The End of the North

Today's Bible reading: 2 Kings 17:7-24

Israel survived for over a century after Elijah had been taken to heaven.  Yet the inevitable happened.  Israel ceased to exist as a kingdom when Assyria captured Samaria in 722 BC.  Secular historians might find many reasons for the extinction of the northern kingdom … but 2 Kings 17:7–23 gives the ultimate reason.  Despite the Lord’s warnings through His prophets, Israel had persisted in its idolatry.  Stubborn rebellion was the reason why God removed Israel out of His sight.  The 10 northern tribes simply disappeared in exile.

2 Kings 17:24-34 tells how the Assyrian conquerors settled foreigners in the north – all bringing with them their own pagan gods.  It’s interesting for us to note that this is the origin of the Samaritans, who became the rivals of the Jews right down to Jesus’ own day.  Even in Judah, few Kings left an unblemished record of loyalty to the Lord.  Hezekiah and Josiah a rare exceptions.  And they were remembered specifically because they restored Orthodox worship to Israel.  Yet only a remnant remained faithful to God.

Only a remnant remained faithful to God.  Old Testament history repeatedly shows how an ever smaller group survives as God's remnant.  First, the northern kingdom was lost and Judah remained as the remnant.  Then, only the exiles survived as the remnant after Jerusalem's fall.  Later, only a small group returned to Jerusalem from the exile. Did the remnant hope die out?

In a real and final sense, Jesus is the remnant of Israel.  He dies as God's chosen and elected remnant, but He is also raised to new life as God's great survivor.  And this is where we come in: the remnant hope is fulfilled finally in the church – those of us who are joined to Jesus Christ as God's new people who will survive His judgment on sin.  In Him, people and divine King are once more reunited.  You and I - believers in Jesus Christ - are now “a remnant, chosen by grace” as Paul writes in Romans 11:5. But the dwindling process of the Old Testament is reversed after the Lord's resurrection and exultation.  The opposite happens as more and more from all nations are gathered as God’s survivors.  In our Post-Communion Canticle we sing: “Thank the Lord and sing His praise; tell everyone what He has done.  Let everyone who seeks the Lord rejoice and proudly bear His name.”  May it be your joy - as part of God’s faithful remnant - to do just that.

Prayer: Lord of life and death, be with me in the hour of death with the assurance that comes from your conquest over sin, Satan and death itself.  Amen