From Ray Stedman: "...The spotlight is always on the king; it is what the king does in relationship to God that determines how the nation goes. The character of the kingdom is largely determined by the character of the king. When the king walked with God in obedience and humility, and worshiped and obeyed God in the temple in Jerusalem (or later in Samaria in the northern kingdom), God's blessing in prosperity and victory rested upon the kingdom. There was no such blessing for the northern kingdom because they had no godly kings. But in the southern kingdom, in the house of David, there was victory and prosperity when godly kings appeared from time to time. The rains came at the right times and the crops grew. The economy of the land flourished. There was victory over their enemies, even when the enemies came against them in allied forces. There was always victory when the king walked with God.
But when the king disobeyed and worshiped other gods, immediately famines broke out, droughts came, and invasions occurred. The land fell into difficult and extremely serious conditions. When the kings were in obedience, they were always types of Christ -- such as David, Solomon, Hezekiah, Joash, and Jehoshaphat. They pictured something of the sovereign, kingly reign of the Lord Jesus Christ. But when they were in disobedience, they were types, or pictures of the antichrist, the man of sin who is yet to appear upon the earth. This was the antichrist of whom Jesus himself said to Israel, "I have come in my Father's name, and you do not receive me; if another comes in his own name, him you will receive." (John 5:43) It is this man of sin, the quintessence of human evil, that is pictured by the kings of Israel and Judah when they walk in disobedience.
The thing that makes these books perennially fascinating to us is that this kingdom in Israel is a picture to each of us of the kingdom in our own lives. The nation of Israel was picked out particularly from the nations to be a representative of the individual human life. God chose Israel. Israel did not come into the position of prominence and favor in God's sight by their own efforts. God chose them. He formed them and molded them and produced a nation that would be a sample to all the world of what God is willing to do in any individual's life. As we read these books, we will find ourselves right in the midst of the problems and blessings and possibilities that are reflected in these books of the kings.
From the beginning there were always two divisions in the monarchy. Even under David this was true. When David first came to the throne, he was king only of Judah for seven years. It was not until after that seven-year reign that he became king over both divisions of the nation. This division between the ten tribes in the north and the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin in the south where Jerusalem was located, existed right from the very start. Now it was intended to be this way, but they were all to be under one king. They represent the divisions in the human life. Everyone knows that there are two evident divisions of human life. First of all, there is the body of which we are so aware. We take it around with us. We spend our time taking care of it, primping it, dressing it up, painting it, unpainting it, and doing all the things necessary to keep it looking good. Unfortunately most of life seems to be spent in taking care of the body. But of course there is more than a body to each man. There is also the soul, the invisible part that contains the personality, and is so obviously gone when we look at the emptiness of a corpse and the terrible tragedy of death.
Here in the two kingdoms this division of life is acted out. The ten tribes of the north are representative of the body, while Judah and Benjamin, the two tribes of the south, represent the soul. It was in the southern kingdom that the capital city of Jerusalem was located, and the temple was in Jerusalem, and God dwelt in the temple. We know from the scriptures that in the human life there is not only a body and soul, but within the soul -- so closely linked to it that only the word of God can divide between the soul and the spirit -- is this dwelling place of God. It is there that the Holy Spirit takes up his residence when he comes into the human heart. When this happens, man is as God intended man to be. Without the Holy Spirit dwelling in the human spirit, man is only an incomplete example of what he is supposed to be. But when God the Holy Spirit comes in, he takes up his residence in the human spirit, the temple of the body. In the New Testament, this figure is drawn for us as we are told that our bodies are the temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians. 6:19). If we permit the Spirit of God to dwell within our human spirit he governs our soul, thereby adjusting and controlling the body and the outward life. Reference: The Kings of Israel and Judah.
This temple of the Spirit was in Jerusalem and all the worship of the kingdom was to be there. It was never to be in any other place. There in the temple in Jerusalem God had put his name. Likewise, in each human being the human spirit is to be the temple, the place of worship. Remember what the Lord Jesus said to the woman at the well about the nature of God? "God is Spirit," he said, "and those who worship him must worship [where?] in spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship him" (John 4:24, 23). He can find lots of worshipers who are worshiping him in soul -- mere soulish, emotional worship. But he is not interested in that. He is looking for that worship which is centered in the deepest part of human nature, in the spirit, and this is figured by the temple.
In your kingdom your will is king and nothing can take place in your kingdom except as it passes by the authority of your will. Therefore, what your will does, determines what your life will be like. If you willingly, obediently yield yourself to the influences brought into your life by the Holy Spirit dwelling in your human spirit, you are like the kingdom when David walked with God. The land flourished in abundance and prosperity and the influence of that little kingdom reached out to the uttermost parts of the earth. But if, like many of the following kings, you walk in disobedience -- if your will is defiant, and is set against the things of God; if you refuse his sovereignty and dominion in your life -- then the same kind of evil invasions that fell upon this kingdom will come into your life. You will no longer have any strength to repel the inward corruptions that ruin and take their toll upon your life and the lives of those you influence. Thus the kingdom falls into ruin.
As we trace this ruin we notice that Solomon. the son of David, introduced the principle that began the deterioration of the kingdom. He fell in love with the daughter of Pharaoh. There was nothing wrong in his falling in love. God approves of that. But there was something definitely wrong with his falling in love with the daughter of Pharaoh. Pharaoh was the king of all Egypt, the very place from which God in grace and power had redeemed his people. (Egypt in scripture is always a type or a picture of the world's allurement to the human heart.) When Solomon brought the daughter of Pharaoh into his court, the door was open for alliances with other lovely girls in the tribes around Israel. Soon he had a thousand wives and along with them came their idols. The kingdom began to deteriorate under Solomon because he allowed the world to entice and allure him, to draw away his heart's interest from the temple where his worship should have been centered. You can draw the parallel picture in your own life.
Then Rehoboam, Solomon's son, actually split the kingdom so that the northern ten tribes were removed from the southern two tribes and a separate kingdom was set up in the north. If the northern kingdom is representative, as I have suggested, of a man's body, then when our spirit loses fellowship with the Holy Spirit within, it isn't very long before the body begins to disintegrate. Fleshly indulgence sets in and bodily wrongdoing soon follows, as the first chapter of Romans tells us.
Then came Jeroboam, the son of Rehoboam. It was Jeroboam who introduced the great sin for which the Northern Kingdom was noted. Jeroboam set up two calves in Bethel and Dan to be the worship centers. Remember, when the Israelites were down at the foot of Mt. Sinai and Moses had gone up to the mountain to receive the law, Aaron the priest led the people in the building of a calf of gold which they began to worship. And they called it Jehovah. (Exodus 32:5) It wasn't that they were denying Jehovah, their God. They were misrepresenting him by this calf which was like the gods of the other nations. They were calling it by the name of the true God. This was an abomination in the sight of God and was eliminated from the nation until the days of Jeroboam when he introduced the two calves of gold and said, "These be your gods. Israel. Worship here." (I Kings 12:28) This represents that form of godliness which denies the power of God. It is an outward conformity to Christian faith which lacks the inner response of the Spirit. It is quite possible to make a very good appearance of being a Christian -- so much so, in fact, that you fool everybody but God. You can come to church: you can stand when everybody stands, sit down when everybody sits down, hold the hymn book at the right angle, bow your head at the proper prescribed angle and at the proper prescribed time, but inwardly there is no worship at all. This is exactly what is pictured here in the worship which Jeroboam the son of Nebat introduced into the Northern Kingdom.
From that moment on these two kings, David and Jeroboam. become the representatives of the two spiritual principles that are traced throughout the kingdoms. They become the measuring sticks for the kings that followed. Time and time again in these books we read that a king either walked in the ways of David his father and served the Lord his God -- tearing down all the false and abominable worship that Israel had fallen into -- or they say he walked in the ways of Jeroboam the son of Nebat and caused Israel to go whoring after the gods that Jeroboam had set up. Now in Israel, the Northern Kingdom, there were no godly kings. There was just a continual succession of kings murdering their predecessors to gain the throne. But from time to time, God in his grace intervened by sending prophets in an effort to arrest the fall of the Northern Kingdom. In Judah, the Southern Kingdom, there were a few godly kings and these men stand out like lights in the darkness -- the primary ones were Jehoshaphat, Joash, Hezekiah, and Josiah.
All through this time of decline God made various efforts to stop the corruption and decay of the kingdom. These centered largely on the ministry of Elijah and Elisha. The books of Kings are primarily noteworthy for the ministry of these two mighty prophets of God. (God never spoke to the nation through a king. He used the king in government, to control and to administer justice. The life and the character of the kingdom was due to the reflected character of the king.) When God wanted to speak to the nation, he sent a prophet. Hosea, Amos, Joel, Isaiah and Jeremiah were also prophets that ministered to the kingdoms, but the only ones that appear in 1 and 2 Kings are Elijah and Elisha.
Elijah was a rugged personality. He went around wearing a leather girdle and dressed in haircloth. What a scraggly, mangy person he must have looked -- a rugged, tough character. Time after time, he met the king face to face to deliver a message of judgment and his life was at stake many times. But he was faithful and God protected him. We have the wonderful story of how he met with four hundred priests of Baal on top of Mt. Carmel and single-handedly defied the power of this abominable worship in Israel. (I Kings 18:20) He challenged them to a contest as to who could bring down fire from heaven. In a most remarkable scene he taunted them as they went about cutting their flesh and crying out to their god to send down fire, saying to them, "What is the matter? Where is your god? Is he out to lunch? Has he gone on a journey? Is he asleep? Why doesn't he answer?" When they had exhausted themselves, he called down fire from Jehovah that licked up not only the sacrifice. but the water that had been poured upon it and the very stones of the altar. Everything was gone. He won a mighty triumph for God. This was the character of Elijah. He was primarily the prophet of the law. It was his ministry to bring the thunderings of the law to the nation Israel, to try to wake it up to its shameful condition. Therefore, his was a ministry of love and of fire and of judgment.
When Elijah was caught up into heaven in a chariot of fire, his mantle fell upon Elisha. In contrast to Elijah, Elisha's ministry was the ministry of grace and sweetness and glory throughout Israel. Now why was this? Well, if you study this carefully you will see that these two men together prefigure the ministry of Jesus Christ. When the Lord Jesus came to Israel, it was in a period of decay and corruption, as it was when Elijah came to the nation. Herod was on the throne as a vassal of Rome. The high priest's office had gone into the hands of the Sadducees (who were the rationalists of that day) and they had turned the temple into a place of corruption and commerce. The nation had fallen into dark and bitter times. The Lord Jesus' ministry to official Israel was in the power of Elijah. He began his ministry with the cleansing of the temple as he made a whip of many cords and, with his arm bared and his eyes flashing fire (gentle Jesus -- meek and mild), drove the money changers out of the temple, turning over the tables and flinging the stuff out into the courtyard. That also marked the close of his ministry in thundering judgment to official Israel.
But our Lord's ministry to the individual was the ministry of Elisha -- the ministry of grace, of winsome sweetness, of compassionate tenderness and helpfulness. There is another interesting comparison here, in that Elisha also seems to picture the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the church after the day of Pentecost; Elisha's ministry also began with a man ascending into heaven. Elisha's very first miracle depicted the ministry of the Holy Spirit -- the putting of salt into the water and the sweetening of the water. The miracle concerning salt, the miracle of the oil that kept flowing continually -- which is another symbol of the Holy Spirit -- and the miracle of the water suddenly appearing in the parched and barren famine-stricken fields all picture the Holy Spirit. Then also there was the miracle of resurrection when the little boy who died was raised from the dead as Elisha lay his staff upon him and breathed on his face. This was not mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. It was a genuine resurrection. Elisha also performed the miracles of healing leprosy, of feeding a thousand or more people and of recovering the lost iron ax head by making it float on top of the water. Miracles continued even after he was dead and buried. A group of men trying to dispose of a body were suddenly surprised by a mob of bandits. They threw the body into the tomb of Elisha and when the body of the dead man touched the bones of Elisha the man sprang back to life again. Why? All of this indicates the ministry of the Holy Spirit in a decadent life trying to win back a heart that has gradually drifted into the blindness and darkness of corruption. Even when everything looks dead and absolutely gone. the Holy Spirit is still able to transform death into life by a touch.
The book of 2 Kings traces the decline of these kingdoms. and Israel goes first. It is taken captive by Assyria. and under Shalmaneser the Northern Kingdom is carried away into total and final captivity as we read in chapter 17, verses 13 through 18:
Yet the Lord warned Israel and Judah by every prophet and every seer, saying, "Turn from your evil ways and keep my commandments and my statutes, in accordance with all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which 1 sent to you by my servants the prophets." But they would not listen, but were stubborn, as their fathers, and the warnings which he gave them. They went after false idols, and became false, and they followed the nations that were round about them, concerning whom the Lord had commanded them that they should not do like them. And they forsook all the commandments of the Lord their God, and made for themselves molten images of two calves; and they made an Asherah [that is, a sex god], and worshiped all the host of heaven, and served Baal. And they burned their sons and their daughters as offerings, and used divination and sorcery, 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. (2 Kings 17:13-18 RSV)
What a picture this is of the evil results of sin in the human life particularly as it affects the outward bodily life. Have you ever noticed this? We speak of the marks of sin upon some individual and it is amazing how early those marks begin to appear when there is a dissolute debauched way of life. I am not talking about the normal marks of old age. These come to all of us -- even the righteous. You know the five B's of middle age -- baldness, bifocals, bridges, bay window, and bunions. These are just the normal marks of decay. I am talking about the marks of coarseness and vulgarity that mark the body of man when it is expended in high living, a dissolute life, overindulgence in food and drink, and all the other things that leave a mark upon the body. The body is first to go just as Israel was the first to go here.
Judah was next. Judah was arrested from decay for awhile by the glorious life of Hezekiah who arose in the midst of darkness. His father had been an ungodly king and his son following him on the throne was an ungodly king. But Hezekiah was marked by the grace of God. The kingdom had fallen into such decay when he came to the throne that his first act was to cleanse the temple. It took the Levites -- the priestly tribe -- sixteen days to carry all the rubbish and junk out of the temple before they could even begin to purify it for the services again. That is how corrupt the nation had become. Hezekiah also reintroduced the Passover. He also destroyed the great brazen serpent that the people had been worshiping This was the very serpent that God had used for their blessing when Moses lifted it up in the wilderness. (Numbers 21:8,9) But Hezekiah in fine sarcasm called it a piece of brass and destroyed it because it had become an object of idolatry. Many things that were once used in blessing become idols if we hang on to them because of the sentimental value.
Hezekiah's life was miraculously extended when the shadow on the sundial turned back ten degrees and he was allowed fifteen more years of life. In those fifteen years, however, he had a son named Manasseh who became the worst king Judah ever had. Manasseh had the longest reign of any of the kings -- fifty-five years of ungodliness. Thus some have said that Hezekiah is the man who lived too long. If he had accepted the word of the Lord to him about his death, Israel would have been spared the terrible deeds under Manasseh.
So the kingdom declined and finally Judah was carried away by Nebuchadnezzar into Babylon the symbol of corruption and defilement. For a few years the temple remained in Jerusalem, but in the end it too was stripped and burned. The walls of the city were broken down, and all the people were carried away into captivity. The book closes with Zedekiah, the last king of Israel. After he was captured by the King of Babylon, his sons were slain before his eyes, and his eyes were put out. Then he was bound and taken to Babylon.
Zedekiah was the last king that Israel ever had. Later in the tumult and the tremendous confusion in Jerusalem during the Passover week when our Lord was crucified. Pilate offered their king to the nation "Here is your King." But the crowd meant it when they cried out. "We have no king but Caesar." (John 19: 14 15) Yet it was Caesar's governor who taught Israel its lesson by having this inscription written above the cross "Jesus of Nazareth the King of the Jews." (John 19:19) That poor people will never know another moment of genuine prosperity and blessing either spiritually or physically until they shall see him whom they have pierced and recognize the king that was sent to them in lowliness as Zechariah prophesied. (Zechariah 12:10)
Now do you see what this book is about? It is a picture of a wasted life. Here is a picture of an individual who is a Christian, whose foundation is laid by Jesus Christ but who has built upon it with only wood, hay and stubble. In the secret place of his heart, in the will, he has refused to walk in obedience to the things revealed unto him through the Holy Spirit who dwells in the temple of his human spirit. As a result his life becomes more and more characterized by decay and corruption and defilement. It begins with the body and then becomes evident in the personality. Cruelty hardness and defiance set in and finally the temple itself is burned. Paul tells us in I Corinthians that for each one there is the judgment of fire which will reveal our work; the wood, hay and stubble will be burned although the believer himself will be saved, "but only as through fire" (I Corinthians 3:13-15). The whole lesson of 2 Kings of course, is that it need not be so. God is continually interrupting our lives with the evidence of his grace. God tries to arrest us in our stubborn deliberate ways. Yet we can go ahead. God will not stop us -- just as he didn't stop them. We can go on beating our way to the top of the heap and perhaps win the acclaim and approval of the world around us. But one day we shall have to stand naked before the one who loves us who gave himself for us and to whom we have denied the right to be God in the temple of our spirit. We have robbed him of his inheritance in the saints. In that day, John says, we shall be ashamed before him at his coming. May God grant that the lesson of these books may come home to our hearts. A Wasted Life, by Ray C. Stedman. See also, How to Lose a Kingdom.
The Ten Northern tribes were raided and plundered by the Assyrians in 722 BC. God allowed this because of their idolatry. A Summary is found in 2 Kings 17:
In the twelfth year of Ahaz king of Judah, Hoshea the son of Elah became king of Israel in Samaria, and he reigned nine years. 2 And he did evil in the sight of the Lord, but not as the kings of Israel who were before him. 3 Shalmaneser king of Assyria came up against him; and Hoshea became his vassal, and paid him tribute money. 4 And the king of Assyria uncovered a conspiracy by Hoshea; for he had sent messengers to So, king of Egypt, and brought no tribute to the king of Assyria, as he had done year by year. Therefore the king of Assyria shut him up, and bound him in prison. 5 Now the king of Assyria went throughout all the land, and went up to Samaria and besieged it for three years. 6 In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria took Samaria and carried Israel away to Assyria, and placed them in Halah and by the Habor, the River of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.
7 For so it was that the children 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 they had feared other gods, 8 and had walked in the statutes of the nations whom the Lord had cast out from before the children of Israel, and of the kings of Israel, which they had made. 9 Also the children of Israel secretly did against the Lord their God things that were not right, and they built for themselves high places in all their cities, from watchtower to fortified city. 10 They set up for themselves sacred pillars and wooden images on every high hill and under every green tree. There they burned incense on all the high places, like the nations whom the Lord had carried away before them; and they did wicked things to provoke the Lord to anger, 12 for they served idols, of which the Lord had said to them, "You shall not do this thing." 13 Yet the Lord testified against Israel and against Judah, by all of His prophets, every seer, saying, "Turn from your evil ways, and keep My commandments and My statutes, according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you by My servants the prophets." 14 Nevertheless they would not hear, but stiffened their necks, like the necks of their fathers, who did not believe in the Lord their God. 15 And they rejected His statutes and His covenant that He had made with their fathers, and His testimonies which He had testified against them; they followed idols, became idolaters, and went after the nations who were all around them, concerning whom the Lord had charged them that they should not do like them. 16 So they left all the commandments of the Lord their God, made for themselves a molded image and two calves, made a wooden image and worshiped all the host of heaven, and served Baal. 17 And 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. 8 Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel, and removed them from His sight; there was none left but the tribe of Judah alone. 19 Also Judah did not keep the commandments of the Lord their God, but walked in the statutes of Israel which they made. 20 And the Lord rejected all the descendants of Israel, afflicted them, and delivered them into the hand of plunderers, until He had cast them from His sight. 21 For He tore Israel from the house of David, and they made Jeroboam the son of Nebat king. Then Jeroboam drove Israel from following the Lord, and made them commit a great sin. 22 For the children of Israel walked in all the sins of Jeroboam which he did; they did not depart from them, 23 until the Lord removed Israel out of His sight, as He had said by all His servants the prophets. So Israel was carried away from their own land to Assyria, as it is to this day.
The Repopulation of Samaria
24 Then the king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Ava, Hamath, and from Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the children of Israel; and they took possession of Samaria and dwelt in its cities. 25 And it was so, at the beginning of their dwelling there, that they did not fear the Lord; therefore the Lord sent lions among them, which killed some of them. 26 So they spoke to the king of Assyria, saying, "The nations whom you have removed and placed in the cities of Samaria do not know the rituals of the God of the land; therefore He has sent lions among them, and indeed, they are killing them because they do not know the rituals of the God of the land." 27 Then the king of Assyria commanded, saying, "Send there one of the priests whom you brought from there; let him go and dwell there, and let him teach them the rituals of the God of the land." 28 Then one of the priests whom they had carried away from Samaria came and dwelt in Bethel, and taught them how they should fear the Lord. 29 However every nation continued to make gods of its own, and put them in the shrines on the high places which the Samaritans had made, every nation in the cities where they dwelt. 30 The men of Babylon made Succoth Benoth, the men of Cuth made Nergal, the men of Hamath made Ashima, 31 and the Avites made Nibhaz and Tartak; and the Sepharvites burned their children in fire to Adrammelech and Anammelech, the gods of Sepharvaim. 32 So they feared the Lord, and from every class they appointed for themselves priests of the high places, who sacrificed for them in the shrines of the high places. 33 They feared the Lord, yet served their own gods--according to the rituals of the nations from among whom they were carried away. 34 To this day they continue practicing the former rituals; they do not fear the Lord, nor do they follow their statutes or their ordinances, or the law and commandment which the Lord had commanded the children of Jacob, whom He named Israel, 35 with whom the Lord had made a covenant and charged them, saying: "You shall not fear other gods, nor bow down to them nor serve them nor sacrifice to them; 36 but the Lord, who brought you up from the land of Egypt with great power and an outstretched arm, Him you shall fear, Him you shall worship, and to Him you shall offer sacrifice. 37 And the statutes, the ordinances, the law, and the commandment which He wrote for you, you shall be careful to observe forever; you shall not fear other gods. 38 And the covenant that I have made with you, you shall not forget, nor shall you fear other gods. 39 But the Lord your God you shall fear; and He will deliver you from the hand of all your enemies." 40 However they did not obey, but they followed their former rituals. 41 So these nations feared the Lord, yet served their carved images; also their children and their children's children have continued doing as their fathers did, even to this day. (2 Kings 17)
Jeremiah lived in Jerusalem and spoke to the two Southern tribes nearly 100 years later. His immediate audience was the people in Jerusalem but he speaks also to the people of Israel as if there all had ready access to daily happenings in Jerusalem (Television, short-wave radio, or Internet connections?).
Jeremiah says Israel is Shameless: “They say, ‘If a man divorces his wife, And she goes from him, And becomes another man’s, May he return to her again?’ Would not that land be greatly polluted? But you have played the harlot with many lovers; Yet return to Me,” says the Lord. 2 “Lift up your eyes to the desolate heights and see: Where have you not lain with men? By the road you have sat for them Like an Arabian in the wilderness; And you have polluted the land, With your harlotries and your wickedness.
3 Therefore the showers have been withheld, And there has been no latter rain. You have had a harlot’s forehead; You refuse to be ashamed. 4 Will you not from this time cry to Me, ‘My Father, You are the guide of my youth? 5 Will He remain angry forever? Will He keep it to the end?’ Behold, you have spoken and done evil things, As you were able.”
God also spoke to Jeremiah: 6 The Lord said also to me in the days of Josiah the king: “Have you seen what backsliding Israel has done? She has gone up on every high mountain and under every green tree, and there played the harlot. 7 And I said, after she had done all these things, ‘Return to Me.’ But she did not return.
And her treacherous sister Judah saw it. 8 Then I saw that for all the causes for which backsliding Israel had committed adultery, I had put her away and given her a certificate of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but went and played the harlot also. 9 So it came to pass, through her casual harlotry, that she defiled the land and committed adultery with stones and trees. 10 And yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah has not turned to Me with her whole heart, but in pretense,” says the Lord.
Rather than preaching only to the choir in Jerusalem, God asked Jeremiah to reach out to all of Israel, --scattered abroad--urging them to come to Him! Jerusalemites had the great Temple of Solomon, the Levitical priesthood, the Feasts and Festivals, and the outward form of a government by a King ruling from Jerusalem. The defection of the Northern Tribes after the death of Solomon retained rule by a king (in Samaria, not in Jerusalem), plus two religious centers (at Bethel and Dan), where a golden calf was central and the officiating priests misrepresented God big time. Today's equivalent would be membership in a sound congregation, paying taxes on time, some knowledge of the Bible--but "dead orthodoxy." Jeremiah spoke to Israel about her spiritual adultery. All of Israel was the "wife of Yahweh," by covenant. Knowing about God but not obeying Him, not trusting Him daily, is hypocrisy, and God hates hypocrisy.
Outsiders see this hypocrisy in professing Christians often and want nothing to do with God -- that is, if trusting Him will make them like the Jerusalem Orthodoxy -- or like us today. A similar situation could be seen in the hippie movement, c. 1967. The young rebels who came to San Francisco with "a flower in their hair," hoped to see, at last, who the real Jesus really was. Their home church back in Kansas was probably lacking the basics and already apostate, and many hippies did find the real Jesus in the Jesus Movement that followed the demise of hippiedom. It's been downhill for the the church in America ever since. We live in big time denial today.
Unlike Israel we don't have a marriage covenant with God as does Israel. The nation Israel is the "wife of Yahweh" but the true church being called out now by Jesus is "the Bride of Christ." The. Old Testament book of Hosea vividly depicts the failed marriage of Israel, but God's persistence in saving their marriage long term which will be happening soon in our day.
As a side note, Israel was-scattered from their land after the Destruction of the Second Temple in AD 70. This tragic event is called the Diaspora. Yet God promised He would be to them "a little synagogue" until the time of their return for their Final Redemption.
The United States was founded by mostly real followers of Jesus who wanted to know Him better and to get away from the dreary state churches and corrupt governments of Europe. Population wise, we're way more ethnically diverse now! Four hundred years after Plymouth Rock only about 6% of Americans know Jesus personally though about 35% claim to belong to the God of the Bible nominally, culturally--for better or for worse.
The situation for us is very much like we see acted out in Jeremiah! Israel and her chequred 4000 year history is a model against whom God judges all nations. Israel is the Template, like it or not! The key to the Final Redemption of Israel is in the hands of the Remnant. That's true of Israel and it's also key for the revival of the languishing church in America. If Israel was, and is, the adulterous wife of God, then the church in America is mostly niow dentified with spiritual prostitution, with the "Great Harlot." Motives matter for everyone.
Jeremiah's calling (he was about thirty when called), was on site until he was an old man, and probably martyred in Egypt about 40 years later by his own countrymen, after the Fall of Jerusalem in on the Ninth of Av 586 BC.
11 Then the Lord said to me, “Backsliding Israel has shown herself more righteous than treacherous Judah. 12 Go and proclaim these words toward the north, and say:
‘Return, backsliding Israel,’ says the Lord;‘I will not cause My anger to fall on you. For I am merciful,’ says the Lord; ‘I will not remain angry forever. 13 Only acknowledge your iniquity, That you have transgressed against the Lord your God, And have scattered your charms,To alien deities under every green tree, And you have not obeyed My voice,’ says the Lord.
14 “Return, O backsliding children,” says the Lord; “for I am married to you. I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion. 15 And I will give you shepherds according to My heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.
16 “Then it shall come to pass, when you are multiplied and increased in the land in those days,” says the Lord, “that they will say no more, ‘The ark of the covenant of the Lord.’It shall not come to mind, nor shall they remember it, nor shall they visit it, nor shall it be made anymore. 17 “At that time Jerusalem shall be called The Throne of the Lord, and all the nations shall be gathered to it, to the name of the Lord, to Jerusalem. No more shall they follow the dictates of their evil hearts.18 “In those days the house of Judah shall walk with the house of Israel, and they shall come together out of the land of the north to the land that I have given as an inheritance to your fathers.
19 “But I said: ‘How can I put you among the children, And give you a pleasant land, A beautiful heritage of the hosts of nations?’ “And I said: ‘You shall call Me, “My Father,” And not turn away from Me.’ 20 Surely, as a wife treacherously departs from her husband, So have you dealt treacherously with Me, O house of Israel,” says the Lord. 21 A voice was heard on the desolate heights, Weeping and supplications of the children of Israel. For they have perverted their way; They have forgotten the Lord their God. 22 “Return, you backsliding children, And I will heal your backslidings.”
“Indeed we do come to You, For You are the Lord our God. 23 Truly, in vain is salvation hoped for from the hills, And from the multitude of mountains; Truly, in the Lord our God Is the salvation of Israel. 24 For shame has devoured The labor of our fathers from our youth—Their flocks and their herds,Their sons and their daughters. 25 We lie down in our shame, And our reproach covers us. For we have sinned against the Lord our God, We and our fathers, From our youth even to this day, And have not obeyed the voice of the Lord our God.”
If you return, O Israel, declares the Lord, to me you should return. If you remove your detestable things from my presence, and do not waver, 2 and if you swear, ‘As the Lord lives,’ in truth, in justice, and in righteousness, then nations shall bless themselves in him, and in him shall they glory.”
After His compassionate appeal to all the scatter disenfranchised people in the Ten Northern tribes, "Israel", the Lord asks the folks back home in Jerusalem to also repent.
For thus says the Lord to the men of Judah and Jerusalem: “Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns. 4 Circumcise yourselves to the Lord; remove the foreskin of your hearts,
O men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem; lest my wrath go forth like fire, and burn with none to quench it, because of the evil of your deeds.”
11 At that time it will be said to this people and to Jerusalem, “A hot wind from the bare heights in the desert toward the daughter of my people, not to winnow or cleanse, 12 a wind too full for this comes for me. Now it is I who speak in judgment upon them.”
13 Behold, he comes up like clouds; his chariots like the whirlwind; his horses are swifter than eagles— woe to us, for we are ruined!
14 O Jerusalem, wash your heart from evil, that you may be saved. How long shall your wicked thoughts lodge within you? 15 For a voice declares from Dan and proclaims trouble from Mount Ephraim. 16 Warn the nations that he is coming; announce to Jerusalem, “Besiegers come from a distant land; they shout against the cities of Judah. 17 Like keepers of a field are they against her all around, because she has rebelled against me, declares the Lord. 18 Your ways and your deeds have brought this upon you. This is your doom, and it is bitter; it has reached your very heart.”
19 My anguish, my anguish! I writhe in pain! Oh the walls of my heart! My heart is beating wildly; I cannot keep silent, for I hear the sound of the trumpet, the alarm of war.
20 Crash follows hard on crash; the whole land is laid waste. Suddenly my tents are laid waste, my curtains in a moment. 21 How long must I see the standard and hear the sound of the trumpet? 22 “For my people are foolish; they know me not; they are stupid children; they have no understanding. They are ‘wise’—in doing evil! But how to do good they know not.”
23 I looked on the earth, and behold, it was without form and void; and to the heavens, and they had no light. 24 I looked on the mountains, and behold, they were quaking, and all the hills moved to and fro. 25 I looked, and behold, there was no man, and all the birds of the air had fled. 26 I looked, and behold, the fruitful land was a desert, and all its cities were laid in ruins before the Lord, before his fierce anger.
27 For thus says the Lord, “The whole land shall be a desolation; yet I will not make a full end. 28 “For this the earth shall mourn, and the heavens above be dark; for I have spoken; I have purposed; I have not relented, nor will I turn back.” 29 At the noise of horseman and archer every city takes to flight; they enter thickets; they climb among rocks; all the cities are forsaken, and no man dwells in them.
30 And you, O desolate one, (Jerusalem) what do you mean that you dress in scarlet, that you adorn yourself with ornaments of gold, that you enlarge your eyes with paint? In vain you beautify yourself. Your lovers despise you; they seek your life. 31 For I heard a cry as of a woman in labor, anguish as of one giving birth to her first child, the cry of the daughter of Zion gasping for breath, stretching out her hands, “Woe is me! I am fainting before murderers. (Jeremiah 3,4)
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels,
but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.
2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge,
and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor,
and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.
4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;
5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil;
6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth;
7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
8 Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail;
whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.
9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part.
10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.
11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child,
I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
12 For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face.
Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.
13 And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Music: On that Great Judgment Morning
June 17, 2021