We’re looking at Psalm 119 in our Sunday meetings, which is all about the word of God. So the other thing we’re doing in our all-age slot is doing an overview of the whole Bible (we’re using material from The King, the Snake and the Promise, with a bit of help from God’s Big Picture). This week we were up to the exile.
Things seemed so good under David and Solomon. God’s promises to Abraham seemed to be almost fulfilled. Abraham’s descendants are now a huge people. They have their own land. They live under the rule of God expressed by the law, the king (who is incredibly wise) and the newly built and glorious temple. That has led to incredible blessing (see e.g. 1 Kings 10).
But the pattern of sin hasn’t been broken. Solomon falls for the idolatry of his many wives, and things go from bad to worse. When his son Rehoboam becomes king he manages to split the kingdom in two with his hard-man posturing (1 Kings 11), so we end up with two different kingdoms (Israel and Judah), ruled by two different kings. Israel persists in idolatry without Jerusalem or the temple. Judah has some good kings, but mostly not-so-good and the idolatry persists.
God had set the terms of the covenant and if Israel break it they will be cursed (see Deuteronomy 28:15-68). Part of that curse will be to be exiled from the land (see Deuteronomy 28:25, 63-64). One of the things we see the prophets of the time doing is repeatedly warning both Israel and Judah to come back to obedience to God. Sadly, there are only ever partial returns and the big picture is decline from the high points of David and Solomon.
That decline eventually leads to disaster. In 722BC Israel is defeated and deported by the Assyrian empire (2 Kings 17:1-6) and it is clear that this is punishment for their sin (2 Kings 17:7). It takes longer for Judah, but in 597BC and again in 586BC they are defeated and deported, this time by the Babylonian empire (2 Kings 24-25). Jerusalem and the temple are destroyed.
It seems like it’s all over. However, the prophets, who prophesied about the exile also prophesied about the return of a remnant in glory (e.g. Isaiah 10:20-21), a new servant king who will both reign and deal with sin (Isaiah 9:6-7; 53), a new covenant with blessing to the whole world (e.g. Jeremiah 31:31, Isaiah 49:6) and even a new creation (Isaiah 65:17-18). God has not forgotten his promises!
We see some courageous faithfulness in exile (see the books of Esther and Daniel) and even the return of some people who rebuild the temple and Jerusalem (Ezra and Nehemiah). But we’re still waiting. When will the servant king come who will deal with sin and restore the people of God?