Leadership and accountability
2Kings 14: God wasn’t yet ready to blot out the name of Israel from history, so he used Jeroboam son of Jehoash to save them.
Jeroboam II, king of Israel is another in the line of leaders of Israel who doesn’t make the grade. He could do better. In fact, he should. Instead he continues the march away from God, even as so many of his predecessors have done before him. Leaders can’t force morality but they can model it. Beyond that, leaders, even especially powerful ones, must give account of themselves to Almighty God. Still, Jeroboam has some successes: military victories that win back territory that’s been lost to their enemies. We’re told here that God is helping Jeroboam do that, not because he favors this pitiful king but for his own purposes. Although the day of destruction and defeat is coming, for now the Lord isn’t ready for Israel to be defeated. Because of that he helps Jeroboam lead Israel in some specific ways. This is good for Israel. Still though, Jeroboam will face a God who’s displeased with him. I see here that even though God acts according to his own agenda it doesn’t get people off the hook when they fail of their own free will.
Take Away: Ultimately, we will each give account of ourselves to the Lord.
A chip off the old block, almost
2Kings 14: He lived the way God wanted and did the right thing. But he didn’t come up to the standards of his ancestor David.
When Joash is assassinated his son, Amaziah, becomes king of Judah. This young man picks up where his father left off: doing the right thing and honoring God. Because of that, he goes down in history as one of the good kings of Judah. This man rules for 29 years and, over all, does what is pleasing in God’s sight. Still, I can’t get past the statement that “he didn’t come up to the standards of David.” In other words, Amaziah does “okay” and receives a passing grade from the Lord, yet he could have been much more. You might say that David earns an “A” while Amaziah earns a “C+.” It’s too bad when a person has great potential yet, while things aren’t a complete disaster, never quite measures up. Do you know what really bothers me here? I’m not as concerned about Amaziah’s lukewarm reviews as I am of my own! Can it be said of me, “Well, he did the right thing, but he never measured up to his full potential.” I don’t want to live a lukewarm life.
Take Away: Oh Lord, set me on fire for you.
A trophy of grace
2Kings 13: He never gave up on them, never even considered discarding them.
In spite of God’s patience and blessings and in spite of the difficulties the nation faces, Israel continues down a destructive path. When things are terrible they temporarily turn to God but before long they’re back in the old God-ignoring rut. Their future could have been bright, but that’s not how things are going to turn out. I know what happens over at the end of 2Chronicles when the twin kingdoms come to their official end. Then again, I know what happens on the next page after that where I see God’s faithfulness through the priest, Ezra. In fact, looking into their future as I can by simply turning the pages of my Bible I’m taken by the truth of this statement: “He never gave up on them.” Oh, the grace of God who clearly sees our failure yet declares, “I won’t even consider discarding you.” I’m a trophy of such grace. And so are you.
Take Away: God is the God of Second Chances…and third…and fourth…and….
Little deals are sometimes big deals
2Kings 13: The king struck the ground three times and then quit.
The old prophet Elisha is nearing the end of life. Unlike his mentor, Elijah, he’ll not depart this world in a whirlwind. Instead, he’ll die from old age and illness. However, before he goes, he has good news for Jehoash, king of Israel. The king is instructed to fire an arrow in the direction of his enemies. Then Elisha instructs him to strike the ground with the remaining arrows. Obviously, this is supposed to be an action related to their struggle with Aram but the king only strikes the ground a few times and stops. Elisha tells him that what he does isn’t good enough and that his minimum cooperation is symbolic of the few times he’ll defeat Aram. Had he responded with enthusiasm and commitment things could have been different but his token response will result in only a token defeat of Aram. The wise man of Ecclesiastes says, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might” (Eccl. 9:10). Had Jehoash been ordered to actually go into battle he would have, no doubt, done it with “all his might” but since this was merely symbolic he just gave a token effort. With that, Elisha and, apparently God, is displeased. So as I read this story I’m reminded that things that appear to me to be a “little deal” are sometimes a “big deal” in God’s eyes.
Take Away: If the Lord says “do it” then do whatever it is with everything you’ve got.
2Kings 13: It didn’t make any difference: They didn’t change their lives.
Jehoahaz takes his father’s place on the throne if Israel but there’s no religious reform. Instead, he continues down the path of God-ignoring idol worship. As happened during the time of the Judges, God allows the enemies of Israel to come in and dominate them. For years the people are miserable in this sorry state of affairs. Finally, Jehoahaz humbly comes to God confessing his sins and the sins of the people. In his mercy, God answers, raising up a warrior who drives the invaders out. Of course, this results in a great revival of Jehovah worship. At least it should have. Without missing a beat they continue their idol worship with hardly a tip of the hat to God. Once again, I see here the mercy and patience of God. No question, he wants to care for us and to bless our lives. Also, there’s the truth that mere human freedom is not the ultimate need of man. Don’t get me wrong, I believe in freedom and thank God for it. However, the greatest need of humanity is not for liberty. Rather, the need is for changed hearts. Otherwise, everything else is just window dressing.
Take Away: Everything else comes up short when compared to the transformation the Lord brings to lives.
2Kings 12: Why haven’t you renovated this sorry-looking Temple?
The sample we’re given of Joash’s leadership of Judah is his faithfulness to repair the Temple of God. Any building will deteriorate if it is not cared for and Joash realizes that the Temple is overdue for some serious work. He orders the priests who serve there to use offerings for that purpose, but it never happens. Instead of being used on the building, the money is absorbed in the everyday operations at the Temple. When Joash sees this, he changes tactics and creates a system by which money can be given for this specific purpose. The people respond and during his reign Joash sees the Temple restored to much of its former glory. So what do I see in this incident? First, I’m reminded that the building where worship takes place needs regular attention and that the Lord gifts some people for this task. The church needs to recognize that and both finance and empower these people for their work. Second, I see that without leadership things gradually fall apart. In this case, not only is the building deteriorating, but the plans for financing the renovations also come apart without Joash’s leadership. It isn’t enough for him to have the vision and then put a plan together. He has to be sure that the plan continues to completion. Third, I see that the best way to finance such an operation is with money specifically given for that purpose. The expenses of the Temple continue even through the building project so the money has to be given above the regular offerings. Finally, I see that people are willing to give to such a project. People don’t have to be brow beat to give if they see the need and that something is really happening. Clearly, these are good principles for today even as they were good so long ago.
Take Away: Leadership not only provides vision and plans. It also stays engaged as the vision is made reality.
2Kings 11: Jehodiah now made a covenant between God and the king and the people. They were God’s people.
A seven-year-old boy sits on the throne of Judah. His mentor is the priest Jehodiah, a man committed to God. As Joash is installed as king the priest makes a covenant with God on behalf of the young king and his people. Joash will rule the nation “under God” and the people will view themselves as “God’s people.” A second covenant promises that Joash will rule justly and the people will willingly live as citizens under his rule. These covenants will stand for 40 years, throughout the lifetime of Joash. Covenants are powerful things. They bind people together and commit them to certain courses of action. They create a roadmap for relationships and behaviors. Covenants are commitments between two or more parties, a contract of sorts. The people of Joash’s day are impacted by the covenant for a lifetime. What am I committed to that has that level of impact? Or, maybe better said, is what I’m committed to worth the effort? How about you? Are your covenants worth keeping? The Lord has offered one covenant that is worth everything. It’s the one sealed with the blood of Jesus.
Take Away: Are the covenants of my life worth keeping?
Ready or not, here it comes
2Kings 11: Athaliah, oblivious to his existence, ruled the country.
Jehu’s purge nets both Joram, wicked king of Israel, and Ahaziah, the king of Judah who has become a partner with Joram in his sinful leadership. Ahaziah’s mother, Athaliah, takes her son’s place, not only on the throne but also as one committed to evil. Her first act is to kill anyone in her family who might contest her claim to the throne of Judah. It appears her plan has worked, and it would have, except for the bravery and quick action of Jehosheba who hides the infant Joash from his own grandmother’s murderous intention. Now, six years later, it’s time to act. Intrigue abounds as plans are made to dethrone the pretender Athaliah and elevate Joash to his rightful place as boy king. As this takes place we’re told that Athaliah is “oblivious” to it all. I think the Lord often works like this. Ordinary people and even the wicked pursue their goals, pressing on, thinking everything is working out as anticipated. Meanwhile, God is at work in the underground. Big things are coming and we’re “oblivious” to it all. For Athaliah it means that her hijacking of the throne of Judah is soon coming to a bloody end. For followers of the Lord, it means that we’d better keep our eyes on Jesus and be ready for — well, be ready for “whatever” comes next.
Take Away: Even when we can’t see it, the Lord is at work, preparing for the next big thing.
2Kings 10: God doing what, through Elijah, he said he’d do.
I don’t like reading the stories of uprisings, murders, and judgment found in the stories of Judah and Israel. Beheadings and assassinations somehow don’t make for good devotional reading! Still, there are some powerful themes in the story of Jehu’s uprising. God had judged Ahab’s sin years earlier, and even though he has, at times, blessed Israel with his help against her enemies, the Lord never overlooks what Ahab has continued doing. At the right time the Lord raises up Jehu to act in judgment on Ahab’s family. It’s bloody but it’s intended to give Israel a chance to return to the path that they left so long ago. Before Jehu’s finished Ahab’s family is destroyed and the altars of Baal are gone. In spite of all that, Jehu’s a disappointment. I see here that the Lord uses less than perfect vessels to accomplish his purposes. Also I’m reminded that no one has to fail. Jehu let a golden opportunity slip through his fingers.
Take Away: The Lord works in and through imperfect people to carry out his plans.
Run for your life
2Kings 9: Then open the door and get out of there as fast as you can.
The final chapter on the story of wicked Ahab and Jezebel is about to be written. Ahab is already dead, killed in battle, and now his son Joram sits on the throne of Israel. However, the Lord is about to keep his word that this family will not remain in power. Elisha sends a “junior prophet” to General Jehu. The prophet is to anoint him king and then he’s to run for his life. Apparently, Jehu doesn’t need much of a nudge to mount a coop and take over the country and almost immediately he moves decisively against Joram and his mother Jezebel. I’m interested in the order of Elisha that his representative name Jehu king and then get away from him as quickly as possible. Apparently, in spite of his being anointed king, Jehu remains a heartless, wicked man who’s going to be used of God but will never be a man of God. Elisha doesn’t want his associate to have any more contact with such a man than is necessary. If that’s correct, the lesson is that God’s people sometimes need to make alliances with those who are far from being righteous. We’re to work with them to accomplish some greater good but we’re also to be careful to remember who we are and not allow ourselves to be pulled into their lifestyles.
Take Away: While the Lord uses unlikely and unworthy people to accomplish his purposes, his people should be careful in their connections to them.