Judah’s sins and unrepentant heart forced God to use sterner measures. They were taken captive. But God also returned them to their homeland after a time.
To an unfaithful people, God is still faithful. Israel and Judah broke His covenant six ways from Sunday but God never abandoned them. He called out to them. He sent prophets and messengers to bring them His message of repentance. He moved in the hearts of several of the kings of Judah so that they returned to Him, for a time. He sent feast and famine on them according to where their hearts were at the time. He sent conquerors who afflicted the people and ultimately led them into captivity. And He sent release from bondage with a promise of a new start.
Babylon was God’s instrument of punishment with Judah. Assyria was His instrument with Israel. Babylon eventually conquered Assyria so all the Hebrews were essentially captives of Babylon. Somehow or other all but two tribes were absorbed or lost in the process. When Babylon was finally conquered by Persia the only Hebrews that could be traced were those of the kingdom of Judah; Judah and Benjamin. Today the people are called Jews because of their connection to Judah.
For seventy years God allowed the people of Judah to be held under the thumb of Babylon. We read last time that God gave the land a Sabbath rest. To me that means that no one occupied the land while the children of God were in captivity. No one plowed or planted. No one harvested or gathered in its produce. For seventy years God held it in trust for His people to return to.
God used Cyrus to return the people to the land and to build for Him again a place for His name in Jerusalem. I find it very interesting that Cyrus cited “the God of the universe” as the one who told him to let the His people go to build Him a home again. This was not the god that the Persians worshiped. Persia’s god didn’t tell Cyrus to do anything. THE God of the universe did. AND HE LISTENED!!! I wonder how it was that God spoke to him. Was it in a dream? Did he consult one of his gods? Did he turn to the One True God through the people of Judah and his interactions with them? However it was, God showed His people His faithfulness. They would once again be a people set apart for His name.
I have VERY limited knowledge of the history of the land or the people outside the Bible. I know that the Israel was ruled by the Romans at the time of Jesus. According to the Google search I did, the people were conquered again by several different groups but not deported between the two times. How they came to be removed from the land later on, I do not know. How the land came to be hotly contested I don’t know either.
What I do KNOW is that God is faithful even when His people aren’t. I believe His covenant with Israel transcends time. Jesus completed the work of salvation that God brought about through the Jewish people but that didn’t absolve Him of all responsibility or sever all His ties to them. We are told in Revelation that they would return to God and many would recognize Jesus as their Messiah. The 144,000 would be the first of these and they are from ALL twelve tribes of Israel. The world may have lost track of them but God hasn’t. He is still watching over the very people who nailed His Son to the cross. If that’s not love and commitment I don’t know what is!
Father God, I KNOW I don’t have all the answers. I barely follow the logic of those who think they do. I KNOW they don’t have them all either. What I do KNOW is that You are faithful. Period. You still hold special the people You first called. You have not forgotten about them even though, as a nation, they have rejected Your Son. You hold out hope for ALL people through Jesus. You did this through the people You first called as Your own.
But Your faithfulness doesn’t stop with Israel. It extends to me too. It is through Jesus that I too am Your child. THANK YOU FATHER for that precious gift! And thank You that even in the times I am unfaithful, which are MANY more than I care to count, You are not. Your love brings me back EVERY time. I know there is a LOT I don’t know but this truth is all I need to hold on to in ANY storm. And it is the promise I cling to for my whole future; now and into all eternity.