Bible Focus: 2 Kings 14-17
When the LORD tore Israel from the house of David, Israel made Jeroboam son of Nebat king. Then Jeroboam led Israel away from following the LORD and caused them to commit grave sin. The Israelites persisted in all the sins that Jeroboam committed and did not turn away from them. Finally, the LORD removed Israel from his presence just as he had declared through all his servants the prophets. So Israel has been exiled to Assyria from their homeland to this very day.2 Kings 17:21-23 CSB
Some of the most heartbreaking stories involve family members who persist in destructive behavior. Unfortunately, those kinds of stories are common, especially in large extended families. There tends to be at least one adult child, sibling, parent, or other relative that refuses good advice and continues to make poor life choices. And no matter how much their spouse, parent, sibling, or other family member loves them, that love won’t automatically overcome their foolish choices.
Depending on the severity of their foolishness, the wayward family member could find themselves cut off if they don’t change. At some point, everyone’s patience will run out. If the person refuses to listen, then family members will eventually stop offering advice. If the person wastes efforts to help them, then family members will eventually withdraw support. As things worsen, even the most loving family members will tend to withdraw. Finally, if the person becomes obstinate or hurts others, then family members will often refuse contact or even call outside authorities to take them into custody.
In the same way, God’s love for us does not automatically overcome our foolish choices. We have all sinned against God, and whether we realize it or not, our sin deserves death. God has shown us abundant mercy by sending his Son Jesus to die for our sin. God wants us to receive his mercy and let him show us the ways of righteousness. But if we reject this good news, we cannot escape the bad news. If we reject God’s mercy, we cannot escape his wrath.
For hundreds of years, the nation of Israel had been split into the two kingdoms of Israel and Judah. Israel’s capital was in Samaria and Judah’s capital was in Jerusalem. Both kingdoms had struggled to be faithful to God, although Israel had struggled more.
God eventually proclaimed through his prophets that Israel and Judah would suffer the consequences of their idolatry. He told them that both kingdoms would be destroyed and would go into exile. Even so, God sent warnings to them again and again, urging them to turn back to him. It wasn’t God’s fault that they kept turning away. God finally had to follow through on the sentence he had pronounced. Israel was the first one to fall.
In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria. He deported the Israelites to Assyria and settled them in Halah, along the Habor (Gozan's river), and in the cities of the Medes. This disaster happened because the people of Israel sinned against the LORD their God who had brought them out of the land of Egypt from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt and because they worshiped other gods. They lived according to the customs of the nations that the LORD had dispossessed before the Israelites and according to what the kings of Israel did.2 Kings 17:6-8,13-14,18-20 CSB
Still, the LORD warned Israel and Judah through every prophet and every seer, saying, "Turn from your evil ways and keep my commands and statutes according to the whole law I commanded your ancestors and sent to you through my servants the prophets." But they would not listen. Instead they became obstinate like their ancestors who did not believe the LORD their God.
Therefore, the LORD was very angry with Israel, and he removed them from his presence. Only the tribe of Judah remained. Even Judah did not keep the commands of the LORD their God but lived according to the customs Israel had practiced. So the LORD rejected all the descendants of Israel, punished them, and handed them over to plunderers until he had banished them from his presence.
The Bible often shows God’s wrath in action. It also describes hell as the final destination of those who reject him. Why would a loving God let people go to hell? That truly seems like a puzzling question…until one flips the script and begins to ask why a hateful God would spend so much effort trying to warn people and save them.
Here’s the good news. If God truly hated us, then he would have let every one of us perish apart from him. He wouldn’t have sent the prophets to urge people to turn back to God. He wouldn’t have had the prophets share the good news of God’s salvation. And God certainly wouldn’t have sent his Son Jesus to die on the cross to suffer the wrath for our sin.
Unfortunately, if we keep rejecting Jesus all our life, and keep refusing to believe God, then we will be tragically banished from God forever. However, if we turn towards Jesus, and we trust his message of love, forgiveness, and restoration, then the exact opposite will occur: we will never be separated from God again.
My sheep hear my voice, I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand.—Jesus (John 10:27-28 CSB)
Featured image from Ben Green on Unsplash.
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