It becomes easier to hear the voice of God in the stillness
- For today’s exercise leading us into the stillness in which it becomes easier to hear the voice of God, spend a little time becoming conscious of the sensations of different parts of your own body. It doesn’t matter whether you’re sitting in a comfortable chair, lying down, or walking. First be aware of the feeling of your feet, the shoes that surround them or the ground they press against.
- Then work your way up through your body – from your legs, your hips, your torso, your arms and hands, to your face and scalp. Let the feeling of each part register with you, and only move on when it has done so.
Let that point of attention come to rest, somewhere at the centre of yourself
- When you’ve reached your head, let your attention return to your feet, and move slowly again at your own pace through your body once or twice.
- Then, when you’re ready, let that point of attention come to rest, somewhere at the centre of yourself. It’s from that quiet centre that you can now listen to the way in which King Jehoiachin was remembered by later generations.
2 Kings 24: 6, 8 – 15
So Jehoiakim slept with his ancestors; then his son Jehoiachin succeeded him.
Jehoiachin was eighteen years old when he began to reign; he reigned for three months in Jerusalem. His mother’s name was Nehushta daughter of Elnathan of Jerusalem. He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, just as his father had done.
At that time the servants of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came up to Jerusalem, and the city was besieged. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon came to the city, while his servants were besieging it; King Jehoiachin of Judah gave himself up to the king of Babylon, himself, his mother, his servants, his officers, and his palace officials. The king of Babylon took him prisoner in the eighth year of his reign.
He carried off all the treasures of the house of the Lord, and the treasures of the king’s house; he cut in pieces all the vessels of gold in the temple of the Lord, which King Solomon of Israel had made, all this as the Lord had foretold. He carried away all Jerusalem, all the officials, all the warriors, ten thousand captives, all the artisans and the smiths; no one remained, except the poorest people of the land. He carried away Jehoiachin to Babylon; the king’s mother, the king’s wives, his officials, and the elite of the land, he took into captivity from Jerusalem to Babylon.
From what you have just heard, what first impression do you get
- In his account of Jesus’ ancestry, Jechoiachin is the last name mentioned by St Matthew before the Jewish elite is carried off to exile in Babylon. (Matthew’s gospel uses another version of his name, Jechoniah.) From what you have just heard, what first impression do you get of this unfortunate king?
- Historians would attribute the downfall of Jerusalem recorded here to the expansion of the empire of Babylon into territory of its weaker neighbour. For the writer of this biblical narrative, the explanation is simpler. Jechoiachin “did what was evil in the sight of the Lord”, and so he and his people were punished. Even without knowing the background, which of these kinds of explanation makes more sense to you here?
Talking to the Lord
Focus on what the idea of exile means in your own life
- The theme of exile has been an important one for the Jewish people from that day to this. To be without a homeland of your own, to be forced to live among strangers with different languages and different customs. Jesus himself would have this experience when, shortly after his birth, he and his family had to flee into Egypt. Do you have any sense of what this feels like? You might draw on your own experience, or that of present-day refugees you have seen on the news.
- Consider, too, the plight of those left behind. They are, the scripture tells us, “the poorest people of the land”. All their leaders, all the educated classes, even the army that was there to protect them, have been taken away. They are left as virtual slaves of the invading forces. Again, can you feel something of what this is like, perhaps drawing on stories you may have seen of trafficked people in our time?
- As this prayer draws to a close, you might perhaps want to speak to God for a few moments about present-day exiles and slaves, refugees and asylum-seekers. Or you might focus instead on what the idea of exile means in your own life. In either case, know that you will meet a God who reaches out powerfully to all those in need.