Thursday, May 19, 2016

Prophets And Kings, Day 102. Samaria Resettled By Foreigners

Prophets And Kings
Day 102
Samaria Resettled By Foreigners

The king of Assyria haves conquered Israel and taken her people away. Now him resettles their capitol city of Samaria by sending in foreign people to occupy it.

2 KINGS 17:24-41
"The king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Kuthah, Avva, Hamath and Sepharvaim and settled them in the towns of Samaria to replace the Israelites. They took over Samaria and lived in its towns." (2 Kings 17:24) The king wants Samaria populated or else it will fall into ruins. Also, leaving it empty might encourage people not subject to Assyria to move in and occupy it. The king wants Samaria settled by people who will be loyal subjects to him.

"When they first lived there, they did not worship the Lord; so He sent lions among them and they killed some of the people. It was reported to the king of Assyria: 'The people you deported and resettled in the towns of Samaria do not know what the god of that country requires. He has sent lions among them, which are killing them off, because the people do not know what he requires.'" (2 Kings 17:25-26) Some scholars think the roving bands of lions were attracted to the battle scenes in and around the city. They think they lions were drawn to the smell of blood and decomposition. It must have been a bloody, hard-fought battle because it took Assyria three years of siege before they were able to breach the walls of the city and no doubt the soldiers of Samaria fought fiercely and to the death while protecting the last remaining piece of their territory. 

The messengers sent to the king believe in many gods because they are from a pagan nation. They know Israel had a God but, sadly, there isn't enough evidence in Israel to tell the settlers much about Him. This reminds me of a question I once heard that went something like this, "If you were accused of being a Christian, how much evidence would there be to convict you?" At this time in Israel's history, there is not much evidence to convict them of worshiping the living God. The settlers are confronted with many confusing artifacts. On the one hand, there seems to be a God credited with rescuing Israel from slavery in Egypt, but on the other hand there are two golden calves that Jeroboam I set up to represent this one God. There are also many idols throughout the land, along with pagan altars and Asherah poles. No wonder the settlers had no clue who the God of Israel was or what He required of mankind.

"Then the king of Assyria gave this order: 'Have one of the priests you took captive from Samaria go back to live there and teach the people what the god of the land requires.' So one of the priests who had been exiled from Samaria came to live in Bethel and taught them how to worship the Lord." (2 Kings 17:27-28) The priest settles in Bethel, the place named "House Of God" by the patriarch Jacob. 

Unfortunately, the advice of a priest is only as good as the faith of a priest. The people of Samaria have corrupted the worship of the living God by bowing down to golden calves in place of going to the temple at Jerusalem to worship. When the priest comes to teach the people the worship of the God of Israel, he is teaching them the practices of Jeroboam I, not the true law of the Lord. This results in little to no genuine conversions among the foreigners, who simply add the God of Israel to their own gods. "Nevertheless, each national group made its own gods in the several towns where they settled, and set them up in the shrines the people of Samaria had made at the high places. The people of Babylon made Sukkoth Benoth, those from Kuthah made Nergal, and those from Hamath made Ashima; the Avvites made Nibhaz and Tartak, and the Sepharvites burned their children in the fire as sacrifices to Adrammelek and Anammelek, the gods of Sepharvaim. They worshiped the Lord, but they also appointed all sorts of their own people to officiate for them as priests in the shrines at the high places. They worshiped the Lord, but they also served their own gods in accordance with the customs of the nations from which they had been brought." (2 Kings 17:29-33) 

What could have been a marvelous opportunity to come to knowledge of the living God results in God being treated as if He is equal to idols. He is given no more importance than any other god. If the priest had returned to the faith of his forefathers and had taught the true word of God and the true worship of God, all these settlers might have been converted. Imagine what a revival could have broken out if these people had the opportunity to know the one true God! Instead the priest teaches them the practices Israel had fallen into, the practices that led to her downfall, and to these foreigners the God of Israel looks like any other god. They are willing to show Him some respect only because they want to dwell safely in the land, but they are not willing to forsake the gods they grew up with.

At the time the author penned today's passage, all these idolatrous practices were still going on. "To this day they persist in their former practices. They neither worship the Lord nor adhere to the decrees and regulations, the laws and commands that the Lord gave to the descendants of Jacob, whom He named Israel. When the Lord made a covenant with the Israelites, He commanded them: 'Do not worship any other gods or bow down to them, serve them or sacrifice to them. But the Lord, who brought you up out of Egypt with mighty power and outstretched arm, is the one you must worship. To Him you shall bow down and to Him offer sacrifices. You must always be careful to keep the decrees and regulations, the laws and commands He wrote for you. Do not worship other gods. Do not forget the covenant I have made with you, and do not worship other gods. Rather, worship the Lord your God; it is He who will deliver you from the hand of all your enemies.'" (2 Kings 17:34-39) 

Israel is the only nation that God ever made a covenant with, the only nation God spoke to with His own voice from the mountaintop, offering them eternal status before Him as a nation, offering them eternal occupation of the land if they would only remain faithful to Him. They agreed to the terms of the covenant and now have broken it. God has kept His part of the bargain but they have not kept theirs. Because the people forsook Him in favor of other gods, the Lord is not bound to keep them in the promised land. They have broken the condition He set forth for dwelling safely in the territory. "They would not listen, however, but persisted in their former practices. Even while these people were worshiping the Lord, they were serving their idols. To this day their children and grandchildren continue to do as their ancestors did." (2 Kings 17:40-41) Because their souls longed for foreign gods, to a foreign nation the Lord has exiled them so they may learn that He alone is God. The God who brought them out of Egypt is the only God who can rescue them from the Assyrians. They will relearn who He is, not sitting safely in a land flowing with milk and honey, but in the furnace of affliction. They will cry out to Him from Assyria just as they once cried out to Him from Egypt. Living among the useless idols of Assyria just as they once lived among the useless idols of Egypt, they will look up and remember the only God who can save.

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