Bible Readings for November 2nd
One of the fascinating aspects of the stories of the kings of Israel and Judah is the way that Yahweh continues to bless his people despite their sinfulness—even as their sinfulness brings about an increasing number of curses. The stories repeatedly emphasize Yahweh’s goodness toward his people, though they violate his covenant again and again. In contrast, the modern tendency is to feel entitled to the blessings God gives us, while simultaneously demanding that God justify why he would allow bad things to happen at all. So, C. S. Lewis wrote, “The ancient man approached God (or even the gods) as the accused person approaches his judge. For the modern man, the roles are quite reversed. He is the judge: God is in the dock. He is quite a kindly judge; if God should have a reasonable defense for being the god who permits war, poverty, and disease, he is ready to listen to it. The trial may even end in God’s acquittal. But the important thing is that man is on the bench and God is in the dock.”1 Two of the stories in 2 Kings 15 illustrate this tension well.
First, we read that Azariah, king of Judah, does what is “right in the eyes of the LORD, according to all that his father Amaziah had done” (2 Kgs. 15:3) but that the high places still have not been taken away (2 Kgs. 15:4). Nevertheless, we read that Yahweh touches Azariah with leprosy until the day of his death (2 Kgs. 15:5). So, is it fair for Yahweh to give leprosy to a reasonably godly king?
Second, we read about Menahem, king of Israel, who does evil in the sight of Yahweh (2 Kgs. 15:18). During Menahem’s reign, Pul, the king of Assyria, comes up against Israel, but Menahem is able to keep Pul from destroying Israel altogether by giving the Assyrian king a thousand talents of silver (2 Kgs. 15:20). So, is Yahweh still good if he allows Israel’s enemies to extort them this way?
In the case of Judah, Yahweh does give leprosy to Azariah, but shouldn’t we also notice that he keeps Assyria from coming against Judah at all? And in the case of Menahem, shouldn’t Israel give thanks for the fact that Assyria does not destroy Israel entirely and that Yahweh has given them yet another opportunity to repent?
Often, we have a tendency to notice the bad things Yahweh permits but to forget the kindnesses he shows to us. Is it possible, though, that even in the midst of terrible things, Yahweh might be preventing us from experiencing something worse? Or, might he be bringing us through something painful so that we gain an intimacy with him that we might not otherwise know? In the midst of your pain, how might you recognize God’s fatherly kindness to you in Christ Jesus?
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.