WHAT IF GOD HAD NOT REMOVED JUDAH?
Even though the
Northern Ten Tribes had been taken into captivity, Judah did not heed God’s
warning and chose to assume that the same punishment would befall it as
well. After all, they had been spared before, and it all appeared as though
God would continue favoring them. Did they not have the temple among them?
Did they not sacrifice to God? Were not God’s priests active among them? All
should have continued as before, and God would have ignored their sins.
But God does not
ignore prolonged, entrenched, arrogant sinning. The people of Judah had
hardened their heart, and were bent on continuing to rebel against God—and
God knew it. Thus, His fury would finally befall Judah as it did Israel, and
they, too, would be taken into captivity.
But what if God had
not decreed that Judah be taken into captivity? What if He had decided to
spare the Judeans and had left them in their land?
Though Josiah had cleansed the land of idolatry, and though he had even
killed the sinful priests that had led Judah astray, the people had not
truly repented. Consequently, God remained bent on punishing them and on taking them
away to Babylon -- but not immediately. In fact, Josiah died in battle, and
was followed by Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim and Zedekiah, three very evil kings (II
Kings 23: 31-32, 35-37, 24: 8-9, 19). Finally God unleashed His wrath
through the King of Babylon, and all of Judah was taken into captivity (II
Captivity is a
terrifying experience. People are captured, they are taken by force away
from their homes and their land; they are then made slaves, and they are
treated with disdain and abuse. That is what had happened to Israel and, in
spite of the great grief that was to befall Judah, God did not prevent it.
In fact, He orchestrated it and made it happen a second time.
No one can deny
that God waited patiently for Judah to repent, but they did not. God sent
His prophets to warn Judah but without success (Ezekiel 21-23). The prophet
Zephaniah describes the rebellious spirit of the people of Jerusalem, and of
Judah, by extension, in chapter three: “Woe to her who is rebellious and
polluted, to the oppressing city! She has not obeyed His voice, she has
not received correction; She has not trusted in the Lord, she has not
drawn near to her God” (Zephaniah 3: 1-2). Thus, God waited and hoped, but
in vain, and the results of their obstinacy was disastrous.
If God had not
finally punished Judah, He would have been perceived as unjust and unfair.
He had poured His judgment upon Israel, and He had to treat Judah the same
way. God had warned all of Israel in the Law of the disastrous consequences
that would have befallen arrogant disobedience (Deut. 28). As with the
Northern Tribes, He also warned the people of Judah, and
they failed to respond. Finally God was forced to intervene and punished the
nation with exile.
Again we see a God
who waits very patiently for His people to repent, but, finally, He
intervenes and does so quite drastically. We also see a God who is
consistent and shows no favoritism. That was the case for Israel; it was the
case for Judah, and it will be the case for any nation who knows God’s will
and chooses to go against it.