Speaker: Ps Luwin Wong
Sermon Title: A Happy Ending?
Scripture Text: 2 Kings 24–25
1. Why the Tragic Ending?
2. Why the Hopeful Conclusion?
3. How do we have a Happy Ending?
24 In his days, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up, and Jehoiakim became his servant for three years. Then he turned and rebelled against him. 2 And the Lord sent against him bands of the Chaldeans and bands of the Syrians and bands of the Moabites and bands of the Ammonites, and sent them against Judah to destroy it, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke by his servants the prophets. 3 Surely this came upon Judah at the command of the Lord, to remove them out of his sight, for the sins of Manasseh, according to all that he had done, 4 and also for the innocent blood that he had shed. For he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood, and the Lord would not pardon. 5 Now the rest of the deeds of Jehoiakim and all that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah? 6 So Jehoiakim slept with his fathers, and Jehoiachin his son reigned in his place. 7 And the king of Egypt did not come again out of his land, for the king of Babylon had taken all that belonged to the king of Egypt from the Brook of Egypt to the river Euphrates.
8 Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he became king, and he reigned three months in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Nehushta the daughter of Elnathan of Jerusalem. 9 And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father had done.
10 At that time the servants of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up to Jerusalem, and the city was besieged. 11 And Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to the city while his servants were besieging it, 12 and Jehoiachin the king of Judah gave himself up to the king of Babylon, himself and his mother and his servants and his officials and his palace officials. The king of Babylon took him prisoner in the eighth year of his reign 13 and carried off all the treasures of the house of the Lord and the treasures of the king’s house, and cut in pieces all the vessels of gold in the temple of the Lord, which Solomon king of Israel had made, as the Lord had foretold. 14 He carried away all Jerusalem and all the officials and all the mighty men of valor, 10,000 captives, and all the craftsmen and the smiths. None remained, except the poorest people of the land. 15 And he carried away Jehoiachin to Babylon. The king’s mother, the king’s wives, his officials, and the chief men of the land he took into captivity from Jerusalem to Babylon. 16 And the king of Babylon brought captive to Babylon all the men of valor, 7,000, and the craftsmen and the metal workers, 1,000, all of them strong and fit for war. 17 And the king of Babylon made Mattaniah, Jehoiachin’s uncle, king in his place, and changed his name to Zedekiah.
18 Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Hamutal the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah. 19 And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to all that Jehoiakim had done. 20 For because of the anger of the Lord it came to the point in Jerusalem and Judah that he cast them out from his presence.
And Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon.
Continue reading HERE
My goddaughter Kianna is huge fan of the How to Train your dragon franchise. So when Disney came out with Raya and the Last Dragon, I brought her to cinema to watch it.
In the show, the selfishness and greed and enmity of mankind has released an evil called the Druuns into the world. Legend has it that dragons once protected the world from the Druuns and had the power to banish them from whence they came.
So Raya is on the quest to find the last dragon, to see they can together fight the Druuns and restore goodness in the world.
In one of the scenes, Raya faced off with her nemesis Namaari, the antagonist in the story. And as they were fighting, Kianna turns to me and asks, “Godpa, is Raya going to lose?” I said, “Relax, she’s not going to lose”. She said, “How do you know?”
And I said, “Because it’s Disney movie. And in Disney movies, the good guys always win. It’s always a happy ending. Raya’s not going to lose.” Besides, the name of the movie is literally “Raya and the Last Dragon” and you’re worried for Raya? Come on.”.
True enough, Raya won the fight, banished the Druuns with help from Sisu the dragon, and restored peace and harmony to the Kingdom of Kumandra, where they all lived happily ever after.
Disney movie. Bad guys lose. Good guys win. Happy ending.
It’s a simple formula, and the largest media company in the world gets it. As they say, Disney makes dreams come true. Because we all dream of a happy ending, do we not?
You see, the happily ever after ending isn’t simply a one of the many ways to conclude a story. It’s THE way. The only reason you don’t conclude a show with a happy ending is in order to draw people back for the sequel, to keep them hooked for the next episode.
You try starting a production company whose movies all end with the bad guys winning, where every story concludes with evil triumphing over good. And see how you fare at the box office.
A friend of mine was telling me the other day that she was watching a local tv drama. And the episode she watched ended with the villains getting away with their plotting and scheming, and the innocent being helplessly framed and unjustly oppressed. And she said, it got her so upset, she had to get out of bed to eat cookies just to feel better, so she could go to sleep.
I suspect a bit of it is just an excuse to eat cookies, but the point is this: a tragic ending is at odds with the longing of the human heart. It leaves us in a state of frustration and unease. It makes us want to eat cookies for comfort.
Human beings dream of a happy ending. And Disney gets it. They make our dreams come true.
Here’s the catch though. It’s only the good guys who win. It’s only the heroes who get a happy ending. The bad guys lose. The villains are vanquished.
The good guys have a happy ending, the bad guys get a tragic ending.
Which is the reason why the narrative of 1-2 Kings ends thusly – with a tragic ending.
You see, in the overall story of 1-2 Kings, and in particular, our passage today, we are dealing with a story where the protagonists, where the main characters are wicked. We are witnessing the ending that is fitting for the bad guys.
Let’s have a look at the 3 kings in our two chapters this morning.
2 Kings 23:36-37. Jehoiakim was twenty-five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Zebidah the daughter of Pedaiah of Rumah. And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his fathers had done.
2 Kings 24:8-9. Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he became king, and he reigned three months in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Nehushta the daughter of Elnathan of Jerusalem. And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father had done.
2 Kings 24:18-20. Zedekiah was twenty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned eleven years in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Hamutal the daughter of Jeremiah of Libnah. And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, according to all that Jehoiakim had done. For because of the anger of the Lord it came to the point in Jerusalem and Judah that he cast them out from his presence.
The result of their individual narratives are as follows:
Jehoiakim: 2 Kings 24:1-2 In his days, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up, and Jehoiakim became his servant for three years. Then he turned and rebelled against him. And the Lord sent against him bands of the Chaldeans and bands of the Syrians and bands of the Moabites and bands of the Ammonites, and sent them against Judah to destroy it
Jehoiachin. 2 Kings 24:10-12. At that time the servants of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up to Jerusalem, and the city was besieged. And Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came to the city while his servants were besieging it, and Jehoiachin the king of Judah gave himself up to the king of Babylon, himself and his mother and his servants and his officials and his palace officials. The king of Babylon took him prisoner in the eighth year of his reign…
2 Kings 25:1. And in the ninth year of his reign, in the tenth month, on the tenth day of the month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came with all his army against Jerusalem and laid siege to it.
2 Kings 25:6. Then they captured the king and brought him up to the king of Babylon at Riblah, and they passed sentence on him. They slaughtered the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes, and put out the eyes of Zedekiah and bound him in chains and took him to Babylon.
Do you see the familiar refrain. He did what was evil… then Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came…
The fate of the wicked kings of Judah is God’s judgment in the form of foreign invasion by the king of Babylon. As stories go, the villains do not get a happy ending, they end up in chains, in prison, in exile.
And the conclusion of the overall narrative arc of persistent villainy throughout the history of Judean Monarchy, is summarised in a brief, solitary sentence. Put simply, but pregnant with tragedy.
2 Kings 25:2, “So Judah was taken into exile out of its land”.
What land? The promised land. The land flowing with milk and honey, the land where God dwells in the midst of his people. The land where Israel is supposed to live happily ever after.
“So Judah was taken into exile out of its land.”
Which of course, is a frustrating ending for the reader. But a fitting end for Judah.
Because else is the story supposed to end when everyone’s bad, everything’s messed up, and no one is willing to do what is right – to keep the covenant and worship the Lord?
So why the tragic ending? Because Villian’s don’t get to have a happy ending.
Which raises the question: what about our happy ending? The happy ending every human heart is longs for, the happy ending we all dream of?
What about our happy ending?
Well, endings are but a consequence of our way of life. How our story ends is determined by the sort of character we are in the grand drama of life.
So the more fundamental question is this: are you good or are you bad? Are you the hero of the story or a villain?
And perhaps you may say, I’m one of the good guys because I try to lead a moral life, I give to charity, I do volunteer work, I recycle, I try to do good to those around me and I’ve never committed any crimes, never been arrested. I think I’m one of the good ones.
Well, think about it. Have you ever encountered a truly good person. One of the hallmarks of a truly good persons is that they know they aren’t good. They recognise the evil within them, they know they’re prone to selfishness, they know they get impatient too easily, they know they need to dial back on their anger, and their pride, and the lust, and their greed.
They know they’re bad. And that consciousness of the evil within them causes them constantly battle against their impulses, constantly restraint their inordinate desires, constantly control their thoughts and actions. That’s why they are good.
For example, are you aware that good marriages aren’t simply marriages between two good people. Good marriages are marriages two people who know how easy it is for their marriage to turn bad, and so they work every day to ensure that it doesn’t.
Ironically, a pre-condition of goodness is an acute awareness of our badness.
On the contrary, have you ever met people who believe in their heart of hearts that they are good. Those are the worst. They think they’re good you see. So it’s always somebody else fault. It’s not theirs – because they’re good, you see. There’s always some moral justification for the hurtful things they do and say – they’re good, you see, there must be a good reason they are behaving badly, when perhaps the real reason is that they are simply, not very good.
And perhaps worse of all, is the self-righteous, holier-than-thou, judgementalism that is inherent in every look they give you, in the tone of voice they use to speak to you, in the way they are always so ready to “help you”, to “fix you”, to “make you good” – like them.
While he was on earth, Jesus told a story about two men. A Pharisee and a tax collector. The Pharisee thanked God that he was a good person. The tax collector begged God for mercy because he was a sinner.
And the point Jesus was making was that both the Pharisee and the tax collector were sinners. But only the tax collector had enough sense to recognise that.
Which means that there are two kinds of people in this world. It’s not good guys and bad guys. It’s those who know they are bad, and those who are not wise enough to know that they’re bad.
The point I’m driving at is this: Perhaps, the story of humanity is a story of bad people doing bad things to each other. History would very convincingly support this hypothesis. There is certainly far more evidence for this to be the case, than the opposite hypothesis: that the story of humanity is a story of good people doing good things to each other who deserve a happy ending.
Perhaps, the story of humanity is a story of bad people doing bad things to each other, and therefore deserve a tragic ending.
If that is so, then it would be fair to read in the story of 1-2 kings as a representative story of larger humanity. Which is, biblically speaking, the precise case, because we too were once within the promised land – The Garden of Eden – and like Judah we were exiled from that land, because we failed to be good.
2 Kings 25:2, “So Judah was taken into exile out of its land”.
Now this poses a theological problem. Because the moment Judah is exiled from its land, it means that henceforth, there ceases to be a “kingdom” of Judah. Because a king implies a sovereign, and Judah is no longer a sovereign nation, it is not even a vassal kingdom to Assyria, it is now simply a territory of Assyria. There is no more kingdom of Judah, and so there is no more need for a king of Judah.
Which is why, in verses 22, we read this: And over the people who remained in the land of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had left, he appointed Gedaliah the son of Ahikam, son of Shaphan, governor.
He didn’t appoint a king. He simply appointed a governor. Which of course enraged some members of the royal family, who proceeded to kill him. But that didn’t mean a thing. That brief episode was no more than an act of petty anger; it was by no means any sort of revolution. There was no more kingdom of Judah, and therefore no more need for a king of Judah.
Which poses a problem. Because God promised king David that his son will reign on the throne of his kingdom forever,
Now, the story of 1-2 Kings properly ends in Chpt 25:26. A tragic end for wicked people. That’s the fitting ending. Not the ending we dream of, but the ending they deserve.
But if the story ended this way, and the line of Davidic kings ended along with it, then one might say that God’s promise to David, has failed.
But has it? Well, let’s read on.
2 Kings 25:27-30. And in the thirty-seventh year of the exile of Jehoiachin king of Judah, in the twelfth month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, Evil-merodach king of Babylon, in the year that he began to reign, graciously freed Jehoiachin king of Judah from prison. And he spoke kindly to him and gave him a seat above the seats of the kings who were with him in Babylon. So Jehoiachin put off his prison garments. And every day of his life he dined regularly at the king’s table, and for his allowance, a regular allowance was given him by the king, according to his daily needs, as long as he lived.
When I was very young, I used to love staying up on the weekends to watch these 90s Hongkong Kungfu movies on TV. Those fantasy ones, where the swordsmen all have long flowing hair, all dressed in robes, flying around, and every now and then you can see the cable suspending them.
In one these movies, the heroes were fighting the bad guy, and after a long fight sequence, they finally managed to chain him in the middle of the cave, and the hero delivered the killing blow. He flew to the villain, and slashed him with his sword, and for some reason, the villain exploded. Head was going one place arms were going one place, and game over. Good guys win the day, happy ending, and they walked out of the cave and into the peaceful setting sun. And at that moment, the camera pans back to the cave, and zooms in on the villian’s heart, on the ground somewhere. And then the hearts starts beating. And it fades out. And credits.
And I turned to my parents, “What’s happening? Is he still alive? Is he going to come back and cause trouble? What does it mean? What’s going to happen?”
Now, verses 27-30 are a bit like that. It causes you to wonder, to anticipate something more to come, because the door is left open for the story to carry on.
Now, these verses function as something like a P.S. a “post-script” to the story, or a footnote to the book of 1-2 Kings.
And a post-script though it may be, it is a very necessary one, you would not want to downplay its implication.
Its implication is this. It means that God’s promise to David has not been broken. It has not yet failed. Despite the fitting and tragic ending, there is still a king of Judah, a son of David alive and well. And, if God’s promise has not failed, then it might yet be fulfilled.
So, you do not want to understate the implication of verses 27-30.
But, you do not want to overstate its significance either.
Because Jehoiachin is alive. Big deal!
Big deal! Let’s hold on to those trumpets, let’s put down the palm branches shall we? Let’s put the sparklers away.
Lest we forget, Jehoiachin was an evil king. Judah was taken into exile from its land not in spite of him but because of him. He stint on the throne of Judah actively contributed to the tragic ending that has befallen the now defunct kingdom.
All of a sudden he’s the guy who’s going to restore the fortunes of Judah is he? We’re supposed to get our hopes up because of Jehoiachin of all people, are we?
So what if Jehoiachin returns to the throne? What’s that about insanity? Doing the same thing and expecting different results.
So, verses 27-30 offers a hopeful conclusion to the tragic ending to the book of 1-2 Kings. But it’s a faint hope, it is but a glimmer of hope. But it is not the strength of hope that matters, but the ground on which that hope rests. And it rests on a God has not yet failed to keep his promises. It rests on the character of a promise-keeping God.
The Lord has promised Good to me, his word by hope secures. In this God of amazing grace, perhaps there is a happy ending is yet possible.
The tragic ending has a hopeful conclusion because of a God who is faithful to his promises.
But for his promise to be fulfilled, we still need a king. Not any king; the right king.
In 1-2 Kings, we see the sort of king we need to secure our happy ending in a forever kingdom.
First, we need a king who is good. Not relatively good. Judah had good kings, they still ended in exile. For all of David’s courage, for all Solomon’s wisdom, for all of Josiah’s reforms, they and the kingdom ultimately fell short. No we need a better king.
A better king that David? The king after God’s own heart. A man better than the adulterer and murderer David. As they say, the best of men are men at best. Which means that there are flaws in the best of us, which we have repeatedly seen in the so-called good kings of Judah.
So, we need a king who is not simply as good as the best of man, because that is not good enough. We need a king who is a good as God.
That’s criterion number one.
Criterion number two.
We need a king who is the son of man. Namely, the son of David. Because the promise of that eternal happily ever after kingdom was made to him. Also, the Mosaic covenant that Israel failed to faithfully keep, thereby resulting in this tragic ending, was not made between God and his angels. It was made between God and man. For the covenant blessings to be realised, for our happy ending to become a reality, man must fulfil the covenant made with God.
Only a human king can represent human beings. So we need a king who is the son of man. Not just any man though. He needs to be the promised son of David. And we need his goodness surpass that of David.
So, we need a king who is as good as God.
And we need a king who is the son of David.
No one in the entire history of the kings in 1-2 kings could live up to that billing. No one could meet both criteria. Well, there were many sons of David, there still is, in Jehoiachin, but none of them were better than mere man. None of them were as good as God.
How then will Judah ever get their happy ending?
Well, this king must come. And come he will. Why? Because God keeps his promise.
Jeremiah 23:5. “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: The Lord is our righteousness… Then they shall dwell in their own land.
But how? How is it that a son of David is called the Lord of righteousness?
How can a son of man be as good as God? Because this son, this child, is also God.
Listen to the pronouncement of Isaiah.
Isaiah 9:6-7. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
Who is this child, who is this son whose name is Mighty God who will sit on the throne of David and establish a kingdom forevermore, in whom is found our ultimate happy ending?
His name is Jesus Christ.
Matt 1:1. The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.
Matt 1:12-16. And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel, and Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel, and Zerubbabel the father of Abiud, and Abiud the father of Eliakim, and Eliakim the father of Azor, and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eliud, and Eliud the father of Eleazar, and Eleazar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.
Why isn’t Joseph the father of Jesus who is called Christ? Why does the genealogy suddenly switch to Mary? Because here’s the account of Jesus’ birth.
Matt 1:18. Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.
This Jesus is the son of David and the son of God. This Jesus is fully God and fully man. He alone is able to represent man with perfect goodness before God. He alone is fit to be king whom God’s people need to restore their kingdom. He alone is able to secure for them a happy ending.
But here’s the good news for the world. He is not just the king of Judah. He is the king of all who bow the knee to him in faith. And in his eternal kingdom, with Jesus on the throne, and with every believer present there, we will find our happy ever after.
Rev 21:2-4. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
Is this not the happy ending our hearts are longing for? It is not just a dream, not merely a longing, but a future reality for all whom have come to know and trust in King Jesus.