Once again, as is now routine, I fell behind on my reading over the weekend. The downside of this is that on Tuesdays I have a ton of catching up to do. Another downside to this is I have a hard time figuring out something precise to write about when I've read 10+ chapters. A lot tends to happen in that amount of reading. However, there is a plus side, and the plus side is that when you read big chunks of text you start noticing the forest instead of just the trees. Tuesdays are turning into my "big picture" days, the days I get back in tune with the themes going on behind the stories of the Bible.
At the end of today's reading Samaria falls. The northern kingdom of Israel is no more. Ten tribes of Israel are gone forever. I put down my Bible today feeling depressed. Twelve chapters of reading today...there was very little hope in any of it, and then it ended with defeat. I joked back in college (usually at the end of the semester when all the term papers were due) that "life sucks and then you die." That's sort of the feeling I got while reading through II Kings. The story of the northern kingdom is dark. Assassination, mass murder, the corpse of a person thrown out of a window eaten by dogs (and feeling that such an end was a just end for the individual in mind)...that's how things go for Israel. A slow but steady deterioration of a nation from the inside out, that's what my reading for today was. It is very sad.
But even more sad is the bigger picture. As the history of Israel (and again, to clarify I'm using "Israel" in terms of the northern kingdom here, not the people of God as a whole) unfolds, the ten tribes of the north become more and more a reflection of the people around them. There is a direct correlation between that happening and the northern ten tribes becoming less and less a reflection of God. God had a plan for the Hebrews, north and south alike. He did not bring them out of Egypt so they could go party and have a good time. He did not free them so they could become enslaved to narcissism and debauchery. He freed them in order that they might begin turning things around. Creation, fall, calling, cure...that is the big picture going on in the Bible up to this point, but here toward the end of II Kings, God's plan to redeem and restore his creation is falling apart. The calling worked out well (Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Israel), but the inheritors of that calling have forgotten everything. They have forgotten their beginnings. They have forgotten their identity. They have forgotten their purpose, and so, as they lose more and more of themselves, and eventually disappear altogether, they are not the only one who suffers. The world becomes a darker place because of their failure. The end of their story concludes by the king of Assyria bringing foreigners into what was once Israel, but they are away from home. They do not know how to survive in Israel. They do not know God. They are lost. The king of Assyria sends a captured priest back to northern Palestine, but it is too late. God, his ways, and his hopes for humanity have been forgotten beyond reclaiming, at least for Israel and everyone around.
In our modern world of specialists and cynicism, theology is usually deemed a science of foolish dreamers. It's not a real science. It's not a hard science. It's the discipline of people who prefer the land of make believe over what any sane person would call reality. Obviously, as a minister, I disagree. Theology and anthropology are directly linked. Christianity has gotten side tracked by hot-topic arguments. What Christianity should be spending its time thinking about is what it means to be human, and what type of humans we should be. Now, that thinking may certainly affect the world of politics, but let us not put the cart before the horse. Humanity suffered when the ancient Hebrews lost their way. I would say our modern world is suffering because we Christians have lost our way. As God's representatives in this world, our failures affect far more than ourselves.
Well, enough melodrama for today. I have a long list of reading to do before the victory of Jesus. I'll try not to be so depressed the whole way there.
Stopping point: II Kings 17