The Big Story of the Bible, Part 8 - Chapter 7: Punishment
October 27, 2022 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement
Reading our Bibles with the Big Story of the Bible in mind protects us from a common fallacy. Many believe that the God of the Old Testament is a god of law and judgment while the God of the New Testament is a god of grace and forgiveness. The Big Story reminds us of the unity of the Bible and the consistency of God throughout the story. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. The true God of the Bible is a God of holiness, justice, righteousness, wrath, grace, mercy, compassion, and forgiveness. Familiarity with the Big Story helps us understand how these attributes fit perfectly in our gloriously good God.
The Old Testament story of the exile helps us. God is patient and slow to anger, but Israel runs out of time. God allows two neighboring kingdoms of Israel to “punish” them for their unfaithfulness. During this time, many of the faithful wonder if the blessings of God have ended. God still affirms his promises to bless.
In 2 Kings 17 we read about the fall of Israel, the northern nation, to the Assyrians. The key verse is verse 7: “And this occurred because the people of Israel had sinned against the Lord their God…” This occurred about in the year of 721 BC. In 2 Kings 24-25, we read of the fall of Judah, the southern nation, to the Babylonians. Judah’s fall and exile occurred over a period of time between 605-586 BC. The key verses in regard to Judah are found in 23:26-27, where we read, “Still the Lord did not turn from the burning of his great wrath, by which his anger was kindled against Judah, because of all the provocations with which Manasseh had provoked him…”
This punishment into exile is prophesied by Jeremiah to be 70 years: “This whole land shall become a ruin and a waste, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. Then after seventy years are completed, I will punish the king of Babylon and that nation, the land of the Chaldeans, for their iniquity, declares the LORD, making the land an everlasting waste” (Jeremiah 25:11-12). The exile was not an eternal punishment; the exile was a sanctifying punishment. The Lord sought to refine his people and their faith.
The writer of Hebrews quotes Proverbs 3:11-12 when he says, “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” Whether or not our hardships are the direct result of sin, we can regard all trials in this life as God’s gracious refining for deepening our faith in Christ. The exile reminds us of God’s loving, and sanctifying, work of punishment in our lives.
Our study of Daniel this year has been a wonderful example of God’s aim to bless his people, even in exile. Daniel was among the first exiles to Babylon in 605 BC. Throughout his long life in exile God revealed multiple times his future plans to “put an end to sin” and give an “everlasting dominion” to the “one like a son of man” (9:24 & 7:14). Even in exile the hope of Israel rests on the Promised Seed of the woman to come. In a broken state, the people of Israel were called to put their hope in God’s plan.
The church throughout history has often identified with the experience of Israel in exile. Just like Israel, we are not living in our home. Just like Israel, we are often oppressed (the US experiment and freedom of religion has largely been an anomaly in both history and in the world today). Just like Israel, we are waiting for the coming of the Promised One. The beloved Christmas hymn O Come, O Come, Emmanuel embraces this experience. Written 1,200 years ago, the hymn gives expression for the church’s weariness in exile and longing for Christ to return. “Captive Israel” is not the Old Testament people, but the present church, suffering under the curse of sin in this world. We hope, rooted in Scripture, we sing, “Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.”