2 Kings 13:1–9 (NIV)✞: Jehoahaz King of Israel
We switch from Judah back to Israel for this passage, for the reign of Jehoahaz.
I’ll quote most of the passage because I have thoughts about it:
1 In the twenty-third year of Joash son of Ahaziah king of Judah, Jehoahaz son of Jehu became king of Israel in Samaria, and he reigned seventeen years. 2 He did evil in the eyes of the LORD by following the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit, and he did not turn away from them. 3 So the LORD’s anger burned against Israel, and for a long time he kept them under the power of Hazael king of Aram and Ben-Hadad his son.
4 Then Jehoahaz sought the LORD’s favor, and the LORD listened to him, for he saw how severely the king of Aram was oppressing Israel. 5 The LORD provided a deliverer for Israel, and they escaped from the power of Aram. So the Israelites lived in their own homes as they had before. 6 But they did not turn away from the sins of the house of Jeroboam, which he had caused Israel to commit; they continued in them. Also, the Asherah pole remained standing in Samaria.
After this we’re just told that Jehoahaz’ army has been decimated by the Arameans—down to “fifty horsemen, ten chariots and ten thousand foot soldiers” (verse 7✞)—and that his son Jehoash will succeed him as king. (We’ll read about him in the next passage.)
The reason for quoting the passage above is that it’s another instance of the Bible not letting us get away with a simplistic view of how the world works, specifically when we think about Hazel, king of Aram. We’ll recall in 8:7–15 that Hazael was anointed king of Aram by Elisha, on behalf of the LORD, but, at the same time, Elisha was despondent because he know how oppressive Hazael would be. And now we get to Chapter 13 and are told that the people of Israel are suffering under Hazael because of their sin, and, at the same time, that the LORD needs to save the people of Israel from Hazael – whom He’d sent!
There is nothing simple about this dynamic. God appoints Hazael to punish Israel, and God also sees that Hazael’s treatment of Israel is so bad that Israel needs delivering – in fact, probably the one good thing Jehoahaz does as king is to seek the LORD’s help. But God knew this was going to happen when He first appointed Hazael king of Aram—remember Elisha weeping about it?—so it’s not like He was taken by surprise by the harshness of Hazael’s treatment; He chose Hazael knowing that this was going to happen. (Not that it “might” happen, but that it was going to happen.)
Does this make God responsible for Hazael’s sin? No, Hazael was responsible for his own sin. Does it make God responsible for sending Hazael to punish Israel? Yes, according to verse 3 above. Do those two things go together? They must, but it’s hard to see how! It’s no wonder Elisha was weeping when he anointed Hazael king – but he did it, nonetheless. Just because we don’t understand the mind of God it doesn’t mean we’re allowed to ignore His will when it’s laid out for us!
Christianity is a religion of faith, but that doesn’t mean we’re not supposed to think. We are. We’re to read the Scriptures, and wrestle with them, and understand things as best we can. There are things that are difficult to understand, of course, but there are also a lot of things we can understand, and the Spirit will help us to do so. But, at the same time, our understanding shouldn’t get in the way of our obedience. For example, when God tells us to forgive others, and keep forgiving them, and we don’t see how that can ever work out for us, it doesn’t mean we’re allowed to just ignore His will and disobey until we can get it figured out. We are to forgive, and trust that He knows what He’s doing. And sometimes we’ll see, in retrospect, how that worked out very well, but in other cases we won’t. We’re to do it anyway.
So no, Christianity isn’t a religion of “blind faith,” where we turn off our brains and just mechanically do what we’re told – but, at the same time, it is a religion where we’re going to hit limits of our understanding and still have to have faith anyway. Those limits might be personal (maybe there’s a specific issue I’m struggling with that doesn’t trouble others), or universal (anyone who claims to fully understand the doctrine of the Trinity is likely fooling themselves), but either way there will be limits.
Which, honestly, is a good thing: a “god” who could be fully figured out and understood wouldn’t be a “god” worth serving.
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