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Monday, March 28, 2016

Refugees in a Biblical World

Last time's study got cut short, so this continues straight on from where we left off, with political, religious and military machinations dominating a word that's not so different from our own.

(20) Unification at a Price

History: Israel has fallen, as prophesied by Micah, Isaiah and others. (Read 1 Chronicles 5:26, 2 Kings 15:29 , 17:5-6). Its people have been forcibly resettled by Assyria’s rules, sent to foreign lands while foreigners take over their homes and farms.

1.       The same thing continues to happen in Israel throughout history. Is there a recent time when inhabitants of Israel might consider themselves to have been forcibly resettled while foreigners took over their farms?

2.       Does it help, when thinking of modern injustice, to view it through the eyes of Biblical history, or do modern events undo the past?

Social Issues: Survivors or refugees from Israel can easily be imagined fleeing back to Judah. Meanwhile the borderlands between Israel and Judah were still disputed territory. Perhaps Judah could get some of its land back.

1.       How open are we to welcoming people we once fiercely disagreed with?

2.       How open are we to welcoming refugees who might have different attitudes, customs and beliefs from our own?

3.       How open are we to waiting for God’s word before making decisions about such things?

What did the King of Judah do?
1.       Remembering Hoshea is the king of Israel when Assyria takes over, Read 2 Kings 18:1-8.  Judah’s King Hezekiah seems to be a good guy, but when do you think this is being written?

2.       How do you think the (human) writer feels about Hezekiah as he writes? And how might God feel about Hezekiah? Is there anything wrong with trying to separate the two?

3.       What’s wrong with the serpent? Can you think of any modern analogies where we worship something holy instead of worshiping God?

4.       But Kings isn’t the only book where we learn this history. Read 2 Chronicles 29:3-9. When were Judeans taken into captivity? Do you suppose they were all returned when Oded spoke in Israel, or might some have been caught up in the fall of Samaria? (2 Chronicles 28:9)

5.       Read 2 Chronicles 29:31-34. Is Hezekiah obeying all the rules, or combining the needs of circumstance with the law? Is it always wrong to reinterpret rules in the light of current events/needs?

6.       Read 2 Kings 18:9-12. Is this another exile from Samaria, or the same one we read about in 2 Kings 17? Do you get the feeling that separate records of history are being combined into one book? Why might that be natural at this time?

7.       How might the Judahites feel at being spared? (Sennacherib is going to move South from Israel to attack those borderland fortified cities, so Judah isn’t really safe.)

8.       Read 2 Chronicles 30:1-13. Is Hezekiah’s action good secular policy? Is it good spiritual policy?

9.       Read 2 Chronicles 30:18-20. What might Hezekiah’s prayer tell us about Christian disunity?

Prophecy: So... Time to see how Isaiah the prophet views what’s going on.
1.       Read Isaiah 10:5-6,12-15.  Assyria has just done God’s work of punishing Israel. How do the Assyrians feel, and how does God feel about what has happened? How might these words apply to nation-building today?

2.       Read Isaiah 10:20,24-26. When do you think Isaiah writes this?

3.       Read Isaiah 11:1-5.  Why is the situation ripe for another Messianic prophecy?

4.       Read Isaiah 11:6-9. Wolves and lambs were common images then.  What might be analogous images today—in our cities, on our TV screens?

5.       Read Isaiah 11:10-11. Who is included in this victory?

6.       Read Isaiah 11:13-16. Might Hezekiah have seen the uniting of Israel and Judah as part of this? What do we see?

7.       Read Isaiah 12:1-6. And maybe the threat of destruction has gone...

Wisdom: So now Hezekiah sets about uniting and ruling his people. The priests set about making sure religious law is religiously obeyed. And the scribes make notes—perhaps even writing Kings and Chronicles and parts of Proverbs: Read Proverbs 25:1

History: But what happened next? Egypt has become stronger after Ethiopia took over (25th dynasty, 780-656BC). Assyria expanded through Israel, Philistia and beyond. But Babylon attacked Assyria from the North while Egypt attacked from the South.

Philistia invited Egypt and Judah to join in their rebellion (712BC) but Egypt didn’t offer the expected help. Judah escaped relatively unscathed, but now Babylon was interfering, sending delegates to Judah. When Hezekiah fell ill, Isaiah prophesied his death, but Hezekiah prayed and was healed. He paid tribute to Assyria, considered asking for Egyptian help again, and Jerusalem was saved by God sending a plague. Meanwhile Isaiah continued to preach against Jerusalem, claiming they cared more about military success and secular safety than about God. Does any of this sound familiar? 

Assyria destroyed Babylon around 690BC. Hezekiah died, succeeded by Manasseh (as in Prayer of Manasseh though Kings says he was never good). Then came Amon. Then Josiah the reformer and a brief golden age. ... to be continued.

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