For kings that serve God there is some mercy, but not so for the rebellious.  They are given much power and they are also given much responsibility.  They will be accountable for how they care for their flock, the sheep of God.

Then the people of the land took Jehoahaz the son of Josiah, and made him king in his father’s stead in Jerusalem.  Jehoahaz was twenty and three years old when he began to reign, and he reigned three months in Jerusalem.  And the king of Egypt put him down at Jerusalem, and condemned the land in an hundred talents of silver and a talent of gold.  And the king of Egypt made Eliakim his brother king over Judah and Jerusalem, and turned his name to Jehoiakim. And Necho took Jehoahaz his brother, and carried him to Egypt.  Jehoiakim was twenty and five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem: and he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD his God.  2 Chronicles 36:1-5

Josiah had hindered the Egyptians and gotten himself killed.  This aided the Babylonians and left the Egyptians ready for revenge.  After only three months of his reign the new king Jehoahaz had little chance to prepare the army for another attack.  The Egyptians were free to impose a tax and force the king to allow his brother to replace him as king.  They further changed his brother’s name from Eliakim to Jehoiakim.  Now Jehoiakim had eleven years to make a choice, which was to do evil of course.  That was his last choice.

Against him came up Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, and bound him in fetters, to carry him to Babylon.  Nebuchadnezzar also carried of the vessels of the house of the LORD to Babylon, and put them in his temple at Babylon.  Now the rest of the acts of Jehoiakim, and his abominations which he did, and that which was found in him, behold, they are written in the book of the kings of Israel and Judah: and Jehoiachin his son reigned in his stead.  Jehoiachin was eight years old when he began to reign, and he reigned three months and ten days in Jerusalem: and he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD.  2 Chronicles 36:6-9

The king of Babylon is not going to settle for taxation.  He takes the king of Judah in chains to Babylon.  His son Jehoiachin was only eight, and didn’t satisfy God or Nebuchadnezzar so he too became a prisoner in Babylon.

And when the year was expired, king Nebuchadnezzar sent, and brought him to Babylon, with the goodly vessels of the house of the LORD, and made Zedekiah his brother king over Judah and Jerusalem.  Zedekiah was one and twenty years old when he began to reign, and reigned eleven years in Jerusalem.  And he did that which was evil in the sight of the LORD his God, and humbled not himself before Jeremiah the prophet speaking from the mouth of the LORD.  And he also rebelled against king Nebuchadnezzar, who had made him swear by God: but he stiffened his neck, and hardened his heart from turning unto the LORD God of Israel.  Moreover all the chief of the priests, and the people, transgressed very much after all the abominations of the heathen; and polluted the house of the LORD which he had hallowed in Jerusalem. 2 Chronicles 36:10-14

His brother Zedikiah was old enough to know better, but he too did evil.  Nebuchadnezzar had extracted a covenant in the name of God, and the boy king still rebelled.  The king of Babylon was called by God to clean house in Judah.  The enemy of Judah was more righteous than the backslidden Jews by this time.  Even the priests were contributing to the pollution of the house and the name of the Lord.

Now I have to marvel at the church that sings about “blow a trumpet in Zion, Zion”.  Are they saying that the church is so backslidden that we need God to raise an army of judgment to clean our house?  The scripture this song refers to is condemnation of the fallen faithful, not a celebration of Israel’s greatness!

Blow ye the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in my holy mountain: let all the inhabitants of the land tremble: for the day of the LORD cometh, for it is nigh at hand;  A day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness, as the morning spread upon the mountains: a great people and a strong; there hath not been ever the like, neither shall be any more after it, even to the years of many generations.  Joel 2:1-2

Joel is a prophet who stands boldly during dark times, and offers a path of hope.  For the people to live they need only repent and return to God.  But do they do this?

And the LORD shall utter his voice before his army: for his camp is very great: for he is strong that executeth his word: for the day of the LORD is great and very terrible; and who can abide it?  Therefore also now, saith the LORD, turn ye even to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning:  And rend your heart, and not your garments, and turn unto the LORD your God: for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repenteth him of the evil.  Who knoweth if he will return and repent, and leave a blessing behind him; even a meat offering and a drink offering unto the LORD your God?  Joel 2:11-14

No, these people grow worse and insult the prophets who offer them hope in God.  In all this disaster the love of God was always near, pleading through the voices of his faithful prophets.  But the army of judgment is ready for the rebellious today even as the Babylonians were ready for Judah.  I pray that we will have watchmen in the tower today even as the prophets who warned Judah.

And the LORD God of their fathers sent to them by his messengers, rising up betimes, and sending; because he had compassion on his people, and on his dwelling place:  But they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against his people, till there was no remedy.  Therefore he brought upon them the king of the Chaldees, who slew their young men with the sword in the house of their sanctuary, and had no compassion upon young man or maiden, old man, or him that stooped for age: he gave them all into his hand.  And all the vessels of the house of God, great and small, and the treasures of the house of the LORD, and the treasures of the king, and of his princes; all these he brought to Babylon.  And they burnt the house of God, and brake down the wall of Jerusalem, and burnt all the palaces thereof with fire, and destroyed all the goodly vessels thereof. 2 Chronicles 36:15-19

In the day of fire and destruction the greatest prophets were offering life to the unworthy.  These faithful few have their rewards, but the rebellious found only death.  Men, women, children, and elderly were all slain without mercy.  Materials were taken or burned, leaving only ashes and tears behind. 

And them that had escaped from the sword carried he away to Babylon; where they were servants to him and his sons until the reign of the kingdom of Persia:  To fulfil the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed her sabbaths: for as long as she lay desolate she kept sabbath, to fulfil threescore and ten years.  Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD spoken by the mouth of Jeremiah might be accomplished, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying,  Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, All the kingdoms of the earth hath the LORD God of heaven given me; and he hath charged me to build him an house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Who is there among you of all his people? The LORD his God be with him, and let him go up. 2 Chronicles 36:20-23

If Israel deserved punishment, it still found mercy from God.  He sent his greatest revelations to faithful men with both warnings and promises.  We have followed the decline of Israel and Judah through two accounts now.  Perhaps it wearies us to witness the failure of human flesh so repeated.  Take these lessons to remember that we the church are still made of flesh, and discover the way of life in repentance.  We cannot earn eternal life through our own good works. 

David is a man after God’s heart in spite of very human weakness.  Let’s look at the men of God who stood against political correctness in the worst times of Israel.  The dark years of captivity gave Israel time to remember and write the scriptures.  They also produced the prophesies of promise that are still unfolding today.  God has not forsaken his people, even in the time of their greatest weakness.