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Every King Broken

January 17, 2014Filed under theology#devotionsMarkdown source

I have made it my goal to write short posts reflecting on my devotional reading every day. These posts are composed off the cuff, in 30 minutes or less. The following is one such post. Before writing this post, I read: 2 Chronicles 11–16, Psalm 17, Proverbs 17.

The attentive reader will no doubt have noted that I missed a night last night, and am accordingly skipping over the relevant chapters. I fell asleep just after reading said chapters—so the most important aspect of this project, I still accomplished. Huzzah. As for why I got to it so late (and why I am again tonight)… that will have to wait for next Tuesday to explain.

A great deal of the latter parts of the Chronicles—as in Kings—are concerned with the deeds men who decided not to submit to Yahweh. Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, set the tone for much of what followed. He began by obeying and worshiping God, but all too soon he went his own way. The Chronicler summarizes Rehoboam’s turn in a single sentence that I found strikingly provocative:

When the rule of Rehoboam was established and he was strong, he abaondoned the law of the Lord, and all Israel with him. (2 Chronicles 12:1)

His deeds bore this out. Whereas in the beginning of his reign Rehoboam was sensible enough to obey Yahweh when God spoke to the king through a prophet and warned him not to go to war with Jeroboam of Israel, his habits had changed:

There were continual wars between Rehoboam and Jeroboam (2 Chronicles 12:15b)

Right there we have a perfect summary not only of the folly of so many kings of Judah in the years that followed Rehoboam, but of many of us as well. We turn to God in desperation in times of trouble, or when we are seeking security, but as soon as times are good and things seem to be going well with us, we are quick to abandon him. We begin to disobey, deciding our way is better and relying on our own wisdom. Never mind that we came to whatever point of success we have achieved only because God granted it to us in his grace.

The next chapter records the reign of Rehoboam’s son Ahijah—a man who, it seems, recognized the power of Yahweh but did not fully submit to his rule. He happily relied on Yahweh when waging war, but (like his father, grandfather Solomon, and great-grandfather David before him) he rejected God’s law when it came to taking multiple wives.1 This sort of going halfway also seems to characterize us all too frequently. We are happy to accept God’s help, and may even be zealous for him in some ways, but too often are unwilling to submit to his law.

Ahijah’s son Asa provides one more picture of a way that we often go wrong. He began exceedingly well. He relied on Yahweh for victory in war, and he also faithfully pursued his ways at home. He led Judah to break down their altars to other gods and pledge themselves to the worship of Yahweh, the one true God. He exiled even his own grandmother because of her devotion to idols. In short, if we had only chapter 15, we would think Asa a model king—but the Chronicler adds an unhappy ending to the story. As Asa grew old, he turned away from the wisdom of his youth and decided to rely not on the strength of God for his country’s defense but on his own political machinations and the strength in arms of neighboring nations.2 That he was now going thoroughly off the rails becomes quite clear as one reads that he tortured the priest who told him that Yahweh disapproved of his treaty, and that he refused even in his illness to seek God’s aid. There is a warning here: starting well does not guarantee one will finish well.

Over and over again, as one reads through the Chronicles with Yahweh’s resounding promise to David in mind—that promise of a son whose throne would be established forever—one is left disappointed. Beginning with Solomon, every single king misses the mark in some way. Either he flatly rejects Yahweh, or he simply finds an area in which he will not obey, or he falls away from wisdom as he ages. On and on go their follies—the defects in character and failings in every virtue. But in this way, Rehoboam, Ahijah, and Asa all serve us still. They point us to the one king who did not fail, the man from the line of David, of the tribe of Judah, the great-grandson of Abraham, the offspring of the woman, born of a woman. That king never sinned. No matter how many years passed, he remained steadfast in the face of temptation to err (and remains steadfast in his prayers for us). He has but one bride, whom he awaits still. Jesus the Messiah is that King.

  1. Perhaps it is just me, but the idea of having multiple wives is somewhat terrifying. Jaimie is more than enough mystery for one lifetime. I think two women would leave me confounded without ceasing.

  2. Note that making alliances is not an inherently ungodly thing to do. The trick was that here it clearly demonstrated Asa’s lack of faith in Yahweh to save Judah, standing in rather stark contrast to his behavior in his youth.