2 Kings 17 – Week Eleven
Would you be willing to admit that you do dumb things from time to time? Things that looking back you think to yourself, “If only…”
I go for a walk on most days, and I have a routine for getting ready. I always carry a bottle of water, a sweat towel, my phone, and Airpods. Before leaving, I’ll spray down with sunscreen and apply sunscreen to my face and lips. I’ll fire up the music on my phone and head out the door and walk for about an hour.
If you were here last week, I mentioned that I had pulled a muscle in my back and was feeling some discomfort. I had altered my walking routine a bit to allow my back to heal. Late in the week, I had been sitting for a few hours one morning working on the lesson and decided to take a break from studying and go for a walk. I sprayed on the sunscreen, put on my walking clothes, and my tennis shoes, grabbed my Airpods, phone, water, and towel and I saw the tube of IcyHot that I had been applying to my back. I decided it would be a good idea to go ahead and apply a layer of IcyHot before heading out. It felt good and I was thinking I was all set to walk. I suddenly remembered I hadn’t applied sunscreen to my face so I grab the tube of sunscreen, squeezed it out, and smeared it all over my face.
I had not even made it to the end of my driveway before my face was on fire. For a split second, I couldn’t figure out why and then it occurred to me that I still had IcyHot on my hands when I had applied the sunscreen to my face. I figured it would be alright and the burning and stinging would subside. What I didn’t take into account, though, was that as I walked, I would work up a sweat which trickle IcyHot-laced moisture into my eyes.
As I walked, not only was my face burning but so were my eyes. I was continuously wiping my face to avoid the scorching effect of the IcyHot getting into my eyes. The more I walked, the more I sweated, the more I wiped, and the dumber I felt. I know that IcyHot burns. I’m very well aware that one of the last places you want IcyHot is anywhere near your eyes. Just in case I wasn’t aware of that fact, there is a warning on the side of the tube: Keep away from eyes.
I had been warned, but not only that. I knew better. You see this wasn’t the first time I’ve done this. There have been other times that I’ve applied IcyHot or BenGay or BioFreeze and then rubbed my eye. I would experience great discomfort and think, “I’ll never do that again” but then I do.
That’s a silly story about the consequences of our choices. There are still consequences when we know better and still do the wrong thing, whether we do so by choice or by impulse. The bottom line is we all do dumb stuff even when we know better.
We first started this series by discussing King Solomon and his disobedience to God. God had advised King Solomon that since he had failed to keep God’s commandments and had resorted to allowing his household of multiple wives and concubines worship other gods, then the kingdom would be divided under his son’s reign and only a small portion would remain with the family of David. Solomon had brought shame and the wrath of God into the kingdom.
Sure enough, God kept His promise and during the reign of Solomon’s son, the kingdom splits. Ten tribes go with a new leader, Jeroboam, leaving only two tribes with Rehoboam.
Jeroboam is the first of 19 kings of the Northern Kingdom that was called Israel. For more than 200 years, the Israelites living in the Northern Kingdom were led by evil, sadistic rulers who did anything but worship God. Not one of them was good.
Jeroboam, you may recall, didn’t want his people returning to Jerusalem for worship, so had two golden calves erected. 1 Kings 12:28b NIV “He said to the people, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.” 29 One he set up in Bethel, and the other in Dan. 30 And this thing became a sin; the people came to worship the one at Bethel and went as far as Dan to worship the other.”
Of course, the two golden calves we know were just plain wrong. But the idea that a separate place of worship outside of Jerusalem be made available doesn’t sound so harmful, right? We have the convenience of many churches to choose from at which to worship. Goodness knows how many churches we each pass on our way here every Sunday morning. But things were quite different back then. God had specified where the Israelites were to worship Him.
Deuteronomy 12:1 CSB “Be careful to follow these statutes and ordinances in the land that the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has given you to possess all the days you live on the earth. 2 Destroy completely all the places where the nations that you are driving out worship their gods—on the high mountains, on the hills, and under every green tree. 3 Tear down their altars, smash their sacred pillars, burn their Asherah poles, cut down the carved images of their gods, and wipe out their names from every place. 4 Don’t worship the Lord your God this way. 5 Instead, turn to the place the Lord your God chooses from all your tribes to put his name for his dwelling and go there. 6 You are to bring there your burnt offerings and sacrifices, your tenths and personal contributions, your vow offerings and freewill offerings, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks. 7 You will eat there in the presence of the Lord your God and rejoice with your household in everything you do, because the Lord your God has blessed you.”
God tells the Israelites that there is a specific place that He has chosen from all of the lands, and it is there that they are to bring their offerings and sacrifices. This is where they are to worship. He tells them to destroy all of the other places where pagan gods had been worshipped and He specifically says, “Don’t worship the Lord your God this way. Instead, turn to the place the Lord your God chooses to put his name for his dwelling and go there.”
In looking at a map of Jerusalem during Biblical times, you see that the city is comprised of two valleys that cradle the outside and there is a valley that runs through the center. Just above the tip of the valleys is the temple area. It may or may not surprise you to know that the shape that the three valleys along with the area of the temple actually form a Hebrew letter known as “Shin” (pronounced “sheen”). It is the 21st letter of the Hebrew alphabet. “For Jews, Shin ש is the letter that is used to denote the unspeakable name of “HaShem” or “The Name.” It is also the letter that represents “Shaddai” or “El Shadai,” another name for Yahweh. “The ש [Shin] stands high among the Sacred Letters because it represents two Names of God: … the All-Sufficient, Unlimited One and … Peace.” (The Wisdom in the Hebrew Alphabet, Rabbi Michael L. Munk, (c)1998, p. 207.)”[i]
So when God said that He would put His name where they were to worship, He meant it!
For Jeroboam and the other kings that followed him that allowed golden calves, Asherah poles, altars and high places to serve as worship areas not only for God but for the pagan gods was 100% against what God had commanded.
The kings and the people of the Northern Kingdom were separated from the Southern Kingdom by God because of King Solomon’s disobedience, but they responded by separating themselves from the very specific place of worship that God had ordained. That physical separation led to their spiritual separation from God as well.
Over and over, the kings of the Northern Kingdom are described as evil. The first king, “Jeroboam did not abandon his evil way” (1 Kings 13:33 NASB). Nadab, the next king “He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, following the ways of his father and committing the same sin his father had caused Israel to commit. (1 Kings 15:26 NIV). Years later, Omri takes the throne, but Scripture has this to say about him. “But Omri did evil in the eyes of the Lord and sinned more than all those before him.” (1 Kings 16:25 NIV)
We couldn’t possibly leave out King Ahab. “Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him.” (1 Kings 16:30 NIV)
Fast-forward to Israel’s last king, Hoshea.
2 Kings 17:1 ISV “During the twelfth year of the reign of King Ahaz of Judah, Elah’s son Hoshea became king over Israel for nine years in Samaria. 2 He practiced what the Lord considered to be evil, though not like the kings of Israel who had preceded him.”
Hoshea was evil, but not as evil as those who had ruled before him. I don’t know if that’s a compliment or not. It’s like being the most well-behaved prisoner on death row.
They were all described as being evil, but I have to wonder. Did they see themselves as bad people? Did they justify their actions? Did they compare themselves to one another to gauge whether they were evil or not?
Several times the phrase “evil in the eyes of the Lord” is used. That is a key phrase that we don’t use very often nowadays. That seems to be more of a “Bible-time” phrase. But isn’t it still applicable? Somehow, we’ve forgotten that it is God who defines what is sin. We’ve redefined sin so that it’s more comfortable for us. We’ve assigned levels of severity to sin in order to minimize our habitual sins. So we may gossip and tell lies from time to time, but at least we haven’t murdered anyone. I know I shouldn’t “fill in the blank”, but I’m still a good person. We make excuses. We justify our actions. We shoot an arrow and then draw the bullseye around it to make ourselves think we’re right in line with how God wants us to live. But it doesn’t work that way. And it didn’t work like that for the Israelites living in the Northern Kingdom, either.
2 Kings 17:5-6 NKJV “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.”
The Israelites living in the Northern Kingdom were taken captive and then they were disbursed throughout many regions. These people who had separated themselves from the other Israelites in the Southern Kingdom now became separated from one another.
Verse 7 of 2 Kings 17 tells us the reason this happened. “These things happened because the Israelites had sinned against the Lord their God.” The Israelites had done some pretty dumb things and now it was time for consequences. They had done dumb things even when they knew better!
2 Kings 17:7b ERV “And it was the Lord who brought the Israelites out of the land of Egypt! He saved them from the power of Pharaoh, the king of Egypt. But the Israelites began worshiping other gods. 8 They began doing the same things that other people did. And the Lord had forced those people to leave their land when the Israelites came. The Israelites also chose to be ruled by kings. 9 The Israelites secretly did things against the Lord their God, and those things were wrong!”
Indulge me for a moment while I “modernize” those verses.
And it was the Lord who brought the people out of the darkness. He saved them from the power of sin by the blood of Jesus Christ. But the people began worshipping other gods and giving their priority to other things. They began living their lives the same way that other people did. And the Lord had come and made a way for them, had cleared the path for those who had chosen Him. But the people chose to be ruled by anything by God. The people secretly did things against the Lord their God, and those things were wrong. The people knew that but made excuses for their behavior.
Ring any bells?
Verses 9 through 17 of 2 Kings 17 enumerate the wrong things that the Israelites did individually and as a collective group. There was mention of actually building altars to worship pagan gods, practicing witchcraft, and burning children as a form of worship to pagan gods. But look at what was given the number one spot on the list of indictments. “They worshiped other gods.” (2 Kings 17:7b GNT) God was merciful in that He sent prophets and messengers to warn them to abandon their evil ways, but they were stubborn and refused to listen. The end result is found in verse 18 “The Lord was angry with the Israelites and banished them from his sight, leaving only the kingdom of Judah.” (2 Kings 17:18 ERV)
The Northern Kingdom became a ghost town. God’s chosen people had neglected to make God a priority and the Promised Land was no longer theirs. This was the end of the Northern Kingdom. The Israelites willfully and purposefully sinned against God. They had either forgotten or belittled ALL that God had done for them throughout the years. Their first step in the wrong direction came from resisting God and that was the root of all their sin.
Beth Moore says, “When we resist God, we draw near to Satan.”
Do you think the Israelites thought they were bad people? Do you think they realized how far away from God they had gone? I have to wonder if the Israelites still considered themselves to be righteous people because, after all, they were God’s chosen. But we must have Godliness before righteousness can take place. That’s the only order in which it can go.
2 Corinthians 5:21 NRSV “ For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
I have no doubts that it was always planned that Jesus would be our Savior. I don’t think that as sin slithered onto the scene, God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit had to go back to the drawing board to come up with plan B. But I do wonder if 2 Kings 17 and the capture of the Israelites, the displacement of God’s chosen people, and the uninhabited Promise Land didn’t cause the Holy Trinity to look at one another and nod in unison knowing that this moment proved that only the sacrifice of Jesus could save us. Because even God’s chosen people, living in God’s promised land, having benefitted from God’s provisions and God’s protection couldn’t make Him a priority.
We read 1 & 2 Kings with disgust because how could they have forgotten how God had rescued them and provided for them and done so much for them and yet, they still did dumb things that were sinful even when they knew better? How could they? But before we get too arrogant…
We’re all familiar with Romans 3:23 NIV “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” but let me read that verse and the verses around it from The Message.
Romans 3:21-24 MSG “21-24 But in our time something new has been added. What Moses and the prophets witnessed to all those years has happened. The God-setting-things-right that we read about has become Jesus-setting-things-right for us. And not only for us, but for everyone who believes in him. For there is no difference between us and them in this. Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ.”
It wasn’t just the Israelites who knew better and still did dumb things. Raise your hand if you’re feeling some conviction.
More than seven hundred years before the Israelites were evicted, God had given them their priorities in the form of the Ten Commandments. There was no haphazard order to the commandments. The first commandment is that we are to have no other gods before the one true God. The next three commandments are all about making Him a priority. Not making idols for ourselves; not using His name in vain, and keeping the Sabbath day holy.
I heard a quote this week that needs to be on billboards throughout the world.
“Church should be your excuse for missing everything else.” Unknown
God should always be first.
The remaining commandments are the things that call us to righteousness. These six commandments deal with how we relate to and treat one another. It’s pretty clear that if we love God and make Him a priority, then loving others comes more naturally. In fact, Jesus was directly asked which commandment was most important.
Matthew 22:37 ERV “Jesus answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and most important command. 39 And the second command is like the first: ‘Love your neighbor the same as you love yourself.’ 40 All of the law and the writings of the prophets take their meaning from these two commands.”
The Israelites had been given the Ten Commandments and do you recall how they responded?
Exodus 20:18 NASB “And all the people were watching and hearing the thunder and the lightning flashes, and the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it all, they trembled and stood at a distance. 19 Then they said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but do not have God speak to us, or we will die!” 20 However, Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you will not sin.”
God wanted the fear of Himself to remain with them so that they would not sin. But the Israelites had lost their fear of God and sinfulness took over. God had warned them, and He had been more than patient. God was provoked to anger, and the time came when enough was enough and God allowed the enemy of the Israelites to displace and scatter them.
The Israelites still believed in God, but they had lost their belief in His judgment. Somehow, they didn’t consider what they were doing to be all that bad. But it was and there were consequences to the dumb things they did.
What about you? Do you still believe in and fear the judgment of God?
I’ve got good news and I have not-so-good news. The good news is found in Colossians 2:13 ERV “You were spiritually dead because of your sins and because you were not free from the power of your sinful self. But God gave you new life together with Christ. He forgave all our sins. 14 Because we broke God’s laws, we owed a debt—a debt that listed all the rules we failed to follow. But God forgave us of that debt. He took it away and nailed it to the cross.” The not-so-good news is this. Our debts were nailed to the cross, but the consequences still remain. Let’s just hope that the consequences make you as uncomfortable as having IcyHot in your eyes and you learn your lesson.