Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Prophets And Kings, Day 101. Israel Exiled

Prophets And Kings
Day 101
Israel Exiled

Yesterday the king of Assyria came to squash the rebellion of King Hoshea who hads stopped paying tribute to him. Assyria laid siege to Israel for three years before being able to breach the city walls of Samaria. The king of Assyria put King Hoshea in prison and carried the people of Israel away.

2 KINGS 17:7-23
"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." (2 Kings 17:7a) When the ten northern tribes broke away from Judah and Benjamin, the first king of Israel, Jeroboam I, set up two golden calves and said to the nation that these were the gods that brought them out of Egypt. From the very first day, the northern kingdom was on the wrong track and it has only taken about two hundred years for the nation, once so powerful and mighty, to fall apart.

"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." (2 Kings 17:7a-8) By worshiping calves as a stand-in for God, as a stand-in for going down to Jerusalem, it was just one small step into complete idolatry. The people next took up the religious practices of the Canaanite tribes.

"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." (2 Kings 17:9-10) The altars and poles would have been public sins but here the author accuses the people of secret sins too. Maybe some weren't bold enough to bow down at a pagan altar in public but perhaps they kept small household idols. Maybe they didn't participate in the sex cult rituals or the heinous Canaanite practice of child sacrifice, but perhaps they were unfaithful to their spouses in secret or they mistreated their children. We don't know what their secret sins were but we can be certain God knows. Nothing is hidden from Him. "For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil." (Ecclesiastes 12:14)

"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 aroused the Lord's anger." (2 Kings 17:11) The people knew the Lord drove the Canaanites out before them because of sin. God had given the Canaanites many hundreds of years to repent but their sins grew increasingly wicked. Somehow God's people failed to consider that the same God who judged the Canaanites was going to judge them for these same sins. It occurs to me that, in a way, we all fail to realize this. Don't we sometimes fall for the lie that we are special? Don't we have a far more forgiving attitude toward ourselves than toward others? Don't we often deceive ourselves into thinking God will be more forgiving toward us than toward others? I think maybe being God's chosen people went to Israel's head. He brought them out of slavery and made a great nation of them, powerful and wealthy. At one time, simply the mention of the name of Israel made the nations around them tremble in fear. But once they were planted in the land, so great that their neighbors feared them, they began to see themselves as gods. I wonder if that hasn't happened to us here in America. God planted us here and made us great. He rewarded the desire of our founders to be able to worship Him freely. He built us up and made us powerful and wealthy. Just the mention of our name once made the nations tremble in fear...some nations still tremble in fear at the mention of our name. But are we beginning to see ourselves as gods, answerable to no one? If so, God is as capable of bringing us down as He was of bringing the northern kingdom of Israel down. No nation is too great to fall. Just think of all the empires that have come and gone since the beginning of time, their ancient cities in ruins, their idols shattered, their temples deserted. If we forsake the Lord our God, He is able to make America a heap of ruins just like those nations.

"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 ancestors 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 ancestors, who did not trust in the Lord their God. They rejected His decrees and the covenant He had made with their ancestors and the statutes He had warned them to keep. 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.'" (2 Kings 17:12-15) We mustn't lose sight of the fact that for two hundred years the Lord sent prophets to His people. He pleaded with them to repent. He gave them opportunity after opportunity to turn back to Him and be made whole. From the very beginning the northern kingdom began to turn away from the Lord but He appealed to the hearts of the people for two centuries before bringing the harsh discipline of the Assyrians upon them.

"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 sought omens and sold themselves to do evil in the eyes of the Lord, arousing His anger." (2 Kings 17:16-17) Divination and witchcraft had long ago been condemned and forbidden by God but the people persisted in it. These practices still exist today and are marketed to us in the form of entertainment. Ouija boards are sold as games in the toy section of department stores. Horoscopes are in all the major newspapers. While driving through most any town we can see signs advertising places to get our fortunes told by palm reading or Tarot cards. I don't care if it makes me sound old-fashioned when I denounce all these things as witchcraft. We ought not dabble in the occult, no matter how prettily it's packaged. Satan has to disguise it as entertainment, for how many would be attracted to something labeled "occult" or "witchcraft"? Some would, but most of us wouldn't. 

Being a Christian doesn't make us safe when we mess with witchcraft. I know a Christian person who started out reading the daily horoscope for fun, as many do, and progressed from there to casting charts and using them as divination, allowing these charts to regulate every aspect of their life. I would not have believed it if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes, how a "little" thing like reading the horoscope in the newspaper led to a person falling deeply under the influence of evil, but as an eyewitness to this I have no choice but to believe it. The spiritual world is as real as anything you can see with your own eyes or touch with your own hands. It's nothing to trifle with. I once tried to reason with this person about their obsession and was verbally attacked so viciously that I was afraid I was going to be physically attacked. There was a scary near-madness in this person's eyes. It was the same type of look you might see if you try to take drugs or alcohol away from an addict. By the grace of God, this person ended up eventually renouncing astrology and coming back to the church. The stronghold was broken by the power of God. 

Another subject I want to touch on before we move on has to do with ghost hunting. I've viewed some of these popular shows and I know what they're about. I know some businesses have popped up that allows people go on excursions to cemeteries and whatnot trying to speak to spirits, calling out to the spirit world trying to get someone or something to answer, trying to get a voice on tape or an image on film. This is yet another thing Satan has disguised as entertainment or, worse yet, a thing he has used to play on people's emotions by making them believe they can speak to their departed grandmother. I don't feel anything in the Scriptures lends any support to the idea that the spirits of the departed hang around. Instead the Bible clearly states that it is appointed for each person to die and after that comes the judgment. (Hebrews 9:27) Also Scripture assures us that when a Christian dies, he or she is absent from the body and present with the Lord. (2 Corinthians 5:8) When we die, our business on this earth is concluded. We go to another destination and we remain there. Personally, I think at least 99% of all paranormal-seeming events are natural occurrences. They could be electrical surges, weather phenomenon, and so forth and so on. But in the small percentages of cases where something supernatural is really occurring, I don't believe it's our departed grandmother; it's something of a demonic nature. It may claim to be our departed grandmother. It may claim to be the spirit of a young child who died tragically. It may claim to be any number of non-threatening entities. But the Lord Jesus Christ told us that Satan is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44) The Apostle Paul warned us that Satan masquerades as an angel of light. (2 Corinthians 11:14) 

We must not attempt to interact with the spirit world. The only spirit we should concern ourselves with is the Holy Spirit and although Christians cannot be possessed (because the Holy Spirit indwells us) we can be oppressed by spiritual darkness and depression when we dabble in the occult. The house of the person who was caught up in astrology felt dark and oppressive to me. It was like the air was too thick. Just walking through the door made me feel a deep sense of despair. Even the person addicted to astrology remarked on how bad the house felt. I don't even like discussing these matters because the last thing I would want to do is pique anyone's interest in the occult, but I do want to give an urgent warning. This stuff is real. The Bible tells us it's real. It's unhealthy to have an interest in it and the best thing we can do is fix our minds on Jesus Christ and trust Him with anything our enemy the devil tries to throw at us. There's nothing to be gained in dwelling on the occult or fearing what might be going on in the spiritual realm. Our job is to work on our relationship with our Redeemer, to learn of Him and to live our lives in a way that honors Him. The One who conquered death and hell and the grave is more than able to protect us from anything or anyone who comes against us.

Because Israel turned from God to useless idols and to the occult, He removed them from the land where He had planted them. "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. When He tore Israel away from the house of David, they made Jeroboam son of Nebat their king. Jeroboam enticed Israel away from following the Lord and caused them to commit a great sin. The Israelites persisted in all the sins of Jeroboam and did not turn away from them until the Lord removed them from His presence, as He had warned through all His servants the prophets. So the people of Israel were taken from their homeland into exile in Assyria, and they are still there." (2 Kings 17:18-23) When they sacrificed to idols, the people were actually sacrificing to demons, though they deceived themselves into thinking this wasn't so. The Bible tells us that when sacrifices were made to any but the God of Israel, they were being made to demons. (1 Corinthians 10:20) There is no god but God, anything else is a lie. It is for this lie and their eager adherence to it that the Lord allowed Assyria to conquer Israel.

There is a lesson in this for us all. Our focus should always be on following our Lord, individually and as a nation. Drifting away from Him will cause us harm. I know lately I've had a lot to say about the urgency of praying for our nation but the downfall of Israel in the Bible keeps driving home the point that any nation who turns from God is in danger of falling. We need to pray for America like never before. Who knows what might happen if God's people prayed faithfully every day for our country? He might pour blessings out upon us that our minds can't even imagine.

No comments:

Post a Comment