Many years before God began His judgement of His people, Moses warned the Israelites that they must follow God or He will judge them. He told the people:
You who were as numerous as the stars in the sky will be left but few in number, because you did not obey the Lord your God. Just as it pleased the Lord to make you prosper and increase in number, so it will please him to ruin and destroy you. You will be uprooted from the land you are entering to possess.
Then the Lord will scatter you among all nations, from one end of the earth to the other. There you will worship other gods—gods of wood and stone, which neither you nor your ancestors have known. Among those nations you will find no repose, no resting place for the sole of your foot. There the Lord will give you an anxious mind, eyes weary with longing, and a despairing heart.
So, even before they took possession of the land that God had promised them and given them, Moses knew that God wanted them to follow Him only and that disobedience to Him would result in a severe consequence, that they would be destroyed and scattered from one end of the earth to another.
And these warnings continued through many prophets after Moses, but the people would not submit to God and follow Him. Instead, we see that the people rejected God’s covenant and decrees, followed idols, imitated other godless nations, and even practiced divination and sacrificed their sons and daughters into the fire for these so-called gods. And of course, all of this angered God greatly!
And so around the year 740 BC, God started to move His judgment upon the northern 10 tribes of Israel as the Assyrian empire began to attack and exile the people:
So the God of Israel stirred up the spirit of Pul king of Assyria (that is, Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria), who took the Reubenites, the Gadites and the half-tribe of Manasseh into exile. He took them to Halah, Habor, Hara and the river of Gozan, where they are to this day.
1 Chronicles 5:26
God had not only established the nation of Israel, but had expanded it greatly. But now, God was lifting His protection and pronouncing judgment on the Israelites and, with the exception of about one 80 year period, they would be under the rule of the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Greeks, and finally, the Roman empire.
The domination and oppression of other empires had lasted for nearly 700 years, so I think we can understand why the Israelites would be looking for a Messiah, a king who would lead them out from underneath these other empires, back to the glory days of David and Solomon, when the Israelites ruled themselves.
But that wasn’t God’s plan. In fact, he never really intended to set up a political kingdom. God wanted a people who would follow Him as their King. And so, with this as the historical backdrop and context, we see Jesus come into the picture as the Messiah and King of kings.