epilogue, you can’t help but think it’s a God-breathed foreshadowing that He wasn’t done with His people yet. Just as God, after 37 years of corrective discipline, had moved the heart of king named Evil (who names their kid that) to show grace, in another 30 years or so he would move the heart of another pagan king to free His people from exile and allow them to return to the land of promise (2Chron. 36:22-23).
But even beyond that, it primes the pump of remembrance and response as it speaks of another great deliverance of someone who had given God their back. Not a king of Judah, but a kid from Vernon, who did evil in the sight of the Lord and, though he didn’t recognize it, was also in bondage to a cruel oppressor. A kid who, apart from anything he could do, was graciously freed by a Savior King at great cost to Himself. What’s more, this kid’s head too was lifted up as he was given a new set of garments–a robe of righteousness, seated at the King’s table, and was invited into communion with One “the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie” (Jn. 1:27).
Wasn’t expecting grace at the end of 2Kings. To be honest, kind of surprised by grace at the end of my teens, as well. And really, I never cease to be amazed by His grace as it is, again and again, found in the most unexpected places.
To God be all the glory!