2 Kings 17:5-8 The king of Assyria invaded the entire land, marched against Samaria and laid siege to it for three years. In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria and deported the Israelites to Assyria. He settled them in Halah, in Gozan on the Habor River and in the towns of the Medes. All this took place because the Israelites had sinned against the LORD their God, who had brought them up out of Egypt from under the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. They worshipped other gods and followed the practices of the nations the LORD had driven out before them, as well as the practices that the kings of Israel had introduced.
It is interesting to see the sharp contrast between the LORD’s dealings with the Ten Tribes of the Northern Kingdom of ‘Israel’ and his dealings with the Two Tribes (Judah and Benjamin) of the Southern Kingdom of ‘Judah’. Both Kingdoms were attacked mercilessly by Assyria: Israel by Shalmaneser V in 722 BC, and Judah by Sennacherib in 701 BC. The former resulted in the permanent loss to history of ‘Israel’ (Samaria) as a national entity, whereas the latter resulted in the total humiliation of Sennacherib without even a blow being struck, as many of us learnt in primary school in Lord Byron’s stirring poem, “The Destruction of Sennacherib”! (“The Assyrian came down like a wolf on the fold …” etc!).
When ‘Judah’ was later attacked successfully in 586 BC, and deported to Babylon, by Nebuchadnezzar, they nevertheless retained their identity as God’s chosen people, and were rescued by Cyrus, King of Persia, after 70 years.
We learn from all this that God is working out his sovereign purposes in human history, for his own glory. Israel and Judah were equally guilty in their disobedience to God’s revealed will, in their failure to heed the repeated warnings of his prophets, in the hypocrisy of their outward allegiance while having ‘uncircumcised’ hearts, and their compromise with the idolatry of the surrounding nations. But God was protecting the line of the King David in preparation for the Promised Saviour.
It is a gentle reminder that if we have been ‘rescued’ by God and put our trust in Jesus as our Saviour, it is not because of any good, or even any potential good, in us, but because of his sovereign grace alone. We are all equally sinners who deserve death, but God chooses whom he will save: “As for you, you were [ALL] dead in your transgressions and sins … But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions … … it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no-one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Ephesians 2:1, 4-5, 8-10).
– Bruce Christian