One look at the patience God had with His wayward people of Israel and Judah and we see why John the Beloved said, “God is love” (I John 4:16, NLT). One look at how the kings of Israel came from all sorts of families while Judah’s kings all came from the lineage of David and we see how all-powerful God’s hand and promises are.
Israel and Judah had once been a single nation, but when David’s son Solomon turned away from the Lord, he set in motion the punishment God had warned him would happen: “Since you have not kept My covenant and have disobeyed My decrees, I will surely tear the kingdom away from you and give it to one of your servants. But for the sake of your father, David, I will not do this while you are still alive. I will take the kingdom away from your son. And even so, I will not take away the entire kingdom; I will let him be king of one tribe, for the sake of My servant David and for the sake of Jerusalem, My chosen city” (I Kings 11:11-13).
When Rehoboam, Solomon’s son, took over as king, he listened to bad advice, turned the vast majority of the people against him, and wound up ruling only the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, collectively known as the nation of Judah. True to God’s Word, one of Solomon’s own officials, Jeroboam, ended up as leader of the ten tribes who remained as the nation of Israel.
And that’s the way things continued. A descendant of David ruled over Judah while a variety of rulers came and went in Israel. As Second Chronicles 10:19 put it, “And to this day the northern tribes of Israel have refused to be ruled by a descendant of David.”
Was it random chance that switched out rulers in Israel over and over while Judah’s leaders kept coming from David’s family? No! It was the sovereign will of our Sovereign God. He can and will do exactly what He says He will do, and that includes keeping His promises to people who are totally undeserving of His goodness. People like the nation of Judah. And people like me. And you.
So here we are with Uzziah technically still king in Judah but confined to a private residence because of his leprosy while his son Jotham is actually ruling the kingdom. Over in Israel, Jeroboam II died and his son Zechariah took over for only six short months before “Shallum son of Jabesh conspired against Zechariah, assassinated him in public, and became the next king” (II Kings 15:10).
Although Judah had a heap of bad leaders throughout its history, they at least had some good ones amidst them all. Israel, the people who “refused to be ruled by a descendant of David,” had bad, bad, and more bad. Jehu seems to be the only king of Israel who even made an effort to do right – and that was certainly short-lived.
So did things get better when Shallum took over? Hardly. He barely had time to get his robes fitted. “Shallum son of Jabesh began to rule over Israel in the thirty-ninth year of King Uzziah’s reign in Judah. Shallum reigned in Samaria only one month. Then Menahem son of Gadi went to Samaria from Tirzah and assassinated him, and he became the next king” (II Kings 15:13-14).
You know, Judah may not have been following the Lord the way He wanted them to, but at least they weren’t refusing “to be ruled by a descendant of David.” And through God’s promise to David would come the Lion of Judah.
Ten tribes made up Israel. Two tribes made up Judah. Being in the majority doesn’t always mean being in the right. Follow God, not the crowd.
Copyright © 2013
Judy Woodward Bates