The J-Kings got to the top of the coaster
While the northern kingdom had been judged by the Assyrians, the southern kingdom was a roller-coaster ride of good kings and bad kings. A good king would come to power and move people up toward God, and then several bad kings would drive the nation back down. This roller-coaster occurred over dozens of years. The southern kingdom was not captured by Assyria because enough good kings kept the people close to God, and He protected them from the Assyrians. Two kings, the "J's" on the top of our roller-coaster, are Josiah and Jehoshaphat. This godly duo led the people back to God in significant ways.
They began national education programs that taught Biblical principles, in the hope that parents would educate their children in God‟s truth. They declared national festivals to celebrate the Sabbath and prayed to God for forgiveness. Jehoshaphat declared a Jehosha-fast – the people would skip a meal to seek God. They‟d use that time to pray to God and confess their mistakes. Many of the prophets began to see the roller-coaster headed downward as the southern Kingdom began to worship Baal. The prophets warned the people not to run from God. They reminded them that God is gracious and will forgive them. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Micah, Hosea, Obadiah, Nahum, and Amos were prophets who kept proclaiming God's banner call to the northern and southern kingdoms: "Stop running and return to Me!" Micah told God‟s people to return to Him rather than continuing in their self-centered neglect for the poor around them. Amos told God‟s people to use God‟s truth as a plumb line for their lives.
The prophets of the northern kingdom, Obadiah, Hosea, and Jonah, were the primary voices warning that God would remove His protection if they kept running. They reminded God's people of His love, if they would only trust Him and return. A prophet named Hosea married a prostitute who was continually unfaithful to him. Hosea‟s pursuing love of an unfaithful spouse was a symbol of how God feels toward His unfaithful people. God's heart was broken over their unfaithfulness, but He waited for them faithfully. Hosea‟s passionate preaching and “call to return” originated in his own broken heart. With deep emotion, he pleaded with Israel to return to God just as he pleaded with his wife, Gomer, to return to him.
The southern kingdom decided to make a treaty with the evil Assyrian empire to protect them from the upcoming nation of Babylon. God told them to trust Him rather than making this alliance. When Babylon conquered Assyria, they absorbed the southern kingdom of Judah as well. God supernaturally used this kingdom-takeover to put His people back together again. The northern kingdom, which had already been taken over by the Assyrians, was now captive along with the southern kingdom when Babylon swallowed them all whole.
Isaiah even reminded the people that God was sending a Messiah, the Final Forgiver and Rescuer, who would help them return to God by suffering and dying a violent death. This Final Forgiver would be pierced for all mankind‟s wrongs: our running from God. After hundreds of years of warnings, God lets His people face the consequences of their rebellion. The nation of Babylon conquered the southern kingdom and Assyria at the same time. God united His people in both the northern and southern kingdom back together again in Babylonian Exile as slaves.