God's patience had finally run out and judgment came. The final kings of Israel lead the people even deeper into idolatry, and Assyria delivered the final punch by capturing them and deporting them to Assyria and putting other peoples in their place. But first, a word about Judah.
Ahaz of Judah - 2 Kings 16:1-20; 2 Chronicles 28:1-27
Reigned: 732-715 B.C. for 16 years, vice-regency under father, Jotham, for 9 years (744-735 B.C.) and co-regency with his father for 4 years (735-732 B.C.)
Overlap with Israel's King: Pekah (752-732 B.C.), Hoshea (732-722 B.C.)
Manner of death: Natural
Ahaz was a bad egg in between two pretty good kings of Judah. He imitated the wickedness of Israel and Assyria. He even sacrificed his own son ("children" in 2 Chronicles 28:3) to a pagan god, Baal or Molech. We know that this was prohibited by Mosaic Law (Leviticus 18:21).
2 Chronicles 28 tells us that the LORD brought Pekah, King of Israel, and Rezin, King of Syria against Jedah to punish Ahaz for his sin. Ahaz went to Assyria (King Tiglath-Pilesh II who reigned from 745-727 B.C.) and asked for help and paid tribute for it. Isaiah tried to prevent Ahaz from turning to Assyria (for a complete story read Isaiah 7-9 and specifically Isaiah 7:4-9), but he did so anyway. Assyria helped by attacking and capturing Damascas. This was foolish because it encouraged further Assyrian advancement into the Promised Land.
Ahaz's apostasy is reflected in his adoption of the altar of Assyria instead of using God's altar and furnishings in the temple. His acts of idolatry are more fully explained in 2 Chronicles 28 than in 2 Kings 16. He died and was not buried with the other godly kings of Judah (2 Chronicles 28:27).
Hoshea, the LAST King of Israel - 2 Kings 15:30-17:6
Reigned: 732-722 B.C. for 9 years
Overlap with Judah's King: Ahaz (732-715 B.C.)
Manner of death: Carried off to Assyria in 722 B.C. and died there
Hoshea came to power because he murdered his predecessor, Pekah (2 Kings 15:30). He was evil but not as evil as the previous kings. Jewish tradition purports that he was not as evil because he allowed Israelites to go to Jerusalem to worship the Lord.
On the surface, Israel was attacked and deported by Assyria because Hoshea failed to pay tribute to Shalmaneser V (727-722 B.C.) and tried to align with King So (Osorkon IV, ca 727-726 B.C.) of Egypt. It is amazing that the last king of Israel would ask for help from Egypt since 724 years earlier (1446 B.C.) Egypt had been their captor! The northern kingdom had ceased to exist after only two centuries (931-722 B.C.).
Here is their track record:
Seven of Israel's kings were assassinated and ALL were judged evil by God!
The remainder of 2 Kings 17 gives a very thorough list of the REAL reasons for their captivity. The gist of the history of Israel's apostasy is contained in verses 14-15:
The LORD had had enough and "removed them from His presence"(2 Kings 17:18, 23). Assyria moved the Israelites out and foreigners in so as to prevent revolt and to keep the Israelites from uniting. This mixture of peoples that resettled in Israel came to be known as Samaritans who were despised by the Jews in the time of Christ (John 4:9). These new settlers in Israel worshiped God but did not give up pagan customs. The modern day term for this practice is called syncretism and is common in cultures that turn to Christ but do not give up their former religious practices.But they would not listen and were as stiff-necked as their fathers, who did not trust in the LORD their God. They rejected His decrees and the covenant He had made with their fathers and warnings he had given them. They followed worthless idols and themselves became worthless. They imitated the nations around them although the LORD had ordered them, 'Do not do as they do,' and they did the things the LORD had forbidden them to do.
Israel imitated the nations around them although the Lord had ordered them not to "do as they do." Similarly, we are not to imitate the sinful ways of the culture around us, but I think I probably do more than I would like to admit. Right now, I am pondering the ways I have let our culture seep into my life in the books that I read, the movies that I watch, the music I listen to, and the way I spend my time. Don't get me wrong, I think entertainment, relaxation, and refreshment can be very good. There are many worthwhile books, movies, and music out there. I just want to have better discernment in filtering out those things that make me like the un-godly culture around me.
The Phillips New Testament in Modern English versions says:
Don't let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God re-mold your minds from within. so that you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all his demands and moves towards the goal of true maturity. (Romans 12:2)The goal is moving toward maturity and toward the "presence of God" and not removed from God's presence like the sad case of Israel in today's reading.
For example, my book club read and discussed a book today. It was pretty post-modern and very anti-God with some very disturbing images attached to it. In conversation with a couple of women afterward, we discussed that we want God to teach us to "number our days to present to Him a heart of wisdom" (Psalm 90:12). Is putting those disturbing images into our head and spending 6+ hours reading this book really the BEST use of these God-given days of our life? It is something for evaluation and prayer.
2012 Update: It has been almost three and a half years since I wrote this original reflection, and I have recently decided to step away from that book club. I was always concerned about not being able to see those I love if I stepped away, but I realized I could spend more quality face-to-face time with them in far less hours it cost me to read the books I am no longer interested in reading! WIN-WIN and better for my soul! I had forgotten that I was considering this step even back when I wrote the original post in 2009.
2014 Update: It was a great decision. I have been away for two years and have not missed it at all! I have even stepped away from my much beloved, classics book club, in order to spend more time reading books that energize my soul!
2015 Update: I am going back to my beloved, classics book club this Saturday after an 18 month hiatus!
Will you do some evaluation of your life with me? I am not talking about LEGALISM here. I am talking about allowing God to "re-mold your mind from within" and let Him call the shots in how you order your days. It may mean cutting out those things that compete with His presence in your life.
A few weeks ago I wrote on a 3x5 card in my prettiest handwriting:
It has stopped me dead in my tracks on more than one occasion to help me reevaluate where my mind and day's direction has been going. I have made course corrections as the Lord has directed.
Living my days on earth in His presence 24/7/365 is all I want to do. How about you?
Meditate and responsively pray through Romans 12:2.
Lord, re-mold us. Amen