Step #1: Lectio / Read
2 Kings 17:5-8, 13-15a, 18
Shalmaneser, king of Assyria, occupied the whole land
and attacked Samaria, which he besieged for three years.
In the ninth year of Hoshea, king of Israel
the king of Assyria took Samaria,
and deported the children of Israel to Assyria,
setting them in Halah, at the Habor, a river of Gozan,
and the cities of the Medes.
This came about because the children of Israel sinned against the LORD,
their God, who had brought them up from the land of Egypt,
from under the domination of Pharaoh, king of Egypt,
and because they venerated other gods.
They followed the rites of the nations
whom the LORD had cleared out of the way of the children of Israel
and the kings of Israel whom they set up.
And though the LORD warned Israel and Judah
by every prophet and seer,
“Give up your evil ways and keep my commandments and statutes,
in accordance with the entire law which I enjoined on your fathers
and which I sent you by my servants the prophets,”
they did not listen, but were as stiff-necked as their fathers,
who had not believed in the LORD, their God.
They rejected his statutes,
the covenant which he had made with their fathers,
and the warnings which he had given them, till,
in his great anger against Israel,
the LORD put them away out of his sight.
Only the tribe of Judah was left.
step #2: Meditatio / Meditate
We live in a small house. We have four young children. We have three bedrooms and one bathroom. You do the math.
It's crowded and crazy at home! Don't get me wrong though, I'm not complaining. I actually like it that way! But sometimes I get a little nervous. As they run around playing, they're often pushing and shoving each other. "Guys, I love that you're having fun right now, but you gotta be more careful or someone is going to get hurt!"
One time, they were being particularly wild. My wife and I gave them our usual warning about being careful. They ignored us. Then our son James got shoved face-first into the corner of a table. It split the skin open less than an inch from his eye.
Those were our first family stitches. Oh, the memories.
Often we read something from the Old Testament, like in today's passage, and we wonder how God could be so angry and harsh. "In his great anger against Israel, the LORD put them away out of his sight. Only the tribe of Judah was left." Ouch. All of Israel (i.e. God's people) was divided into twelve tribes. It sounds like God became so angry with Israel that He abandoned eleven of the tribes, which pretty much makes it seem like He's just giving up.
But this doesn't jive with our image of a heavenly Father whose love is unconditional and whose patience is infinite. First, it's important to note that the Scriptures were written by humans under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. So at that time, the perception of God's people was that He was angry and had abandoned them. When eleven of the twelve tribes of Israel have been dismantled, who could blame them for thinking that?
But does God really give up on us if we push Him too far?
My wife and I weren't trying to ruin our kids' fun when we gave them a warning about being careful. We weren't imposing arbitrary rules on them because we were on a power trip. We simply told them that if they continue their current behavior, it'll probably end up hurting them. And it did.
"And though the LORD warned Israel and Judah by every prophet and seer... they did not listen, but were as stiff-necked as their fathers." Sin is not about God enforcing random laws on us. The behavior of sin will end up hurting us. And it has.
God does not tire of forgiving us, but He does allow us to make poor choices. Israel made poor choices and it tore them apart. When we choose to sin, it tears us apart from the inside out. That is the very nature of sin.
God didn't abandon us. We abandoned Him when we walked away pursuing sin.
So next time you hear the Lord's voice in your heart, warning you about the sin in your life, listen up. Receive His warning as a gesture of love. He knows what sin does to you, and He wants something much better for you. Turn back to Him and receive His mercy! And if you feel like God has abandoned you, take another really close look.
Who abandoned who?
Step #3: Oratio / Pray
"And though the LORD warned Israel and Judah by every prophet and seer... they did not listen, but were as stiff-necked as their fathers."
Do you feel like God has abandoned you in any way? Talk to Him about those areas of your life where you don't feel His presence.
Now ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you the ways that you have abandoned God.
Ask Jesus to forgive you and to help you come back to Him. Spend some time dwelling on His mercy and let it fill you with joy right now.
What can you do to avoid those sins in the future?
Step #4: Contemplatio / Contemplate
"Holy Spirit, be my light."
"Jesus, you never abandon me."
"Lord, I want to come back to you."
For the Rest of Your Day...
Resolve to go to confession again soon. But this time, put some extra effort into examining your conscience anew. Let this be your best confession ever.
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Today's prayer was prepared by Dan Wolff.
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