IS GOD CRUEL?
WHAT IF GOD HAD NOT ORDAINED THAT ISRAEL BE TAKEN INTO CAPTIVITY?
After many warnings by many different prophets, God finally decreed that Israel be “vomited” out of the Promised Land as the Canaanites had been. Thus, “the king of Assyria…carried Israel away to Assyria…”(II Kings 17: 5-6).
What if God had not allowed the total exile of Israel from the Promised Land? What if He had simply punished them “locally” and had foregone the exile altogether?
The story of Israel, and God’s dealings with it, is a wonderful study in the character of the Almighty. Through His dealings with Israel, He manifested His total reliability by keeping His promise of delivering Israel out of Egypt. He also revealed His love and righteousness, by giving Israel laws that would have elevated them above all the other surrounding nations, and that would have brought great blessings on them generation after generation.
Furthermore, God manifests His longsuffering nature by warning Israel before punishing them and by finally punishing them with the sole intent of sobering them into repentance.
Lastly His dealings with Israel manifest that, tough God is longsuffering, He has His limits, and that the day will come when He will finally bring about very stern punishments on people, if they refuse to repent.
It is important to note that II Kings 17, the chapter that describes the exile of Israel, also gives an exhaustive list of the sins embraced by Israel. The chapter also describes God’s many attempts to bring Israel to sobriety before having to finally send them into exile.
The list of sins is quite extensive and serious. The people forgot that God had delivered them from Egyptian slavery and “feared other gods” (V.7). They walked in the way of the nations that had been cast out of Canaan (V. 8). Furthermore, they built high places and burned incense to idols (V. 11-12). Because of their rebellious attitude, God warned Israel and Judah “by all His prophets (V. 13), but they did not repent and, instead, “stiffened their necks” (V. 14).
In spite of all the many warnings, “They rejected His statutes and His Covenant…they left all the commandments” (V. 15-16) and “made for themselves a molten image and two calves, made a wooden image and worshiped all the host of heaven, and served Baal’(V.16); Lastly they “caused their sons and daughters to pass through the fire, practiced witchcraft and soothsaying, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of the Lord, to provoke Him to anger” (V. 17). Thus, the final judgment: “You shall be plucked off from the land” (Deuteronomy 28: 63).
God had made a covenant with Israel centuries before, and had promised to pour great blessings on them if they obeyed and great curses if they disobeyed. The curses are listed in Deuteronomy 28 in increasing severity. Israel did not heed the many warnings and was finally eradicated from the land as God had promised centuries before.
If God had not sent Israel into exile, His word may have been questioned, and His inevitable intervention toward sinners would not have received proper attention. As Paul reinforces in the New Testament: “For whom the Lord loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom he receives”(Hebrew 12: 6). Israel needed to see that its God had reached His limit, and that they had pushed Him to the point of no return.
If God had not intervened and had not kept his promises of total exile, God’s longsuffering nature might have been misunderstood for weakness. The people of Israel and all believers since then might have taken God’s silence as uninvolvement or the fact that He was turning a blind eye to sin.
God’s people must know that, though they may be special in God’s eyes, and though He is very patient toward their frailties, if they sin willfully and stubbornly, He will finally intervene dramatically and intensely—and that is true for Spiritual Israel as it was true for Ancient Israel.
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