The children’s eyes lit up again this week when I told them more about Israelite history. I recounted King Ahaz’s crime, to call in the Assyrian army to defend Judah against aggression from the northern alliance of Israel and Aram. Just hearing this caused suspicion in the children; how would King Ahaz know that Assyria wouldn’t turn against Judah? I spoiled the end–I let them know that it was going to end badly. We saw the Lord’s uncompromising insistence on driving his people off the land so that they would eventually desire to turn back to him.
I read the entire chapter to the children, telling them to listen and remember what stood out to them. The women removed from their houses and the prophet preaching “liquor and wine” struck them immediately. Then they discussed the bad events that were coming to pass for Judah. Then I read back through the chapter slowly, explaining the difficult parts and inviting discussion.
The dispossession of the people occupied a lot of our time, and we tied it back to the theme of disloyalty from last week (chapter 1). We recalled how the Lord needed to bring the people back to him, but punishment alone was not going to work. Wicked people would come and steal their land–and God would allow it! The people would lament (similar to the mourning of the previous chapter). This reaction would hopefully bring the people back.
People would not welcome such a message, we saw in the next section (verses 6-7), because it sounds strange. How could God allow wicked people to have their way with this land and let people be hurt? All this because King Ahaz sinned? We remembered the king of Nineveh, who, in contrast to King Ahaz and his people, listened and immediately repented and fasted. The contrasting behavior of King Ahaz struck us especially because he was the king of Assyria–the very opponent threatening Israel now! The king of Nineveh proved that the correct behavior was possible, putting King Ahaz in an even more dangerous position in the eyes of the Lord.
Our class agreed that the people would always prefer a prophet who preached a party rather than the doom that God had in mind (verses 11-12). We wondered, though, how could the Ninevites hear Jonah’s prophecy amidst the voices of the city, especially one that was so difficult. Of course it’s easier to hear the easy word, making the Ninevites stand out even more for the responsiveness.
This chapter showed that God would warn the people with an impossible message: God was ready to abandon his people and his land. His own people would suffer and God would not help. The Lord would lead them out of their land himself (verse 13).