My Bible reading plan had me finishing up 2 Kings and reading all of Hosea this past week. And there are so many lessons in those chapters that I could share with you. But the one thing that stood out the most to me was the small handful of kings who “did what was right in the sight of the Lord.”
A little background first: We probably all know the first three kings of Israel were Saul, David, and Solomon. Saul turned wicked, David followed after God own’s heart, and Solomon was the wisest man who’s ever lived. But in 1 Kings 11 we see that, in all his wisdom, Solomon allowed himself to be seduced by many women, and let those women lead him away from worshiping only the one true God. And we read that “the Lord was angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from the LORD< the God of Israel” [11:9]. And God promised to tear the kingdom apart, dividing it between the house of David (Jerusalem, in accordance with the Davidic covenant) and pagan kings.
And so, after Solomon’s death, everything went haywire. Rehoboam took the throne, and refused to listen to the counsel of Solomon’s wisest advisers, and brought harsher laws and crueler force than the people desired. And so the dissection began.
Ten tribes of the nation rallied together, forming the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and crowning the wicked Jeroboam as their king. The tribe of Judah was left alone with Rehoboam as her king. [Note: the tribe of Benjamin was split, both in loyalty and physical location, between the two kingdoms.]
Thus began a long saga of wickedness and idolatry. Of the 20 kings who ruled the northern kingdom of Israel, every single one of them was wicked. Not one of them did what was right in God’s eyes, and they all followed after other gods. And after 206 years, Israel was captured by Assyria and every one of its inhabitants (over 27,000 Israelites) was deported from the Promised Land!
Now consider the tribe of Judah. She had 21 kings, and lasted for 344 years before being captured and exiled. Most of those kings did what looked good to their own eyes, following pagan religious rituals alongside a handful of God’s holy laws. And so, yes, in the end, they paid the price for their wickedness as well. But along the way, they had 8 kings who did what was right.
Asa, Jehoshaphat, Joash, Amaziah, Uzziah, Jotham, Hezekiah, and Josiah – these were the eight men who followed after God. True, not every one of them obeyed completely. Some of them, while worshiping God alone, allowed pagan sacrificial sites (“high places”) to remain. Many of them removed pagan images and corrupt leaders, but still tolerated syncretism within their nation. They still allowed the people to offer obedience to false gods.
But overall, they did what was right. And in the course of 344 years, eight men may not sound like much. Eight men out of twenty-one is certainly not a majority. But they made a difference. Each king who chose to worship God alone, allowed Judah to turn back to her Creator yet one more time. Each king who repented of his syncretistic practices and obeyed God’s Word alone, brought God’s mercy and forgiveness on the nation yet one more time.
They must have felt alone. They must have wondered what the point was, in trying to do right, when so many other kings had done wickedly. They must have compared their little nation to the big kingdom of Israel (the other ten tribes), and wondered why God allowed those tribes to continue living in their rebellion. They probably were tempted to “give in” to the local customs, to take the easy path and let the pagan traditions continue. But they didn’t.
Those kings chose the hard road. They chose to obey, to do what was right in God’s eyes rather than what looked comfortable and easy. And God saw their obedience, and showed just a little more mercy, and offered just a few more chances, to His chosen people.
You see, one life dedicated to pursuing God is a whole lot more than none. One light shining in the darkness is a whole lot brighter than none. One testimony of truth amidst of a world of wickedness speaks a whole lot louder than none.
So will you dare to be the only one? Will you dare to continue doing right, even if it seems like you’re not making the slightest difference? We don’t know what God sees from heaven; He may be working in ways we’ll never know about on this earth. I think of Sodom and Gomorrah, when Abraham was interceding with the Lord to save the two cities. He pleaded for God to have mercy for the sake of just 50 righteous… and then whittled that number down again and again, until he got down to ten. Ten lonely righteous souls, surrounded by two whole cities full of wickedness. And the Lord promised to spare those cities if there were indeed just ten righteous men and women.
So will you dare to be that one?
That’s what I’ve been ruminating on this week. How about you? What are you learning from the Word? It could be a character quality that God is maturing in you, it could be an account of God’s work that you keep thinking on, it could be something else entirely. What are you learning? Please share a quick comment about how God is teaching His Word to your heart!
For those following the Blended Plan for TTB12, here is next week’s schedule:
Sunday: Hosea 12-14
Monday: Jeremiah 1-2, Matthew 20
Tuesday: Jeremiah 3-5
Wednesday: Jeremiah 6-8, Matthew 21
Thursday: Jeremiah 9-11
Friday: Jeremiah 12-14, Matthew 22
Saturday: Jeremiah 15-17