After many warnings by many different prophets, God finally decreed that
Israel be “vomited” out of the Promised Land as the Canaanites had been.
Thus, “the king of Assyria…carried Israel away to Assyria…”(II Kings 17:
What if God had not
allowed the total exile of Israel from the Promised Land? What if He had
simply punished them “locally” and had foregone the exile altogether?
The story of
Israel, and God’s dealings with it, is a wonderful study in the character of
the Almighty. Through His dealings with Israel, He manifested His total
reliability by keeping His promise of delivering Israel out of Egypt. He
also revealed His love and righteousness, by giving Israel laws that would
have elevated them above all the other surrounding nations, and that would
have brought great blessings on them generation after generation.
Furthermore, God manifests His
longsuffering nature by warning Israel before punishing them and by finally
punishing them with the sole intent of sobering them into repentance.
Lastly, His dealings with Israel
manifest that, though God is longsuffering, He has His limits, and that the
day will come when He will finally bring about very stern punishments on
people, if they refuse to repent.
important to note that II Kings 17, the chapter that describes the exile of
Israel, also gives an exhaustive list of the sins embraced by Israel. The
chapter also describes God’s many attempts to bring Israel to sobriety
before having to finally send them into exile.
The list of
sins is quite extensive and serious. The people forgot that God had
delivered them from Egyptian slavery and “feared other gods” (V.7). They
walked in the way of the nations that had been cast out of Canaan (V. 8).
Furthermore, they built high places and burned incense to idols (V. 11-12).
Because of their rebellious attitude, God warned Israel and Judah “by all
His prophets (V. 13), but they did not repent and, instead, “stiffened
their necks” (V. 14).
spite of all the many warnings, “They rejected His statutes and His
Covenant…they left all the commandments” (V. 15-16) and “made for themselves
a molten image and two calves, made a wooden image and worshiped all the
host of heaven, and served Baal’ (V.16); Lastly they “caused their sons and
daughters to pass through the fire, practiced witchcraft and soothsaying,
and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the Lord, to provoke Him to
anger” (V. 17). Thus, the final judgment: “You shall be plucked off from
the land” (Deuteronomy 28: 63).
God had made a
covenant with Israel centuries before, and had promised to pour great
blessings on them if they obeyed and great curses if they disobeyed. The
curses are listed in Deuteronomy 28 in increasing severity. Israel did not
heed the many warnings and was finally eradicated from the land as God had
promised centuries before.
If God had not
sent Israel into exile, His word may have been questioned, and His
inevitable intervention toward sinners would not have received proper
attention. As Paul reinforces in the New Testament: “For whom the Lord loves
He chastens, and scourges every son whom he receives” (Hebrew 12: 6). Israel
needed to see that its God had reached His limit, and that they had pushed
Him to the point of no return.
If God had not
intervened and had not kept his promises of total exile, God’s longsuffering
nature might have been misunderstood for weakness. The people of Israel, and
all believers since then might have taken God’s silence as uninvolvement or
the fact that He was turning a blind eye to sin.
people must know that, though they may be special in God’s eyes, and though
He is very patient toward their frailties, if they sin willfully and
stubbornly, He will finally intervene dramatically and intensely—and
that is true for Spiritual Israel as it was true for Ancient Israel.
IS GOD CRUEL?
Michael Caputo, 2013
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