In our reading today, the northern kingdom of Israel is sent into exile by the LORD for their unfaithfulness to the Mosaic Covenant. The instrument used by God is the Assyrians (2Kings 17:5,6). The LORD spells out the reasons for His people’s banishment from His presence in very clear terms.
In 2Kings 17:7, we read these words: “All this took place because the Israelites had sinned against the LORD their God, who had brought them out of Egypt from under the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt”. The LORD had delivered them from Egyptian slavery to bring them into a covenant relationship with Him. Through this relationship of love and loyalty, Israel would be a light to the other nations who worshiped fertility gods and goddesses. But the Israelites betrayed the LORD and turned away from Him. “They worshiped idols, though the LORD had said, “You shall not do this.” The LORD warned the Israelites repeatedly through His prophets and seers. He urged them to be faithful to the commands of the Mosaic Law (2Kings 17:13). “But they would not listen and were as stiff-necked as their fathers, who did not trust in the LORD their God. …….They followed worthless idols and themselves became worthless. They imitated the nations around them……” (2Kings 17:14-15). The Israelites not only betrayed the LORD but also the very reason for their existence as God’s holy people. Instead of reflecting the LORD’s character in their communal life, they reflected the corrupt character of the pagan nations. As a result, the LORD cast them from His presence by exiling them from the Promised Land (2Kings 17:23).
Even in this exile, the LORD proved to be faithful to His promises that He made in the Mosaic Covenant. For instance, in Deuteronomy 28:15-68 we read of all the curses God will bring upon Israel if they are disobedient to the Mosaic Law. They include these words: “The LORD will drive you and the king you set over you to a nation unknown to you or your fathers. There you will worship other gods, gods of wood and stone. You will become a thing of horror and an object of scorn and ridicule to all the nations where the LORD will drive you” (Deut. 28:36,37). The LORD carried through these very words as the northern kingdom of Israel is sent packing to Assyria.
No wonder that Jesus wants us to count the cost before we enter a covenant relationship with Him as our LORD (Luke 14:25-35). Just as a builder of a tower or a king contemplating a war need to decide ahead of time whether they are ready to make a complete commitment, so the prospective disciple of Jesus needs to decide ahead of time that they are ready to make a total commitment to follow the Lord Jesus. Jesus leaves nothing uncertain regarding the vow of loyalty and love He is calling for: “And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27). Count the cost! We’re saved by grace through faith. We can’t earn our salvation. But the grace that saves us is not cheap. It cost our LORD His life. “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God, which is your reasonable act of worship” (Rom. 12:1). In Christ’s love and service, Pastor John