Israel’s Sons in Exile
“Judah also did not keep the commandments of the Lord their God, but walked in the customs that Israel had introduced. And the Lord rejected all the descendants of Israel and afflicted them and gave them into the hand of plunderers, until he had cast them out of his sight” (2 Kings 17:19–20).- 2 Kings 17:1–23
Throughout our study of Genesis we have paused occasionally to look at how Scripture develops a particular theme introduced in the first book of Moses. The theme this month is the history and identity of the people of God because the sons of Jacob, progenitors of Israel’s twelve tribes, are first listed together in Genesis 35:22b–26.
We look at the exile today because it sheds light on corporate solidarity and demonstrates how the Lord determines those whom He has called to do His will. Recall the covenant He made with the Israelites on Mt. Sinai after their liberation from slavery in Egypt, a covenant renewed just before they invaded Canaan. Blessings for obeying the Law came with this covenant, as well as curses for disobedience, the greatest curse being exile from the Promised Land (Deut. 28).
The books of Judges through 2 Kings detail the establishment of the nation of Israel and its division into two kingdoms because of failure to keep covenant. Most Israelites did not heed the prophetic warnings to walk humbly with the Lord. Instead, they counted on externals like physical ancestry or the Temple building for their preservation (Jer. 7). Taking God’s grace for granted finally led to the exile of the northern kingdom of Israel in 722 b.c. (2 Kings 17:19–20) and the southern kingdom of Judah in 586 b.c. (chap. 25).
The reality of exile shows us that the godly remnant (God’s true people) is defined by faith, not physical ancestry. According to the flesh, all the people who were exiled were sons of Jacob. This heritage could not save them, only faith and repentance, the message preached by all of God’s prophets (Isa. 1:27; Ezek. 18:30).
Covenant keepers like Daniel were exiled from the land along with the wicked (Dan. 1:1–7). Yet the Lord is not unjust in doing this, for in this age He often deals with those who claim to be His as a corporate whole. Those who possess faith are ultimately and eternally saved but they often feel the ripples from God’s wrath on those who profess faith falsely and are ultimately and eternally condemned (if they never repent). At the return of Christ, the Lord will finally separate His holy people — those of faith — from false professors.
“It is time for judgment to begin at the household of God” (1 Peter 4:17). Sometimes God shakes the church when He brings judgment, punishing those who falsely claim to believe and disciplining those who truly confess Jesus as the resurrected Lord. Righteous men living in wicked nations may also suffer when the Lord judges those nations. We should not be dismayed at this, but trust God’s sovereign wisdom that is working to renew once for all His fallen creation.
Passages for Further Study