This Is Why All This Has Happened To Us

As I have said so often before, Christians who do not read the Old Testament are robbing themselves. They are also robbing God, since a full 77 per cent of the Christian Bible is made up of the Hebrew Scriptures. We do an extreme disservice to ourselves and others by being ignorant of such a large portion of our Bible.

In today’s reading I was blown away by one particular chapter: 2 Kings 17. It is a goldmine not only of historical but spiritual truths and principles. It has so much for today’s church. It is a pity so few believers today make use of this treasure house, and all the rest of the 39 OT books.

So let me provide a bit of quick background material here. After Solomon the Kingdom was divided. Jeroboam leads Israel (the northern kingdom with Samaria as its capital), while his son Rehoboam leads Judah (the southern kingdom with Jerusalem as its capital).

All the kings of the two kingdoms are covered in I and II Kings, while II Chronicles covers only the kings of Judah. The chapter we are looking at here describes the reign of Hoshea, the last of the kings of Israel (vv. 1-6), then explains why Israel went into exile (vv. 7-23). Then an interesting report about Samaria is found in vv. 24-41.

Verse 7 begins this way: “All this took place because the Israelites had sinned against the LORD their God.” Christians are not deists; we believe God is actively involved in this world. When bad things happen on a big scale, it is always worth asking why these things might be.

True, we do not have prophets as Israel did in the OT to tell us exactly why various things are befalling us, but we can certainly gain some general principles by looking at what occurred to Israel. This text makes it clear that national calamity was directly tied up with sin and rebellion against God.

In these 15 verses we learn about all the horrible things the people did, even though God had delivered them from the bondage they were in back in Egypt. The aware Christian would do well not just to glide over these verses, but to ask God if there are some clear parallels with God’s people today.

We Christians have also been set free from the bondage of sin and self to follow God. But are we any better than ancient Israel? Read what Yahweh says about them: “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….”

The passage goes on to speak of this wretched idolatry in detail. We read over this and think, “Tsk, tsk, what a bunch of rebels those guys were.” But we never think for a moment that we are probably little different. We may be more sophisticated in our idolatry, but we are up to our ears in it nonetheless.

A.W. Pink reminds us that an idol is “anything which displaces God in my heart. It may be something which is quite harmless in itself, yet if it absorbs me, if it be given the first place in my affections and thoughts, it becomes an ‘idol’. It may be my business, a loved one, or my service for Christ. Any one or any thing which comes into competition with the Lord’s ruling me in a practical way, is an ‘idol’.”

So what is your idol, and mine? It would not hurt for all of us to stop whatever we are doing right now and get on our knees and ask God this question. I do not doubt for a moment that our evangelical Bible-believing churches today are just as full of idolaters as ancient Israel was back then.

The text continues, “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.”

There are of course plenty of modern-day equivalents of these sins as well. Sacrificing children was one of the most despicable of all practices which the Canaanites did, yet incredibly the Israelites ended up doing this as well. Today we do exactly the same, but we use euphemisms for it, like “a woman’s right to choose” or some such thing.

The two abominations are one and the same, and I have tied these two sins together elsewhere: billmuehlenberg.com/2006/09/01/a-different-perspective-on-abortion/

And what about all the Christians today who see nothing wrong with astrology, tarot cards, fortune telling, various New Age practices, and the like? All this was soundly condemned back then, but we are still doing it today. One expects non-Christians to be into all this stuff, but it is scandalous just how many so-called Christians dabble in all this as well.

One of the most wrenching parts of this chapter comes in the end. There we read about how the King of Assyria brought in all kinds of peoples “and settled them in the towns of Samaria to replace the Israelites”. Verse 25 says this: “When they first lived there, they did not worship the LORD; so he sent lions among them and they killed some of the people.”

So the King was told about this and he “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.”

The concluding verses are quite remarkable: “They would not listen, however, but persisted in their former practices. Even while these people were worshiping the LORD, they were serving their idols.” Wow, and how much does that sound like us today as well?

How many people are claiming to be followers of Christ yet persist in their former practices? How many folks name the name of Christ, and even tag along to church, yet have never renounced their former idols? How many think they can actually be a follower of Christ and at the same time still cling to their false gods and idols?

But we find this all over the place today. We have “churches” actually blessing abortion today. We have churches ordaining practicing homosexuals today. We have churches deeply involved with interfaith services where Muslims lead a church service and/or readings from a Koran occur. All this is perfectly described in the end of chapter 27.

I began by stating how vitally important that we Christians know our Old Testament, and know it well. I have stated before that reading a mere three chapters a day will get you through the Bible in a year. But there is a downside to all this as well.

The trouble is, Christians today can glibly read through these passages and not for a moment realise that they speak to us just as much today as they did to God’s people thousands of years ago. We can glide over these chapters without even seeing the slightest resemblance to our own situation today.

We may think that those guys were a pretty pathetic bunch, little realising that we are in so many ways exactly like them. So I do encourage every believer to get into the OT. But I also warn them: do not read it as simply a matter of ancient history only.

Read it as the living Word from the living God to the living church today. Learn its lessons and apply its truths. It has so very much to teach us. And if we refuse to read this gift to us, we will one day give an account for this. So read and be blessed. But also read and be challenged, convicted and persuaded when necessary.

[1372 words]

13 Replies to “This Is Why All This Has Happened To Us”

  1. Just a small correction: Jeroboam was the son of Nebat (an Ephramite) 1 Kings 11:26.

    I should add that your review of Anne Coulter’s book Demonic, convinced me to get it – even though I was only part way through Mark Steyn’s After America, at the time. 🙂

    Frank in Huntsville, Ontario, Canada

  2. Amen!

    2 Timothy 3:16-17 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

    And yes, I struggle with idolatry – it’s so easy to take my eyes off Jesus and put something else (often me) in his place.

    David Keen

  3. Bravo Bill! I couldn’t agree more. This principle should apply to the pulpit as well. I can’t recall the last time I heard a sermon series from the Old Testament.

    One question for you. I have never heard Jeroboam referred to as Solomon’s son. In 1 Kings 11:26 he is described as Solomon’s servant, the son of Nebat, an Ephraimite. And in verses 35 and 36 God says He is giving one tribe to Solomon’s son (Rehoboam) and the other tribes to Jeroboam. Am I missing something?

    Thanks for your insightful and bold proclamation of Biblical truth.

    John Moss

  4. Thanks Bill. A timely reminder to read and absorb the OT, and apply it to our world today. It applies for two basic reasons:
    1. God has not changed (cf. Malachi 2:16), although people imagine that He has, hence all the calls for a “new theology”, a “rethinking process” in regard to a host of issues etc.
    2. Man has not changed: he is still the depraved sinner he always was, and left to himself he will always go into deeper and deeper sin. The doctrine of original sin, so much derided and rejected, needs to be rehailitated.

    The story of the ten northern tribes illustrates what I was contending for a couple of weeks ago, that today’s Western churches are on the whole in such a state of apostasy and corruption that there is no turning back. Israel had enjoyed its revivals back in the days of Samuel and David, but those days were long gone by the C8th B.C. Prophet after prophet had warned, urged, and pleaded with the people, and particularly Amos, Hosea, and all those named in the books of Kings, from Ahijah onwards, and their appeals had been rejected (2 Kings 17:13-14). And so the end came, although they were in covenant with God. Hosea through the names of his children by Gomer proclaimed the end of that covenant relationship (Hosea 1:6-9). In other words, Israel had gone beyond the point of no return.
    The same applied to the Jewish state of the Second Temple period. Our Lord told its leaders the parable of the wicked tenants (Matt.21:33-45), the punch line of which was, “the kingdom of God shall be taken away from you and given to a people producing the fruit thereof” Matt.21:43). Again, the Jews had gone beyond the point of no return and judgment was the only prospect, despite being in covenant with God.

    Now my argument is, if that was the case with Israel and the Jewish state, i.e. passing the point of no return, which had the covenant relationship, a fortiori it applies to Gentile nations like ourselves, America, Britain, Europe, which have no such relationship. I believe that our nation, and other Western nations, have indeed passed the point of no return and the only prospect is judgment, and its churches will also have their candlesticks removed (cf. Rev.2:5).

    On what do I base this doleful prediction? Not because I claim Divine omniscience, as you implied a couple of weeks ago, but by looking at the pattern of Divine operations as revealed in the Scriptures. I base it on the very evidence you adduce above, and read it in the light of both Biblical history, and Church history. On the latter, observe how the churches of the early period in the Bible lands, North Africa, and Spain all fell under the swathe of conquering Islam in the C7th and C8th. Why? The answer is clear to any who studies church history: their introversion, their paganised character, their departure from the NT Gospel, their loss of a true mission, and so on. We have no reason to expect any different, for the very reasons you express above.

    Murray R. Adamthwaite

  5. Hi Bill. The terms old and new testaments are a bad choice, it is one continuous expanding revelation. A christian without the old is like a man without a head. He has nothing to think with, no eyes to see where he has been or where he is going and no ears to hear what God is saying.
    Regards for the week.
    Rob Withall

  6. Yes Murray, and 3. satan has not changed. he still says “You can be as Gods ” –create life — end life — decide what is evil and what is good –. Mugs that we are, we’re still falling for the same old line!
    Israel’s story is our story and you know what they say about those who refuse to learn the lessons of history!!
    Despite that sad truth, our future is in God’s care so I know we can trust Him for the ultimate outcome.
    “My plans for you are peace and not disaster” scripture says, so we’ll get there even if the road is long and hard, — even if we don’t reach that peace in this life — eventually we’ll get there if we’re faithful.
    Anna Cook

  7. I am planning from January for the first time in more than a decade of reading the whole Bible from beginning to end again. It will be refreshing. One impression I got was that there were times that God cared nothing for sacrifices but just that his people would just repent, leave their ways and come back to them. That’s what I try and do every day. I am thinking constantly of how I can improve, taking my Christianity more seriously and of course rely on God’s Grace and not cheapening it either.
    Carl Strehlow

  8. Interesting point Carl. We are studying Isaiah this year at Bible Study Fellowship – an international Bible Study freely available to all. Studying the book of Isaiah has been one of the most beneficial things I have ever done in my Christian walk. My homework today was on Isaiah 58, regarding the kind of fast that God requires; not a mere ritual, but a permanent fast from unrighteousness – something we can all take a lesson from even today.

    Annette Nestor

  9. I believe we are at a time in this nation when God is telling us to stand up and separate ourselves as Christians because we we are slipping into the same state as what you are talking about. I find that many Christians believing that we are at the end times of which I agree are too concerned with looking for signs of his coming fail to see what is happening around us. I love this nation and my heart is toward it and while we once were a christian nation, with and unmarried woman and a homosexual in charge of this nation it is with sadness to say we are no more!
    Kevin Christensen

  10. Bill, Thanks for being a mighty man of valour. I ask Father to raise up more who will bravely challenge us all.
    Greg Brien

  11. Dear Bill, You have shown that our bible and theological colleges should teach the entire Word of God.
    When our general hospital was functioning on the edge of the Sahara desert, a friend challenged me, ‘Christ is hidden in the old Testament as revealed in the new’. I obstinately and ignorantly refuted that. He showed me the Trinity in the opening verses of Genesis. Further, ‘The seed of the woman would bruise the head of the serpent’ referred to our beloved Lord’s conquering of the arch-enemy when he poured out His blood on Calvary. Also, he showed Abraham’s offering of the ram, caught in the thicket, so as not to be bruised or lacerated in place of his dear son, Isaac – typical of the lord Jesus as the Lamb of God. Genesis 22.
    The outcome has been a life spent in studying the whole of God’s Word and teaching the life-imparting truth as it is in Christ Jesus.
    Harrold Steward

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