How would you like this on your cemetery monument?: And he departed with no ones regret.
Those were the words used to sum up Jehoram’s reign over the nations of Judah in 2Chronicles 21:20.
It would be safe to say, not many Christians find the books of Samuel, Kings and Chronicles inviting. They are seldom the books of choice when it comes to daily devotions. In fact, they can be rather distressing at times as the writers bounce from kingdom to kingdom, king to king, battle to battle. However, there is one theme that is consistent. The kings who follow the LORD prosper and those who do not perish. It is a fairly simple formula but one that both kingdoms, Israel and Judah, find hard to sustain for any length of time. The pesky “high places” always seem to be the downfall of both as the chronicles unfold.
One thing that has peeked my interest as I’m walking through these books is the fact that the writers of these histories often note other sources that contain “the rest of the acts” of many of the kings. They can be the “chronicles of Jehu”, the “Book of he Kings of Israel”, the “Book of the Kings of Israel and Judah”, or one of many others. The reason those references are intriguing is the primary question of why were they not preserved somewhere. It seems from what I have been able to gather, none of these resources and there are some twenty of them, have been retained. Many are considered “lost works” and others are considered pseudepigrapha – books falsely attributed to a particular individual. Even though they are referenced frequently, the seem to be shrouded in mystery. It would seem that books of this kind of importance would have been painstakingly preserved.
The second observation about the history of the kings is the continual “if – then” phenomenon. If you obey the LORD and keeps his commandments then you prosper and find victory in battle. If you do not, then you reap punishment or certain peril. In fact, under the reign of Asa (2Chron. 15) “whoever would not seek the LORD, the God of Israel, should be put to death, whether young or old, man or woman.” Now that’s what I call incentive!
We don’t often think in these terms under a New Testament belief system. But its shadow is still present. You can hear it’s subtle prescription from the pulpit and in many Bible Study programs. Many times it is couched in offering reasons why one is suffering health issues, financial distress, marriage chaos, or the like. If ones life is “right with God” then those things would not happen. The calamity is caused by sin and disobedience. Even though we speak of “grace as unmerited favor”, on-going grace seems conditioned on doing the right things. At least, that’s how it comes across at times. And I’m not saying that’s wrong, I am simply saying we often attempt to disguise that type of if/then scenario when it comes to NT believers. The less subtle motivators are those referencing hell, or the avoidance of hell and the threat of the Second Coming of Christ. Although proclaiming the message of the nether world and the new world is often saved for the unsaved – it is also used to keep believers on the straight and narrow.
We can learn a good deal from the “history” books of the Bible. Not just the life of the kings of Judah and Israel, but how they related to God and how God related to them, personally and through the prophets. There are echoes of what went before and what is to come. There are definitive outlines of what it means to be a follower of Yahweh and what it means to struggle under the shadow of the “high places.” At times it seems the kings represent a microcosm of every person seeking to be a true learner/follower/disciple of Christ. At times hopelessly devoted to their God and other times consumed by the confusion of their day and the influence of mistakes in the past. It was never easy. Nor is it easy today to faithfully follow the Christ.
I think sometimes my epitaph may be as I first noted. However my desire is that it would be said I was found “doing what was right in the sight of the LORD.”