(This is the second part of a two-part entry. Check out the first part here)
Propaganda. Hezekiah Mounts. Assyria Defeated. Judah Collapses. Josiah Redeems, But. Enter Nebuchadnezzar.
God dissolves His kingdom. We have already seen Israel collapse under the weight of its own sin, and now it is Judah’s turn. But how did it get this bad, how did Moses’ people possibly go from so beloved to so reviled by the Lord?
Hezekiah enters the scene right before everything falls apart and does his best to keep it from happening. His faith leaps in a way that we have not seen since David; once appointed, Hezekiah immediately gets to work on ridding the temple of all signs of idolatry – a quick way to get on God’s good side. Then, he leads the army to defeat the evil Assyrian king Sennacherib, who has been spreading affecting propaganda – about a future of consuming urine and feces no less – to secure troops for his side. But as all great leaders must, Hezekiah eventually passes on to rest with the other members of God’s A squad.
Then, six evil kings later, God decides to put an end to it all by scattering His people and ending the kingdom of Judah (for now). He allows the Babylonian nemesis Nebuchadnezzar to overtake the city of Jerusalem, thus laying down the final dirt of His punishment (for now).
The language in this section of the Bible is alarmingly aggressive, even in its most poetic moments. God warns of disaster that will make ears tingle, that he will wipe out Jerusalem as one wipes a dish. Some of the most antagonistic descriptions come when God lays down his intention of destroying the Assyrian rebellion. In one section, He says:
I will put my hook in your nose
and my bit in your mouth,
and I will make you return
by the way you came.
2 Kings 19:28 (NIV)
When the evil men of the world stray, the Lord will treat them like cattle, pulling them back into submission.
I am not going to over-dramatize this phrasing – it is true that God is referring to a pretty heinous leader who actively stirs and overflowing pot – but it struck me nonetheless. A hook in my nose. A bit in my mouth. I have felt that way before, being led back to the herd in a forced way.
It is why I always recoiled against writing forced apology letters. If my parents are guiding my hand, then it is not genuine, so why apologize in the first place? Why all the pomp, if it is meaningless? I realize that a laissez-faire attitude in this circumstance would not work – children must learn some good behavior by muscle memory, even if the attitude is not completely honest. But now… as an adult? My attitude must be honest, because if not, then what’s the point?
I do not think anyone here is suggesting a hook-and-bit approach to evangelism (contextually, God uses this harsh language towards a particularly apoplectic enemy). That is a relief to me – I find persuasion by force to be a highly ineffective strategy for lasting results. But often, I feel that pressure – I can sense that rope being lowered around my neck to be forced in a certain direction. And that makes me feel led astray.