TODAY’S READING: 2 KINGS 17-18
In chapter 17, the text says three times that God would either remove or cast Israel out of his sight. The says two other times that Israel provoked the Lord to anger. The text even says that God rejected all the descendants of Israel and afflicted them.
Israel had sinned and sinned greatly. They had feared other gods, breaking the first commandment by putting other gods before them. And, they had made all sorts of idols, breaking the second commandment as well.
But, did God really do the things 2 Kings 17 accuses him of doing?
Not if we look at Jesus and see him as the exact image of God. Jesus said if you have seen me you have seen the Father. Since we never see Jesus casting people out of his sight, being provoked to anger, rejecting people, or afflicting people, then we know that the Father never did these things during the Old Testament.
I’m sure almost all of us have felt that God has done these things to us as well. But, the problem is not on God’s side, but ours. I already mentioned that the chapter says that Israel had sinned greatly. The chapter also says they would not listen to God and they were stubborn, just as their fathers had been, and their fathers “did not believe in the Lord their God.”
Based on Jesus’ response to similar treatment, we know that this is not God’s reaction. Look at what Jesus said in Luke 13:34-35 as just one example.
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! Behold, your house is forsaken. And I tell you, you will not see until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!'”
Jesus didn’t want cast those that were going to kill him out of his sight. Nor did he feel provoked to anger, reject them, or afflict them. No, Jesus wanted to gather the people to him like a mother hen puts her chicks under her wings to protect them.
We actually see God doing this in 2 Kings 17:13, which says, “Yet the Lord warned Israel and Judah by every prophet and every seer, saying, ‘Turn from your evil ways and keep my commandments and my statutes, in accordance with all the Law that I commanded your fathers, and that I sent to you by my servants the prophets.” God wasn’t provoked to anger, but trying to warn Israel what would happen to them – they would destroy themselves or be destroyed by their enemies – if they kept sinning.
Now, you may be saying, “But, Jesus said, ‘Behold, your house is forsaken.’ See, he said they were forsaken for killing him.”
However, the Greek word translated forsaken here is aphiemi. It means leave, forgive, permit, let loose. About 1/3 of the time the word is translated forgive. Most of the time Jesus uses it as forgive it is in reference to forgiving others for their sins. Just under 1/3 of the time it is translated left. Here the idea is either that sickness or disease left somebody because of the healing power of Jesus or people left what they had to follow Jesus.
Luke 13:35 is the only time the word is translated forsaken. But, given Jesus’ other use of the word, and that he forgave the people from the cross for killing him, I think it is more likely that Jesus said, “Behold, your house is forgiven.” If this is the case, then Jesus spoke to Jerusalem ahead of time that they were forgiven for killing him.
Luke 13:34-35 is just one small example of many that shows Jesus didn’t cast people out of his sight, reject them, or afflict them. Nor was he ever provoked into a response. If he ever was going to be provoked, then it would have been on the cross. But, Jesus wasn’t even provoked to lash out in anger in his own unjustified execution.
God never leaves us, never forsakes us. His mercy and forgiveness are always waiting. We just have to turn from our sin towards him.