“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that you will soon utterly perish from the land that you are going over the Jordan to possess. You will not live long in it, but will be utterly destroyed.”
Deuteronomy 4:26 ESV
In Deuteronomy 4:26, God promises the children of Israel that they will be “utterly destroyed” if they go after false gods. Moses calls heaven and earth as witnesses against them, that they will “utterly perish from the land you are crossing the Jordan to possess.”
Two verses later, God promises that from wherever His people are scattered, they will seek the Lord and be found by Him. That when they searched for Him with all their heart and with all their soul, that God would “not leave you or destroy you or forget the covenant with your fathers that he swore to you.”
I guess by God’s standard, they really didn’t live long in the land. According to 1 Kings 6:1, there were 480 years from the time the Jews left Egypt to the time Solomon began building the Temple. Since it’s pretty well established that Solomon began his reign in 970 BC, this gives us a date of around 1446 BC for the Jews to leave Egypt, which means they entered the Promised Land around 1406 BC.
Two hundred and fifty years after Solomon built the temple (722 BC), the Assyrians conquered the northern kingdom of Israel and scattered the people. The southern kingdom of Judah held out for another 130 years before also falling to the Babylonians in 586 BC.
All this adds up to the Israelites being in the land for just under 700 years, or just over 800 if you date it to the fall of Jerusalem. That seems like a long time for us in America, who mark our founding a bare 530 years ago, when Columbus “discovered” “America” (Those double air quotes are for you, indigenous peoples!).
But on God’s timeline, that’s the blink of an eye.
Now consider this: if by God’s standard 800 years is “not long” to dwell in the land, then how does that change our perspective of the seventy years of exile? We know that in 586 BC, the Jews in Jerusalem were exiled to Babylon. But in 538, King Cyrus issued his decree that the Jews could return home. We have this recorded at the end of 2 Chronicles, and at the beginning of Ezra.
For us, 70 years is a lifetime. But for God, it’s the timeout you would give to a toddler.
We were created for eternity. We were meant to see all things from God’s perspective and to live on God’s timeline. Unfortunately, sin has so distorted our horizons that we think God is slow to keep his promises. Remember 2 Peter 3:
“But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”
2 Peter 3:8-9 ESV
Let’s practice living on God’s timeline now. Realize that the Israelites really didn’t live too long in the land before God judged them for their idolatry. But if that’s true, then the 70 years of exile was minuscule. Our God is so slow to anger, and so quick to forgive!
I am so thankful that even when I am bent on destruction, God bends toward restoration. God will allow us to come to the brink of utter ruin. But if we are His, He will not let us tumble into its abyss. Like the prodigal son in the pigpen (Luke 15), we can come to the absolute utter end of ourselves, and find God is only just beginning His work on us. When we are undone, God is not done!