In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria. He deported the Israelites to Assyria and settled them in Halah, along the Habor (Gozan’s river), and in the cities of the Medes.
This disaster happened because the people of Israel sinned against the Lord their God who had brought them out of the land of Egypt from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt and because they worshiped other gods. They lived according to the customs of the nations that the Lord had dispossessed before the Israelites and according to what the kings of Israel did. The Israelites secretly did things against the Lord their God that were not right. They built high places in all their towns from watchtower to fortified city. They set up for themselves sacred pillars and Asherah poles on every high hill and under every green tree. They burned incense there on all the high places just like the nations that the Lord had driven out before them had done. They did evil things, angering the Lord. They served idols, although the Lord had told them, “You must not do this.”
2 Kings 17:6-12
Israel gave up its opportunity to be countercultural and fulfill its call to bless all nations. Instead, they acquiesced to the culture around them. Therefore, God lifted His protection and allowed the Assyrians to scatter them throughout their empire. Israel’s call was to be different, yet they chose on multiple occasions to be just like the nations that surrounded them.
Israel’s call began with God’s covenant with Abraham. God would bless Israel so that they could be a blessing to all people. This covenant wasn’t just about Israel. It was about God’s desire to bring all people back into right relationship with Him. Even though they had failed to drive out all the other nations when they first occupied the territory, they still had the opportunity to live counterculturally and draw these other nations into relationship with God. Stories such as the Gibeonites, the family of Rahab, and other foreigners joining their ranks show that there were people from other nations who recognized Yahweh as God and they joined the community of Yahweh’s people. Still, Israel continued to seek out the gods of the nations around them and to be like their neighbors. Their opportunity to fulfill their call was lost.
Today we have the opportunity to live counterculturally and demonstrate a different way of life to the people around us. Still, like the Israelites, we often choose to embrace the values of our culture over the values of God’s Kingdom. Every time we choose greed over generosity, every time we choose to push people away instead of welcoming and embracing them, we give into values that are not the values of the Kingdom of God and lose the opportunity to demonstrate Kingdom values to the people around us.
- How can you choose to demonstrate the values of the Kingdom of God instead of imitating the values of the culture around us?