Verses 1-5 read,
“In the twelfth year of Ahaz king of Judah, Hoshea the son of Elah began to reign in Samaria over Israel, and he reigned nine years. 2 And he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, yet not as the kings of Israel who were before him.3 Against him came up Shalmaneser king of Assyria. And Hoshea became his vassal and paid him tribute. 4 But the king of Assyria found treachery in Hoshea, for he had sent messengers to So, king of Egypt, and offered no tribute to the king of Assyria, as he had done year by year. Therefore the king of Assyria shut him up and bound him in prison. 5 Then the king of Assyria invaded all the land and came to Samaria, and for three years he besieged it.”
Hoshea’s evil against The Lord was not the same as his predecessors. Their evil had been to lead Israel to sin in Jeroboam’s twisted copy of worship. But Hoshea’s wickedness went further. He went against God and His people in a new way. When the king of Assyria came against him, instead of fighting for the Lord, the freedom of his people, or the protection of Israel, Hoshea made Shalmaneser his lord and paid him tribute, much like Ahaz had done for Shalmaneser’s father Tiglath-Pileser. But Hoshea didn’t keep his end of the contract. He sent to Egypt for help and did not pay his tribute to Assyria. He assumed that So would take care of him and fight Assyria. But that isn’t what happened. Assyria invaded Israel, threw Hoshea in prison and besieged Samaria for three years.
Israel had worshipped the Lord wrongly. They had idols, made with their own hands and worshipped them. But Hoshea gave his life and soul to a man, Shalmaneser instead of The Lord. He called a man lord and gave him offerings as if he were a god. He couldn’t even do that with any honesty. He treacherously lied to his lord and hoped So would come to his rescue. He looked to man after man instead of The Lord God Almighty.
How often do we do that? We look to the government to save us, to a lawyer to fight for us, to a pastor to lead us, or a colleague to battle for us. We give our honor and our allegiance to an earthly nation, king, celebrity, or religious leader. And how often is that allegiance false? How often is that loyalty only so that we can save ourselves? Are we ready to give our shaky fidelity to the next guy, who is more charming, stronger, or better? People’s loyalty to others seems to move with every wave of the storm.
But The Lord never waivers. He is steadfast. He is faithful to us regardless of our lack of faithfulness to Him. He fights for us. Why is our faith to Him so mobile? Why is our faith so tottering? He is The LORD! He is Able. He is Almighty. He is The Creator. The more we exercise our faith in Him, the more He will strengthen our faith until it is as unfaltering and persistent as Christ’s. 2 Thessalonians 3:2-5 puts it this way,
“and that we may be delivered from wicked and evil men. For not all have faith. 3 But the Lord is faithful. He will establish you and guard you against the evil one. 4 And we have confidence in the Lord about you, that you are doing and will do the things that we command. 5 May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.”
Hoshea’s sin led to Israel’s fall. Verse 6 reads,
“In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria, and he carried the Israelites away to Assyria and placed them in Halah, and on the Habor, the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.”
Shalmaneser didn’t leave any Israelites. Every last one of them was taken into captivity in foreign places, scattered far and wide. Their promised land was no longer their home. They rejected The Covenant God had made with them. God’s purpose was not hidden. His reasons were not unknown. Israel had ignored the Covenant. Verses 7-23 in The Message explain it.
“The exile came about because of sin: The children of Israel sinned against God, their God, who had delivered them from Egypt and the brutal oppression of Pharaoh king of Egypt. They took up with other gods, fell in with the ways of life of the pagan nations God had chased off, and went along with whatever their kings did. They did all kinds of things on the sly, things offensive to their God, then openly and shamelessly built local sex-and-religion shrines at every available site. They set up their sex-and-religion symbols at practically every crossroads. Everywhere you looked there was smoke from their pagan offerings to the deities—the identical offerings that had gotten the pagan nations off into exile. They had accumulated a long list of evil actions and God was fed up, fed up with their persistent worship of gods carved out of deadwood or shaped out of clay, even though God had plainly said, “Don’t do this—ever!”
13 God had taken a stand against Israel and Judah, speaking clearly through countless holy prophets and seers time and time again, “Turn away from your evil way of life. Do what I tell you and have been telling you in The Revelation I gave your ancestors and of which I’ve kept reminding you ever since through my servants the prophets.”
14-15 But they wouldn’t listen. If anything, they were even more bullheaded than their stubborn ancestors, if that’s possible. They were contemptuous of his instructions, the solemn and holy covenant he had made with their ancestors, and of his repeated reminders and warnings. They lived a “nothing” life and became “nothings”—just like the pagan peoples all around them. They were well-warned: God said, “Don’t!” but they did it anyway.
16-17 They threw out everything God, their God, had told them, and replaced him with two statue-gods shaped like bull-calves and then a phallic pole for the whore goddess Asherah. They worshiped cosmic forces—sky gods and goddesses—and frequented the sex-and-religion shrines of Baal. They even sank so low as to offer their own sons and daughters as sacrificial burnt offerings! They indulged in all the black arts of magic and sorcery. In short, they prostituted themselves to every kind of evil available to them. And God had had enough.
18-20 God was so thoroughly angry that he got rid of them, got them out of the country for good until only one tribe was left—Judah. (Judah, actually, wasn’t much better, for Judah also failed to keep God’s commands, falling into the same way of life that Israel had adopted.) God rejected everyone connected with Israel, made life hard for them, and permitted anyone with a mind to exploit them to do so. And then this final No as he threw them out of his sight.
21-23 Back at the time that God ripped Israel out of their place in the family of David, they had made Jeroboam son of Nebat king. Jeroboam debauched Israel—turned them away from serving God and led them into a life of total sin. The children of Israel went along with all the sins that Jeroboam did, never murmured so much as a word of protest. In the end, God spoke a final No to Israel and turned his back on them. He had given them fair warning, and plenty of time, through the preaching of all his servants the prophets. Then he exiled Israel from her land to Assyria. And that’s where they are now.”
Verse 9 says, “And the people of Israel did secretly against the Lord their God things that were not right.” Who were they kidding that they thought The Lord didn’t know? Who are we kidding when we commit our secret sins and think because no one knows that somehow God doesn’t know? God sees what is done in secret, in the dark, and in the light. What we do in secret should honor God, what we do in public should show us as humble as Jesus (Matthew 6). Hebrews 4:10-14 puts it this way,
“for whoever has entered God's rest has also rested from his works as God did from his.
11 Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. 12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. 13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”
They scorned The Lord’s Covenant and so The Lord foreshadowed what would happen with the Gospel when they refused Christ and He did something extraordinary. Verses 24-33 read,
“And the king of Assyria brought people from Babylon, Cuthah, Avva, Hamath, and Sepharvaim, and placed them in the cities of Samaria instead of the people of Israel. And they took possession of Samaria and lived in its cities. 25 And at the beginning of their dwelling there, they did not fear theLord. Therefore the Lord sent lions among them, which killed some of them. 26 So the king of Assyria was told, “The nations that you have carried away and placed in the cities of Samaria do not know the law of the god of the land. Therefore he has sent lions among them, and behold, they are killing them, because they do not know the law of the god of the land.” 27 Then the king of Assyria commanded, “Send there one of the priests whom you carried away from there, and let him go and dwell there and teach them the law of the god of the land.” 28 So one of the priests whom they had carried away from Samaria came and lived in Bethel and taught them how they should fear the Lord.
29 But every nation still made gods of its own and put themin the shrines of the high places that the Samaritans had made, every nation in the cities in which they lived. 30 The men of Babylon made Succoth-benoth, the men of Cuth made Nergal, the men of Hamath made Ashima, 31 and the Avvites made Nibhaz and Tartak; and the Sepharvitesburned their children in the fire to Adrammelech and Anammelech, the gods of Sepharvaim. 32 They also feared the Lord and appointed from among themselves all sorts of people as priests of the high places, who sacrificed for them in the shrines of the high places. 33 So they feared the Lordbut also served their own gods, after the manner of the nations from among whom they had been carried away.”
The Lord spoke to the people in Samaria and the rest of what used to belong to Israel in a way they understood. He proclaimed himself to them and gave them a priest to teach them how to worship Him. Did they do any better than Israel? They included God among their gods. But The Lord remained faithful anyway. He did not only taught them how to fear Him, he made a covenant with them. They were not Israel, yet He chose them and offered them His covenant of salvation. Verses 34-41 read,
“To this day they do according to the former manner. They do not fear the Lord, and they do not follow the statutes or the rules or the law or the commandment that the Lordcommanded the children of Jacob, whom he named Israel.35 The Lord made a covenant with them and commanded them, “You shall not fear other gods or bow yourselves to them or serve them or sacrifice to them, 36 but you shall fear the Lord, who brought you out of the land of Egypt with great power and with an outstretched arm. You shall bow yourselves to him, and to him you shall sacrifice. 37 And the statutes and the rules and the law and the commandment that he wrote for you, you shall always be careful to do. You shall not fear other gods, 38 and you shall not forget the covenant that I have made with you. You shall not fear other gods, 39 but you shall fear the Lord your God, and he will deliver you out of the hand of all your enemies.” 40 However, they would not listen, but they did according to their former manner.
41 So these nations feared the Lord and also served their carved images. Their children did likewise, and their children's children—as their fathers did, so they do to this day.”
Israel abandoned The Lord and so The Lord gave Himself to other nations. They were not holy (separate and called out from other nations) but they were given God’s word. They didn’t listen, they took The Lord and put him with their gods and idols. They worshipped Him alongside the plethora of gods they already had. God did it so that Israel and Judah would become jealous and realize they were not special. It was not them who chose God but God who chose them.
Believer, God chose you. He didn’t have to. He didn’t have to offer Himself to you but He did. You do not need to turn to anyone or anything else to save you or fight for you. “The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” (Exodus 14:14). When you are in trouble, turn to The Lord not men. When you are in need to The Lord. When you are happy turn to The Lord. Whether you are celebrating or suffering the LORD is your Faithful God. He is always with you. He will never forsake you (Deuteronomy 31:6). Draw close to Him and He will draw close to you. Do what is right and stop dividing your loyalty between God and whichever man looks like he might rescue you this week. James 4:8 reads,
“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.”