God provides answers to questions we haven't asked Him.
After the showdown between God and Baal on the top of Mount Carmel, it’s hard to imagine how there could have been anybody left in Israel who still believed in false gods. However, truth is usually stranger than fiction! So, when Ahab’s son Ahaziah wanted to know if his health condition was going to get better, he sent a coalition to talk to Baal: “Now Ahaziah had fallen through the lattice of his upper room in Samaria and injured himself. So he sent messengers, saying to them, ‘Go and consult Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron, to see if I will recover from this injury.’” (vs 2)
Ahaziah had apparently forgotten that the Lord, the God of Israel, was the only one who “talked back” on Mount Carmel. But he didn’t forget for long . . . because God “talked back” to Ahaziah on this occasion as well—even when He hadn’t been asked anything! “But the angel of the Lord said to Elijah the Tishbite, ‘Go up and meet the messengers of the king of Samaria and ask them, “Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are going off to consult Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron?” Therefore this is what the Lord says: “You will not leave the bed you are lying on. You will certainly die!”‘” (vs 3-4)
I love the fact that God gives us answers . . . even when we haven’t bothered to ask Him the question. In this case, if it hadn’t been for God, Ahaziah wouldn’t have gotten an answer at all. But God doesn’t leave us in the dark. He knows all the answers to all the questions we could ever have, and even if we haven’t given Him the courtesy of an initial consult, He will provide us with the answers we need to know.
God brings life to dead places.
God is life. No matter how barren a place, no matter how dead, His Spirit can bring new life. At least, that’s what we see happening in this chapter of 2 Kings: “The people of [Jericho] said to Elisha, ‘Look, our lord, this town is well situated, as you can see, but the water is bad and the land is unproductive.’ ‘Bring me a new bowl,’ he said, ‘and put salt in it.’ So they brought it to him. Then he went out to the spring and threw the salt into it, saying, ‘This is what the Lord says: “I have healed this water. Never again will it cause death or make the land unproductive.”‘ And the water has remained pure to this day, according to the word Elisha had spoken.” (vs 19-22)
Jericho. Remember, this was the wicked city that Joshua had cursed hundreds of years before. It’s also the city that Hiel rebuilt at the expense of his oldest and youngest sons. (Interestingly, Hiel was from Bethel, the same city which was home to the boys who mocked Elisha at the end of this chapter. It seems Bethel was a breeding ground for folks who liked to worship false gods.)
So, even though Jericho had been rebuilt, it was still under the “curse.” The people who lived there said that the water was undrinkable and the land was infertile. But God, in His mercy through Elisha, restored the quality of the water and land for the people. Once again, I find God’s mercy amazing! Even though this city had been rebuilt against His wishes, He graciously provided for those who were living there.
God specializes in bringing life out of barren places. He delights in bringing blessings from a curse. And just as He restored the water in the city of Jericho, He can bring new life to all the dead places in our lives. No curse is too strong for Him!
God is a deliverer.
After the death of King Ahab, Mesha king of Moab decided to rebel against Israel. So Jehoram (the new king of Israel), Jehoshaphat (king of Judah), and the king of Edom set out to attack Moab and put down the rebellion. On the way to battle, they ran into quite a problem: “After a roundabout march of seven days, the army had no more water for themselves or for the animals with them.” (vs 9)
Whoops. Somebody didn’t plan so well for the trip. Luckily, Jehoshaphat—who was true to the Lord—came up with the brilliant plan of finding a prophet of God. They called upon Elisha in order to ask for advice about what they should do. And Elisha prophesied: “This is what the Lord says: I will fill this valley with pools of water. For this is what the Lord says: You will see neither wind nor rain, yet this valley will be filled with water, and you, your cattle and your other animals will drink. This is an easy thing in the eyes of the Lord.”(vs 16-18)
I particularly love the last part of that verse. It’s as if God throws in an Oh by the way, this thing that seems impossible to you is EASY for Me. The three kings were marching with a very large army, and the thought of providing water for all the soldiers plus all the animals must have seemed like an impossibility. Indeed, it would have been impossible for the kings to accomplish on their own. But nothing is impossible for God.
This is something that, I think, we forget so easily. At least I know I do. When I am confronted with a situation, I spend so much time and energy worrying about how I am going to get the problem solved. I try to see it from all the possible angles—all the while forgetting that God is capable of solving my problems in ways I can’t even begin to imagine.
When we look at a problem, we see it through human eyes with human solutions (solutions that, at times, really are impossible). But God doesn’t look at our problem with human eyes. He sees things from a completely different perspective, and today, His message to you is: Whatever that problem is, I can fix it. This is an easy thing for me.
God is a deliverer. He has a way out of every predicament, a solution for every problem. Aren’t you tired of trying to figure it out on your own? Don’t let life’s problems take you out! Instead, call on God for delivery!
God thinks differently than we do.
Well, this whole chapter was about how God worked miracles through His prophet Elisha. The one that really stuck out to me, though, was the very first story about the widow, her two sons, and the olive oil. Just before creditors were going to come and take her boys into slavery because of their debts, Elisha told her, “Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few. Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side.” (vs 3-4)
Elisha had said this because all she had was a small jar of olive oil. And, apparently, Elisha thought that this one small jar would turn into a river so she could sell the oil and pay off her debts.
There were a couple of things about this story that jumped out at me. First of all, Elisha said, “Don’t ask for just a few.” And that really made me think about how often we look at what God is going to do for us through the lenses of scarcity. We can’t imagine that He will do anything grand. We tend to think extremely small, while God thinks more in terms of huge. Nothing He does is meager. Everything is done with extravagance and abundance! (Remember how there were twelve basketfuls of leftovers after Jesus fed 5,000 people?) With God, there is always more than enough.
That’s why the second thing that jumped out at me was that the woman left Elisha and went to do exactly what he said. Apparently, she didn’t argue or ask any questions. That was surprising to me. But, I guess if you’re out of options and desperate, you might be willing to try just about anything.
That’s my problem so much of the time, and I wonder if it’s also yours. We live in a world (especially in Western society) where we don’t get desperate really often. You might disagree with me, but I’d challenge you on your definition of desperate. Even the most “desperate” people in this country are afforded a vast array of charitable options and government safety nets so that there is, I think, little desperation of the sort that people in old Israel must have faced at times.
We live in a very autonomous society. If we need food on the table, we can go out and get a job. Or if we get snowed under with debt, we can declare bankruptcy and have the slate wiped clean. There are truly few people who have no options. But I think that can be a disadvantage when it comes to seeing God’s involvement in our lives. When I am facing a big problem, instead of taking it to the Lord and hearing His outrageous ideas for a solution, I’m usually too busy already trying to think of how I am going to solve the problem. I mean, come on, I know that if I need to pay a debt, God’s not going to just make a financial solution materialize. I’m going to have to find a way to earn more money.
But, hmmmm, then I read things like 2 Kings 4, and I wonder just how little God and I see eye-to-eye on. I can spend so much time worrying about meeting my own needs, but what if God has easier, better ways? And what if I would miss out on them because I never got around to asking Him for His point of view?
God thinks differently than we do. So the next time you’re facing a dilemma, why not ask Him what He thinks? Give Him the opportunity to surprise you. He may just shock you right into a solution!
God uses the subtle witness.
I had a hard time titling this blog. I knew exactly what I wanted to convey, but couldn’t really think of a good way to communicate it in a title. So, I hope by the time you’re done reading this, you’ll understand what I had in mind.
My thoughts about God and the subtle witness are based on two portions of this chapter. First, this: “Now bands of raiders from Aram had gone out and had taken captive a young girl from Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife. She said to her mistress, ‘If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.’” (vs 2-3)
Next, this: “Naaman said [to Elisha], ‘please let me, your servant, be given as much earth as a pair of mules can carry, for your servant will never again make burnt offerings and sacrifices to any other god but the Lord. But may the Lord forgive your servant for this one thing: When my master enters the temple of Rimmon to bow down and he is leaning on my arm and I have to bow there also—when I bow down in the temple of Rimmon, may the Lord forgive your servant for this.’” (vs 17-18)
Let’s talk about the servant girl first. Actually, servant is such a sanitized word. She was a slave. She had been stolen from her home by bands of raiders from Aram and taken to serve Naaman’s wife. Now, what I find interesting about her is that she wasn’t trying to get out of her terrible situation. She didn’t embark on a campaign for her freedom. She didn’t take up the cause of her civil rights. Instead, she began to serve Naaman and his household for God as best she could.
And when Naaman turned up with leprosy, instead of thinking Ha! He got exactly what he deserved, she told him where he could find healing. She helped him! Her captor! She didn’t even try to use this information as leverage to garner her freedom. All she was interested in doing was helping him. And, the fact that she was taken seriously (and Naaman did what she said in order to find healing) testifies to the incredible job she was doing as a slave. She had never been a problem. They trusted her. What an amazing (albeit extremely subtle) witness she was for God. Her very life, day in and day out, was a witness to the Lord.
And that brings us to the second passage I quoted. When Naaman was healed of his leprosy and became convinced that the God of Israel was the one and only true God, he decided to be the same kind of witness he had encountered in his own household. You see, Naaman had a master of his own—a master who would go into the temple to worship one of the false gods of Aram, and Naaman would go with him. But now that Naaman knew the truth about God, he wasn’t intending to go back to Aram and start a noisy campaign, but to simply continue on in his daily routine and look for opportunities to influence his master. He would make his life a subtle witness to the Lord.
So often, we have been tempted to think that what God requires of us is to go around like bulls in a china shop, making a huge racket about what’s wrong with this world and everyone in it. But 2 Kings 5 makes it clear that an effective witness for the Lord doesn’t have to be a noisy witness. In fact, I think it’s more often the case that the most effective witnesses for God are the ones who aren’t even trying to “witness” at all. They don’t do what they do or say what they say because they’re expecting a change in someone else; they are just living out a simple, devoted life to the Lord.
Conviction is the job of the Holy Spirit. And yes, there are times when the Spirit chooses to speak loudly and brashly through a prophet in order to confront evil. But it would be such a shame if we lost sight of the power of the subtle, quietly-surrendered life, the life that wasn’t out to advertise, but simply out to serve. Personally, I think it’s a shame that more of us aren’t like that little Israelite slave. If we found ourselves in her situation, would our first priority be service . . . or a lawsuit?
If we could spend less time trying to alter our circumstances and, instead, let God use us in the midst of our circumstances, I think we would see miraculous things. I think we would rediscover in our day the powerful ways in which God uses the subtle witness.
God's mercy doesn't always change hearts.
During all the years of the American-led war on terror, there have often been debates about how best to bring change to the Middle East—particularly about how to change the hearts and minds of those who seem intent on destroying Western culture and peoples. Many think it is wrong for us to use military force to accomplish these goals, and they offer other solutions instead, ranging from outright ignoring the problem to pacifism or targeted kindness.
“Love your enemies. Do good to those who hate you.” (Lk 6:27) These words of Jesus have been used as a justification for just about everything, from the way we treat terrorists to the way we ought to rehabilitate domestic criminals. After all, so the logic goes, if aberrantly-behaving folks were simply exposed to love and kindness, it would melt their hearts and they would change. All our problems would be solved.
Well, it didn’t seem to work that way in 2 Kings 6. The king of Aram waged war against Israel and sent an army to kill the king. But every time the army laid a trap, the king of Israel was wise to it (thanks to Elisha, the prophet of God). Finally, the king of Aram got fed up and sent the army after Elisha. However, instead of capturing the prophet, the army found themselves taken captive. When the king of Israel discovered this, he was ready to kill the prisoners, but Elisha said, “‘Do not kill them. Would you kill those you have captured with your own sword or bow? Set food and water before them so that they may eat and drink and then go back to their master.’ So he prepared a great feast for them, and after they had finished eating and drinking, he sent them away, and they returned to their master. So the bands from Aram stopped raiding Israel’s territory.’” (vs 22-23)
Wow! It really does work! Elisha treated the captives with kindness and mercy, and the king of Aram learned of this treatment and ended his war with Israel . . . until the next verse, that is: “Some time later, the king of Aram called his entire army together, then they marched to Samaria and attacked. They kept up the attack until there was nothing to eat in the city. In fact, a donkey’s head cost about two pounds of silver, and a small bowl of pigeon droppings cost about two ounces of silver.” (vs 24-25)
Whoops. I guess Elisha’s kindness in feeding his enemies was repaid by his enemies causing a famine so great that the residents of Samaria eventually resorted to cannibalism in order to survive.
What does this mean? That, unfortunately, God’s mercy doesn’t always change hearts. You’ve seen those bumper stickers that say Love Wins, haven’t you? If people think that means that love is always going to soften the hearts of the enemy, they are sorely mistaken. Unfortunately, in that sense, love doesn’t always win. Sometimes evil just laughs in the face of love and keeps on coming.
So, does this mean that we shouldn’t be merciful? Of course not! But it does mean that if we are going to espouse mercy and kindness, we ought to do it for the right reasons—not because we’re looking to change someone else, but because acting kind and merciful is its own reward. God is not merciful because He’s using it as a ploy to change us. God is merciful because that’s who He is—whether it changes our hearts or not.
God changes fortunes in a heartbeat.
What a fitting chapter this was on a day like today! Last weekend, our water heater broke, and after some consultation with a plumber, we realized that we would not only have to get a new water heater, but a water softener as well. I just hate it when that happens! If you don’t have money in savings, unexpected expenses like this can really get you down.
So, imagine my surprise today when a check showed up in the mail for more than a thousand dollars. Apparently, we overpaid our mortgage escrow account last year, and the mortgage company was kind enough to refund the money to us. Wow! Now, I must admit, I wasn’t worrying about how we would pay for the new water equipment, but if I had, my worry would have been unnecessary. The check was already in the mail.
The same thing happened in this chapter of 2 Kings. The Israelites who were besieged in Samaria were in deep trouble. Their food was all gone, and they had resorted to eating people and buying pigeon poo with silver—that’s how bad it was. And then, Elisha waltzes in and says, “The Lord promises that tomorrow here in Samaria, you will be able to buy a large sack of flour or two large sacks of barley for almost nothing.” (vs 1) No wonder the king’s officer (who was standing there) balked. How could there be such a complete reversal of fortune in such a short amount of time? But it happened, just as Elisha said, and I hope you read the chapter to find out exactly how it happened.
The point is, God specializes in changing our fortunes in a heartbeat. One day we can be desperate, and the next day, we can be in the lap of luxury. It happened to Joseph. You’ll remember that he went from being chained in prison to being the Vice President of Egypt—in a heartbeat.
So, is there anything you’re discouraged about today? Look up. God is not limited by your circumstances. He knows what you need, and He is more than able to provide for you—even if you can’t see how it’s possible for Him to do so. If there’s anything going wrong in your life, He can turn it around in a second. Keep trusting in Him. He won’t let you down!
God can restore everything.
Since I didn’t end up commenting on her in chapter 4, I’m glad the Shunammite woman is back again. You remember her: She was the gal who (along with her husband) built a room in their home for the prophet Elijah. And, in order to repay their kindness, Elijah told the childless couple that they would have a son. This obviously delighted the woman, but it was clear that she didn’t want to get her hopes up. What I really loved about her, though, was what she did when her son died of a head injury several years later. The woman went immediately to Elijah and said, “Did I ask you for a son, my lord? Didn’t I tell you, ‘Don’t raise my hopes?’” (2 Kings 4:28)
In other words, the woman was upset that Elijah hadn’t left well enough alone. After so many childless years, the woman had learned to live without children. But to have one unexpectedly given to her . . . only to have him taken away . . . seemed cruel to her. In chapter 8, we learn—as Paul Harvey would have said—the rest of the story.
Some time after her son was resurrected, Elisha told the woman to take her family and live somewhere else because God had shown him that a severe famine would hit the land, and it would last for seven years. So, the woman took her family and moved to the land of the Philistines for seven years. When she came back, she found that her family’s land had fallen into the hands of someone else, so she went to the king to see if she could get it back. Not only did she get it back, but the king also decreed that she should receive “all the income from her land from the day she left the country until now.” (vs 6)
Wow! What an incredible life’s journey this woman had lived with God! He worked a miracle to give her a son—to bring life where it seemed impossible. Then, He worked another miracle to restore the life after it had been snuffed out. Next, she experienced God’s intervention and sustaining grace in a time of severe famine. God provided a way of escape for her and her family when things were difficult. And finally, God was merciful in restoring her property, possessions, and fortune.
Did you know that God can restore everything? When premature death hits, when the famine strikes, when the storm comes . . . none of this can ultimately snatch us out of God’s hand or remove us from His care. In His good time, He can turn the death into life, bring abundance in the midst of famine, and restore everything we have ever lost. There is nothing too hard for Him, no obstacle too large to overcome, nothing impossible. As we continue to put our trust in Him, we will find—as did the Shunammite woman—that God can and will restore to us everything we have lost . . . and then, He’ll give us more.
God is the only way to peace.
Before we get into the meat of today’s blog, I have to point out this verse because it actually made me laugh out loud: “The guard in the watchtower said [to the king], ‘Your Majesty, the rider got there, but he isn’t coming back either. Wait a minute! That one man is driving like he’s crazy—it must be Jehu!’” (vs 20) Ha! It seems there were bad drivers all the way back in Bible times. Either that, or Jehu was a teenager.
Anyways, the point of today’s blog centers on the issue of peace. Jehu had been anointed as the new king of Israel and commissioned to fulfill God’s prophecy about Ahab’s family—which basically entailed killing Jehoram and Jezebel. So Jehu set off to find Jehoram. When he was approaching, Jehoram sent a number of messengers out to him with the question: Do you come in peace?
Finally, after realizing it was Jehu (because he was driving like a crazy person), Jehoram went out to meet him personally. And he asked him the same question: “Have you come in peace, Jehu?” (vs 22) Jehoram was worried about peace. There is one of two possibilities here. He was either worried about his own personal safety, or he was asking Jehu if the war with the Arameans was over. Either way, Jehoram was hoping for peace. So he must have been dismayed by Jehu’s response: “How can there be peace as long as all the idolatry and witchcraft of your mother Jezebel abound?” (vs 22)
Jehoram didn’t understand what a lot of people don’t understand: God is the only way to peace. If we are not interested in honoring God and giving Him first place in our lives, we will never experience real peace. We might experience the absence of conflict (even for long periods of time), but that is not the kind of peace only God can give.
God’s kind of peace (as represented in this passage by the Hebrew word shalom) includes the idea of completeness, soundness, safety, prosperity, tranquility, contentment, and friendship. It is an active peace, not just the passive absence of conflict. Jehoram was concerned about the kind of peace that could never last, but God wants to give us the kind of peace that will never disappear. It is something we can only find in Him.
That old saying really is true: Know Jesus, know peace. No Jesus, no peace.
God doesn't restrict the freedom of His representatives.
The new king of the Northern Kingdom, Jehu, had been specifically commissioned by God for a special purpose: “You are to destroy the house of Ahab your master, and I will avenge the blood of my servants the prophets and the blood of all the Lord’s servants shed by Jezebel.” (2 Kings 9:7) And, as we saw in the last chapter, Jehu set out to do his job with zeal.
After killing King Jehoram and Jezebel, he set off to get rid of all the crowned princes—70 of them—in Jezreel. And he did, but then he went a little off the rails: “So Jehu killed everyone in Jezreel who remained of the house of Ahab, as well as all his chief men, his close friends and his priests, leaving him no survivor.” (vs 11)
Hmmm, it seems Jehu took his commission a little too far. In order to end the dynasty of Ahab and Jezebel, God had commanded that all of Ahab’s heirs would die. But He never told Jehu to kill Ahab’s friends. It seems like Jehu went through Jezreel, killing anyone he didn’t like, or maybe it was just anyone he thought might threaten his position. In the same way, in 2 Kings 9, when Jehu killed King Jehoram, he also killed King Ahaziah—which also wasn’t in the plan. Perhaps Jehu thought he might reunite Israel under his rule if he could take out both kings at the same time!
Subsequently, Jehu killed all the prophets of Baal—in a supposed attempt to snuff out idol worship. But then, he left the golden calves at Dan and Bethel. So, it seems that Jehu was, at times, doing the Lord’s will (when it suited his purpose), but he was also happy to do whatever he thought necessary to benefit himself—even if it wasn’t in the plan God laid out for him.
God later indicated that He was unhappy with Jehu. In Hosea chapter 1, God told Hosea to name his first child “Jezreel, because I will soon punish the house of Jehu for the massacre at Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of Israel.” (vs 4)
It appears that Jehu definitely went well beyond the bounds of what God told him to do. What’s fascinating to me about this is that God will not restrict our freedom even if we have signed up to work with Him! Setting out on a mission for God doesn’t restrict our freedom, and with God, we are always free to continue on in His plan . . . or to go our own way.
What amazes me about this is that God seems infinitely unconcerned with His reputation at times. He uses people who do downright despicable things. He uses people who—like Jehu—start out well, but then act in ways that go against what God wants, all the while still proclaiming to be God’s representative. The fact that God doesn’t restrict the freedom of those who bear His name is somewhat mysterious, but awe-inspiring, to me.
Once again, we must conclude that any capacity in which we come to God only leaves us more free to choose, more free to leave Him, or more free to stay. He is so committed to freedom that He won’t restrict it even to protect His own name. Wow.
God's promises stand up to evil.
After King Ahaziah of Judah was killed, his mother Athaliah went nuts: “When Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she proceeded to destroy the whole royal family.” (vs 1) Can you imagine this? A grandmother setting out to kill all of her grandchildren? The children of Ahaziah were heirs to the throne, but apparently, Athaliah decided that she should sit on the throne. And she did. She became the only queen of Judah.
However, unbeknownst to her, Ahaziah’s sister Jehosheba hid one of the grandchildren, Joash. She hid him away in the temple for six years, nursing him and grooming him to take over the throne of Judah. When he was seven, Jehosheba’s husband (who was the high priest) engineered the anointing ceremony for King Joash. He was coronated, Queen Athaliah was killed, and the rest is history.
The thing that struck me here was how thin a string God’s promise was hanging on at this time. He had promised David that a descendant of his would sit on the throne of Judah forever. (Ultimately, Jesus—who came through the lineage of David—would sit forever on the throne of the universe.) But when Athaliah decided that she was going to wipe out the royal family of Judah, it was a direct assault on this promise made by God, although it’s unclear as to whether she had this in mind or not.
But through the actions of Joash’s aunt, God’s promise was preserved. Even though it was bound up in one tiny life, God’s promises prevailed over the evil that was carried out by Joash’s grandmother.
In this evil world, I think this is an important lesson for us to remember. God does not forget His promises to us. As Peter wrote, “God is not slack concerning His promise.” (2 Pet 3:9) Even when all the forces of evil are pitted against God, His promises will prevail. Sometimes it may look to us like evil is winning, but even when it is by the slimmest of margins, love will win. All of God’s promises will stand up to evil.
God can use anyone.
This chapter recounts the tale of Joash—a king of Judah who did some very good things, such as rebuilding the temple, but apparently didn’t end up so well. His downfall started after the death of Jehoiada, the high priest: “Joash did what was right in the eyes of the Lord all the years Jehoiada the priest instructed him. The high places, however, were not removed; the people continued to offer sacrifices and burn incense there.” (vs 2-3)
Later in his reign, Joash fell away from worshiping the God of Heaven and reverted back to the worship of pagan gods. When that happened, Hazael king of Aram attacked Jerusalem and carried off all the sacred, treasured objects. What started out so well ended up so tragically!
The really interesting thing for me was remembering that it was God who directed Elijah to anoint him King of Syria! Even though Hazael wasn’t a follower of the true God nor a king over God’s people, God (in 1 Kings 19) anointed him through Elijah to be ruler of Syria. Subsequently, in this case and others, God used him as a kind of policeman in regards to Israel and Judah—when they decided to run away after false gods who couldn’t protect them.
It’s true that God can use anyone. He is such a genius that He can find a way to cause people to fulfill His purpose—even when they don’t know Him or acknowledge Him as God. He is not limited in working out His plan, even by people who don’t want to have anything to do with Him. So the next time you’re wondering if God can use you, be assured that He can! If He can use a person like Hazael, how much more can He use a willing soul!
God shows kindness to evil people.
Such a familiar refrain to begin this chapter: “In the twenty-third year of Joash son of Ahaziah king of Judah, Jehoahaz son of Jehu became king of Israel in Samaria, and he reigned seventeen years. He did evil in the eyes of the Lord by following the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit, and he did not turn away from them. So the Lord’s anger burned against Israel, and for a long time he kept them under the power of Hazael king of Aram and Ben-Hadad his son.” (vs 1-3)
Ah, yet another evil king in Israel. Just one in a long string of many. And all of these evil kings seemed to have something in common: they continued to allow the idol worship that had been instituted by Jeroboam. In other words, they didn’t set an example for the Israelites in worshiping and following the God who had brought them out of Egypt.
But the Bible records that something different happened during the reign of Jehoahaz: “Then Jehoahaz sought the Lord’s favor, and the Lord listened to him, for he saw how severely the king of Aram was oppressing Israel. The Lord provided a deliverer for Israel, and they escaped from the power of Aram. So the Israelites lived in their own homes as they had before.” (vs 4-5)
Wouldn’t you get tired of people only calling on you when they were desperate? Wouldn’t you get tired of people acknowledging your existence only when they wanted to be bailed out? If I were God, I would get awfully tired of that. But God doesn’t seem to, and certainly, He doesn’t seem to hold any grudges against those who never call on His name except when they need something.
When Jehoahaz, this evil king of Israel, called out to the Lord, the Lord heard him and answered. Even though he had engaged in idol worship up to that point, and even though God’s deliverance didn’t cause him to turn away from idol worship (vs 6), God still acted graciously toward him and the Israelites. He sent a deliverer to Israel so they could escape from the Arameans.
For me, this is still one of the most amazing things about God: He returns good for evil. When He is dealing with His evil children, He still looks for every opportunity to bring blessing to their lives. He acts kindly toward those who despise Him. When I talk about wanting to be more like God, this is one of the hardest concepts for me to wrap my mind around. When I see people doing evil, the last thing that crosses my mind is to look for an opportunity to treat them with kindness!
But that’s what God is like. He returns good for evil. He shows kindness to evil people.
God prefers humility.
Amaziah was another king of Judah who started out well, but ended poorly. It seems that pride was his downfall. After celebrating a huge military victory over Edom, Amaziah turned his sights on conquering Israel as well. So he sent Jehoash king of Israel an invitation to fight.
Jehoash’s response was clever: “One day a thistle in Lebanon sent word to a cedar in Lebanon, ‘Give your daughter to my son in marriage.’ But then a wild animal of Lebanon passed by and stepped on the thistle, crushing it. Just because you’ve defeated Edom in battle, you now think you’re a big shot. Go ahead and be proud, but stay home. Why press your luck? Why bring defeat on yourself and Judah?” (vs 9-10)
Unfortunately, Amaziah wouldn’t listen. He was so enamored with his success that he was determined to continue his winning streak. But that’s not what ended up happening. He went to war against Israel, and Israel won. Amaziah, who had started out with such promise, ended up seeing his kingdom looted, and he was eventually hunted down by his own people and killed.
Pride is such a dangerous thing. Because of that, God really works to root it out of our lives. He prefers humility, since humility includes concern for the wellbeing of others, along with a basic willingness to listen. When we get infected with pride, as Amaziah did, we have a much harder time listening to reason. And God is the One who invites us to reason (Isa 1:18).
Humility can be a hard thing to define. A lot of times, it seems like people have this idea that being humble must mean denying your gifts and talents or turning into a self-basher. But I like the definition I once heard that has stuck with me for a long time: Humility isn’t thinking less of yourself. It’s thinking of yourself less.
So, if God detects pride in your life, He will most likely embark on a campaign to weed it out. Don’t be discouraged by that. Instead, thank Him, because He doesn’t want you to end up like Amaziah did!
God tells the whole truth.
Well, what can you say about a chapter like 2 Kings 15? It’s nothing but a discouraging report of a succession of evil kings—each one seemingly worse than the last! Plus, it seemed to be the same story over and over again: A king comes to the throne, is evil, and doesn’t reign very long until he is assassinated. Then, the person who assassinated the previous king comes to the throne, is evil, and doesn’t reign very long until he is assassinated. Over and over again.
One thing is for sure: God tells the whole truth. In the record of His dealings with human history, He hasn’t whitewashed the truth. He hasn’t ignored the details. Instead, He deals squarely with reality. If it were me, I think that would be hard sometimes. I mean, God gave His all to the Israelites in trying to build them up as a nation. And, instead of agreeing to be His people, they ran after false gods and became some of the most depraved people you can imagine. When you read this chapter, it would be easy to conclude that God was a failure.
This is one of the things I love most about God, though. He always deals in reality, even when that reality is really, really bad. When there is a problem, He doesn’t ignore it. He doesn’t pretend like it doesn’t exist. Instead, He rolls up His sleeves and wades right in, taking the problem on firsthand. He doesn’t care if He looks like a failure for the evil path that Israel ultimately chose to head down. He only cares if His children are in trouble, and dealing with the reality of the problem is the first step to solving it.
For me personally, this is also one of the ways I know the Bible isn’t a manufactured fake. It isn’t some rosy-posy account of history, in which God proclaims that He is great and all His people are wonderful and everything smells like perfume. No. It’s ugly. It’s awful. But it’s the truth. And fortunately, God can handle the truth.
God wants to give you rest.
As I read this chapter, I felt so bad for Ahaz, didn’t you? “Ahaz was twenty years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem sixteen years. Unlike David his father, he did not do what was right in the eyes of the Lord his God. He followed the ways of the kings of Israel and even sacrificed his son in the fire, engaging in the detestable practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites. He offered sacrifices and burned incense at the high places, on the hilltops and under every spreading tree.” (vs 2-4)
The more I read, the more I got this image of Ahaz running around from place to place, trying to do everything in his power to find satisfaction. Whether it was answers to his questions he wanted or peace for his troubled soul, he was sacrificing to everything and everyone under the sun trying to get it. He even killed his own son in a ritual sacrifice. How sad.
By the end of the chapter, Ahaz had decided to replace the altar in the temple of the Lord with something he had seen in Damascus. He obviously thought he would have better luck if he made sacrifices on this new altar instead—although he did keep the altar of the Lord in the temple. He just moved it over to the side so he could continue to use it “for seeking guidance.” (vs 15)
By contrast, Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (vs 28-30)
God doesn’t want us to be running all over the place, looking for rest and peace under every rock, but if we don’t acknowledge Him as Lord and Savior, that’s exactly what we will be doing. Only God can offer the rest that our hearts are craving. Only He can provide the answers to the questions that perplex us in this life. Without Him, we will be like Ahaz, sacrificing parts of ourselves on every hill and under every tree—to no avail.
So, if you’re searching for anything today, look no further than God. Not only does He want to give you rest, but you won’t be able to find the rest He offers anywhere else. It is only His yoke that is easy. It is only His burden that is light.
God doesn't make junk.
Evil, evil, and more evil. Where does it all lead? To the ruin of God’s creation! Did you notice this verse? “But [the Israelites] would not listen and were as stiff-necked as their ancestors, who did not trust in the Lord their God. They rejected his decrees and the covenant he had made with their ancestors and the statutes he had warned them to keep. They followed worthless idols and themselves became worthless.” (vs 14-15)
By running after false gods, by doing what the Lord had commanded them not to do, the Israelites ruined themselves. They took what God had created as extremely valuable and rendered it worthless. How tragic! What a heart-wrenching thing this must be for God, who is the Father of us all. To see your own children doing the things that will destroy themselves. No wonder the Bible says that idolatry makes God angry.
In the very next verses, we see what all this idol worship led the Israelites to do: “They forsook all the commands of the Lord their God and made for themselves two idols cast in the shape of calves, and an Asherah pole. They bowed down to all the starry hosts, and they worshiped Baal. They sacrificed their sons and daughters in the fire. They practiced divination and sought omens and sold themselves to do evil in the eyes of the Lord, arousing his anger.” (vs 16-17)
It’s almost unbelievable to me, this list of things they were willing to do:
1. Bow down to idols that they had made. (Isn’t there something wrong with that picture?)
2. Worship points of light in the sky.
3. Burn their children alive.
4. Concoct evil spells.
5. Prostitute themselves for evil pursuits.
No wonder God was angry! Now, this isn’t the anger of a “holy” God who can’t tolerate evil in His presence. This isn’t the anger of a God who just gets annoyed because we’re doing something He said not to do. This is the kind of anger you see on the television show Intervention. This is the kind of anger that makes parents lash out at children who are destroying themselves with drugs or alcohol—threatening them with every unpleasant thing they can think of in a desperate attempt to get them into rehab. This is the anger of a heartsick parent who is watching a child self-destruct.
God doesn’t make junk. He doesn’t make worthless things. So when He sees us using our God-given freedom to destroy the value within us, it makes Him angry. He has made us beautiful and unique and special, and He wants us to stay that way forever!
God doesn't squash the competition.
Have you ever noticed that for everything God offers, Satan has a counterfeit? And usually, it sounds pretty good. So good that, sometimes, it can be hard to distinguish the right from the wrong. Instead of trying to decide between black and white, it’s more like trying to decide between white and off-white.
So, what made me think of this? Check out these verses from the chapter: “Do not let Hezekiah persuade you to trust in the Lord when he says, ‘The Lord will surely deliver us; this city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.’ Do not listen to Hezekiah. This is what the king of Assyria says: Make peace with me and come out to me. Then each of you will eat fruit from your own vine and fig tree and drink water from your own cistern, until I come and take you to a land like your own—a land of grain and new wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of olive trees and honey. Choose life and not death!” (vs 30-32)
Doesn’t that sound familiar? Isn’t this almost exactly what God said to the Israelites when He was preparing to take them into the Promised Land? Didn’t He tell them that if they followed Him, He would make sure they had the best of everything in a land flowing with milk and honey? Didn’t He implore them to choose life and not death?!
The king of Assyria was asking the Israelites to do the very same things, but unfortunately, he was trying to promise what only God can promise. It was all just a ploy to get them to surrender. And if they had done that, I am willing to bet that things would have looked very different from what he had promised.
Then again, it’s always that way with Satan’s claims, isn’t it? He promises that things will be so much better if we will just do what he says. But once we give in, we find that things are anything but better. (In fact, that’s what Adam and Eve found out the hard way. They thought that by eating the forbidden fruit, they would gain something. Instead, they lost a whole lot.)
Remarkably, though, God is so interested in freedom that He doesn’t squash the competition. He is so committed to our being able to choose that He allows Satan to make these bogus claims—even when they sound exactly like what God promises! Now, to be fair, God doesn’t just leave us in the dark, trying to figure out the right way to go. He always provides us with sound evidence so that we know—beyond a shadow of a doubt—which way is right and which way is wrong. But if we are determined to go after evil, He leaves that option available to us. He doesn’t squash the competition!
God delivers the impossible.
Well, this is certainly a drama-filled chapter in the Bible! Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, has gone around the region, conquering everyone and everything in sight (including Israel!), and now, he was sitting on Jerusalem’s doorstep with 185,000 soldiers, ready to capture Judah as well.
Now, I’m a linguist with a penchant for sarcasm, so I have always enjoyed good “trash talk.” And this chapter didn’t disappoint! Did you catch the bravado? First, it’s the king of Assyria who puffs up his feathers in a message to Hezekiah: “Don’t let that god that you think so much of keep stringing you along with the line, ‘Jerusalem will never fall to the king of Assyria.’ That’s a barefaced lie. You know the track record of the kings of Assyria—country after country laid waste, devastated. And what makes you think you’ll be an exception? Take a good look at these wasted nations, destroyed by my ancestors; did their gods do them any good? Look at Gozan, Haran, Rezeph, the people of Eden at Tel Assar. Ruins. And what’s left of the king of Hamath, the king of Arpad, the king of Sepharvaim, of Hena, of Ivvah? Bones.” (vs 10-13)
Ooooh. Talk about throwing down the gauntlet. This guy was pretty sure of himself. And after defeating all those other nations (and nations’ gods), Sennacherib was confident that Jerusalem would be his. Adding to his confidence must have been the fact that he had defeated Israel—who supposedly served the same god as Hezekiah and his people.
But God had a response for Sennacherib’s challenge. And I was quite amused to see that God is also fluent in the language of trash talk: “Virgin Daughter Zion despises you and mocks you. Daughter Jerusalem tosses her head as you flee.” (vs 21) Woah. What could be more feeble and fragile in this male-dominated culture than a girl? And a virgin girl at that?! Yet what God is saying to the king is, You’re so weak that virgin girls laugh at you and toss their pretty little heads while you run away.
The divine dressing-down then continues for several verses, ending with this: “Now I will put a hook in your nose, a bit in your mouth, then I will send you back to where you came from.” (vs 28) That may sound sort of strange to us—the whole hook in the nose and bit in the mouth thing—but this is exactly what the Assyrians did to their prisoners! When they captured people, they humiliated them by piercing them. And now the Lord says that He’s going to give Sennacherib a little taste of his own medicine.
Still, all bravado aside, the residents of Jerusalem appear to be in an impossible situation. They are totally surrounded by an army of such magnitude that they have little hope of survival. From a practical perspective, their goose is cooked. But God doesn’t subscribe to the “practical perspective.” He has His own perspective, and He is able to deliver the impossible.
Just when we’re looking at the impossible—wondering how we’re going to be able to fight hard enough or smart enough—God says, “How about if I just put the whole army to sleep? They won’t even wake up in the morning!” Not only can God talk the talk, but He has the goods to back it up. So no matter how impossible the situation looks to you, don’t sweat it. God specializes in delivering the impossible!
God sees death differently than we do.
Once again, we encounter the subject of death, and I thought Hezekiah’s reaction on the news of his impending fate was telling (and quite familiar): “Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord, ‘Remember, Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.’ And Hezekiah wept bitterly.” (vs 2-3)
Why is it that we tend to view death in terms of whether it is “deserved” or not? For instance, I have had more than one person express surprise to me that God would allow my father to get sick and die when there are so many “bad” people in the world. Surely a Godly person shouldn’t die before an “evil” person! (Or, at least, that seems to be the conventional wisdom.)
In this chapter, God heard Hezekiah’s prayer and decided to heal him. He added 15 years to his life here on Earth, so that instead of dying at 39, he died at 54. Do you think Hezekiah was more than happy to expire at 54? I bet not. When is it ever really “okay” with us that we die? We don’t ever want to die, and we try to avoid it at all costs! But it is, quite literally, the one thing in this life we know that we can count on.
I think God looks at death much differently than we do. For Him, it is not a problem for any of His children to go to sleep (which is, in effect, what happens when we die here). In fact, Psalm 116:15 says that the death of the saints is precious to the Lord! He looks upon it as a sweet, nostalgic thing. That is certainly not our viewpoint on the subject.
I wish we could begin to see death as God does—not something to be afraid of or even to spend our life’s energies trying to avoid. But I wish we could see it as the beginning of the next phase in our relationship with God, the one in which we will never again experience separation. For that brief second in time, we are held safe in His arms, waiting silently until Jesus comes to take His loved ones home. It’s not the end of the world, but the beginning of an eternity with Him.
God wants to change our hearts.
Ah, the old, familiar refrain—another evil king in Judah: “Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-five years. His mother’s name was Hephzibah. He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, following the detestable practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites. He rebuilt the high places his father Hezekiah had destroyed; he also erected altars to Baal and made an Asherah pole, as Ahab king of Israel had done.” (vs 1-3)
What a shame. After his father Hezekiah had finally torn down all the altars to the false gods and banned idol worship in Judah, along comes Manasseh. And he rebuilds everything his father has worked to tear down. And, what’s even worse, the people followed him. “Manasseh led them astray, so that they did more evil than the nations the Lord had destroyed before the Israelites.” (vs 9)
For me, the point is simple: God wants to change our hearts. Because if He doesn’t change our hearts, it won’t matter how much our behavior changes—we will always be at risk of returning to the evil things that will harm us. That’s what happened in Judah, isn’t it? Hezekiah outlawed idol worship . . . and so the people of Judah stopped worshiping idols. But their hearts hadn’t been converted, and when a king came along who made it convenient to worship idols again, they went right back to their old ways.
If we don’t allow God to change our hearts, it won’t matter how well we’re able to “white-knuckle” our way into good behavior for a time. The true change must come from the inside out, and it is only God who can accomplish this work in us. Fortunately, as we will later see in the life of Manasseh himself (through details given in 2 Chronicles 33), God is more than able to accomplish this transformation in the dirtiest of hearts. When we are willing to let Him change us, He will change us all the way—from the inside out.
That’s really what He wants.
God wants us to listen.
After years of evil-doing kings in Judah, the chief priest found the Book of the Law in the temple. Apparently, it had been lost—either accidentally or intentionally. Either way, when Josiah (the new king) heard what was in the Book of the Law, he was quite distraught. He tore his robes and wept.
Following that, he sent a delegation to Huldah, a female prophet in Jerusalem, to ask her what the Lord was planning to do since the people had been so wicked. Her response was just what Josiah had feared: the people were headed for doom because of their insistence upon idol worship. However, God continued: “Tell the king of Judah . . . ‘This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says concerning the words you heard: Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before the Lord when you heard what I have spoken against this place and its people—that they would become a curse and be laid waste—and because you tore your robes and wept in my presence, I also have heard you, declares the Lord. Therefore I will gather you to your ancestors, and you will be buried in peace. Your eyes will not see all the disaster I am going to bring on this place.’” (vs 18-20)
Josiah was a good and righteous king. But before the Book of the Law was found, it’s possible that Josiah was even “breaking” some of the rules himself out of ignorance. But the problem God mentions in His answer to Josiah is not breaking the rules, but willful defiance, an unwillingness to listen. This is the problem God is trying to overcome in us. He doesn’t need perfect people. He needs people who will listen.
If we are willing to listen to God, there is nothing He can’t accomplish in us. In fact, if we are willing to listen to God, He already sees us as perfect, because even if we still struggle in the behavior department, our willingness to listen to God will ensure that His good work will be completed in us. For nothing is impossible with God.
Since the beginning of time, God has been speaking. And He’s still speaking today.
Do you have your listening ears on?
God knows everything.
One of the things about God that confounds me is how He can know the future yet leave us free to make choices. This is a subject I’ve gone back and forth on in the past, and I still don’t feel “settled” into a position (and I may never). On the one hand, it is very clear that God knows specific details about the future, including people and events. On the other hand, the Bible is also clear that God gives us freedom to make choices, and I sympathize with people who argue that if a choice is made freely, how can it be known ahead of time?
This is why I like to dabble in the study of Time and how it is related to Space and Light. Granted, I can’t study that for very long before my brain starts hurting and I have to stop, but my curiosity won’t let me abandon the subject altogether. How is God—who is beyond Time—related to the sort of time we experience here on Earth? We live in linear time, but it’s clear that God does not. Our concept of time is fixed to the movement of universal bodies—the Earth around the Sun, the Moon around the Earth, etc. But God is above and beyond all of this.
In this chapter, for instance, is a stunning example of God’s knowledge of the future. Did you take note of everything King Josiah did to the false altars and places of worship around Judah? He single-handedly demolished idol worship in Jerusalem—including that pesky altar at Bethel that had been set up by Jeroboam.
It’s amazing that a King of Judah finally got rid of that altar. And what’s even more amazing? That’s exactly what God said was going to happen to the altar 300 years before. “By the word of the Lord a man of God came from Judah to Bethel, as Jeroboam was standing by the altar to make an offering. By the word of the Lord he cried out against the altar: ‘Altar, altar! This is what the Lord says: “A son named Josiah will be born to the house of David. On you he will sacrifice the priests of the high places who make offerings here, and human bones will be burned on you.”‘” (1 Kgs 13:1-2)
Whoa. More than three centuries earlier, God had predicted not only that the altar would be destroyed, but exactly who would do it. He knew all about Josiah long before Josiah’s father, grandfather, great-grandfather, great-great-grandfather, or great-great-great-grandfather were on the scene! To put that in perspective, it would be like God announcing that Ken and Joyce Wilson were going to have a baby girl Kelley, born in the fall of 1977 in Long Beach, California, USA . . . shortly after the Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock, long before there was a Long Beach, a California, or a United States of America!
It never ceases to amaze me that God knows everything. You can be sure of this: He is never surprised by anything. He is never caught off guard. Whatever is taking place in your life right now, He knew about it long before you did. You can rest and relax, trusting in the One who knows you so intimately and cares for you so deeply!
God never overlooks sin.
Since I’m writing this blog with the aim of finding out what every Bible chapter has to say about God, I’m always looking for any specific “God statements” that the Bible writers make. And boy, did I find a doozy of one in this chapter! Did you catch it? Here it is: “The Lord sent Babylonian, Aramean, Moabite and Ammonite raiders against [Jehoiakim] to destroy Judah, in accordance with the word of the Lord proclaimed by his servants the prophets. Surely these things happened to Judah according to the Lord’s command, in order to remove them from his presence because of the sins of Manasseh and all he had done, including the shedding of innocent blood. For he had filled Jerusalem with innocent blood, and the Lord was not willing to forgive.” (vs 2-4)
Whoa. That’s a pretty direct statement about God, and one that sort of goes against what we normally think of Him! This is the God who says He has washed us as white as snow. This is the God who says He will bury our sins deep in the ocean and remember them no more. This is the God who says that as far as the east is from the west, that’s how far He has removed our sins from us. Have we been wrong all this time? Is God really unforgiving?
You might be able to understand why this was a hard thing for me to read. I toyed with the idea of making the title of today’s blog God is not willing to forgive. But I think, in the end, that would have given the wrong impression. Because there is no doubt in my mind that God is an immediate forgiver—always and forever—and that He has forgiven us even before we ask Him. However, while God forgives our sin, He never overlooks our sin. And I think there is an important distinction to be made there.
God forgives because He is a forgiving person. The clear message of the Scriptures is that when it comes to God, He is not harboring a grudge against us because of our sin. However, the problem with sin is not that God is offended and we have to find a way to get Him to forgive us. The problem with sin is that it is self-destructive. Thus, God can forgive us all day long, but our sin still has to be addressed.
What I think the writer of 2 Kings is trying to get us to understand is that God’s forgiveness doesn’t cause Him to overlook or ignore the problems that come from our sin. It’s just as if you went to the doctor because you were a heavy smoker and had developed lung cancer. And the doctor might say, “I’m so sorry that you have chosen to keep smoking. I have been warning you all these years about your health, and you haven’t trusted me. It makes me feel bad to know that you have rejected my advice . . . but I forgive you.” And what if, after offering this forgiveness, the doctor closes up your chart and says everything is now fine? You would still want him to get down to the business of addressing your cancer!
That’s just what it’s like with God. He forgives us for His sake (or because that’s who He is), but for our sake, He doesn’t overlook our sin. When we have made a mess out of things, and especially when we are still headed down a dangerous path, He doesn’t say, “Well, I forgive you, so now I’m going to ignore all these problems.” No, He wades right into the middle of the mess, rolls up His sleeves, and gets down to the business of addressing the problem. Sometimes it’s a painful process.
But Paul, in the book of Hebrews, advises us to rejoice in this aspect of God: “Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate children at all. Moreover, we have all had parents who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! Our parents disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” (Heb 12:7-11)
I’m glad that God is unwilling to overlook our sin. I’m glad He takes our problems seriously and does whatever is necessary to make sure we can be healed from all the damage done by sin. I’m glad that, because He loves us, He both forgives and disciplines us. When we need to be taken into captivity, He will not downplay the seriousness of our condition. He will let us be carted off! And He will be waiting, as the father of the prodigal was, with open arms when we arrive back home.
God bears the consequences of our sin.
Ah, so the residents of Judah are finally carried off into Babylon, and Jerusalem is destroyed. How depressing. Reading this chapter, I felt especially bad for Zedekiah, who watched his sons being killed before his eyes were plucked out. That would be an awful image to have to remember for the rest of your life. It’s just another stark reminder of the evil darkness we face when we try to live life without God.
And then, continuing on in the chapter, I was somewhat surprised to see this: “On the seventh day of the fifth month, in the nineteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, Nebuzaradan . . . came to Jerusalem. He set fire to the temple of the Lord, the royal palace and all the houses of Jerusalem. Every important building he burned down. . . The Babylonians broke up the bronze pillars, the movable stands and the bronze Sea that were at the temple of the Lord and they carried the bronze to Babylon. They also took away the pots, shovels, wick trimmers, dishes and all the bronze articles used in the temple service. The commander of the imperial guard took away the censers and sprinkling bowls—all that were made of pure gold or silver.” (vs 8-9, 13-15)
The Babylonians plundered God’s temple. This must have been absolutely shocking to the people of Judah. For all their idol worship, they must have known deep down that the God of Heaven was still the one, true God. They must have thought that—despite their evil—nothing would ever be able to demolish His dwelling place.
They were wrong.
Throughout the centuries, God had been pleading with the people of Judah and Israel for their cooperation and obedience. He had been pleading with them to turn from their idol-worshiping ways and return to Him. He wanted to be their God, and He wanted them to be His people. But they were bent on running after other gods.
So, what did God do? In the end, He suffered the shame of their sin along with them. He could have put some sort of supernatural hedge around His temple and just allowed the people of Judah to be carried away. He could have symbolically made it clear that He was abandoning His people because they weren’t faithful. But He didn’t do that.
Instead, He allowed His name to be run through the mud as well. He allowed heathen nations to look at what had been done to His temple and say, See? We told you the God of the Israelites was nothing! He couldn’t even save His own house! He suffered the scorn and shame along with His people—even though He had never been anything but faithful to them. When the time came, He stood shoulder to shoulder with them and bore the consequences of their sin.
Doesn’t that just sound like God?