Efforts were made during the tumultuous time of the returning exiles described in Ezra to rebuild the Temple. The prophet Haggai wrote to the governor of Judah, Zerubbabel ben Shealtiel, and the high priest, Joshua ben Jehozadek, that God wanted Its house rebuilt and ASAP. Haggai wrote, God wants to know if y’all think it’s ok that y’all are living in houses and It’s still homeless? God also wants you to know that the reason nothing y’all do down in Judah ever prospers is because y’all have left It homeless. Until you rebuild God’s house, you will never be able to turn a profit or grow enough crops!
So Zerubbabel and Joshuah organized the people to get the materials and crews to rebuild the Temple.
Some time later, Nebuchadnezzar had a giant golden statue erected on the plain of Dura. At the dedication ceremony, he decreed, Anytime music plays, you will fall on your face and worship the statue. Anyone who fails to do so will be thrown into a furnace! Then he cued the band. Everyone present fell on their faces and worshiped.
But later, some astrologers went to Nebuchadnezzar and were all, Those Jews you put in charge of the province, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego? They DO NOT fall on their faces to worship the statue when music plays.
This enraged Nebuchadnezzar, and he had Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego arrested and dragged before him, and was all, Is it true? You do not worship when music plays? If you don’t I will have you thrown into the palace furnace!
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were all, Whatever. God will protect us. Continue reading “Daniel 3: The fiery furnace”
God also told me to dedicate this song to Pharaoh and the Egyptians:
Look at Jerusalem!
All burned and deserted.
Many used here to dwell but
Exile has swallowed them up.
Now her walls and buildings have crumbled.
Total destruction has befallen her.
All five of the verses of this book are acrostics of the Hebrew alphabet, so I am going to write acrostics based on key words.
See, Jeremiah knew that everything was hopeless, because way back nine years earlier, at the beginning of Zedekiah’s reign, during one of the previous wars with Babylon–the one where Nebuchadnezzar took King Jehoiachin hostage, Jeremiah had had a dream.
In that dream, there were two baskets of figs offered as sacrifices to God. One basket was full of ripe, succulent fruits. The other, with rotten ones. As Jeremiah contemplated the figs, God told him that most of the people of Judah were like those bad fruit, bound to die and rot.But those few who would be purified by exile would be like the good figs, and God would gather them and return them to the Promised Land.
God told me to go look for a righteous man. I couldn’t find one. First I checked among the crowds in the market place. Not a one. But I said to myself, it must be because they’re all poor and uneducated. I bet if I go to the nice part of town I’ll find one. Nope. None there either.
So God sends this message. It asks, Why should I forgive you? You’ve cheated on me so many times. You’re like a lusty stallion, neighing for its neighbor’s wives. Only in this analogy, the wives are other nation’s gods. Who aren’t even that attractive. So I’m going to ravage you to teach you a lesson. You like other nations? Well, other nations will gather around your cities like lions and tigers around abandoned baby animals. And when the time comes, they will sink their teeth into your necks and gorge upon your blood! But….I’ll let a few of you survive, for auld lang syne. You’ll be in exile and poor. But you’ll be alive.
So Jeremiah went forth and declared, Everyone! Everyone who’s a son of Abraham! Gather round and here what God wants you to know! God sends this message, I remember the good days, Israel, when you were my blushing bride. We were so happy. But you’ve turned from me! Found other gods! Cheated and whored, you slut! Why wasn’t the land of milk and honey and ME enough? Why did you have to chase after Baal and all those other gods? Other countries remain true to their gods and their gods are fake! And you had me, the only REAL god, the best god! Yet you cheat! You whore yourself out at every shrine and temple you find!
When Isaiah wasn’t prophesying disaster, he was praising God for causing disasters and destroying cities. He also praised God for offering solace to the poor and the oppressed–because one day, God would provide everyone with a bounteous feast and remove all sadness from every heart. And on that day everyone would praise God.
When Hezekiah was King of Judah, and Assyria was conquering Israel, God told Isaiah to get naked and tell everyone that his nudity was meant to represent what Assyria was going to do to Cush and Egypt–strip them naked and drive them into exile. He went around naked for three years.
God continued, Seriously, guys, I live in heaven. Earth’s an afterthought. It’s like my footstool, or that little table that I sit my beer on. Nice, but not necessary. So it really annoys me when you forget your place. I only like humble, contrite, fearful followers. If you’re not afraid and sorry then your prayers are no better than when you cheat on me and pray to Baal or some other god. I hate cheaters. Seriously, everyone does. And you will die a slow, violent, bloody death. But you faithful! You I love! To you I promise that we’ll have a bright future together! I know things are tough for you right now for you little amoeba, but can ladies give birth without pain? So relax. I’ll see Zion born and your country overflowing with prosperity! A princess among nations. My princess! Everyone will be so jealous and will want me to be their god too.
(Finally, that’s the end of Isaiah. Jeremiah is next, so we’ll travel back to the years before the Babylonian takeover and another naysayer who saw it coming.)