Thursday, December 29, 2011

evaluation time

And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, according to all that his father Uzziah had done.
2 Kings 15:34

There is this ceaseless litany summarizing the long list of kings here in 2 Kings 15. The actions of each king are set off either with "he did what was evil in the eyes of the LORD" or "He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD". Each king is held to a greater, higher standard by which his activity is evaluated.

A pattern emerges. None of the northern kings in Samaria do what is right. And they are characterized by short reigns (several less than a year, one for only one month) and lots of trouble unsettles their kingdom. There is a string of conspiracies. The kings fall by murder and overthrow by usurpers. There are inside pressures placed upon the throne from with Israel's borders. And there are great outside pressures. By the time Pekah reigns in Israel, Assyria has carved out lots of territory and taken the northernmost portions of Israel captive to Assyria. What is left is barely more than a vassal state.

Meanwhile, back in Judah, an opposite pattern is in play. A series of righteous kings leads the nation in worship of God. And they enjoy relatively long rules. God is honoring the Jerusalem throne even as Samaria declines in power and prestige. But by the time of Jotham's reign, outside pressures are threatening David's throne as well. Northern kingdom weakness has created a highway for invasion straight to Jerusalem. And southern threats from Edom and Moab continue. Syria and Assyria made incursions into Judah's territory. Even though Judah has a string of righteous rulers, the damage has already been done and the stage is now set for all of God's people to be led into God's judgment. It is just a matter of timing.

Seeing these patterns so dramatically makes me appreciate Paul's New Testament perspective on Old Testament history: "these things were written for our instruction." By observing this history and seeing God act in it, I get perspective on how God interacts with humanity. And that serves as a gauge for checking out my own habits and willingness to live as God says. I want to do what is "right in the eyes of the LORD".

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