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Monday, January 2, 2017

Wishing You Blessings and Hope in the New Year.

The Fall of Jerusalem must have felt like the end of everything, not just the end of an old year. But now we start up our Bible studies with a new year, new dangers and fears, and a continuing hope in the Author of it all. What was known is gone. The future will come, and the past will confirm our hope.

(38) Lamentations After the Fall

Movies and television news give us fairly comprehensive images of cities being destroyed. So does the Bible. Read 2 Kings 25:8-21 (also Jeremiah 52:12-27). Does all this sound painfully familiar? Can you suggest why a conqueror would remove bronze pillars, etc? Why would he have recruiting officers publically executed? Why is the history of the artifacts (back to Solomon’s time) important?
Do people still treat conquered nations (or tribes) this way? Have they in recent history? Why?
Read Jeremiah 39:8-10. Why are the poor left behind? Will they become rich? Can you apply this to the fictional interpretations of Revelation, say in the Left Behind series of books?
The book of Lamentations is usually believed to have been written by Jeremiah after Jerusalem fell. It’s clearly written by an eye witness to the death of Jerusalem.
1.       Read Lamentations 1:1-5. Can you imagine anyone writing similarly about a besieged city today? How might you feel if the besieged city were somewhere you’d visited, or somewhere you hoped to live some day?
2.       Read Lamentations 1:7-8. The author remembers the good and accepts blame for the bad. How easy or hard might we find it to accept national misfortune as a well-deserved punishment?
3.       Read Lamentations 1:18. The author imagines the city speaking, but if he’s saying this aloud he will sound like is accepting personal blame. How careful would we be to avoid blaming ourselves for national misfortune? Is it right to accept blame for the mistakes of others?
4.       Read Lamentations 2:4,8. Is God killing the good (“those who were pleasing to his eye”)? Or is something else being pictured here?
5.       Lamentations 3:1-66 is an acrostic poem, with groups of 3 lines for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet. What other famous acrostic can you think of in the Bible? How might composing an acrostic help the author focus his thoughts on God? Have you ever tried to compose one during prayer? Have you used one (ACTS or ALTAR for example) in prayer?
6.       Read Lamentations 3:25-30. Who else spoke of turning your cheek to your adversary? Why would words like this appear in the middle of a lament?
7.       Read Lamentations 4:17. What do we “watch” for that cannot save us? What should we watch for? And how is watching different from taking action?
8.       Read Lamentations 5:19-22. Is this hopeful, despairing, or just human? Do we ever feel this way?
There is still a city of Jerusalem, though there’s no king or temple now. And there’s still politics—still trouble.
1.       Read Jeremiah 40:2-4. Do you think the captain believes in God, or is he just hedging his bets? We’re not told that Jeremiah tackles him on his beliefs. Do we think he should? In situations where we hear people half-quoting beliefs we half agree with, should we try to set them straight? How do we know what we should do?
2.       Read 2 Kings 25:22-24, Jeremiah 40:5-6, Jeremiah 39:11-14. Does it matter that the accounts don’t quite agree? Does it make this more or less likely to be historically factual?
3.       Read Jeremiah 39:15-18 Do you remember who Ebed-Melech is? (Read Jeremiah 38:7-10)
4.       Read Jeremiah 40:11-12. What image do you get of the remaining society in Judah?
5.       Read Jeremiah 40:15-41:3. How easily might they have persuaded themselves they were doing God’s will? How easily do we, or others, persuade ourselves that we’re doing God’s will?
6.       Read Jeremiah 41:5-10. Asa and Baasha were certainly enemies and Asa could well have dug a pit as part of his defenses. What image of the remaining society do you get now?
7.       Read Jeremiah 41:14,17,18. The newly removed Israelites are rescued by Johanan but they don’t feel very secure. Where should they turn? (Try to answer before reading on.)
8.       Read Jeremiah 42:1-3, 7-16. Which advice sounds more humanly wise, to leave or to stay? How would we choose—safety in a place of visible danger, or safety in a place that we remember was safe?
9.       Read 2 Kings 25:26, Jeremiah 43:7-12. So Jeremiah is still preaching doom and gloom. Why might God not want them to go to Egypt?
10.   Read Jeremiah 44:15-19, 7:18-19. How pervasive was the worship of false gods then? How pervasive is it now? And when might we be tempted to imagine our “good fortune” was caused by our own good efforts?
Read Jeremiah 52:28-30, 2 Kings 24:14,16. The dates and numbers in Jeremiah don’t quite match with Kings, but royal reigns were measured differently in different places, and people were listed differently too (sometimes including women, sometimes not, etc.).
The third exile is probably Babylon’s response to the murder of Gadaliah. Do these events sound distant now, or do they evoke modern-day images? Do you think it helps to read the Bible and recognize historical events and human interactions underneath the rule of God’s plan?
Chronicles covers all these events rather briefly in 2 Chronicles 36:17-21. Is there a different emphasis here? Why?
Bible scholars have suggested that Chronicles and Kings were compiled from the same original documents, with Chronicles looking at priestly rules and influences, focusing on the Temple, and Kings looking at royal rules and influences, focusing on rulers. What do you think?
Does this make you think of any other books in the Bible? Do they always agree on details, timelines etc? Does their disagreement add to or remove from their (secular) authenticity? Why might this be important?

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