Wednesday, November 7, 2012
2 Kings 16-17 The Fall of Samaria
2 Kings 17:7-28 All this took place because the Israelites had sinned against the Lord their God, who had brought them up out of Egypt from under the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. They worshiped other gods and followed the practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before them, as well as the practices that the kings of Israel had introduced. The Israelites secretly did things against the Lord their God that were not right. From watchtower to fortified city they built themselves high places in all their towns. They set up sacred stones and Asherah poles on every high hill and under every spreading tree. At every high place they burned incense, as the nations whom the Lord had driven out before them had done. They did wicked things that provoked the Lord to anger. They worshiped idols, though the Lord had said, "You shall not do this." The Lord warned Israel and Judah through all his prophets and seers: "Turn from your evil ways. Observe my commands and decrees, in accordance with the entire Law that I commanded your fathers to obey and that I delivered to you through my servants the prophets." But they would not listen and were as stiff-necked as their fathers, who did not trust in the Lord their God. They rejected his decrees and the covenant he had made with their fathers and the warnings he had given them. They followed worthless idols and themselves became worthless. They imitated the nations around them although the Lord had ordered them, "Do not do as they do," and they did the things the Lord had forbidden them to do. They forsook all the commands of the Lord their God and made for themselves two idols cast in the shape of calves, and an Asherah pole. They bowed down to all the starry hosts, and they worshiped Baal. They sacrificed their sons and daughters in the fire. They practiced divination and sorcery and sold themselves to do evil in the eyes of the Lord, provoking him to anger. So the Lord was very angry with Israel and removed them from his presence. Only the tribe of Judah was left, and even Judah did not keep the commands of the Lord their God. They followed the practices Israel had introduced. Therefore the Lord rejected all the people of Israel; he afflicted them and gave them into the hands of plunderers, until he thrust them from his presence.
After nearly two hundred years of continual violation of the Lord's covenant given through Moses, to the point of offering their own children as human sacrifices to Baal, the end finally came for Samaria, the capital of the northern kingdom of Israel. Assyria attacked Samaria and laid seige around it for three years, and it fell to the Assyrians in 722 BC. The entire population was deported to Assyrian towns and the Assyrians brought in people from their own cities to repopulate Samaria. (Their descendants later became the Samaritans in the New Testament who were despised by the Jews in Jerusalem.) What was once a glorious nation under David of 12 tribes was finally reduced in about two centuries into just one and a half tribes - Judah and the half-tribe of Benjamin in the south. The northern kingdom was gone!
Israel received the covenant at Sinai. Though a covenant of grace because they did not do anything to deserve it except on the basis of God's faithfulness to His promises to their forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, nevertheless they squandered the opportunities provided by grace. Instead of living out their destiny as "a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that (they) may declare the praises of him who called (them) out of darkness into his wonderful light," they instead became like the nations around them, compromising their faith with vile and wicked idolatrous practices.
The story of Israel can also be the story of the new Israel - the Church. Under the new covenant enacted by Jesus Christ, we have now become the new chosen people, the new priesthood, and the new holy nation, in order that we may "declare the praises of him who called us out of darkness into his wonderful light". We are not called out of darkness into light just so that our needs can be met. Instead, we are called out of darkness into light in order that we may demonstrate and declare to those still living in darkness what it is like to be a people belonging to God.
We have been blessed in order to be a blessing--and the greatest blessing is to tell others they can join in and become members of God's household--and it's free! The grace of our Lord Jesus has now opened the floodgates to all who would come in. The membership price has been fully paid by the blood of the Lord Jesus. So, it's criminal not to get involved in evangelism - to tell others the Good News that they can also become members of God's household!
Father, forgive us that the Great Commission for many has become the Great Omission. Stir up in the heart of every true believer the passion to go out and bring in the lost. Amen.