Our reading from Kings today starts with a familiar declaration about Israel’s latest king – “He did evil in the eyes of the Lord”.
Israel and Judah were previously united into one kingdom under Saul, David and Solomon. After Solomon died the kingdom split into the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. As we can see from the diagram below, Israel has reached the end of the line!
Throughout the Old Testament, God deals with people on a national level – sending one nation against another as part of his judgement against them. We see this happen many times. At the beginning of God’s relationship with the nation of Israel he tells Abraham of such a judgement to come:
Then the Lord said to him, “Know for certain that for four hundred years your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own and that they will be enslaved and mistreated there. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. You, however, will go to your ancestors in peace and be buried at a good old age. In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure.”
God was planning to use the Israelites – in 400 years time – as his instrument of judgement against the Amorites. We don’t know what interactions God had with that nation in the mean time, but clearly it did not end well for them.
Now the shoe is on the other foot. God’s patience with Israel’s disobedience has come to an end.
In an echo of the complaints of their ancestors who told Abraham they just wanted to go back to Egypt where it was all good and shiny for them, Hoshea the last king of Israel turns to Egypt for help. The king of Assyria who had already established his rule over Israel would have none of Hoshea’s treachery and lays siege to Israel’s capital of Samaria for 3 years!
At the end of this siege the people of Israel were deported to various places in the Assyrian kingdom and Israel was no more.
Verse 7 makes it clear – the Assyrian’s were God’s instrument of judgement against the nation of Israel:
All this took place because the Israelites had sinned against the Lord their God, who had brought them up out of Egypt from under the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
The verses that follow go on to list Israel’s sins. The most serious of these was their constant turning to other gods. They were warned, but they “would not listen and were as stiff-necked as their ancestors” (v14).
Verse 21 ties the beginning of the end back to Jeroboam, first king of the divided Israel. They persisted in the sin he initiated and now God was removing them from his presence. Only Judah remains – and they are also living in rebellion.
Judah will remain part of God’s purposes because of God’s promise to continue the line of David. But for the northern kingdom of Israel, this is the end.
In our New Testament reading we really just see a teaser trailer to the main event. God truly has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him.
I won’t go further into the spiritual growth that Peter urges us to strive for. I am sure Harry will do that for us tomorrow. Let me just share one verse that has really convicted me of late:
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
When we consider the mountain of rebellious actions that Christ has forgiven in us – and how he achieved that forgiveness – how can we withhold forgiveness from others?