August 20, 2023
“In the fifteenth year of Judah’s King Amaziah son of Joash, Jeroboam II son of Jehoash became king of Israel in Samaria and reigned 41 years. He did what was evil...”
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“In the fifteenth year of Judah’s King Amaziah son of Joash, Jeroboam II son of Jehoash became king of Israel in Samaria and reigned 41 years. He did what was evil in the Lord’s sight. He did not turn away from all the sins Jeroboam son of Nebat had caused Israel to commit. He restored Israel’s border from Lebo-hamath as far as the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word the Lord, the God of Israel, had spoken through His servant, the prophet Jonah son of Amittai from Gath-hepher. For the Lord saw that the affliction of Israel was very bitter. There was no one to help Israel, neither bond nor free. However, the Lord had not said He would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven, so He delivered them by the hand of Jeroboam son of Jehoash.” 2 Kings 14:23-27 (HCSB)
Asthma nearly killed Theodore Roosevelt as a small boy. One night he had a horrible asthma attack and his father made him smoke a cigar. Apparently, cigars were on the list of proposed “antidotes” back in those days. Today, we would never consider cigars could cure asthma. In the same way, we are puzzled over today’s passage. Jeroboam II did evil in the Lord’s eyes, yet this king restored the border of Israel from Lebo-hamath all the way to the Sea of the Arabah.
Evil and success are as strange a combination as asthma and cigars. Why is the Lord allowing this to go on? Why doesn’t He bring Jeroboam’s reign down in an “iron-rod” style disaster? Why is it that Israel still worships calves, and times were never better? There is wickedness in the high places, and at the same time, there is military expansion and a booming economy. You’re free to your own political opinions, but the whole thing reminds me of the United States under the Bill Clinton presidency: openly godless scandals at the executive level and high approval ratings with a balanced budget.
Why are things this way? Because of the Word of the Lord. God had spoken through the prophet Jonah’s prediction of this massive military recovery of Israel. However, behind this mysterious “Word from the Lord” stands His warm compassion, and this compassion drove His Word. The Lord is the same Exodus-Era God, Who sees the affliction of His people. Israel might be on the verge of being wiped out, but (for now) the Lord is still reluctant to take them there.
So we know Jeroboam’s success was not an indicator of the Lord’s favor but only His pity. This idea is a little unnerving because the text says to us (whether nations or individuals): Do not mistake the Lord’s patience for His pleasure.
In fact, the Bible values all human achievement and grandeur that does not bow the knee to the Lord as wasted. Paul called his good works (apart from Jesus) “filthy rags.” This point, of course, strikes not only at deviant kings but also at those who claim to minister and serve in Jesus’ name but who too easily become engrossed with their performance or career success.