Never Too Late | Cyrus – Storms of Perfection | PART 5
This is the final story in 2 Chronicles. It’s one of Exile and Return where God works in the midst of the unthinkable to bring about the unimaginable.
Series: Never Too Late,
Speaker: Pastor Don Dodge,
Scripture: 2 Chronicles 36:17-23, 2 Chronicles 36:18, 2 Chronicles 36:19, 2 Chronicles 36:20, Ezekiel 37:12, Jeremiah 30:10, 2 Chronicles 36:21, 2 Chronicles 36:22, 2 Chronicles 36:23, 2 Corinthians 12:8, 2 Corinthians 12:9, 2 Corinthians 12:10, 1 Corinthians 13:12, Romans 8:18, Romans 8:29,
Sermon page: https://www.avalonchurch.org/sermons/never-too-late-cyrus-storms-of-perfection-part-5/,
Sermon Notes: 2020-08-16_never-too-late-part-5_sermon-notes.pdf,
Discussion Questions: 2020-08-15_never-too-late-part-5_discussion-questions.pdf,
Story: Storms of Perfection
Mind if I read some stories today?
Then I’ll reflect on them.
I was seven years old, barely keeping pace as my father strode purposefully through the woods, the dry brush crackling under our feet. August was rarely pleasant in the deep South, but this year had been especially hot; especially dry. Walking the densely forested stand of timber that day, young as I was, I was acutely aware of my father’s mood. The month-long drought our area was experiencing had him worried. I watched in silence as he broke dry twigs from seemingly lifeless trees and examined the wilting, dull color of the new growth under them. We hiked through the dust of the parched creek bed, following it to the beaver pond where our family often came for picnics. The pond was nearly empty and the beaver lodge, usually a site of frantic activity, stood abandoned on dry land. Without warning, the wind shifted. And with the change in direction came a rapid increase in velocity and a perceptible drop in the temperature. It became cool within a matter of seconds, as the wind, whistling above, threatened to send branches crashing down around us. Lightning and thunder worked the atmosphere almost simultaneously, creating explosions of light and sound that terrified me. My father, his arms wrapped around me tightly, was also afraid...and grateful. He was grateful for this violent performance of nature and the hope of water that came with it. As the trees bent with the wind and the thunder covered my cries, my father sat down, pulled me into his lap and said, “Don’t worry. You’ll be all right. Something good is going to come out of this. Be still. Be patient.” While he was comforting me, the rain came. Not with the gentle drops I had seen in the past, but in wild, silver sheets bursting all around us. It wound through the limbs and leaves, over rocks and deep into the tangled thickets leaving nothing untouched. And then, as suddenly as it had begun - it was over. The thunder and lightning and wind and rain were gone, their energy exhausted. It was still again, but even at my young age, I noticed a difference. The forest wasn’t just still...it was calm. With his hand, my father wiped the drops of water from my face. Only my deep sobs betrayed the presence of tears, not raindrops, on my cheeks. Then he smiled, wrung out the front of his shirt, and motioned toward the pond. “It’ll fill back up now,” he said, “and those beavers will be able to spend the winter here like they’d planned.” We turned in time to see a doe and her fawn drinking from the already flowing creek. The frogs had started their own chorus as we headed for home. “Ahh,” my father breathed deeply, “everything just smells clean, doesn’t it?” And it did. The very air, which only a short time ago had been hot and dirty, now seemed almost sweet. “Let’s sit down by this big oak, Son,” he said quietly, “I have something to tell you.” I snuggled in beside him, and in very nearly a whisper, he began. “You know,” he said, watching me from the corner of his eye, “you weren’t the only one scared a little while ago. Those deer were afraid, too. The squirrels squirrels huddled together as close as they could get and what with all the crashes and booms, well, I’m pretty sure the rabbits were worried. But now, something important has happened. The very event that frightened everyone in the forest turned out to be exactly what they needed.” Do you hear the birds?” I nodded. “Remember how quiet they were before the rain? Now they’re hopping around, chirping, drinking from puddles, and feasting on the worms that come out only when the ground is wet. The fish in the pond have more oxygen to breathe and cooler water to swim in. The dust that was on all the plants has been washed away so they are much cleaner for the rabbits and deer to eat. Nobody likes dirty food.” “In fact, Son, all of us are better off now than we were an hour ago. Just because of the storm. What looked like the worst – turned out to be the best. It was a storm of perfection.”
Today is our last day in the “Never too late” series
We’re looking at the very last verses that were ever written
in the Jewish Scriptures.
They are recalling what most Jews considered the worst event in their history.
It was truly awful.
Yet it was also the event that totally changed the way they saw how God was working.
This event was what made them never again be tempted by idols.
This event is what made them a people of the Scriptures.
This event is what opened their eyes to the hope of a future Messiah.
This event paved the way for that Messiah, Jesus,
To come and bring not just Jews, but Gentiles in every nation and language to be unified with their Creator God.
In many ways,
This awful event became a Storm of Perfection.
After all the evil of the previous generations,
God finally removed his protection
and forced Judah to stand on their own.
Look at 2 Chronicles 36, vs. 17.
17 So the Lord brought the king of Babylon against them. The Babylonians killed Judah’s young men, even chasing after them into the Temple. They had no pity on the people, killing both young men and young women, the old and the infirm. God handed all of them over to Nebuchadnezzar. –2 Chronicles 36:17 (NLT)
God was like,
I invited you and your ancestors to be my people.
I never forced you, you freely said yes.
I promised to protect you and sustain you.
And I did.
But over and over, you rejected me.
You continually chose to do life on your own terms,
And so now, you will face the consequences
Faced by every other nation.
And immediately Judah realized that on their own,
They were no match for the superpowers surrounding them.
The nation of Babylon was on a mission of conquest.
And Judah was just one nation in its crosshairs.
But then, the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar,
Wounded Judah to its core.
Going where even Jews were forbidden to go,
Nebuchadnezzar entered the Holy of Holies.
18 The king took home to Babylon all the articles, large and small, used in the Temple of God, and the treasures from both the Lord’s Temple and from the palace of the king and his officials. –2 Chronicles 36:18 (NLT)
19 Then his army burned the Temple of God, tore down the walls of Jerusalem, burned all the palaces, and completely destroyed everything of value. –2 Chronicles 36:19 (NLT)
This was their identity.
Like the other nations that had fallen before them,
...This was likely to be the end of their existence as a people.
20 The few who survived were taken as exiles to Babylon, and they became servants to the king and his sons until the kingdom of Persia came to power. –2 Chronicles 36:20 (NLT)
Their exile in Babylon lasted decades.
And it was awful,
But not hopeless.
The prophet Ezekiel was one of the exiles
forced to leave Jerusalem and resettle in Babylon.
In Babylon he prophesied,
...that though the people of God were like dead bones,
God will revive them and put flesh on those bones.
12 ... I will open your graves and cause you to rise again. Then I will bring you back to the land of Israel. –Ezekiel 37:12 (NLT)
Jeremiah wasn’t forced to leave.
He witnessed the exile from Judah and then hiding in Egypt.
He wrote to encourage God’s people to stay faithful
Because one day
10 ... “For I will bring you home again from distant lands, and your children will return from their exile. Israel will return to a life of peace and quiet, and no one will terrorize them. –Jeremiah 30:10 (NLT)
The writer of Chronicles lived over a hundred years later.
They knew all of this...
And that this prophecy was fulfilled,
But only the first part.
And so he continued...
21 So the message of the Lord spoken through Jeremiah was fulfilled. The land finally enjoyed its Sabbath rest, lying desolate until the seventy years were fulfilled, just as the prophet had said. –2 Chronicles 36:21 (NLT)
So, after decades of exile,
The prophecy that sound so crazy came true.
Babylon was conquered by the emerging kingdom of Persia,
Led by their king, Cyrus the great.
22 In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, the Lord fulfilled the prophecy he had given through Jeremiah. He stirred the heart of Cyrus to put this proclamation in writing and to send it throughout his kingdom: –2 Chronicles 36:22 (NLT)
And here is the proclamation,
23 ...“The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth. He has appointed me to build him a Temple at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Any of you who are his people may go there for this task. And may the Lord your God be with you!” –2 Chronicles 36:23 (NLT)
So, the foreign king,
The conqueror of the known world,
The sole Superpower,
Becomes their Savior,
Just as God had said.
But in contrast to God’s own people,
Cyrus was the one who recognized
that his power is from God.
I think the writer of Chronicles
Had a mocking smirk when he wrote that.
And while the New Living Translation
is my favorite translation for Bible stories,
...in this case it glosses over the intended awkwardness
of how the book ends.
The English Standard Version follows the Jewish tradition
of how the book ends...
Whoever is among you of all his people, may the Lord his God be with him. Let him go up.’” –2 Chronicles 36:23 (ESV)
The book literally ends with an incomplete sentence.
It ends in expectation.
The story was not over.
Messiah had not yet come.
The people did not yet live in peace and quiet.
And the small, rebuilt Temple was never filled with God’s presence.
But like a great Hollywood movie,
...the somber story ends in a way that leaves the Jews encouraged
By the fact that God is not finished with his people.
You (Application. So What?)
Like the Apostle Paul struggling with some debilitation
And though he was able to heal others,
He could not find relief for himself.
And after begging the Lord to take it away three times,
9 Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” –2 Cor 12:8 (NLT)
And Paul had grown to trust the Lord,
That even when it looked like life was out of control,
Paul could say,
9 ...So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. –2 Cor 12:9 (NLT)
10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. –2 Cor 12:10 (NLT)
My Story – worry about kids dying
Maybe tell of my journal struggle with God about the death of my children.
Because Jennifer had died, I was always waiting for the shoe to drop.
I knew that very bad things could happen.
After many months of praying and letting God know that we would not be okay if he allowed for my kids’ death. His response...
Do you not know that I love them more than you?
Do you not know that I know the big picture?
Our hope is not in political leaders.
Maybe mention trump is not the bringer of the KOG.
Neither is Biden the keeper of it.
Our hope is not in our security and affluence.
In fact, Doubt leads to the seeking of truth.
Poverty and uncertainty build faith to trust in the Lord.
Life, whether it be easy or hard,
Comfortable or painful
or joyful or scary
All of this is periphery to one thing.
Jesus Christ, the King.
Jesus Christ, the one who unites us with the Father.
Jesus Christ, the one who makes the Kingdom possible.
Because he is the God who designed and created us.
Because he is the God of the Grand story in which we live.
Because he is the God who entered history with power,
Yet chose not to use that power to coerce us,
But instead chose to forego the exercising of his power
To demonstrate how much he loved us,
Until his life was taken and then the full exercising of his power
Was unleashed in his rising from the dead.
This is why we trust Jesus when life seems to be crashing around us,
When pandemics have devastated life as we know it,
When our children are rushed to the hospital,
When the diagnosis of cancer crushes our plans for the future,
Or when we face grief that brings us to our knees.
We trust because he promises that there is hope.
...that all wrongs will be made right.
...That this is not the end.
...That the big picture, though unclear to us,
Is one of hope and healing and wholeness.
12 Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. –1 Corinthians 13:12 (NLT)
Are you living fearful?
Jesus invites you to trust him.
To know him.
To rest in him.
To have hope in him,
what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. –Romans 8:18 (NLT)
And that God works in all things, good and bad,
Working in us to be
...conformed to the image of his Son. –Romans 8:29 (NIV)
Closing and Challenge
Devotion: Trust by Jaci Velasquez