2 Kings 17:9 has this to say: “And the children of Israel did secretly those things that were not right against the Lord their God.” The passage continues with a list of things they did--IN THE OPEN—but shows that the real issue was the secret place where the rebellion began: IN THE HEART. Verse 14-17 says, “…they would not hear but hardened their necks… they did not believe in the LORD their God…they left all the commandments of the LORD their God…and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the LORD…” Their desire opposed God, but they chose it anyway.
So, God permitted them to be carried away by Assyria. They were taken to a strange land, and strangers were brought in to occupy their beloved territory. These outsiders brought their religious practices with them, but they also recognized that the God of the land of Israel was angry, and they sought to appease Him. A Levitical priest was returned to the land, and he taught the people about fearing the LORD, the God who’d been forsaken. Unfortunately, 2 Kings 17: 33 explains, “So they feared the LORD, AND served their own gods.” God interpreted this as NOT fearing Him because He will never be compromised or put on the same playing field as other gods. He is God alone or not at all.
“…Ye shall not fear other gods…nor serve them…But the LORD your God ye shall fear; and he shall deliver you out of the hand of all your enemies. Howbeit they did not harken, but they did after their former manner,” 2 Kings 17:35-40.
God still yearned to be their God. He didn’t disown them even though He surrendered them to the judgement they had earned. He still wanted to deliver them from their enemies. But He required them to turn from their rebellion, to separate themselves from the gods of the land, and to fully embrace Him as their Lord and their Savior. They, sadly, did the same thing they’d always done. They chose THEIR way of doing things. Compromise. They held on to what they wanted while attempting to appease God with what He wanted.
You’d think Judah would have learned from Israel’s misfortunate end. But Judah followed this same pattern. She, too, was removed from God’s protection and taken into captivity. Each kingdom, though treasured and chosen by God, fell victim to the destruction of their own choices.
As a reader of this record, I’m astounded by the blindness of this people. Then, I see that it’s indicative of our human nature to reject the Lord in favor of whatever we want. Like Israel, we want to blend in to the culture around us, and when we are in a pinch, we rush to God for help. But we seldom sell out. Our tendency is to add Him to our present lifestyle. While He waits and reaches, longing for relationship with those He died to save, we insist on being in charge, willing only to permit Him to be a part of what already exists. No change. No surrender of our idols of pleasure, self-indulgence, gluttony, excess, fortune, pride… We never fully lay down our shabby will for His glorious Lordship. We want a Savior, but we reject a Lord.
If my choices were written for future readers, I wouldn’t want this to be my story. I’d want those who read about me to see I did what made sense. That I feared the Lord and ONLY the Lord. That I wasn’t ruled by popular opinion, peer groups, or religion. That I didn’t try to bend God to MY will; rather, that I eagerly emptied myself to His greater purpose. I’d want it written that I was surrendered to God, and that He alone was my Lord as well as my Savior. I’d want it to be evident that the story He hoped to be written about me was the one etched on the paper of time.
Tip/Tidbit: How much better could your life—and eternity—be if you made Jesus the only God in your life?