Israel was exiled to Assyria and wiped out. Judah was exiled to Babylonia for half a century and was never again a truly independent kingdom except for the short Maccabean period, which was not so hot in its own right.
Why these periods of exile?
Because the bulk of Israel/Judah did not obey God. They were influenced by the culture around them to the extent that they became part of it. They gave service to God, but also to the cultural gods around them. They were in the world and part of the world.
“In the world and not of the world.” It sounds like one of those extra-biblical aphorisms that Christians are fond of, like “The Lord helps those who help themselves.” But it isn’t that way at all. It’s embedded in the prayer of Jesus for his disciples (and for us) in John 17. Read it if you don’t believe me.
Well, in my opinion we (the church) are not doing any better than the Israelites did at that thing. We are every bit part of the world.
We crave acceptance by the culture. We water down our message. We offer cheap grace and we partake of it fully. We modify our culture so it is acceptable the the bigger culture. We try to control the culture through political means. We certainly don’t want to be seen as different. We are more interested in being a club than being a church, a social network of people like us.
It seems we are unable to live in the world without becoming part of it. Just like Israel and Judah.
Why would God be pleased with the church any more than he was with Israel?
I shouldn’t be surprised if God decided to exile our part of his church into some foreign and awful place and let us stew in that for a while. I shouldn’t be surprised if it happens soon, or even if it has already begun.
That might be what we need.