20 He took into exile in Babylon those who had escaped from the sword, and they became servants to him and to his sons until the establishment of the kingdom of Persia, 21 to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah, until the land had enjoyed its Sabbaths. All the days that it lay desolate it kept Sabbath, to fulfill seventy years.
22 Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom and also put it in writing: 23 “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, ‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and he has charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all his people, may the Lord his God be with him. Let him go up.’ ”
There have been oppressors since long before Noah. In this case, God’s people were oppressing others so He sent some worse kingdoms to discipline them. He gave them so many chances to turn around and repent.
Jeremiah was one of those chances, although once he was on the scene the discipline was inevitable. So instead, he also gave them hope that the discipline wouldn’t last forever. 70 years and God will restore you.
That was the promise.
But it wasn’t like the end of the world. There wasn’t a BLIP and they were all back in Jerusalem. God actually used a pagan king to sound off the order. ”The Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus, King of Persia” it says. God worked in the heart of the wicked king to commission and dispatch God’s people to go and build God’s kingdom!
The people had to actually do it. The King wanted it, and he made it possible for them to accomplish it, but they couldn’t do it while sitting in Babylon crying over their harps.
They had to get up and go.
It’s no mistake that Matthew ends his Gospel in a similar way. While 2 Chronicles is stuck in the middle of the left half of our Bibles, it was the final book in Jewish scriptures known as the Tanakh. Their order was different and these would be the final words of all off their books. So think of these verses the way you’d think of the conclusion of the book of Revelation.
So when Matthew wrote his Gospel, he ended it with all of the force, reflection, and emotion modern Christians put on to the end of the revelation:
20 He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.
And with that sentiment in mind, he ends his story of Jesus:
18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”