One privilege of being a student is the grace of breaks. Last week, Boyce College was on Fall Break, or what the college calls “Fall Reading Days.” I decided to truly take advantage of this week. I put all of my studies on the back burner and chose to take a break from blogging as well. I spent a great deal of my time in the Word and finished reading a number of books that I had started this past summer. However, the break is over and it is back to the classroom and to the blogosphere. My first post back is a reflection on 2 Kings 17:1-23. I recently taught this passage during children’s worship.
The Assyrian Attack
Israel found herself, like Adam, in exile because of the nation’s sin against God. Shalmaneser, the king of Assyria had invaded Israel and entered into a vassal agreement with Hoshea the king of Israel. King Hoshea paid tribute to the Assyrian king under this agreement until he made a dangerous political move. He sought aid from the king of Egypt and “offered no tribute to the King of Assyria, as he had done year by year” (v. 4). Subsequently, this treacherous move led to an all-out Assyrian invasion of Samaria, the capital of the Northern Kingdom, Israel. Under the leadership of King Shalmaneser, the Assyrians “carried the Israelites away to Assyria” (v. 6).
Sinners in Need of a Faithful King
This is a dramatic turn of events from the initial gracious call of Abraham when God promised him a global inheritance (Gen. 12:3). God’s people are seen in 2 Kings 17 as abandoned and exiled. And Judah will soon follow. This is a far cry from the faithful kingship of David. Israel proves once again that they cannot keep the old covenant. They cannot carry out God’s will. They show us once again how great man’s need for a Savior is. Praise God a new covenant would come through the shed blood of the one true perfectly holy and faithful King.
This passage shows us a number of things:
– The deep depravity of the sin of man (17:7-8, 13-17)
– The grace and mercy of God (17:12-13)
– The holiness, judgment, and wrath of God (17:6, 17-18, 20)
– The connection between the Word of God and the satisfaction his people have in him.
Ignoring the Word = Indulging in Sin
It is on this last point that I would like to dwell. I see in Israel’s ignorance of God’s Word their striking dissatisfaction with God himself. The God who had chosen them out of all peoples on the earth to be in covenant relationship with him do not find joy in him. This seems to be inextricably tied to their abandonment of God’s Word. And this dissatisfaction of God is the essence of sin. Notice how the writers of 2 Kings describe the sin of the Israelites:
“[T]hey served idols, of which the LORD had said to them, ‘You shall not do this.’ Yet the LORD warned Israel and Judah by every prophet and every seer, saying, ‘Turn from your evil ways and keep my commandments and my statutes, in accordance with all the Law that I commanded your fathers, and that I sent to you by my servants the prophets.’ But they would not listen…They despised his statutes and his covenant that he made with their fathers and the warnings that he gave them. They went after false idols and became false, and they followed the nations that were around them, concerning whom the LORD had commanded them that they should not do like them. And they abandoned all the commandments of the LORD their God” (vv. 12-16).
Indulge in the Word—Flee Sin—Find Satisfaction
This passage is like a direct antithesis to Psalm 119. The utter joy and satisfaction in God oozes from the psalmist’s love, desire and devotion to God’s Word. “With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your commandments! I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you….In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches” (Ps. 119:10-11, 14). Later the psalmist exults, “Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart” (Ps. 119:111).
Submission, obedience, love, and devotion to God is tied to submission, obedience, love, and devotion to his Word. Adam and Eve did not trust God to satisfy them as they ignored God’s Word, and so they were exiled from the Garden (see Gen. 3). When you ignore God’s Word, you will fall into sin. This is how the Bible portrays this as happening: Satisfaction in God is found primarily in the Word of God. When you ignore God’s Word, you will not ultimately be satisfied in God. When you are not satisfied in God, you will seek satisfaction from other sources outside of God—insufficient, sinful sources. This is where the people of Israel found themselves as they indulged in the sinful passions of the God-forsaking kings that led them. Consequently, they hated God’s Word and as a result, they savored the poison of idolatry to the point that they were rotting from the inside out. They sunk in the mire of their sin to the point of sacrificing their own children (v. 17).
It is clear that without the Word of God we are hopeless, helpless, and joyless. Only when we are satisfied in God will we gravitate from sinful passions to godly passions. This is experienced when the Word of God is prevalent in our lives and the bread for our souls. The primary means of fighting sin is to be immersed into the Word of God. This is because Scripture has in its very makeup a scintillating and soul-satisfying element that causes us relish and savor the God from whom it came. When you indulge in the Word, you will not be able to resist its flavor because its flavor is so Godward. All of the pleasure the sins of this world have to offer will not compare to the satisfaction that comes from relishing the Word of God. Israel forgot, abandoned, and denied this truth.
Israel found itself in exile because of the people’s rejection of God, dissatisfaction with God, ignorance of God’s Word, and blatant failure to keep the stipulations of the covenant. There seemed to be no hope in sight. The initial sins of Jeroboam in Israel caused a domino effect of sinfulness with spots of faithfulness ultimately ending with God judging Israel through the pagan king of Assyria.
The Glory of God in Your Joy in Him
The greater your satisfaction in God, the greater you will fulfill man’s grandest purpose in life: to glorify God (Is. 43:7). God’s glory is most seen in your satisfaction of him. The picture that your satisfaction in God paints is one that exudes the glory of God and those who look at it will see it. So, for the sake of satisfaction and for the sake of sanctification, consume the Word of God. See and savor God in his Word and you will display the glory of his ability to satisfy your yearning soul. In the end, may your life verse be: “Your testimonies are my heritage forever, for they are the joy of my heart” (Ps. 119:111). Guard your heart from sin by indulging in the Word of God. If you despise the Word of God, you will despise the God of the Word. However, praise God that through your love of the Word of God, you will not only love the God of the Word, but your heart will be full of joy and your life will reflect his glory. Flee sin by saturating yourself with the Word of God and in the process, find true and lasting joy.