“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 wouldn’t live long in the land if they went after false gods. And yet, the Israelites lived in the land for another eight hundred years. Solomon built the Temple 480 years after the Jews left Egypt (1 Kings 6:1) and died around 930 BC. About two hundred years later (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.
Eight hundred years 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!