So far, in our trip through the Bible, we’ve gone from creation, to the promise, to the promised land and then the punishment. The Story of Israel has taken many dramatic and unfortunate turns. From celebration and worship to disobedience and exile. And, they were warned many times, yet they continually tested Gods patience over and over again.
In roughly eight hundred years, the LORD’s chosen people have squandered the blessings and promises of God and now are faced with his wrath and punishment. All foretold by the prophets from Moses to Elisha. It’s one thing to be warned, another entirely to heed those warnings. They, like us today, seem to be hardheaded, or heard hearted as the LORD says.
The books of Kings and Chronicles in the Bible document this sad trip from blessing to curse. As they get comfortable with Gods blessings, they lapse into sin and disobedience. God eventually sends discipline their way, and they cry out and repent and God, true to his word, restores them only to see the cycle repeat itself. Until eventually, he removes them from the promised land.
1400BC Entering the Promised land
As Israel is preparing to cross the Jordan and finally enter the promised land after 40 years wandering in the wilderness, Moses delivers a stern warning from God. Obey or you will be destroyed. Yes God is a loving God, and yes, God is a forgiving and long-suffering God. But, he is also serious about obedience. Disobedience brings curses and discipline. He warns them, and us, over and over again.
See, I set before you today life and good, death, and evil. For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in obedience to him, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will have life and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess. But, if your heart turns away and you are not obedient, and if you are drawn away to bow down to other gods and worship them, I declare to you this day that you will certainly be destroyed. You will not live long in the land you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.
Before his death, God tells Moses that the Isrealites will disobey and break the covenant. Despite having God in their midst, seeing all of his miracles and all the plagues he brought upon Egypt, they still will turn from the LORD and follow other gods. God knows this beforehand and yet is still true to his word and promise to Abraham.
16 The Lord said to Moses, “Behold, you are about to lie down with your fathers; and this people will arise and play the prostitute with the foreign gods of the land into the midst of which they are going, and they will abandon Me and break My covenant which I have made with them. 17 Then My anger will be kindled against them on that day, and I will abandon them and hide My face from them, and they will be consumed, and many evils and troubles will find them; so they will say on that day, ‘Is it not because our God is not among us that these evils have found us?’
Joshua leads the Israelites into the promised land to conquer the land of Canaan. And, for most of the time of Joshua, Israel is obedient to the commandments of God. But, after the death of Joshua and that whole generation, the new generation grows up and does not obey the LORD.
11 Then the sons of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord and served the Baals, 12 and they abandoned the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt, and they followed other gods from the gods of the peoples who were around them, and bowed down to them; so they provoked the Lord to anger. 13 They abandoned the Lord and served Baal and the Ashtaroth. 14 Then the anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and He handed them over to plunderers, and they plundered them; and He sold them into the hands of their enemies around them, so that they could no longer stand against their enemies.
The period of the Judges, begins the cycle of disobedience and discipline. God gives Israel into the hands of her enemies who oppress them for years at a time. The people of Israel repent and cry out to the LORD and he sends a new judge to restore them. Then, once things are good again, the cycle of disobedience and rebellion begins again.
18 And when the Lord raised up judges for them, the Lord was with the judge and saved them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge; for the Lord was moved to pity by their groaning because of those who tormented and oppressed them. 19 But it came about, when the judge died, that they would turn back and act more corruptly than their fathers, in following other gods to serve them and bow down to them; they did not abandon their practices or their obstinate ways. 20 So the anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and He said, “Because this nation has violated My covenant which I commanded their fathers, and has not listened to My voice,
By the time the last judge, Samuel, comes along the people of Israel are demanding a king to be over them, like the other nations around them. Rejecting God as king. Samuel tries to discourage them, but the LORD tells Samuel:
7 And the Lord said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people regarding all that they say to you, because they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being King over them. 8 Like all the deeds which they have done since the day that I brought them up from Egypt even to this day—in that they have abandoned Me and served other gods—so they are doing to you as well.
The ultimate slap in the face of God. Choosing a king over the KING of KINGS, the God of all creation. The LORD also commands Samuel to warn the people about what having a king over them means. How he will take their sons to be soldiers, and some to work in his fields. Take their daughters to be cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your Fields and flocks. And, one day you will cry out because of all that the king is doing to you and the LORD will not answer you in that day.
920BC Rebellion of Israel
If you remember we covered previously the first king of Israel, Saul and his fall from grace. Then the anointing of David king while Saul still occupied the throne. Eventually David becomes king. A man after Gods own heart. Yet that didn’t mean sinless or perfect did it? David’s son Solomon succeeds him as king and is the wisest man that ever lived. Again, not perfect or sinless, his many wives and concubines lure him to worship pagan gods.
After the Death of king Solomon, his son Rehoboam decides to raise taxes on the people and in response, Jeroboam son of Nebat leads a rebellion of 10 tribes that split off and become the northern kingdom. Jeroboam, sets up his own religion and causes Israel to sin by worshiping other gods, fearing some Isrealites will defect to Rehoboam because of going to worship at the temple in Jerusalem. Man’s ego over Gods commandments, seems to be a recurring theme throughout human history.
16 When all Israel saw that the king had not listened to them, the people replied to the king, saying, “What share do we have in David? We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse; To your tents, Israel! Now look after your own house, David! So Israel went away to their tents. 17 But as for the sons of Israel who lived in the cities of Judah, Rehoboam reigned over them. 18 Then King Rehoboam sent Adoram, who was in charge of the forced labor, and all Israel stoned him to death. And King Rehoboam hurried to mount his chariot to flee to Jerusalem. 19 So Israel has broken with the house of David to this day. 20 And it came about, when all Israel heard that Jeroboam had returned, that they sent word and called him to the assembly, and made him king over all Israel. None except the tribe of Judah alone followed the house of David.
Fearing that some of his subjects might defect to Rehoboam of Judah since they were traveling there for worship in the temple, Jeroboam decides to set up his own gods and system of worship. This is where we find the infamous Jeroboam Son of Nebat, not a very good legacy to have tied to your name. Every succeeding king is measured against “Jeroboam Son of Nebat” in how good or evil they are.
26 And Jeroboam said in his heart, “Now the kingdom will return to the house of David. 27 If this people go up to offer sacrifices in the house of the Lord in Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will return to their lord, to Rehoboam king of Judah; and they will kill me and return to Rehoboam king of Judah.” 28 So the king consulted, and he made two golden calves; and he said to the people, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem; behold your gods, Israel, that brought you up from the land of Egypt.” 29 And he set up one in Bethel, and the other he put in Dan. 30 Now this thing became a sin, for the people went to worship before the one as far as Dan.
This false religion sets up the eventual demise and dispersion of the 10 tribes of the northern kingdom of Israel from the promised land. Each succeeding king, except for a very few exceptions, continues to ” do what is evil in the sight of the LORD”.
720BC Dispersion of the 10 Tribes
God finally has enough. His patience is not without limits. I mean 700 years is being very patient, but the warnings of Moses and the prophets continue to go unheeded, so God fulfills his promise of curses and sends the Assyrians to conquer and remove the Israelites from the promised land.
5 Then the king of Assyria invaded the entire land, and went up to Samaria and besieged it for three years. 6 In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samara and led the people of Israel into exile to Assyria, and settled them in Halah and Habor, on the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes. 7 Now this came about because the sons of Israel had sinned against the Lord their God, who had brought them up from the land of Egypt, from under the hand of Pharaoh, king of Egypt; and they had feared other gods. 8 They also followed the customs of the nations whom the Lord had driven out from the sons of Israel, and in the customs of the kings of Israel which they had introduced.
This was all foretold by Moses back in Deuteronomy before they ever crossed over into the promised land. Nearly 700 years before, they were warned what would happen. And, it happens exactly like the LORD promised. Yes, his promises of blessing are fulfilled, but so are his promises of curses. I recommend everyone to read Deuteronomy chapter 28 as a reminder of that.
64 Furthermore, the Lord will scatter you among all the peoples, from one end of the earth to the other; and there you will serve other gods, made of wood and stone, which you and your fathers have not known. 65 Among those nations you will find no peace, and there will be no resting place for the sole of your foot; but there the Lord will give you a trembling heart, failing of eyes, and despair of soul. 66 So your lives will be hanging in doubt before you; and you will be terrified night and day, and have no assurance of your life.
The 10 northern tribes are scattered all over the world and still are to this day. It is only recent history that the nation of Israel has been re established, and the Israelites have begun returning to the promised land. There are still Israelites in nearly every country on earth. Now, that still leaves the tribe of Judah and Benjamin in the promised land, and you think that what just happened to the norther kingdom would be ample warning for Judah to clean up its act. Think again. 🙁
586BC The Exile of Judah
The disobedience and rebellion spreads to Judah as well and reaches its peak with a king named Manasseh. He worships Baal, practices child sacrifice, deals with wizards and mediums. He does “what is evil in the eyes sight of the LORD”. He follows the practices of the nations that the LORD drove out of the promised land for the people of Israel. After seeing all that happened to the northern 10 tribes, they still did not heed the warnings. Manasseh misleads the people to do more evil than the nations the LORD destroyed before Israel.
12 therefore this is what the Lord, the God of Israel says: ‘Behold, I am bringing such a disaster on Jerusalem and Judah that whoever hears about it, both of his ears will ring. 13 I will stretch over Jerusalem the line of Samara and the plummet of the house of Ahab, and I will wipe Jerusalem clean just as one wipes a bowl, wiping it and turning it upside down. 14 And I will abandon the remnant of My inheritance and hand them over to their enemies, and they will become as plunder and spoils to all their enemies, 15 because they have done evil in My sight, and have been provoking Me to anger since the day their fathers came from Egypt, even to this day.’”
The end is set for Judah and despite the efforts of Manasseh’s grandson Josiah when he becomes king, God does not relent from the punishment and exile of Judah. Again, as was foretold hundreds of years before and repeatedly warned about by numerous prophets, Judah is conquered and sent into exile from the promised land in Babylon for seventy years.
2 And the Lord sent against him bands of Chaldeans, bands of Arameans, bands of Moabites, and bands of Ammonites. He sent them against Judah to destroy it, in accordance with the word of the Lord which He had spoken through His servants the prophets. 3 It indeed came upon Judah at the command of the Lord, to remove them from His sight due to the sins of Manasseh, in accordance with everything that he had done, 4 and also for the innocent blood which he shed, for he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood; and the Lord was unwilling to forgive.
So, after nearly 800 years in the promised land, after being warned, punished, restored, warned again, punished again, restored and on an on the cycle repeated; The people of Israel are removed from the promised land. Other peoples are transplanted and move in to take over the promised land.
12 Then Jehoiachin the king of Judah went out to the king of Babylon, he, his mother, his servants, his commanders, and his officials. And the king of Babylon took him prisoner in the eighth year of his reign. 13 He also brought out from there all the treasures of the house of the Lord, and the treasures of the king’s house, and he smashed all the articles of gold that Solomon king of Israel had made in the temple of the Lord, just as the Lord had said. 14 Then he led into exile all the people of Jerusalem and all the commanders and all the valiant warriors, ten thousand exiles, and all the craftsmen and the smiths. None were left except the poorest people of the land.
The Patience, Punishment and Promises of God
For over 800 years, God warned the Israelites of the consequences of disobedience. But, as soon as things were going good, they forgot the LORD and drifted off to chase after their own ‘gods”. God would use something to discipline them and they would repent and come crying back. And, true to his word, God would take them back and restore them.
15 Yet the Lord, the God of their fathers, sent word to them again and again by His messengers, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place; 16 but they continually mocked the messengers of God, despised His words, and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the Lord rose against His people, until there was no remedy.
The cycle then repeats, over and over again, until finally God fulfills his promise of curses and sends Judah into exile. It’s easy to remember Gods promises of protection and provision, maybe we should pay equal attention to his promises of discipline, punishment and judgment. God keeps his word, for blessing or for curses, its on us to follow him for blessing or follow our own path, and receive his discipline.
But, even in this dark hour of Israel’s history there is hope and the promise of Gods redemption. God not only warned Moses and the Isrealites about their punishment, but he also told them that he would restore them, and gather them back to him eventually. Gods promises to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and David will be fulfilled. Gods word is true. The LORD is in control and knows the future as well as the past.
Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the Lord your God will gather you and bring you back. He will bring you to the land that belonged to your ancestors, and you will take possession of it. He will make you more prosperous and numerous than your ancestors. The Lord your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you can love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live.
The Propeht Isaiah tells of a Cyrus who will rebuild Jerusalem, and nearly 200 years later Cyrus becomes king of Persia and the spirit of the LORD stirs in him to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem and allow the return of the people of Israel to the promised land.
22 Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia—in order to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah—the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia so that he sent a proclamation throughout his kingdom, and also put it in writing, saying, 23 “This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: ‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and He has appointed me to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever there is among you of all His people, may the Lord his God be with him; go up then!’”
Hundreds of years in advance, God calls his shots, and he’s batting a thousand. No misses, no strike outs, all is fulfilled. Gives one pause to consider that maybe he still calls the shots and still bats a thousand and probably we should pay attention and obey???? Just sayin, we could be exiled from our “promised land”.
May God bless you and keep you by his grace and mercy.
The Sinner in the Mirror