No, this is not about basketball and “March Madness,” but it is about a march of madness. It is about Judah’s final four kings and the march to captivity. With headlong abandon and reckless folly, the debacle of rule which followed Josiah marched relentlessly down to Babylon.
It was a virtual “anti-Exodus,” as another has called it. Zedekiah, Judah’s last king, is captured at Jericho – the first place of conquest when the nation entered the land; and the final pitiful remnant takes refuge in Egypt – where the nation came out of centuries earlier. How significant, ironic, and tragic as the nation reverses its steps in its death throes!
Judah’s final four kings epitomized and summarized all that had gone wrong in the nation over the centuries. The decline from the glory days of David and Solomon – interrupted by the reign of godly kings, at times, is noteworthy. Jehoahaz, whose reign was a brief three months, was characterized as “he did evil in the sight of the Lord” (2Kings 23:32). Deposed and enslaved by Egypt, he gave way to his brother Jehoiakim. He, in turn, was marked by doing “abominations” (2 Chron 36:8), another word for idolatry. As well, he silenced the voice of God by killing His prophet, Urijah (Jer 26:20-23) and burning the Word of God (Jer 36:20-24). His son, Jehoiachin (also known as Coniah and Jeconiah) lasted only three months, long enough for Jeremiah to characterize him as a “a vessel wherein is no pleasure” (Jer 22:28). It was left to his uncle, Zedekiah, to preside over the final fall of the city and nation, and as a blind man, lead the funeral march to Babylon! Indecisive, vacillating, weak, more concerned with what men thought than what God thought, he was one of Judah’s most ineffective rulers. He refused God’s Word through His prophet Jeremiah, and listened to the counsel of men.
Winston Churchill said, “The only lesson we learn from history is that we do not learn from history.” Evil, idolatry, refusing and silencing the voice of God, turning from the Word of God – these were the ingredients that coalesced to spell decline and captivity for the nation.
How appropriate then was the remedy God gave to His captive nation through Jeremiah: “Ye shall call upon Me, and ye shall go and pray unto Me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek Me, and find Me, when ye shall search for Me with all your heart. And I will be found of you” (Jer 29:12-14; cf 1Kings 8:46-50). Israel needed heart devotion!
We decry the lack of gift, of small struggling companies, of weakness which bears witness to our own departure. But it is not so much gift and numbers which will preserve and bless us; it is wholehearted consecration, devotion, and dependence on God. The “Final Four” is more than a history lesson; it is the lesson of history.