It was once said by Jesus that a house divided against itself will not stand. This wasn’t simply a wise statement of a Jewish Rabbi…it was the history of Israel. After Solomon, his son Rehoboam threatened great misery and oppression on the people of the nation of Israel. Such threats fell upon hearts eager for deliverance. Such hearts were ignited by the resistance of Jeroboam, who would return to stand against Rehoboam. From this internal strife emerges not an undivided nation of God’s calling, but the divided kingdoms of human strife. Once again, brother stands against brother. There are now two nations. There is a nation to the north comprising 10 of the tribes of Israel. It will be called Israel. The nation to the South, comprising only two tribes, as faithfulness to a promise made to David, with its capital in Jerusalem, will be called Judah. This portion of Jewish history is seedy and destructive. Fulfilling the warning of God, each King leads the Jewish people both in the North and the South into deeper and deeper sin. These stories can be found in 1 and 2 Kings and 1 and 2 Chronicles.
Their worship of Yahweh is emptied and their ethics of compassion, justice, and mercy for their common man is all but nullified. God is angered by the rebelliousness and sends prophet after prophet to preach the True Word of God. It is a word of shock and disruption. Prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Amos, and others are called by God to speak truth to power. They are called to announce God’s Word and Will into the world. Prophets aren’t fortune tellers. They are fore-tellers. They announce the actions of God into a world that remains obstinate and rebellious. The Word proclaims the judgment of God upon the sin of the people and an invitation to turn from their sins and be healed.
These prophets are rejected. Their words and warnings were ignored. With hardened hearts and backs turned toward the grace of God, they find themselves at the mercy of the surrounding nations. From the North in around 730 to 705 BC, the Assyrian empire will sweep through the Northern Kingdom of Israel, carrying many of its people away into Exile. According to the story of Scriptures, just prior to Assyria reaching Jerusalem, Hezekiah, King of Judah prays for protection, and God responds. Assyria turns back and Jerusalem remains safe for the time being. But in his zeal to show himself as a powerful ruler and powerful nation, he invites ambassadors from Babylon to witness all the wealth from the Kingdom. When hearing the actions of the King…the prophet Isaiah says, “That’s going to come back and bite us.”
And bite them it did. Just over a hundred years later, when Babylon had risen to great power and triumphed over surrounding nations, it invades Jerusalem, destroys the Temple, and carries off many of the Jewish people to Babylon. This is the time of Babylonian exile. Immediately, Babylon began to instruct the leaders in the way of this new homeland (you can follow this story in the book of Daniel). It taught its language, its culture and customs, and most importantly its gods. This is true exile, feeling as though “true home” has been lost. Identity has been surrendered, the past is feared forgotten and the future is uncertain. No longer can we simply rely on our stories being passed down from generation. There may be no pure generation to hand them down to. Now they must be recorded, written down and collected, preserved and sustained. It is during this time that many of the books of the Old Testament start to be collected in a series of scrolls. We also believe it is during this time that Genesis 1 is probably written. In a land that says, “Our many gods create through bloodshed and violence,” the Jews say, NO! Yahweh creates! Yahweh is the one that has the power to simply speak and it is…it is truly a story of light from darkness, of order from chaos. This is the story of God’s power, a power they hoped and yearned for.
Continuing our Journey through Luke...
Ok...Chapter 16 right? You still with me. Now, I want you to take this chapter slow today. There's a lot here...and some of which should confuse you. There is a rather odd parable of a man celebrated by Jesus for doing something many of us would have a problem with. What do you make of that? What do you do when you struggle to make sense. And what about the story of Lazarus and the Rich Man. How is it that the poor guy gets a name but the rich man doesn't? Sounds counter-intuitive doesn't it? Take some time and see where the Lord leads through this portion of Luke.