The Lord said also to me in the days of Josiah the king: “Have you seen what backsliding Israel has done? She has gone up on every high mountain and under every green tree, and there played the harlot. And I said, after she had done all these things, ‘Return to Me.’ But she did not return. And her treacherous sister Judah saw it. Then I saw that for all the causes for which backsliding Israel had committed adultery, I had put her away and given her a certificate of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but went and played the harlot also. So it came to pass, through her casual harlotry, that she defiled the land and committed adultery with stones and trees. And yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah has not turned to Me with her whole heart, but in pretense,” says the Lord. (Jeremiah 3:6-10)
God’s Warnings Come From Examples
One of the most effective tools of learning is found in the examples of others. Solomon declared there is nothing new under the sun, and when it comes to learning from the mistakes of others, the examples abound throughout history. The mind of God has not changed from the beginning. When sin exalts itself, the Lord measures the will of man by the same rule and meting out the same consequences as before. This is clearly stated when the nation of Israel was divided, with Israel to the north and Judah to the south. Every king (without exception) of Israel was evil, and judgment would come against the people of God in 722 B.C. when Assyria destroyed Samaria. The prophet Jeremiah began his ministry around 627 B.C. With their northern brethren being gone for nearly 100 years, Judah was not learning from the mistakes of Israel.
Israel had embraced idolatry with full fervor. They rejected the word of God and despised all his warnings. The people worshiped worthless idols and became worthless themselves. Israel followed the example of the nations around them who worshipped the Asherah pole and worshiped Baal and all the forces of heaven. They sacrificed their sons and daughters in the fire, consulted fortune-tellers and practiced sorcery, and sold themselves to evil, arousing the Lord’s anger. Prophets like Amos and Hosea warned the leaders of impending doom, but they took no heed. Finally, the Lord sent the army of Assyria and removed the ten tribes from His sight. There was none left but the tribe of Judah alone. The greater tragedy was that while Judah watched all that happened with her northern sister, Israel; they refused to change.
God begged Israel to repent, but they did not and faced the wrath of God. Judah saw it and refused to repent. The Lord showed Judah how Israel had backslidden with all her wickedness, and God walked away from her – Judah did not listen. There was a spiritual divorce between the Lord and Israel; warning Judah the same thing would happen to them – they did not listen. No matter what God did to His people, the remnant saw, took note, and refused to repent. One hundred sixteen years after Assyria captured Samaria, the Babylonians take away the first group of captives from Jerusalem. Twenty years later, Jerusalem is destroyed, and the Temple burned. If Judah had taken the example of Israel years before, they would not have suffered the same fate. Refusing to be admonished by the example of Israel, Judah would be crushed and nearly destroyed.
Examples are important lesson tools. The problem comes when examples are not used for their intended purpose. God has never changed His mind about the condition of man. When sin separates the will of the Lord, and the will of man, the examples of scripture help find the correct path to follow. If God punished Israel – His special people – what makes anyone think today that God will not punish them? No matter what version of the Bible a person reads, sin remains the same, and the way the Lord deals with sin remains the same. Judah should have learned from her sister Israel, but she did not believe God would do the same thing to her. They were wrong. To their surprise (and regret), the Lord brought the Babylonians and punished them. The only saving grace of Judah was the remnant of the righteous that preserved the seed promise of Christ.
The Bible is a book of examples. On every page is the will of the Lord exercised over the will of man. The stories of the Bible happened thousands of years ago, but the manner of God’s judgment remains the same. Failing to read the Bible is refusing to see the examples of God’s goodness and severity. He exalts a nation that is righteous and destroys a nation that forgets Him. The grace of God will save a lost sinner, and the wrath of God will condemn a sinner. There is an example for every motive of the Lord in the Bible. Examples teach. Listen and learn.