Before youread what follows, I encourage you to read 2 Kings 17.
The northern kingdom of Israel had been taken captive by Assyria. Many Israelites were uprooted and dispersed to other places (2 Kings 17:1-6). The explanation as to why God let it happen is found in 2 Kings 17:7-23.
Assyria brought in people they had conquered from several other nations to occupy this newly captured territory. We see a classic example of multiculturalism.
Then lions began killing people. The Assyrians knew Israel must have forsaken their god. To get them–and those broght in from other nations–right with the god of the land, they asked that a Jewish priest be found to teach the people the ways of God (2 Kings 17:24-28).
Think of it. Assyria actually encouraged the teaching of the truth. Thus, they upheld freedom of religion. They recognized the value of religion in the lives of their subjects.
While the Assyrians may have been motivated by superstition, God no doubt used the teaching of His truth in the lives of some of the people there.
This all sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? Imagine being encouraged to worship God in the presence of ruling enemies and not being persecuted for doing so.
But Israel continued to mix worship of the one true God with the worship of false gods. That’s what got them in trouble in the first place (2 Kings 17:29-41).
Israel was supposed to be a light to the Gentiles, but they were not. They had a tremendous opportunity when Assyria brought in people from other nations. The mission field came to Israel.
Those Israelites Assyria hadn’t uprooted intermarried with the new peoples who were brought in. This created the Samaritans, who we read about in the New Testament. They were despised by the Jews.
Does any of this make you think of the United States of America? We have taken pride in freedom of religion and in being a melting pot. God has blessed our nation because of the presence of His people who have had opportunity to thrive here.
But freedom of religion can only go so far. While it encourages the truth–and God may bless the lives of His followers–it doesn’t stamp out false religion. Freedom of religion allows the true to coexist with the false.
And yet God allows this. It’s described in the parable of the wheat and the tares (Matthew 13:24-30). But there is coming a harvest when He will set things right.
The ideal is not freedom of religion. Instead, we’ll realize true perfection only when Christ sets up His kingdom on Earth, and He and His ways are the only religion there is. What a great day that will be!