Churches are sometimes disappointing places. Although Christians are called to emulate Jesus Christ, that does not always happen. The sinful self-centeredness that infects all humankind is a poison that also afflicts the church. When I was a young, idealistic student, I had difficulty reading church history because it often seemed to be the story of one Christian group being cruel to another; a church office being bought or sold; or the failure of Christian leaders to resist the temptations of power, sex, and money.
To read the history of Israel is to experience the same kind of disappointment. In spite of God’s efforts, the people constantly turned their backs on the way of life the Lord laid out for them. Finally, having betrayed God so thoroughly that there was no remedy for their situation but judgment, the people in the sixth century bc found themselves exiles in Babylonia, hundreds of miles from their homeland. Considering their faithlessness, it is difficult to fault the Lord’s justice in their finding themselves in such a predicament.
However, the astonishing thing about God is that God did not leave them there and start over with a new people. Instead, the Lord remained covenantally faithful to his faithless people and made provision for their return to their homeland. Judah had been destroyed and ought to have disappeared from the pages of history yet was given new life through the sovereign power of a gracious God.