So [King] Jehoiachin put aside his prison clothes and for the rest of his life ate regularly at the king’s table.
2 Kings 25:29 (NIV)
It is late September morning as I write this. The temperature is a brisk 52 degrees Fahrenheit. The windows are cracked open. The sun is coming up over the trees whose leaves are already changing color. And, it means that the baseball post season is almost upon us. I love autumn.
I haven’t commented much about our beloved Cubbies this season after posting about the experience of their amazing World Series victory last year. In part my silence is because I’ve enjoyed being able to quietly enjoy the fact that our team won the World Series. I also think that there’s been enough hype and hoopla without me piling on.
Of course, this means that there are big games coming up with a lot on the line. The Cubs are still one win away from clinching their division. As the games get more important, the emotions get stoked to higher levels. It’s part of the fun of being a fan.
The stoking of emotions typically means that my natural pessimistic bent, which I normally try to keep in check, can come roaring out. There were many a moment during last year’s World Series run that Wendy had to challenge (she’s an eight) the dark cloud of doom and gloom hanging over me. I recently acquired a great t-shirt with a cartoon boxer and the words “fight pessimism.” I’ll be needing that reminder.
Of course, in the grand scheme of eternity sports are much ado about nothing. So are most of the things with which we entertain ourselves on this life journey. Jesus espoused “life to the full” and I have no problem fully en-joy-ing the fun of a great game like baseball.
In today’s chapter, the people of Judah have little to en-joy. In fact, a chapter like today lends itself to pessimism. For almost the entire chapter things go from bad to worse. In yesterday’s chapter the King of Babylon besieged Jerusalem and took most of the people and all of the treasure as spoil back to Babylon. Today, the puppet-king who had been left in charge decides to rebel against the King of Babylon. What follows is more destruction, more suffering, more death. The rebellious Judean king is taken to Babylon and forced to watch his children killed before his own eyes before having his own eyes gouged out. Ugh. Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse…they get worse.
This is the last chapter of 2 Kings and it’s the end of the story for the Kingdoms of Israel. Exile. Jerusalem lays in rubble. Solomon’s Temple is razed to the ground. The glory of the nation wiped out and looted. The people who had once been delivered from slavery in Egypt and brought to the promised land now find themselves kicked out of the promised land and back in forced servitude. Talk about a downer of an ending.
Then I get to the very end of the chapter and the last few verses. It records that the King of Babylon (Nebuchadnezzar’s son) brings Judah’s King Jehoiachin out of prison. The king of Judah is given an allowance and seated at the King’s table. In the deepest darkness of exile this is an optimistic ray of hope. The King of Judah, the line of David, is still alive. The scribes of 2 Kings end this dark chapter of the story with a sliver of hope.
This morning I’m mulling over my pessimism and my own story. Reading the awful events of the exile and thinking about the awful events and realities being experienced by people all over the world on this very day are sobering. It puts the silliness of sports, and the very thought of being pessimistic in the amazingly blessed life circumstances I get to en-joy each day in much-needed perspective.
Pessimism be damned. Jesus said, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
In the deepest of darkness, there is always a ray of hope (if I choose to see it).