Come Out of Captivity

Scripture Focus: 2 Chronicles 33.10-13
10 The Lord spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they paid no attention. 11 So the Lord brought against them the army commanders of the king of Assyria, who took Manasseh prisoner, put a hook in his nose, bound him with bronze shackles and took him to Babylon. 12 In his distress he sought the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his ancestors. 13 And when he prayed to him, the Lord was moved by his entreaty and listened to his plea; so he brought him back to Jerusalem and to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord is God. 

Reflection: Come Out of Captivity
By John Tillman

Christ’s kingdom of light exposes the darkness of our human kingdoms. We find this not only in Revelation, but throughout the scriptures.

Differences in Chronicles and Kings show the motives and goals of the writers. They are not in conflict as much as they are complementing each other’s messages by emphasizing or omitting specific things.

Kings is dour, and at times depressing, reading. It made the case to exiles in Babylon that they suffered justly for their sins and called them to repent. One king after another, God’s chosen leaders, turned away from God. Human kings were revealed as unworthy and unrighteous failures. None were righteous. No, not one. We need to believe this about ourselves and our kingdoms.

The Chronicler retold these events to those who returned from Babylon. Chronicles highlights moments that show that (when there is repentance) God’s mercy, redemption, and salvation are sure. God is revealed as being faithful to forgive. He is the righteous one. We also need to believe this.

In Kings, much of the blame for the Babylonian exile is hung on Manasseh’s neck. This is probably the reason Kings does not include the repentance story. The Chronicler, however, is speaking to people who need to know that God restores.  

The Chronicler tells former captives of a king taken captive. He tells those restored to Judah, of a king who was restored. He tells those who were sinners and rebels of a king who repented and humbled himself. He tells those attempting to reestablish the worship of God of a king who deconstructed cultural idols and returned to true faith.

We can become obsessed and depressed when darkness and sin seem dominant in us and in our world. But even the weepiest of weeping prophets knew and proclaimed that light was coming and hope was warranted.

Manasseh’s story instills hope that repentance brings light. It tells us that there is no one beyond God’s judgment and wrath and no one beyond his grace and mercy.

Christ’s coming is a light of revelation. If we move toward Christ, revealing light becomes healing light and cleanses us of all unrighteousness.

We are not beyond hope. His arm is not too short to save. Come out of captivity to cultural idols and into the light.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Remember, Lord, how short life is, how frail you have made all flesh. — Psalm 89.47

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Chronicles 33 (Listen – 4:01) 
Revelation 19 (Listen – 3:47)

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Read more about Why Chronicles?
Our history, our sins, our mistakes, cannot be deleted but our story going forward can be rewritten.

Unwrapping Christ’s Gifts :: Epiphany

Scripture Focus: Luke 4.18-20
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
    to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Reflection: Unwrapping Christ’s Gifts :: Epiphany
By John Tillman

The Annunciation of the birth of the King of Kings had come quietly to Mary, a young girl in Nazareth, and when that King’s time had come, he announced his kingdom in the same synagogue he studied in as a young boy. Mary’s son chose to announce his true identity to those who knew him best. He chose to proclaim the presence of the kingdom of God in a town from which true Israelites believed nothing good could come.

It should not surprise us that Jesus chose to make one of his earliest and most direct claims to being the Messiah not in a rabbinical school, not in the temple, not in a court of law, nor in the courts of political power.

Jesus consistently chose to minister in out of the way places to people life had pushed out of the way. But here in Nazareth, Jesus wasn’t burying the lead; he was burying a treasure in a field. Those who studied the prophecies knew that the Messianic ministry would dawn like a light in Galilee. Christ’s seeming retreat from more important locations, is actually a marker of his true nature as the foretold Messiah.

Christ’s gifts to us are at first concealed, like gifts under a Christmas tree. They are hidden in plain sight for us to wonder at, to shake, to puzzle over, and ultimately to open and rejoice over. But, after opening, gifts become a part of you when you accept them. Whether it is a tool that is used regularly, an item of clothing that is worn often, or a book, game, or other entertainment that engages our mind and imagination, good gifts integrate themselves into our lives and identities.

Christ’s gifts are meant to become integral to our lives and to become manifestations of himself to our family, friends, and communities. As we approach Epiphany over the next ten days, may we wear Christ’s gifts prominently, like new and well-loved items of clothing. Through the wearing, may we allow them to transform us into the manifestation of the giver.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Bless the Lord, you angels of his, you mighty ones who do his bidding, and hearken to the voice of his word.
Bless the Lord, all you his hosts, you ministers of his who do his will.
Bless the Lord, all you works of his, in all places of his dominion… — Psalm 103.20-22

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
2 Chronicles 32 (Listen -5:58) 
Revelation 18 (Listen -4:48)

This Weekend’s Readings
2 Chronicles 33 (Listen -4:01) Revelation 19 (Listen -3:47)
2 Chronicles 34 (Listen -6:23) Revelation 20 (Listen -2:49)

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The peace God spoke would come at a cost, and shedding his glory and light to be born in a dim and dirty animal stall, was only the down payment.

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