Roots of BitternessWorld Events

Roots of Bitterness: Hope in the Midst of Turmoil

In the previous post, we briefly explored the Nation of Israel’s turbulent history.  I also indicated the battles resulting from their on-again, off-again relationship with God reinforced their enemies’ resentment.

The surrounding nations knew Israel gave credit to God for their victories, so when Israel sinned and the surrounding nations gained a victory over them, it emboldened all the surrounding nations.

As a result, Israel would repent and God would show them favor, allowing them to reclaim victory.  Back and forth it went, year after year, as resentment and bitterness continued to fester.

A great example can be found in 2 Kings 17-19, as Israel is carried away into captivity by the king of Assyria.  Emboldened by the previous victory, the new king of Assyria, Sennacherib, decided to invade Judah, as well, since Israel was divided into two kingdoms at that time.

In his boldness, Sennacherib insulted God to His face, comparing Him to the false gods of other nations.

“Thus shall you speak to Hezekiah king of Judah: ‘Do not let your God in whom you trust deceive you by promising that Jerusalem will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria. Behold, you have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all lands, devoting them to destruction. And shall you be delivered? Have the gods of the nations delivered them, the nations that my fathers destroyed, Gozan, Haran, Rezeph, and the people of Eden who were in Telassar? Where is the king of Hamath, the king of Arpad, the king of the city of Sepharvaim, the king of Hena, or the king of Ivvah'” 2 Kings 19:10-13 (ESV)?

Big mistake.

Judah’s King, Hezekiah, prayed for God to defend His honor, and God wiped out Sennacherib’s army.

God responded immediately.

“And that night the angel of the LORD went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians. And when people arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies. Then Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and went home and lived at Nineveh” (2 Kings 19:35-36 ESV).

Eventually, Israel regained its independence, only to be carried into captivity by Babylon due to their rebellion and disobedience.

Even while the Israelites were exiled in Babylon, however, they received favor from God.

King Cyrus made a decre to help them rebuild the temple in Jerusalem.  As progress was being made to rebuild both the temple and the walls of Jerusalem under a subsequent king, some people were not so quick to relinquish their deep-seeded bitterness, as they tried to stop the Israelites’ progress.

“(This is a copy of the letter that they sent.) ‘To Artaxerxes the king: Your servants, the men of the province Beyond the River, send greeting. And now be it known to the king that the Jews who came up from you to us have gone to Jerusalem. They are rebuilding that rebellious and wicked city. They are finishing the walls and repairing the foundations. Now be it known to the king that if this city is rebuilt and the walls finished, they will not pay tribute, custom, or toll, and the royal revenue will be impaired. Now because we eat the salt of the palace and it is not fitting for us to witness the king’s dishonor, therefore we send and inform the king, in order that search may be made in the book of the records of your fathers. You will find in the book of the records and learn that this city is a rebellious city, hurtful to kings and provinces, and that sedition was stirred up in it from of old. That was why this city was laid waste. We make known to the king that if this city is rebuilt and its walls finished, you will then have no possession in the province Beyond the River'” (Ezra 4:11-16 ESV).

Notice the specific wording: “…a rebellious city…sedition was stirred up in it from of old.”

That is the exact wording used in the book of Jubilees concerning Canaan: “…thou and thy sons will fall in the land and (be) accursed through sedition; for by sedition ye have settled, and by sedition will thy children fall, and thou shalt be rooted out for ever.”

Due to their disobedience (and the constant wars), Israel was viewed by their neighbors in the same way Canaan was viewed by his father and brothers, as usurpers taking land that rightfully belonged to someone else.

Unfortunately, Israel’s reputation hasn’t changed since the rebuilding of the temple in 5th century BC.

Despite Israel’s disobedience, God has always been faithful and merciful to them.

For instance, God used Jeremiah to forewarn Israel that they were going to spend 70 years in captivity to Babylon (Jeremiah 25), but he also promised they would return to their promised land (Jeremiah 30).

More than that, God used Jeremiah to offer The Israelites eternal hope, despite their inability to be obedient.

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jeremiah 31:31-33 ESV).

As we’ll explore in the next installment of this study, Israel is still awaiting the fulfillment of the new covenant.  Read more here

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