Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Between Wickedness And Godliness

1 Chronicles 3:17-18 " The sons of Jeconiah who was taken prisoner by the Babylonians, were Shealtiel, Malkiram, Pedaiah, Shenazzar, Jekamiah, Hoshama, and Nedabiah."

Matthew 1:12 NLT "After the Babylonian exile: Jeconiah was the father of Shealtiel. Shealtiel was the father of Zerubbabel."

We don't really know much about Shealtiel. He is mentioned eleven times in the Bible - but there are precious few details about his life. What we know about him only comes from two geneologies; 1 Chronicles 3 and Matthew 1. In fact, there are only three facts about Shealtiel that we can glean from scriptures:
One: He was the son of Jeconiah.
Two: He was born in Babylon.
Three: He was the father of Zerubbabel.

That's it. His whole life; what he did, who he married, how he served God...none of that is known to us! If it weren't for the family lists in scripture, we wouldn't have even known that Shealtiel ever existed! How depressing for him, right? However, when we take a deep look at Shealtiel's surroundings, we can see more clearly what kind of man he must have been.

First, let's look at Shealtiel's father, Jeconiah:

Jeconiah was the son of King Jehoiakim and grandson of King Josiah. Although Josiah was a righteous man, Jehoiakim was anything but. While denying the very God that made King Josiah powerful, Jehoiakim also rebelled against the most powerful empire in the world - Babylon. This was an extremely foolish move!

When Jeconiah was only eight years old, Jehoiakim made him an "associate king". He co-ruled the nation of Judah at his father's side for ten years. No doubt, during this time, Jeconiah learned the wicked ways and practices of his father and even began to follow them. 2 Chronicles 36:9 has this testimony about Jeconiah, "He did evil in the sight of the LORD." After Babylon-supported raiders killed Jehoiakim, Jeconiah became king of Judah at the age of eighteen. He never turned from his wicked ways or repented. After three short months as king, Jeconiah was captured and taken to Babylon as a prisoner.

While he was in Babylon, his uncle Zedekiah was instated as king by the Babylonian emperor. Most Jews still regarded Jeconiah as king though, and erroneously believed that God would bring him back to the throne. This led Jeremiah to announce by the Holy Spirit that none of Jeconiah's descendants would ever sit on David's throne. Jeconiah destroyed the destiny of his children by his own wickedness. Still, it wasn't all bad for him. After several years of captivity, the next Babylonian emperor had pity on this one-time king. He let Jonah out of prison and gave him a life in Babylon. It was during this time that Shealtiel was born.

Now let's look at Shealtiel's son, Zerubbabel:

We don't know much about Zerubbabel's early life. His name is actually Assyrian, not Hebrew. It means "the one conceived in Babylon." Zerubbabel never knew anything but life in captivity. He never experienced any other culture other than that of Babylon and then Persia. But somehow, this was the man that Cyrus picked to lead the first wave of returning exiles. Zerubbabel led over 40,000 Jewish people back to Jerusalem to repopulate and rebuild.

In Jerusalem, Zerubbabel was instated as governor by Cyrus and he laid the foundation of the new temple. This was a man that feared God and worked closely with Joshua the high priest. God responded to Zerubbabel's trust in Him and declared through Haggai, "On that day, says the Lord of Hosts, I will take you Zerubbabel, son of Shealtiel, my servant, and wear you like a signet ring; for it is you whom I have chosen."

God rejected Jeconiah and his descendants as kings because of his wickedness. But when Zerubbabel embraced Him, God worked around His own curse and brought a blessing on this family once again. Now the question is, who taught Zerubbabel to fear God? It certainly wasn't a common thing in his culture. Babylon and Persia were both god-less, immoral, and idolatrous empires. So where did this man who was "conceived in Babylon" learn about the ways of God?

 From his father.

 This is where Shealtiel comes in. He saw the wickedness of his father. He knew the stories of what God did to Judah because of the evil that his people were practicing. And he knew the prophecies of repentance and restoration for the Jewish people. So Shealtiel bridged the gap between a wicked generation and a restored generation. He was a member of a repentant generation.

Daniel was a member of that same generation. He was only a child when he was ripped out of Jerusalem. He was forced to grow up in a pagan and ungodly culture. But listen to his prayer in Daniel 8:4-11:
      "Lord, you are a great and wonderful God. You keep the covenant you made with all those who love you and obey your commands. You show them your love. We have sinned and done what is wrong. We have been evil. We have refused to obey you. We have turned away from your commands and laws. We haven’t listened to your servants the prophets. They spoke in your name to our kings and princes. They also brought your message to all of our people in the land.
      “Lord, you always do what is right. But we are covered with shame today. We are the people of Judah and Jerusalem. All of us are Israelites, no matter where we live. We are now living in many countries. You scattered us among the nations because we weren’t faithful to you. Lord, we and our kings and princes and people are covered with shame. We have sinned against you.
     “You are the Lord our God. You show us your tender love. You forgive us. But we have turned against you. You are the Lord our God. But we haven’t obeyed you. We haven’t kept the laws you gave us through your servants the prophets. All of the people of Israel have broken your law and turned away from it. They have refused to obey you."

It was a wicked generation that brought sorrow to Israel. Shealtiel's generation was raised in that sorrow and became repentant, seeking God's forgiveness for the sins that their fathers had committed. They knew that they were to be exiled for seventy years - per God's decree. So Shealtiel knew that he wouldn't see Jerusalem or the promised restoration of God's people. So what did he do? He prepared his son.

Now we can see a few powerful truths from the life of Shealtiel.

First, we can see the divine order of things. No one can move straight from wickedness to restoration. The proper order is to move through repentance. God will not restore if you won't repent. Whine about grace all you want to...but grace does not cover an immoral lifestyle! This was the message that John preached, the message that Jesus preached - this is the gospel of the Kingdom - "Repent for the Kindom of Heaven is at hand!"

Secondly, I can see a profound truth in my own life. I grew up in a generation that has been alienated from God. Our fathers sowed the seed, and now we're reaping the horrible harvest. Violence. Laziness. Perversion. Immorality. Despair. My generation seems to have no hope, and we're still only digging ourselves deeper. We've been born into captivity.

As much as I try to shield them from own kids have been born into this culture too. Like Zerubbabel, they have been "conceived in Babylon." But I have learned my part from Shealtiel; I have two major responsibilities:

1 - I must push into a changed lifestyle. If you're a believer that happens to be in the Millennial generation, listen to me. We cannot afford to be passive in our Christian walk! We can't afford to lose track of where our Bibles are, go days without seeking God's face, or allow ourselves to be disconnected from our spiritual leaders. We must repent of the wickedness that infiltrated our father's generation and now runs rampant in our own. We must change!

2 - I must prepare my kids for role. My kids are going to see God's glory! My kids are going to operate in the kingdom of God, not this world's system! My kids are going to lay, once again, the right foundation in the church! They're not going to "play church"! They're not going to treat God's house like a social gathering or country club! My kids are going to lead the way back to the Kingdom of God!

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