Day 124: 2 Chronicles 1-4; Solomon Reigns in Jerusalem

We now enter into the book of 2 Chronicles.  The first book, our readings for the past week or so, brought us from Creation through the reign of King David.  2 Chronicles, our readings for the next week or so, will bring us from Solomon through the Exile.  Today, we begin where we left off yesterday, with the transition of power from David to Solomon.  As Solomon assumes the throne he does exactly what he is charged to do by his father too, he worships God and seeks His face first and foremost.  This happens within the context of a time of worship in front of the tabernacle that is set up in Gibeon.

Solomon prays for Wisdom Photo Credit: www.hisdaughter02.blogspot.com/

Solomon prays for Wisdom
Photo Credit: www.hisdaughter02.blogspot.com

That night, we read, the familiar narrative of God coming to Solomon and offering the new king anything that he wants.  As we read in 1 Kings 3, Solomon asks for wisdom and knowledge to govern the people of God.  This is a request that pleases God and one that He grants to Solomon 100 fold and then some.  Along with wisdom and knowledge, Solomon is blessed with wealth beyond compare and incredible success.  While it doesn’t say it here, remember that in 1 Kings Solomon is granted rest from his enemies and receives a considerable amount of gifts and tribute from the surrounding nations that are under his rule.  We read here too that in the first couple years of his reign, Solomon establishes Israel, and particularly Jerusalem, as the principle power in the region and makes “gold as common as stone.”

English: Solomon and the Plan for the Temple, ...

English: Solomon and the Plan for the Temple, as in 1 Kings 6, illustration from a Bible card published by the Providence Lithograph Company (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This time, from David through most of Solomon’s reign, is considered to be the “Golden Age” of Israel.  For the first time in their existence, they are (for the most part) following God and living in His ways.  Because of this, God is blessing their socks off, and everything seems to be going their way.  It is in this context that Solomon begins to build the Temple of the Lord, the right granted to him by God.

Yet it is not in this context that these things are written.  Remember that the book of Chronicles is largely considered to have been written upon the return of the exiles from their captivity in Babylon to their desolate homeland in Judah.  They had nothing… less than nothing really.  The great city described in 2 Chronicles 2 lay in ruins.  The only thing that was as common as stone in Jerusalem was probably weeds or ruble.  The Temple of the Lord had been stripped of its former glory and burned to the ground. There was nothing left.  This is such a sharp contrast to what is being described here.  It must have been difficult to hear… much less write.

However, there is a purpose here in writing about the way things used to be, about their former glory as it were.  The writer isn’t rubbing it the face of those the returned exiles, showing them all the stuff they could have had… or didn’t have.  No, the writer is showing the people who they are by showing them who the people of Israel are.  He is showing them that it is very clear what God can bring about when His people follow His Laws and His will for their lives.  He is showing them that all of that can be restored if they follow in the ways of the Lord.  Of course this narrative does not stand in a vacuum, but is juxtaposed against the coming narratives of the disobedience of Israel… the very reason they are in the situation that they were in.  But the point here is that this is who the people of God are… they are a blessed people, chosen by God to be a blessing to the nations around them.  In their return, they can once again live in the City of David, own the inheritance that was given them, and if they will follow in the ways of the Lord, God will be faithful as He always has been, and bless them once again.



Day 123: 1 Chronicles 27-29; David's Final Charge

This last section of 1 Chronicles is a tribute to the final acts of David and all that he had done in his reign.  We’ve read about all the people that he has conquered, all the wealth that he has accumulated, and all the people that he appointed to the different positions as he made preparations for the building of the Temple.  Yet at the end of all of this, we see what I think is the most significant thing about David, about his reign over Israel and his life before God.

David's Charge to Solomon Photo Credit: www.bibleencyclopedia.com

David’s Charge to Solomon
Photo Credit: www.bibleencyclopedia.com

As David is wrapping things up with his life he calls all the people together and gives them a charge, and does the same with his son.  His speech could have been about all the things that he has done and all the preparations that he made so that everything will now go right because he has laid the groundwork for the building of the Temple which he wanted to do but couldn’t because God said no.  However, that is simply not the case with David.  When David speaks to the people and to his son Solomon, he gives all glory, all honor, and all praise to God alone.  David says, “Yet the Lord God of Israel chose me from all my father’s house to be king over Israel forever. For he chose Judah as leader, and in the house of Judah my father’s house, and among my father’s sons he took pleasure in me to make me king over all Israel.  And of all my sons (for the Lord has given me many sons) he has chosen Solomon my son to sit on the throne of the kingdom of the Lord over Israel.”  David’s emphasis is on the Lord’s work and decisions that made all of this possible, not because of anything that he had done.

The same goes for his charge to Solomon too.  David doesn’t point out his own good works, or even the ability of Solomon to complete this task on his own.  Instead, he implores his son to seek after God in all his works and in doing so Solomon will find success.  David says, “Be strong and courageous and do it. Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed, for the Lord God, even my God, is with you. He will not leave you or forsake you, until all the work for the service of the house of the Lord is finished.”  Solomon’s work is done, and only can be done, because it was the Lord who appointed him to do it.  David has done well in making preparations, Solomon will do well in administration… yet it is all because the Lord, the God of Israel ordained it and sustained it.  David recognizes this in his life and encourages his son to continue this.

In many ways, David’s story is Israel’s story… or at least what Israel’s story was supposed to be.  David is clearly blessed by God, and is clearly chosen by God.  One of the scary theological terms that we use for this is “ELECTION.”  It refers to the obvious fact that is pointed out time and again that God has clearly chosen David and has blessed him.  In the same way we see this with the people of Israel, as God has chosen them to be His people not because they were special or extra good in some way, but because God chose them.  Now, generally speaking, when people talk about ELECTION, the conversation disolves into an argument and winds up being about people deciding about who is in and who is out… or about how a loving God could choose some and not others.  While I acknowledge that those arguments are out there, I think what is more appropriate to approach in this discussion is the purpose of the ELECT in God’s plan and working in the world.  You see, ELECTION has never been simply about who is in and who is out.  The purpose of ELECTION is about God’s working through a specific group of people to bring about His will, His reign, and His blessings in the world.  The original ELECTION of Abraham comes with a covenant promise that, as God’s ELECT people, they will be a blessing to the whole world.  It wasn’t about God not choosing the other nations of the world, but about how God is going to communicate His blessings, His grace, and His love to the entire world!  This becomes even more important and prominent in Jesus Christ, but we’re still many hundreds of years away from that yet in the Biblical narrative… so stay tuned!



Day 122: 1 Chronicles 24-26; Prosperity and Preparations for the Temple

Yesterday we largely covered chapter 21 of first Chronicles.  There was a lot there.  Today we are going to walk through the whole of chapters 22-26, mostly because they are all linked together.  The reading for today has everything to do with how David prepared for the building of the Temple in his life even though he wasn’t able to actually build the structure itself.  However, today’s readings are, as I said, linked to the readings from yesterday, and from the past several days, that talk about David’s prosperity in all that he did.  God gave David victory wherever he went and in that prosperity, David gained great wealth.  At the beginning of 1 Chronicles 22, we read a brief summary of all that David has at his disposal.

Culture of Prosperity... Photo Credit: www.lifelibertytech.com

Culture of Prosperity…
Photo Credit: www.lifelibertytech.com

In our world today, we are faced with a great deal of mixed messages that have to do with prosperity.  Work hard, get money, buy nice things, and be happy… this it what our culture tells us is the meaning of life.  The whole American culture is based on this idea.  We even have pastors like Joel Osteen that are misleading congregants with false doctrine using misquoted proof texts into things like “the prosperity gospel” (keep in mind that when the primary focus of all the messages and books of a pastor are on ‘you,’ their focus might be a bit questionable).  All of these things wholly and completely miss the point of what is going on here, and what the Bible talks about when it comes to being blessed and prospering.  The point here isn’t that David followed God so that he would get rich.  Neither is the point that David used what God blessed him with on himself to make himself happy.  The primary motif of Scripture when it comes to the Lord’s blessings is that we are blessed that we may be a blessing.  We follow God because we love God and desire to follow in His ways.  In doing that, God will bless us that we in turn may be a blessing to others.  This is exactly what David does.

Michelangelo david solomon

Michelangelo david solomon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If we think back over the course of the past couple days, and of all the narratives of David in 1 Chronicles and in 2 Samuel, we see that there is a very consistent pattern to what happens with David.  We do not see him attaining a victory and then going to the Lord, nor we we see him save back any of what is taken from his enemies.  Instead, we see David seeking the Lord’s will before he does anything, and after it is done, David honors the Lord with all of the spoils of war.  We read this in the record of Davids charge to his son Solomon regarding the Temple in 1 Chronicles 22.  And what is the purpose for this?  That Solomon spend it all on himself?  No… in fact, David exhorts his son saying,

“Only, may the Lord grant you discretion and understanding, that when he gives you charge over Israel you may keep the law of the Lord your God.  Then you will prosper if you are careful to observe the statutes and the rules that the Lord commanded Moses for Israel. Be strong and courageous. Fear not; do not be dismayed.”

The purpose here is clear… if we follow the Lord, He will prosper us in our walk.  Again, the purpose is not to be prospered, but to follow the Lord because we love Him and that is what He calls us to do.  For more on this, I would like to direct you to ChristianPF.org.  This is a wonderful article about what the Bible says about prosperity.

The rest of the reading for today has to do with David’s organization of the people that will work in, worship at, and help run the Temple.  All these are people that have been set apart for service to the Lord.  In the same way that we read genealogies at the beginning of this book, so to can we read the names of the people here.  Remember, this is one way in which the people of Israel, the remnant that has returned from exile is re-locating and re-identifying themselves with and within their own history.  They are, as we have said, walking backwards into the future.



Day 121: 1 Chronicles 21-23; Bad Decisions

After talking about the way the author casts David in a pretty good light yesterday, we come upon today’s text which begins with the words “Then Satan stood against Israel and incited David to number Israel.”  I guess it wasn’t a perfect light after all.  Yet even in this we see message that is being sent to the returned exiles: God is the same God that He always has been… Gracious and Merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and compassion.

1 Chronicles 21: David makes a choice Photo Credit: http://www.1st-art-gallery.com/

1 Chronicles 21: David makes a choice
Photo Credit: www.1st-art-gallery.com

In this narrative, David does something that apparently is not something he is supposed to do.  We talked about this on April 5, when we covered this story as it was recorded in 2 Samuel 24.  In that post I guessed that it had something to do with Exodus 30.  What we read in Exodus 30:12 is that “When you take the census of the people of Israel, then each shall give a ransom for his life to the Lord when you number them, that there be no plague among them when you number them.”  This is really the only sort of “proof” that we have that what David did here was wrong as there is no account of a collection that takes place.  However, the other tell tale sign that this was bad is that very first verse of 1 Chronicles 21 that talks about Satan inciting David to do this.  We don’t necessarily know the circumstances, but what we do know is that God was angry with David and all of Israel for doing this.  Whatever the case is, a plague is sent on Israel and some 70,000 people die.

How does this show God’s great mercy and His true nature?  Well, of course, if David did sin in this act, we see the nature of God’s opposition to sin and His wrath against it, but we also see God relenting in this act of punishment.  We read that the angel of the Lord comes to Jerusalem and is just about to strike it and God relents.  He only goes as far as this threshing floor.  Then David builds and alter and God turns from His wrath.  There is mercy there.  David pleads with the Lord to forgive Israel, to spare them and take his own life and his family instead.  Yet God shows His forgiveness and turns from His anger.

Alter on the Threshing floor of Ornan Photo Credit: www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/

Alter on the Threshing floor of Ornan
Photo Credit: www.kingjamesbibleonline.org

So what is the message here?  Well, keeping in mind the context of the returned exiles, I notice a very sharp contrast between the sin that gets them into this, and the grace and mercy that gets them out.  David sinned.  I’m sure the author felt the need to point that out.  If the people are trying to reconnect themselves with the past and they heard about a kind that we perfect, I bet they would have been quite discouraged.  Yet I think too if the story were that the whole nation was wiped out because of one sin, they would also be discouraged (and… also absent, as they wouldn’t exist).  What the writer is showing them, and us, is how God acts in the face of sin.  They’ve seen the punishment first-hand.  Exile, a completely destroyed Jerusalem and Temple, and their homeland turned wild and unkempt because of their absence, yet God has brought them back.  Their punishment was not permanent nor is the Lord’s anger.  He forgives graciously and restores mercifully.  What we see here is not a God that just puts people down every time they sin, but rather a God who graciously relents from His wrath.  All this happens around the motif of a sacrifice… David’s sacrifice of peace offerings to God.

This is true for our lives as well.  God is still completely opposed to sin.  There are still consequences to our actions.  But God is gracious and quick to forgive and to restore… and all of that happens around a sacrifice as well… the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, once for all on the cross for the sins of the whole world!



Day 120: 1 Chronicles 17-20; David's Many Victories

King David Stained Glass Photo Credit: www.creationrevolution.com

King David Stained Glass
Photo Credit: www.creationrevolution.com

Today’s reading may seem a bit familiar to you as you read through it.  If you recognized that, its because most of these battles and victories were talked about in the book of 2 Samuel.  If you didn’t remember these stories, its ok!  We talked about them on March 30, and many of them are pieced together from different parts of 2 Samuel and come as additions to parts of other stories.  Interestingly though, the writer of the Chronicles chose not to talk about a couple of narratives that we read through in 2 Samuel about the less desirable moments of David’s reign.  Remember David and Bathsheba?  David’s son Absalom (who was not even included in the list of his sons a couple chapters ago)?  Yes, indeed there are a great many things that are left out in this account of David’s reign.

Why is that?  Would this imply that the Bible is lying through omission?  By No Means!

We believe that the Bible is Truth, the inspired Word of God written down by human hands.  We also believe that the Bible is authoritative for our lives and that it communicates truth to us, all the Truth that we need to know God and to see His ways.  And I do not believe that this is challenged here at all.

One of the points of stating this is to point out that the Bible was indeed written by human hands.  The pages did not simply fall out of the sky into the laps of some wise Hebrews that knew what to do with them, these writers were Inspired by God through the Holy Spirit to write the things that they wrote.  Yet even in this inspiration there is context… and what is the context here?  Exile… or rather, the return from Exile.  The writer, presumably Ezra, is recording the history of the Kingdom of Judah for the people that have just returned from Exile.  They are looking back, specifically through the lens of the line of Davidic Kings.

King David Photo Credit: http://www.bible-topten.com/David.htm

King David
Photo Credit: www.bible-topten.com

And again, they have just returned from Exile.  What does this mean?  It means they have seen what happens when you don’t follow in the ways of the Lord.  This is, for all intents and purposes, the main thrust of the story of David and Bathsheba and the resulting story of David’s son Absalom.  They are text book examples of what happens when one turns away from God.  But the people of Israel knew that.  They were just returning from 70 or so years of being punished for not following God.  What they are getting here is the history of how things used to be and how they could be again if they did follow God’s ways and follow His Laws.  The story of David and Bathsheba would have been very well known to them, as would the story of David and Absalom.  Yet the writer is making some Theological moves here as well, pointing the people, and us, to the blessings of God that are found in covenant fidelity.  He isn’t saying that bad things don’t happen, or won’t happen, or we should just not think about them… but what He is pointing to, once again, is finding out who they are as a people by linking them to the past which brings them closer, in their view, to God.  This is seen most clearly today in chapter 17 of today’s reading as God makes an everlasting covenant with David that establishes him as having the throne of Israel forever.

Interestingly, we as Christians also relate ourselves and who we are to the past, linking ourselves to Jesus.  We are who we are because of Christ, who is who He is in part due to this covenant… which is what it is because of the previous covenants… which bring us back to Abraham, Noah, Adam… and God.



Day 119: 1 Chronicles 14-16; David's Song of Thanks

As I was thinking about today’s reading, I really was just astounded by the song of David in 1 Chronicles 16.  Thus far, there hasn’t been a better summary of the Covenant and God’s faithfulness in Israel’s history.  I think, in lieu of something better to say, that I will just encourage you to read it again and reflect on the all that we have heard and read in these last four months.

Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name;
make known his deeds among the peoples!
Sing to him, sing praises to him;
tell of all his wondrous works!
Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!
Seek the Lord and his strength;
seek his presence continually!
Remember the wondrous works that he has done,
his miracles and the judgments he uttered,
O offspring of Israel his servant,
children of Jacob, his chosen ones!

He is the Lord our God;
his judgments are in all the earth.
Remember his covenant forever,
the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations,
the covenant that he made with Abraham,
his sworn promise to Isaac,
which he confirmed to Jacob as a statute,
to Israel as an everlasting covenant,
saying, “To you I will give the land of Canaan,
as your portion for an inheritance.”

When you were few in number,
of little account, and sojourners in it,
wandering from nation to nation,
from one kingdom to another people,
he allowed no one to oppress them;
he rebuked kings on their account,
saying, “Touch not my anointed ones,
do my prophets no harm!”

David's Song of Thanks Photo Credit: http://caffeinatedthoughts.com

David’s Song of Thanks
Photo Credit: http://caffeinatedthoughts.com

Sing to the Lord, all the earth!
Tell of his salvation from day to day.
Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous works among all the peoples!
For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised,
and he is to be feared above all gods.
For all the gods of the peoples are worthless idols,
but the Lord made the heavens.
Splendor and majesty are before him;
strength and joy are in his place.

Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples,
ascribe to the Lord glory and strength!
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
bring an offering and come before him!
Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness;
     tremble before him, all the earth;
yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved.
Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice,
and let them say among the nations, “The Lord reigns!”
Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
let the field exult, and everything in it!
Then shall the trees of the forest sing for joy
before the Lord, for he comes to judge the earth.
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
for his steadfast love endures forever!

Save us, O God of our salvation,
and gather and deliver us from among the nations,
that we may give thanks to your holy name
and glory in your praise.
Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
from everlasting to everlasting!

Amen!



Day 118: 1 Chronicles 11-13; David and His Mighty Men

Today we find ourselves finally past all of the genealogies that open the book of Chronicles.  Though it is interesting to see how the Hebrew people connected themselves with the past and sought to live as close to God and the blessings of God as they could.  I do think it is something we ought to continue to think about as we examine our own lives and evaluate our own relationship with God.  That being said however, it is refreshing to return to the narratives of Scripture that we are a bit more familiar with, like the narratives of King David in the Chronicles, which we being today… even in the midst of a great many names once again.

The lists of names that we encounter today though are written about differently than the genealogies that we have been reading for the past couple days.  We aren’t simply reading about so-and-so the father of so-and-so right down the line to some intended end.  Rather, we are reading the names of the people that the Lord had brought to David and provided David with as his reign began.  In a way, we are reading a roster of David’s military and learning about all that they had accomplished, none of which can be separated for a moment from the work of God in faithfully providing for His anointed one.  I see these lists as being meant for two things, at least that are coming to my mind at the moment.  

English: Entry of king David into Jerusalem

English: Entry of king David into Jerusalem (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

First, these lists and names, like the genealogies and other lists and names of this sort are a way of connecting the Hebrew people back to this time in history.  Given the context of exiles returning to Babylon to a decimated and hostile land of Judah, I think this list is making a statement to the people that the Lord provides the means and the ways to make things happen.  David certainly couldn’t do any of this on His own.  They hadn’t even taken Jerusalem from the Jebusites yet, a city that was really only conquered twice at the time of this writing.  However, David and the mighty men that God provided for him went up and took the city that would eventually house God’s Temple, and did it without much effort (at least not much that is written about).  The people returning from the exile are also encountering forces that seem beyond their ability to overcome, yet God is saying to them in His Word that He will provide for them the means and the power if they will only trust completely in Him.

And second, these lists also point to the fact that it took people and action to accomplish these things.  Yes, ultimately all of the glory should and does go to God.  This is true first and foremost in any narrative.  However, God is not a God who just does everything for His people, and his people are not to be ones who sit back and do nothing waiting for God.  God appointed men to join David’s ranks.  These men defected from places David wouldn’t have expected.  They fought battles, built walls, and defended the territory.  David didn’t take Jerusalem and then sit in its ruble and call it “the City of David,” he built it up and made it defensible!  God doesn’t call His people to be passive, He expects action and work from those that trust Him.  When God’s people move to action and trust in Him, great things can be done.

The Chastisement of Uzzah

The Chastisement of Uzzah (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Finally today, we read a narrative that we are somewhat familiar with, that of the first attempt to return the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem.  This is recorded also in 2 Samuel 6, something we talked about on Day 88 of our journey through the Bible.  The narrative here is much the same as in 2 Samuel except, if you read it closely, you will note some name changes in the places that are spoken of.  This is probably due largely to the change in the landscape between the time of David and the time of the return of the exiles.  The story stays the same… the oxen stumble at a threshing floor and Uzzah reaches out to stead the Ark and is put to death.  Why the name change then?  Perhaps they weren’t aware of the old names of the places?  Perhaps… or maybe the point is being made that it doesn’t matter what the names of the places are so much as the truth that the narrative communicates.

Whether the names of the cities and places are those which were given by the Hebrew people, or the names given by the current local inhabitants is likely besides the point.  What the point is here, is that God is real, He is present, and He is still Holy.  This, I think, is an on-going theme in these books, and in the greater narrative of Scripture as well.  We’ve seen how God works through the generations, and we have also seen that God is still working within the Covenant relationship He has set up with the people which, in this time, included the Law.  Uzzah was clearly not supposed to touch the Ark, despite his seemingly good intentions.  What, then, do we communicated in this to the returned exiles and to us?  God has not changed a bit.  He is the same God yesterday, today, and tomorrow.

 



Day 117: 1 Chronicles 8-10; King Saul

With the books of 1st and 2nd Chronicles being written primarily to the people of Judah that have returned from the exile, it is not surprising to find the section on King Saul to be rather short.  The Kingdom of Judah, and Israel divided, identified completely with the house and line of King David.  They were the only ones that stayed loyal to the the King that was after God’s own heart, he who was promised to have a royal line forever.  For them, and really for all of Israel, Saul was the example of what would happen if there was a bad king in Israel.  Though he wasn’t as bad as many of the kings to come after him, he followed after the wrong things and didn’t trust the Lord, thus provoking Him to anger and causing Him to remove the family of Saul from the Royal line.

Saul Tries to Kill David Photo Credit: http://biblicalgenealogy.kavonrueter.com/Pictures-David_InSaulsService.htm

Saul Tries to Kill David
Photo Credit: http://biblicalgenealogy.kavonrueter.com

However, Saul was an integral part of the history of the people of God and his name bore mentioning in the Chronicles of Judah.  Interestingly, we don’t get much here about Saul’s exploits in trying to kill David or anything about the sins that he commits.  Whether this wasn’t so important to the writer here or it was assumed that the people would know these stories I cannot say, however the fact is that in relation to what is to come in the narratives of King David, Saul is just a blip on the page.

That being said, I think it is important for us to remember together the stories of Saul from the book of 1 Samuel.  He was anointed by God, but reluctant to rule until he was thrust into power by a “national crisis.”  From there Saul assumes power, but makes several key mistakes, revealing his lack of trust in God.  The narrative continues for quite some time juxtaposing his son Jonathan and David the son of Jesse against Saul when it comes to covenant fidelity and following God.  Saul continuously makes mistakes and is incredibly hate filled when it comes to dealing with David, whom God has anointed to be the next king.  Yet even in all of this, David does no wrong to Saul, even gently correcting him in his errors.  In the end though, Saul’s lack of faith, trust, and obedience to God result in the death of most of his family and the eventually his own death at the hand of his enemies, the philistines.

David Spares Saul's Life Photo Credit: http://www.workersforjesus.com/1samuel22-24.htm

David Spares Saul’s Life
Photo Credit: http://www.workersforjesus.com

As I look back on this narrative of the life of Saul, I am forced to recognize and wonder about its relationship to the greater narrative of the people of Israel (and by Israel I mean the united Kingdom and both portions of the Divided Kingdom as well).  There are striking similarities between the life of Saul and the life of Israel in general.  Things many start out all peachy, but it doesn’t take long for them to go south.  Throughout the lives of both Saul and Israel there are warning signs and even some course corrections.  Yet their continued propensity to sin inevitably leads them a place in which God removes them from the place to which they have been appointed.  Saul’s life, I must admit, is a foreshadowing of what is to come as Israel progresses down the path of having a king.  Samuel warns them about this in 1 Samuel 8 and it indeed comes to pass several hundred years later.



Day 116: 1 Chronicles 6-7; Backing into the Future

I do love it when things from class are conveniently discussed around the same time that I would need information like this for a posting.  Today’s post brought to you in part by a special discussion with Professor Travis West and the evening Hebrew class at Western Theological Seminary on Tuesday 4/23/2013.  Thanks for the great discussion and the inspiration on what to write for today’s continuation of the genealogy of Israel.

Another key to understanding the necessity of these genealogies comes from a better understanding of the Hebrew understanding of time.  While I am certainly not an expert in this, have gained some wisdom and insight on this in the past year at Seminary.  We’ve talked here before about the Hebrew Theo-centric worldview.  That is, we have established that for the Hebrew people, the center of the universe is God overall, and was seen physically as the Temple and the different times that God reveals Himself to people on earth.  The fancy theological word for this is “theophany.”  In their lives, the Hebrew people would try to be as close to the center, that is the Temple where God resides.  This is the place that Heaven and earth meet.

Another way of being close to the center, or close to God, is to identify with their ancestors.  People didn’t just think of their biological father and mother as their only father and mother, but also their parents, and their parents, etc etc.  We talked about this yesterday as we talked about how God has been at work throughout generations to bring each person to the moment that they are at now.  This way of thinking clues us in to the orientation of the people in relationship to time and to God.

If you think in your life, how would you orientate your self if you were lost somewhere?  For us in this modern day, we orientate ourselves by finding north and then working our way from there.  Interestingly, we do this by often finding out where the sun rises and where it sets.  That act is, in all actuality, more appropriate to the Hebrew understanding of time and life orientation.  For the Hebrew people, their primary orientation was to the east.  The east direction would have been at the top of their maps (if they had them).  The word for east in the Hebrew language also had connotations of being towards the past, all the way back to the primeval days, the days of creation.  Like linking themselves with their ancestors who, they thought, were closer to the covenant, closer to creation, and therefore closer to God, when they oriented themselves they would look to the east because it represented to them a looking backwards… looking toward God who was closest to the earth (so they thought) in the time of creation.  Their primary identity was found in the past rather than the present of the future.  The people of Israel are who they are always because of where they had come from, the work that God had done… and the fact that God had chose them.

So, if you think about this, as people face the east and orient themselves to the past, how does one go forward?  By walking backwards.  There are all sorts of theological connotations that come up when we think like this and we will discuss them more as we move forward (or backward) in Scripture.  However, I think that this particular point should give us cause to stop and think about our own orientation to life and time.

Person walking a path Photo credit: http://footage.shutterstock.com/clip-2337578-stock-footage-person-hiking-trail-high-up-off-the-coast-of-oregon-and-highway.html

Person walking a path
Photo credit: http://footage.shutterstock.com

This idea of orienting ourselves with the past and backing into the future clashes fiercely with the prevailing cultural worldview today doesn’t it?  We always talk about moving forward, forward progress, going out and making a future for ourselves.  This orientation to life places our meaning, our purpose, and our focus on the future.  We we are is wrapped up in who we will become.  This is, in many ways, completely in conflict with the worldview of the Hebrew people that we are being presented with.  Do we often orient ourselves, our lives, and even our faith in the past?  It is interesting, thinking about all of the implications that come along with this.  What does backing into the future do to us in our lives?  It places us in a vulnerable position of having to trust God to guide our way… all of our way… our jobs, our families, our lives, our everything… What this doesn’t mean is that we just passively walk backwards and let life happen.  We are certainly active along the way, but it does mean that we are not the primary responsibility for our lives.  Just as we are not the primary mover in our own salvation and humanity is not the primary mover of history, this view of backing into the future roots us firmly in keeping our eye on that which defines us and gives us identity… The Cross of Christ… and it forces us to hold our focus there and trust that God, who knew us before the foundation of the world, has laid out the path of our lives that we can walk with confidence, knowing that He who promised is ALWAYS FAITHFUL.



Day 115: 1 Chronicles 3-5; The Family Tree

Have you ever spent time going through your family tree?  Have you ever gone deeper than just your grandparents?  I think it is always interesting to hear about the ancestors and all the people that came before me.  We often ask questions about how people survived in those days without the technology that we have and marvel in amazement at people’s ingenuity when it comes to working in a world without phones, computers, cars, tractors… etc. etc.

Yet I wonder, if you’ve ever looking back in your family tree and marveled at God’s faithfulness and his providence in all of that.  We read in Scripture that God knew us before He even formed the world and that He called us before the foundations of the earth were laid.  Before there was even matter, God knew who we were and He has worked throughout the  millenniums to bring our existence about.  Not only has He been working for us, but He has also been working through each and every person that has come before us!

For some people, this seems, perhaps, somewhat boring.  Your family has always been a family of believers who hasn’t really encountered anything too crazy you think.  I urge you to look into your history… go back a few generations.  Did someone in your family fight the plague?  Did anyone fight in any of the major wars of the past 500 years?  Was anyone involved in some religious change during the reformation?  If you answered yes to even one of those three questions (and there are thousands upon thousands of things that threaten a person’s existence in their lifetime) then you can see how God has worked to bring you into being!

What about those of you who aren’t believers but have come to know God through some means?  Your family has been around for generations and generations and now, for some reason, for such a time as this, God has called YOU to Himself.  You may be trying to convince your parents, your siblings, your aunts and uncles, yet for some reason at this time, God has brought you to Himself, and has done so by acting throughout history to bring you to this point.  Amazing!

This is what the first section of 1 Chronicles is alluding to.  It may be awful reading these genealogies, but what the writer is trying to point to is the work of God throughout history.  God has been at work in the world, throughout all generations, from age to age, God reigns… God rules… and God works.

The following is an excerpt from the book: Biblical Hebrew, An Oral Approach by Professor Travis West.

“There is a blessing in the Hebrew tradition for almost everything.  There is one blessing, that dates back roughly 2,000 years.  It is recited at the beginning of special occasions, of every major Jewish Holiday (Passover, Shavuot, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Simchat, Torah, Hannukah, etc.).  It is also used to celebrate new or unusual occasions, such as seeing a friend whom you haven’t seen in a long time.  The blessings speaks of God’s soveriegn care over each and every life.  It affirms even as it summarizes the fundamental claims of Scripture regarding God’s relationship to the earth and its inhabitants.  Namely, that it is God who not only created all life, but also sustains all life, and ‘directs all our steps.’  (Proverbs 16:9)”

Blessed are you O Lord our God, King of the Universe
Who gives us life, sustains us, and has brought us to (caused us to touch) this moment.



Day 114: 1 Chronicles 1-2; Books of the Chronicles

As I said towards the end of the writing yesterday, up until now everything has happened in a fairly chronological order.  Yesterday we came to the end of the narrative of the kings of Israel and Judah with the final exiles being carried off to Babylon.  We will pick up on that again, however, we now take a step back and look at the books of 1st and 2nd Chronicles.

In the Hebrew Bible these books actually compose the last two books of Scripture, while the Christian Bible has these two books towards the end of the “historical” section of the Biblical Cannon.  Tradition has it that these books were written in the “post-exilic” time of the nation of Judah.  While the author is anonymous, both Jewish and Christian traditions hold that it was Ezra the priest that actually wrote this all down along with the book that bears his name, Ezra, and the book of Nehemiah.

Timeline of the Old Testament Patriachs Photo Credit: http://www.ltradio.org/charts/

Timeline of the Old Testament Patriachs
Photo Credit: http://www.ltradio.org/charts/

Today’s reading was, I admit, a bit arduous.  No one likes to read genealogies  especially when they don’t lead to a story.  However the way that the books of 1st and 2nd Chronicles are set up, they go through the history of humanity, and then focus in specifically on Israel, David, and then the kingdom of Judah.  As this book was written post-exile, it would have been written for a group of Hebrew refugees that had just returned from exile.  They were, for all intents and purposes, in the same boat as the Israelites were when they first entered Canaan.  They had no land to call their own, no houses, no Temple, no cities or anything.  They were starting over… however this time they didn’t have a nation of a million battle ready soldiers to drive the people of the land out, they had to start over in the midst of oppression, fear of attack, and with a sort of lost identity.

Lost Identity?  Yes… I meant to say that.  See, the exile wasn’t simply about God being mean and pushing these people out of their land.  There was a lot more to it than that.  Remember a ways back, when we talked about the people of Israel living a “Theo-centric” existence?  I couldn’t find the exact date on which we talked about it, however what we see with the nation of Israel, especially when they are in the wilderness, is that they want to live as close to the center of their universe, God, as they possible could. This is seen in how they camp around the Tabernacle, the place they believe that heaven meets earth.  Later, when the Temple is built, that becomes the place of God’s dwell.  Again, this is the place at which heaven and earth meet.

This idea of Theo-centrism also applies to the land in which they live.  Canaan was given to them by God and, though they sinned all the time, their identity was wrapped up in it and, even though they forgot God, it was still a core part of their identity as Hebrews.  However, as I just said, they did sin… they sinned A LOT!  Their identity was twisted and mangled, much like it was in Egypt.  Israel had become slaves once again… slaves to sin.  Once again, they needed to be stripped of their identity and re-identified as God’s people.  In this case, it required punishment and removal of the old by God.

Exile was a very traumatic event because it stripped the people of everything that made them who they were.  You know they say that you’ll never miss something until it is gone, well… this would be very true here.  The people of God lost what they would consider to be their access to God through the Temple.  They lost their inheritance from God in the land.  They lost everything that it was that made them who they were… or so they thought.  However, the one thing they didn’t lose was God.  We’ll see this in some of the many prophets that were sent to the Jewish exiles, and how God works for them through people like Esther and Daniel.

But that, right there, the fact that they never lost God, is the whole point of the books of 1st and 2nd Chronicles.  It was written to remind the people of Judah who they were and whose they were.  The covenant did not end with the Exile of God’s people.  In fact, God was still at work, upholding both ends of the covenant as He had always done before.  Though God’s people might have felt “dis-located,” God was trying to show them that they could never truly be absent from the one who is omnipresent.  And in some ways, their presence in the land of Babylon was just the beginning of God’s people fulfilling God’s promise that they would be a light and a blessing to all nations.

Wow… that’s kind of getting ahead of the story.  Today we begin Chronicles.  It takes us through the history of Humanity, of Israel, and then talks briefly about Saul.  It zeros in very specifically on David, and then Solomon, and then on to the Kingdom of Judah primarily.  Why?  Because this was written for returned exiles… and Israel never returned.  As you read, especially in the first half of 1 Chronicles, try to call to memory all that we have read and talked about in the last 4-5 months.  Take some time to look back… to see the bigger picture of God at work in the lives of these people, in the nation of Israel, and how He has been and is continually faithful all the time and everywhere.



Day 113: 2 Kings 24-25; Destruction and Exile of Judah

English: Map of the Assyrian Empire Português:...

English: Map of the Assyrian Empire Português: Extensão do Império Assírio Español: Extensión del Imperio Asirio Polski: Mapa Asyrii. Dostępna też polska wersja pliku: Mapa Asyrii.png For translations of this map, contact Ningyou. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We have seen in the past two days, the decline of the kingdom of Judah.  After Assyria came and carried off the kingdom of Israel, Judah and King Hezekiah were able to hold out against the military might of Sennacherib through the providence of God.  Ultimately, though, because of the sins of Manasseh, Judah’s end was sealed.  Even though God relented from His wrath for the sake of Josiah.  In this time in history, a great transition of power was taking place.  Neco, Pharaoh of Egypt, who was actually installed by the Assyrian King, was asserting his power against the Assyrian Empire, which was rapidly loosing power at this time.  Though Josiah was killed when he went to meet Neco (whether he went to do battle, to help, or advise the Bible doesn’t say), Egypt’s campaign was one of the many from several different nations that led to the fall of the Assyrian Empire.

Here, however, is where we pick up the narrative today, with the rise of Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian Empire.  Sadly, I must quote Wikipedia here, for the sake of historical background: “Assyria finally succumbed to a coalition of BabyloniansMedesScythians, and others at the Fall of Nineveh in 612 BC, and the sacking of its last capital Harran in 608 BC.”

During this time of power transition, we read that Nebuchadnezzar came up to Jerusalem (likely with some military power behind him) and make Jehoiakim his servant.  Judah became what is known as a vassal state.  This meant that the leader of the nation chose to serve the king of the greater empire rather than be taken over and burnt to the ground.  The people of Israel, however, both Judah and the no longer existent Northern Kingdom, didn’t take well to serving anyone and rebelled.  It was at this time that Judah was attacked by several other nations.  When Jehoiakim dies, his son Jehoiachin takes over.  Unfortunately, the rebellion of his father only serves to bring the Babylonian army to Jerusalem.  This is the first time that Jerusalem falls, Jehoiachin is taken prisoner and his uncle, renamed Zedekiah, is set up as leader.

English: Map of the Neo-Babylonian Empire as o...

English: Map of the Neo-Babylonian Empire as of 540 BC (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This is what is considered to be the first exile of Judah.  Nebuchadnezzar takes thousands of people, all of Jerusalem away in Exile.  However, this isn’t the end of Judah… at least not yet.  Zedekiah, set up as leader, decided after a short time that he didn’t like being ruled either and rebelled.  When Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian army returns, they are ruthless and utterly destroy Jerusalem leaving only a few to work the land.

The narrative for today is a horrific end to the story of the nation of Israel, God’s chosen people.  It leaves us with many questions about what happens next.  What about the Covenant?  What about God’s promise to David?  What about the fulfillment of them being a blessing to all nations?  These questions and many more plague our minds as we read of Judah’s destruction.  Some of these questions are answered, others will go unanswered for some time.

First, we do read that king Jehoiachin, who was taken prisoner during the first exile, isn’t tortured like king Zedekiah, but is put in prison and released to live in Babylon.  God has not forsaken David or his house, but has allowed for Jehoiachin to live and be provided for by, of all people, the king of Babylon.

Second, God is acting in accordance to the Covenant relationship with His people.  His actions are prescribed for at the end of the book of Leviticus.  Yet we are really only getting a part of the story here.  To date, our readings have been fairly chronological, proceeding throughout the passage of time.  However, from here on out, things change a bit.  What we haven’t heard much of in the books of Kings, and won’t here much of in the books of the Chronicles, is the words of the prophets regarding God’s work in this, and about Judah’s fate in exile.  There is much to be said about what has happened here that we have yet to hear.  Judah’s exile is not the end… in fact it is somewhat of a new beginning for them.  It could even be considered a new “wilderness experience” for them.  Many other thoughts and motifs come wrapped around this time of exile… we will talk about these in the coming days.

We believe that God cannot act in a manner contrary to God’s self, which means that God cannot forsake the Covenant that He has made with the children of Abraham, which is an everlasting covenant.  That means that God is still working, and therefore there still is hope.  Things may look pretty grim for the people of Israel and Judah, but there is hope.  However, we will have to wait and see what happens, filling in the gaps and looking to the future in days to come.



Day 112: 2 Kings 21-23; The Beginning of the End of Judah

The narrative of the Kingdom of Judah after Israel’s exile is that of stark contrasts in leadership and therefore the people’s following of God.  After we read about King Hezekiah, one of the greatest kings of God’s chosen people, we read about his son, Manasseh.  This is a narrative of contrasts.  Hezekiah did what was right in the sight of the Lord, undoing all that his fathers had done before him.  Manasseh, on the other hand, undid all that King Hezekiah had accomplished and led the people of Israel down a road from which they would not be able to return.

English: Manasses was a king of the Kingdom of...

English: Manasses was a king of the Kingdom of Judah. He was the only son and successor of Hezekiah. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Manasseh was quite possibly one of the worst kings to ever rule over Judah.  I guess its one thing to inherit a kingdom of wickedness and just continue in it, but it is an entirely other thing to assume the throne of a kingdom that has been righted of its wrongs by your father, and then go after everything that had just been abolished.  Manasseh really had it made as far as the Kingdom of Judah was concerned.  His father had fixed everything, torn down all the idols and gotten rid of all the of the idol worshipers and such, yet he turned out wicked, incredibly wicked.  He shed innocent blood.  He rebuild alters and idols.  He even placed idols of Asherah in the Temple of the Lord.  In fact, he was so wicked that his actions provoked the Lord to anger in such a way that He pronounced the same judgment of Exile that He pronounced on Israel.

When Amon, the son of Manasseh, takes over, I’m sure you were hoping and praying that things would get better.  However, they didn’t.  Unfortunately, or fortunately I guess, Amon was assassinated by his servants after two years and was replaced by his 8 year old son Josiah.  Its pretty sad when people think that an 8 year old can run a kingdom better than  you can.

King Josiah hears the Law Photo Credit: http://lavistachurchofchrist.org/Pictures/Divided%20Kingdom%20Artwork/target1.html

King Josiah hears the Law
Photo Credit: www.lavistachurchofchrist.org

Josiah is the contrast to both Amon and Manasseh.  Like Hezekiah, Josiah is a good king.  In fact, he is a great king!  Scripture says that he did not turn from the ways of the Lord to the right or to the left.  He put forth money to rebuild the temple and during that process, the priests discovered the book of the Law of Moses.  It is interesting to think that the people of God, even those living in Jerusalem and/or serving in the Temple of the Lord had somehow lost this very precious thing.  So they examine it and read it and when they do they are cut to the heart.  Josiah weeps before the Lord and tears his clothes.  He realizes instantly how sinful they have been.  Josiah then devotes the rest of his life to setting things straight.  He does again what Hezekiah did, which was undone by Manasseh.  The idols are torn down, the idol worshipers are removed.  He kills all the priests of the false gods.  AND… King Josiah reinstates the Passover!!!  We read here that it hadn’t been celebrated since the time of the judges… that would be several hundred years at least.  Do you remember what God said about the Passover when it was first instituted?  Exodus 12:14 says,

This day shall be for you a memorial day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations, as a statute forever, you shall keep it as a feast.

Seems like the people of God have forgotten their past, their history… their heritage.  It was God who got them to where they are now, and for hundreds of years they have just ignored it.  I wonder if this is something that has happened in the Church today… or even in our country.  I won’t go so far as to say this is a Christian nation, but I think that in many ways, it was believers that founded this country.  That’s not to say that we are perfect.  It was believers (some of them anyway) that committed some of the horrible atrocities against the native peoples of this land.  Yet many people came here seeking the ability and freedom to worship and serve God as they felt called.  Some 400 years later, the Church is in a steady decline and it seems that Christianity doesn’t matter anymore.  I wonder if we’ve forgotten our legacy… who brought us here… or why we are even here at all.

You see, the Church’s legacy isn’t America.  The Church’s history is not Western power or cultural influence.  The Church’s message is not the lights, the music, the “authentic community” or anything else that we can cleverly conjure up to make ourselves more relevant.  THE CHURCH’S LEGACY IS JESUS CHRIST.  He is our only message, our only hope, our only savior.  We are here today because of what He did for us 2,000 years ago.  Not because of what we have done, but because of what He did for us.  It is time we wake up and realize who we are… and whose we are…



Day 111: 2 Kings 18-20; Hezekiah, King of Judah

Ezechias-Hezekiah was the son of Ahaz and the ...

Ezechias-Hezekiah was the son of Ahaz and the 14th king of Judah. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So the narrative of Israel continues on… However things are forever changed in the land of Canaan.  Hezekiah has risen to the throne of Judah, another king in the line of David, and he is a good king.  As a matter of fact, Hezekiah is one of the best kings of Judah and Israel since king David.  King Hezekiah, we are told, does something that all the kings before him, even the good ones, does not do.  He is fully committed to the Lord and because of it, he tears down all of the high places, and rids the land of Judah of all the idols and false gods that have been present.  He even destroys the bronze serpent that Moses made in the desert some 500 or so years prior, recorded in Numbers 21.  The Bible speaks these words of him, words that we have not heard since the time of David,

He trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel, so that there was none like him among all the kings of Judah after him, nor among those who were before him.  For he held fast to the Lord. He did not depart from following him, but kept the commandments that the Lord commanded Moses.  And the Lord was with him; wherever he went out, he prospered.

The remainder of this story has to do with the continuing exploits of the Assyrian military and their quest to conquer the known world.  They were, in many ways, a prototype of the coming Empires to rule this area from the Middle East to Europe.  Egypt, in many ways, was the first of these prototypes and Israel, under the rule of King David and Solomon was the second, at least of what was mentioned in the Biblical narrative.

Unlike some of the kings that had gone before him in Israel and in Judah, Hezekiah looks to the Lord and to His power for protection against Sennacherib, the king of Assyria.  The reality of the sityation was that there was no possible human way that Judah could have stood up to the Assyrian Military might.  He was, for all intents and purposes, doomed, and Sennacherib knew it.  The king of Assyria taunted Hezekiah, mocking God and any other nation that would stand up to him.  Brave and pride filled words that may have been spoken a bit too soon.

Sennacherib's Siege on Jerusalem Photo Credit: http://fontes.lstc.edu/~rklein/Documents/judah.htm

Sennacherib’s Siege on Jerusalem
Photo Credit: http://fontes.lstc.edu

Instead of caving to the pressure that Sennacherib was putting on Him, Hezekiah cries out to God who responds through the prophet Isaiah.  God does a mighty work in Judah by protecting them from the Assyrians, killing almost 200,000 of them in one night.  I think though, that this is not the main focus of this particular narrative that we have come upon.  What God says through Isaiah about Judah is simply amazing.  He recalls what Judah has done, how they have strayed from the presence of the Lord and have not followed Him… yet the Lord has been provoked to anger over the words of Sennacherib and He stands up for His Children for they have turned to Him in their time of need.

God goes even further to say that this has all been planned long ago, that all this would come to pass.  He planned that Assyria would rise to power, but he also planned that they would not take over Judah.  For God knows the actions and the evil that the Assyrians have done and He will not stand for it any longer.  It is interesting to see how God works in the ways that He does.  He has allowed for this situation to come about, for these things to happen in Israel and in Judah.  However, there is a limit.  One can only go so far, and Assyria has come to that point.

It kind of makes me think about some of the current situations we have found ourselves in today.  Bombings in Boston.  Explosions that level parts of communities.  War and rebellion in many countries.  Questionable leadership (no matter what party you support).  Yet God has allowed each of these things to happen for one reason or another.  I would not presume to know the mind of the Lord or speak for Him, but I do know that God has not changed and He still hears the cries of His people throughout the world.  Perhaps today we are reminded that our hope lies in God alone, and it is Him who we should seek in our time of need.  May we look to Him today, tomorrow, and always!



Day 110: 2 Kings 15-17; Destruction and Exile of Israel

We continue to read the narrative as it is laid out with the progression of kings in both the Southern Kingdom of Judah and the Northern Kingdom of Israel.  Today, mostly, we focus on the Northern Kingdom.  There are a few kings of Judah mentioned, and some of them are good, Azariah (also known as Uzziah) and Jotham… and others are bad, really bad, like Ahaz who is considered to be one of the worst (however not THE worst) kings of the Southern Kingdom.  However, even in the face of the evil that they do, God is faithful to the promise and covenant He made with King David.

Spiritual State and the Kings of Israel Photo Credit: http://www.flester.com/blog/2008/03/14/the-kings-of-israel-and-judah

Spiritual State and the Kings of Israel
Photo Credit: www.flester.com

Meanwhile, in the Southern Kingdoms, things are just getting worse and worse.  We read that God has indeed fulfilled His promise to Jehu by allowing four generations of his family to rule in Israel.  After that, person after person, plot after plot saw a very rapid succession of rulers in the north, each one as bad if not worse than the last.  Remember the chart that we referenced at the beginning of this saga of the divided kingdom?  The Northern Kingdom never recovers from the split.  Sadly, Jeroboam was actually the best king that there was in Israel.  And because of this, because of their unfaithfulness to the Lord, they are plagued by war, scandal, unrest and all other manner of unfortunate living that could take place with them.  They are constantly raided, constantly plundered, and constantly having to pay off attackers so that they don’t get attacked again.

Ultimately, God did not allow this to go on unchecked.  After a succession of kings that are all bad, Hoshea takes the throne, the final ruler of a doomed kingdom.  Sometimes Scripture can be kind of confusing when it comes to the actions that are taking place and the reasons for the actions, however, when we come to 2 Kings 17, Scripture is very clear as to all that happens and the reasons why.

And this occurred because the people of Israel had sinned against the Lord their God, who had brought them up out of the land of Egypt from under the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and had feared other gods and walked in the customs of the nations whom the Lord drove out before the people of Israel, and in the customs that the kings of Israel had practiced.  And the people of Israel did secretly against the Lord their God things that were not right. They built for themselves high places in all their towns, from watchtower to fortified city.  They set up for themselves pillars and Asherim on every high hill and under every green tree,  and there they made offerings on all the high places, as the nations did whom the Lord carried away before them. And they did wicked things, provoking the Lord to anger,  and they served idols, of which the Lord had said to them, “You shall not do this.”  Yet the Lord warned Israel and Judahby every prophet and every seer, saying, “Turn from your evil ways and keep my commandments and my statutes, in accordance with all the Law that I commanded your fathers, and that I sent to you by my servants the prophets.”

 But they would not listen, but were stubborn, as their fathers had been, who did not believe in the Lord their God. They despised his statutes and his covenant that he made with their fathers and the warnings that he gave them. They went after false idols and became false, and they followed the nations that were around them, concerning whom the Lord had commanded them that they should not do like them.  And they abandoned all the commandments of the Lord their God, and made for themselves metal images of two calves; and they made an Asherah and worshiped all the host of heaven and served Baal.  And they burned their sons and their daughters as offerings and used divination and omens and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking him to anger.  Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel and removed them out of his sight. None was left but the tribe of Judah only.

 Judah also did not keep the commandments of the Lord their God, but walked in the customs that Israel had introduced.  And the Lord rejected all the descendants of Israel and afflicted them and gave them into the hand of plunderers, until he had cast them out of his sight.

When he had torn Israel from the house of David, they made Jeroboam the son of Nebat king. And Jeroboam drove Israel from following the Lord and made them commit great sin.  The people of Israel walked in all the sins that Jeroboam did. They did not depart from them,  until the Lord removed Israel out of his sight, as he had spoken by all his servants the prophets. So Israel was exiled from their own land to Assyria until this day.

People of God Exiled Photo Credit: http://deepintoscripture.com/2011/08/15/in-which-rejecting-the-messiah-makes-sense-exile-pt3/

People of God Exiled
Photo Credit: http://deepintoscripture.com

Map of the Exile and Resettlement Photo Credit: http://levantnotes.blogspot.com/2007/10/of-israel-myth_20.html

Map of the Exile and Resettlement
Photo Credit: http://levantnotes.blogspot.com

Therefore Israel is taken into exile.  Unlike what is to happen to Judah, which is depicted in this picture as well, the exile of Israel is permanent.  God has, in effect, removed them from His sight, or at least, that is what we read.  As part of this removal, the land of promise, or at least the Northern part of it, is given to the nations by way of resettlement.  This was very much a practice of the day, or rather it became the practice of these great empires, when they took over an area, to remove the native people of the area and resettle them, and then resettle the area with people from another area.  There are a great many reasons for this, however the main reason is the idea of national security.  People can rebel very easily when they know the cities that they are in and the land in which they live.  When you are in a foreign place and do not know your resources, you’re more likely to be compliant.

From a less practical perspective, the exile of Israel and the later exile of Judah, was about the covenant relationship that existed between the people and God.  There are a great many things that have come with this covenant.  One of them was the land that God would give to them as an inheritance.  The land was a gift, part of the promise, which as also based on the people actually being the people of God and following His statutes.  The Covenant stipulations for continued disobedience was clear in Leviticus 26:

“But if in spite of this you will not listen to me, but walk contrary to me,  then I will walk contrary to you in fury, and I myself will discipline you sevenfold for your sins.  You shall eat the flesh of your sons, and you shall eat the flesh of your daughters.  And I will destroy your high places and cut down your incense altars and cast your dead bodies upon the dead bodies of your idols, and my soul will abhor you.  And I will lay your cities waste and will make your sanctuaries desolate, and I will not smell your pleasing aromas.  And I myself will devastate the land, so that your enemies who settle in it shall be appalled at it.  And I will scatter you among the nations, and I will unsheathe the sword after you, and your land shall be a desolation, and your cities shall be a waste.”

There are many aspects to this, many things that come from the exile and it is difficult to know what to do with it all.  How does God fit into this whole picture as the God we know as “Gracious and Merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”  There is certainly some tension here, some things that may not fit well with the picture that we have of God.  Sometimes we want to dismiss this as just an Old Testament thing, and yet we believe that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  However, sometimes I think we also can be too quick to explain things away so as to get over our own discomfort and tension.  This is not the last time we will talk about exile.  Israel’s event sits as a warning to the people of Judah… a warning that is not heeded well…