Our passages this week deal with the Northern Kingdom’s fall to Assyria. It had been Israel’s opportunity to listen and obey God’s warnings about the consequences of their disobedience. He had urged them to repent from their worshipping other gods and to follow the God of Israel.
However, Israel had ignored and rebelled against the pleadings of God’s prophets. Now we find where the God of Israel uses Israel’s enemies to bring about judgment to his own people.
As it was in the day of Israel’s fall, many followers of Jesus seem not to take sin or its consequences seriously. They attempt to justify actions the Bible calls sinful by rationalizing them as cultural differences or outdated restrictions. Many try to cover up their rebellious attitudes and actions through words and actions that do not reveal the true nature of their hearts. Others blatantly turn their backs on God and ignore the biblical commands and warnings.
Our lesson calls us to examine our attitudes and actions that invite God’s judgment on his people and decide to repent without delay.
The editors of this lesson have opted to use as the outline headings titles of three of the greatest sermons ever preached on repentance by three well known preachers of other generations.
The first heading is “Payday Someday” comes from 2 Kings 17:5-9. This sermon was preached by the late R.G. Lee, former pastor of Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, Tenn.
These verses basically lay out the historical facts of Israel’s fall. The final years of Israel’s life as a nation were characterized by increasing political and social chaos. The nation had been ruled by a series of kings who persisted in the sinful practices of previous rulers. It was these actions and attitudes that provoked the judgment of God on the nation. More than 200 years had passed since the prophet Ahijah told the wife of Jeroboam I that idolatry would lead to Israel’s exile (I Kings 14:14-16).
During these two centuries with no reform occurring, no repentance emerging and no leader willing to lead the nation back to Jehovah, God brought forth his punishment. This came in the form of Assyria’s invasion of Israel, the siege of Samaria and the deportation of its citizens to Assyria.
Applying these verses to today’s followers of Jesus, we can be certain living in rebellion against the Lord ultimately brings the consequences of his judgment on us as it did the Northern Kingdom. There is always a “payday” when one rebels against the leadership and commands of God.
The second heading is from the great English pastor, Charles H. Spurgeon entitled “Turn or Burn.” In 17:13-15, the writer of our text shows his frustration by describing the people of Israel as completely in rebellion against God. Although this loving Heavenly Father, through his prophets, had time and time again warned them and attempted to guide them, the Northern Kingdom rejected all his overtures and guidance.
Today, the Lord warns people to repent of their sins in many ways: through the Scriptures, through those who preach and teach his word, and through his examples of his judgment throughout history. The Lord continually teaches and warns us to repent because of his grace and patience. When he continues to graciously give us opportunity and warning to repent of our sins, we should to do it without delay. If we don’t “turn,” we will face God’s wrath.
There is nothing more frightening than the last passage of our lesson. In 17:18-20, we see where Jonathan Edwards, an American Congregational minister, got the title of his 1741 message, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”
The writer tells us, “So the Lord was very angry with Israel and removed them from his presence” (v. 18). This anger is his holy wrath. The Lord was longsuffering toward his people and made every opportunity and provision to bring them back to him, but they refused. His anger is discipline motivated by love, which is anguish. It is the anguish of a father who wants the best for his children, while they prefer to go their own way.
The ultimate punishment for Israel’s sin was God removing his presence from them. When his presence was removed, so was his influence. Paul describes the results when this happens in Romans 1:24, 25: “… God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts. … They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator … .”
We can be motivated to repent when we fully appreciate the extent our sinful attitudes and actions hurt our relationship with the Lord.
Israel did not heed the warnings of God for over two centuries. By their attitude and actions, they continued to rebel and disobey the calling of their Heavenly Father to repent of their sin and follow the teachings of the prophets. Finally, God withdrew his presence from them and allowed his judgment to come in the form of the total dismantling of their nation by the Assyrians.
Today, God still is working in his people. When he convicts us of disobedience through our attitudes and actions, we are to heed his warnings and repent without delay.