Despite every blessing and opportunity given by the Lord to turn back to Him, the Northern Kingdom of Israel finally fell to the invading Assyrians, and its people were carried off into exile there. Unlike Judah and Benjamin, who for similar reasons would later go into exile themselves, the ten tribes of the Northern Kingdom of Israel would not be sent back to their land. They were replaced by other people sent from the Assyrian Empire.
God had given His people every opportunity to turn away from their idolatry. He had sent them the prophets Elijah and Elisha, with demonstrations of His great power, and had even sent the armies of heaven to defend against invaders.
17 And Elisha prayed, and said, “Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. 2 Kings 6:17 NKJV
But the many miracles that God sent to them were not enough to turn their hearts back to Him.
6 In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria took Samaria and carried Israel away to Assyria…
7 For so it was that the children of Israel had sinned against the Lord their God, who had brought them up out of the land of Egypt, from under the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt; and they had feared other gods, 8 and had walked in the statutes of the nations whom the Lord had cast out from before the children of Israel, and of the kings of Israel, which they had made…11 There they burned incense on all the high places, like the nations whom the Lord had carried away before them; and they did wicked things to provoke the Lord to anger, 12 for they served idols, of which the Lord had said to them, “You shall not do this thing.” 2 Kings 17:6-8,11-12 NKJV
How many chances does the Lord give us when we are in rebellion against Him?
He gives us more than one opportunity – to that I can personally attest. But we also learn from scripture that God does have His limits. If the potential for faith in Him is just not there, there may be a point when the Lord finally says, “Enough!”.
According to 2 Kings 17, the Lord had seen enough of His peoples’ idolatrous behavior, including worshiping golden calf idols and the host of heaven, serving Baal, practicing witchcraft and soothsaying, and even sacrificing their own children in fire to placate a heathen god, Molech.
18 Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel, and removed them from His sight; there was none left but the tribe of Judah alone. 2 Kings 17:18 NKJV
Judah, which also included the small tribe of Benjamin, was all that was left of God’s chosen people in Israel. It was kept intact for a time to maintain the temple in Jerusalem and to carry on the line of King David, which God promised to establish forever. But even Judah would eventually fail, turn their backs on God, and suffer a defeat and an exile of their own under Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon.
Is there a secret number of chances that God will give us that only He knows? And once we exceed that number, are we are out of luck for eternity?
God knows our hearts. He does not wish for anyone to be lost, but that all would come to Him in repentance (2 Peter 3:9). As long as there is a glimmer of hope for faith in our hearts, God will not give up on us. He may turn up the heat a bit in our lives to help get our attention, but He will only do this in love. He will not send us a tragedy, such as the loss of a loved one, as part of this chastening – those griefs will come to us, but only as a consequence of living in a fallen world, and not as a punishment for something we have done or not done.
God’s hope is that when all is said and done, we will make a decision to follow Him in faith, and then do our best to honor Him with our lives and our behavior. There is nothing in His universe that the Lord wants more than this. He will give us every opportunity and blessing to help us to succeed.
How many “second chances” has the Lord given you? Can you count them all?
Are you in need of another chance today?
The good news is that God has planted the seed of faith in our hearts, and we can turn to Him today to be restored and to enjoy the many warm blessings of His love for us. Jesus confirms this love in His parables of the Lost Coin and the Prodigal Son, found in Luke 15.
Father God, thank You that You never give up on us as long we have a sliver of faith in You in our hearts. Help our faith to grow from a spark to a roaring fire today. We love You and praise You! In Jesus name we pray, Amen.