Tuesday

08 March 2016

“Their children shall be as of old, their congregation shall be established before me.” (v. 20)

Psalm: Psalm 52


Background

The invasion of the kingdom of Judah by the Babylonians and the destruction of Jerusalem are described in 2 Kings 25. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon was sweeping through the Assyrian Empire and its vassal states. So Nebuchadnezzar captured King Zedekiah of Judah: the last thing Zedekiah saw before having his eyes gouged out was the slaughter of his sons, and therefore the end of hope for his dynasty (2 Kings 25:7). With the destruction of the kingdom came the destruction of its city, Jerusalem, including its walls (2 Kings 25:10). With the destruction of the city came the destruction of the temple and the looting of its equipment (2 Kings 25:14-17). And with the destruction of the temple came the execution of the temple officers - not just priests but even the doorkeepers - in a symbolic destruction of the power of the God who had been worshipped there (2 Kings 25:18, 21). God's presence in the tabernacle or 'tent of meeting' on the holy mountain of Zion was no more.

It is out of this experience of utter destruction that the prophet Jeremiah brings hope in the words of today's passage. Jerusalem would be rebuilt, symbolically restoring the "tents of Jacob" (v. 18) - including the most important tent, that in which God's presence could be found (Exodus 40:34-35). The worshipping congregation would once more gather in thanksgiving for all that Jacob's God had done (verses 19-20). And this rebuilt Jerusalem would no longer be a province of a vast empire, with its regent appointed by a distant emperor. The people's ruler would be "one of their own" (v. 21). Verse 21 also notes that only the king anointed by God would be permitted into God's presence. Unlike the heathen foreign kings of Assyria and Babylon who had been ruling God's people, this new prince would be the perfect intermediary between God and God's people.

It is likely that verse 22 is an addition, repeating the formula of the covenant that God made with the people of Israel under Moses (Deuteronomy 26:17-18; 27:9) which Jeremiah focuses on in the next chapter (Jeremiah 31:33).


To Ponder

  • Psalm 137:1-4 expresses the inability of the people of God to sing praises to God while in the alien land of Babylon. Is it really the case that because the Temple was destroyed so was the worship of the people?
  • What does this need for a 'house of God' say to the church today? Is the church too focused on buildings? Why do you give that answer?
  • King Nebuchadnezzar thought he had destroyed the power of the God who was worshipped in the temple at Jerusalem. In what ways do people today think that they can destroy God's power?


Bible notes author: The Revd Neil Cockling

 

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