2 Kings 17-19…Invisible reality.
Scripture records many occasions on which the kings of Israel and Judah rebelled against the larger empires of their day (i.e. Rome, Egypt, Assyria, etc.) with whom they formerly made treaties. Violating these alliances invariably earned the wrath of these empires. This section of 2 Kings records the point at which Hosea of Israel broke covenant with Assyria, and the result was that the northern kingdom was taken into exile in 722 BC (2 Kings 17:1–6). Almost 150 years later, in 586 BC, the same thing happened to Judah when that land rebelled against Babylon (24:1–25:21).
This is a perfectly reasonable and correct explanation of the aforementioned historical realities, and is in fact what we are told in Scripture. Yet history is always more complicated, and this interpretation, while accurate as far as it goes, does not tell the whole story. The author of 2 Kings also goes “behind the scenes” to give us God’s perspective on what happened. As we see in 17:7–23, even though the rebellion of Israel against another empire might have been the immediate event that sparked the exile, the ultimate cause of Israel’s expulsion from the land was flagrant covenant violation, especially the grievous sin of idolatry. Thinking they could rebel against the Lord with impunity, God’s covenant people brought judgment on their own heads, just as their covenant Lord promised would happen (Lev. 26:14–39).
Sin is no small matter, and its consequences are severe. Those who regard lightly the Lord’s holiness cannot be surprised when they feel the fury of His wrath. If we are in Christ, we need not fear that we will be exiled from the blessed presence of God forever. However, God may still discipline us for our sin, and we may feel the effects of His disciplinary rod on the covenant community just as the righteous remnant went into exile along with the unfaithful Israelites. But if we live a life of repentance, we will learn from the Lord’s discipline and experience joy even in our pain and struggle.