“For because of the anger of the Lord it came to the point in Jerusalem and Judah that he cast them out from his presence.” – 2 Kings 24.20
This verse really jumped out at me when I read it the other day. Judah had repeatedly disobeyed God. And, Zedekiah, the current king, had done what was evil in God’s sight. So, the author of 2 Kings wrote that God’s anger was such that the situation had reached the point where God was forced to cast Judah out of his presence and out of the land of Israel.
And, this is exactly how most of us view God in our own minds and lives. We sin. And, then we sin again. And, we believe God reaches a point with us that, because God cannot tolerate the presence of sin nor can he look upon sinners, God is forced to cast us out of his presence.
But, did God really cast Israel out of his presence?
And, does God you or sinners out of his presence?
In reality, Judah had been conquered by the Babylonian empire. And, they needed a way to explain what had happened to them. As was common in the culture at the time, they explained their being conquered by God casting them out of his presence for their disobedience, wickedness, and evil acts.
In reality, we drive ourselves away from God just as we do from any person in any relationship when we fail to treat the other with love. Yet, we try to explain our broken relationship with God as God casting us out of his presence because we have been bad. We explain our not being in God’s presence as God casting us out.
I will grant you that Jesus concludes one his parables by saying, “And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness.” (Matthew 25.30) Similarly, in Matthew 8.12, after seeing the faith of the centurion, Jesus says, “the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness,” which is to say cast out of God’s presence. But, these two somewhat vague and/or obscure references by Jesus are the only time we see anything like what was written in 2 Kings 24.20.
Instead, over and over and over in the gospels we see Jesus casting out demons, not people.
Let me repeat that.
Throughout the gospels, Jesus, and therefore God, casts out demons, not people.
“That evening they brought to him many who were oppressed by demons, and he cast out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick.” – Matthew 8.16
“And the demons begged him, saying, ‘If you cast us out, send us away into the herd of pigs.'” – Matthew 8.31
“And when the demon had been cast out, the mute man spoke. And the crowds marveled, saying, ‘Never was anything like this seen in Israel.'” – Matthew 9.33
“And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction.” – Matthew 10.2
“And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons.” – Mark 1.34
“And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.” – Mark 1.39
“Now he was casting out a demon that was mute. When the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke, and the people marveled.” – Luke 11.14
“But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” – Luke 11.20
“And he said to them, ‘Go and tell that fox, “Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course.”‘” – Luke 13.32
“Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world [Satan] be cast out.” – John 12.32
Jesus, and therefore God, casts out demons, not people.
I cannot find one instance where Jesus cast a person out of his presence. People, like the rich young ruler, may have walked away from Jesus. But, Jesus did not cast him out.
In fact, instead of Jesus, and therefore God, casting people out of his presence, people cast Jesus, and therefore God, out of their presence. This is revealed in the crucifixion and the fact that Jesus was crucified outside the city.
Jesus did not cast the woman at the well in John 4, traditionally presumed to be a sinner because she had five husbands, out of his presence. Instead, Jesus revealed himself as living water and the Christ to her. And, this woman became the first witness of the Christ in John’s gospel.
Jesus did not cast the woman caught in adultery in John 8 out of his presence. Instead, Jesus refused to condemn her while redeeming her.
Jesus did not cast Mary Magdalene, traditionally presumed to be a prostitute, out of his presence. Instead, “Now when he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons.” (Mark 16.9) Whether or not Mary Magdalene was a prostitute, she was a sinner like the rest of us. Yet, Jesus did not cast her out. Instead he cast seven (the number of spiritual perfection) demons out of her.
Jesus did not cast the Gentile woman, a Syrophoenician by birth, and therefore a sinner, out of his presence. Instead, Jesus cast the demon out of her daughter.
Jesus did not cast out sinners. He ate with them and drank with them. Jesus was ridiculed by the religious elite, who routinely cast sinners out of their presence, because he did this. This is why Jesus was said to be a friend of sinners.
In John 6.37, Jesus said, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.” Do not think that the Father has only given some people to Jesus. The Father is the creator of all human life. All people are his children. This is exactly what Paul said in Acts 17.26-28. And, eventually all will come, or return, to Jesus as pictured in the parable of the prodigal son and Paul’s confession that every knee will bow and gladly confess Jesus as Lord.
Further, Jesus said, “And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons.” (Mark 16.17) If we profess to be believers, followers of Jesus, then we are to cast out demons, not people.
Let me repeat that. If we are believers in and followers of Jesus, then we are to cast out demons, evil spirits or attitudes, not people.
This does not mean that others will not drive themselves out of relationship with us, just as we all at one time have driven ourselves out of relationship with God. But, we should always be working, in some way, perhaps even just prayer, to cast the demons out of people to redeem them and restore them to right relationship with God and us.