For the Love of God, Volume 1/November 1
From Gospel Translations
2 Kings 14; 2 Timothy 4; Hosea 7; Psalms 120—122
ONE OF THE ATTRACTIVE AND DISTURBING things about the Bible is its realism. Simplistic idealism would very much like the “good” people to be more or less consistently rewarded, and to be fruitful and blessed in their work; similarly, it would like the “bad” people to turn out to be failures. Doubtless on the longest haul, before God’s tribunal, justice will be done and will be seen to be done. Doubtless, too, there are enough temporal rewards and blessings to remind us that God is in control. But in the mystery of providence, there are also enough anomalies to remind us that ultimate justice is not found in this world. And this, of course, is true to life, the ultimate realism.
The point is well illustrated in the two kings of 2 Kings 14. Amaziah, son of Joash, reaches the throne of Judah at the age of twenty-five. “He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, but not as his father David had done” (14:3). Though he was not as consistent as David, he was on many fronts a good man. Even in the matter of capturing and executing the assassins of his father King Joash, Amaziah refrained from wiping out their families—a not uncommon practice at the time—for he was following the law of God (Deut. 24:16; 2 Kings 14:6). And then, after enjoying moderate military success (14:7), which apparently went to his head, he taunted the northern tribes for no good reason into a war he lost disastrously. The stupidity was gargantuan. Eventually Amaziah was himself assassinated after a twenty-nine-year reign.
By contrast, on gaining the throne of the northern kingdom Jeroboam II “did evil in the eyes of the LORD and did not turn away from any of the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit” (14:24). Nevertheless he proved to be an able administrator and military leader. Because the Lord was sensitive to the cries of his people as they faced the crushing power of Syria to the north, he used Jeroboam II to restore the boundaries of Israel against Syrian encroachment, eventually recovering for Israel both Damascus and Hamath, which had belonged to Israel in the days of the united monarchy. Jeroboam II reigned for forty-one years and died in peace.
Observe: (1) A good king may do bad and stupid things. (2) A bad king may do good and important things. (3) It follows that one should never evaluate the morality of a leader simply on the basis of select good things or bad things they do. Even Hitler restored German confidence and created jobs. Presidents have been known to win wars and keep the economy going while living, sexually speaking, in the gutter.