Plucked from the Burning
Listening Lord, I wait before You now--to hear Your Word to me and to experience Your grace, making me all I can be.
2 Chronicles 33:1-25
Consider: This account shows us that God’s ear is attuned to the cry of every repentant sinner.
The alternating themes of renewal and apostasy in these chapters may seem difficult to understand. We should remember that the overall trend is downwards, as the story moves towards the pivotal event of the destruction of Jerusalem. The reign of Manasseh and what seems to be an incredible reversal of his father’s policy can only make sense when it is understood within the broader historical context of the ancient world.
Manasseh, under whose leadership the people did more evil “than the nations the Lord had destroyed before the Israelites” (9), reigned during exactly the period when Assyria reached the peak of its power. The window of opportunity which had made Hezekiah’s reforms possible was closed as the Assyrian ruler, Ashurbanipal, extended the iron grip of imperial power across the ancient world. The cultural and religious power of the Assyrians is reflected in the importing into Jerusalem of the worship of the stars, divination and witchcraft (5-6). This is not to excuse Manasseh who, according to the author of the book of Kings (2 Kings 21:16), filled Jerusalem from one end to the other with innocent blood, a statement which suggests the violent suppression of prophecy.
In 1945, just before his execution by the Nazis, Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote a letter from his prison cell to a young relative. Reflecting on the capitulation of German Christianity to the evil ideology of fascism, he concluded: “If we can save our souls unscathed from the debris of civilization, let us be satisfied with that. The task laid upon our generation is not the indulgence of lofty ambitions, but the saving of ourselves alive out of the debris, as a brand plucked from the burning” (Letters and Papers from Prison). Sometimes Christians find themselves living through times of such deep darkness that this becomes the wise limit of their ambition.
Take a moment to read Jude 20-23 and pray over these verses in the light of the comments above.
Sovereign Lord, in the midst of a godless world, I keep my eyes on Jesus. I know he will see me through and one day lead me safely home.