As part of my daily Bible reading, I’ve been studying the book of Second Chronicles. It’s a record of the lives and times of the kings of Judah and Israel. As a result of Solomon allowing himself to be turned away from devotion to God to worship of the false gods of his numerous wives and concubines, God pronounced his kingdom would be divided, but a portion would be retained by his heirs because of the covenant that God made with his father David. The kingdom of Judah was ruled by Solomon’s heirs.
As time went on his descendants became unfaithful to God as well, with a few exceptions who attempted to bring about a revival and return to faithfulness toward God. But their efforts were short-lived and temporary at best. The kingdom of Israel was eventually carried into captivity by the Assyrians, and Judah by the Babylonians. It would be seventy years before the Israelites returned to Jerusalem and the land, but the glory of David and Solomon would never be regained.
Most of the accounts of the various kings are fairly straightforward: “he was this old when he became king, ruled for this long, did this and then died”. Of some it was said “he did right in the sight of the Lord” but with a recounting of things he failed to do. Most messed up by forming alliances with foreign nations and/or failing to eradicate false gods and worship from the land. It can be a sometimes dry historical account, but there are lessons to be drawn from their lives and examples.
One particular individual caught my attention, not so much for what he did or didn’t do but what was said about him. His name was Jehoram. He was the son of Jehoshaphat, one of the better Judean kings. Jehoram’s account begins with, “he walked in the way of the kings of Israel”, which was not surprising since for political alliance purposes his father had arranged his marriage to the daughter of King Ahab of Israel, the poster boy of all the godlessness, rebellion and sinfulness of the northern kingdom. Jehoram was 32 when he ascended to the throne and ruled only eight years before dying an agonizing death due to an intestinal disease inflicted on him as punishment from God. His account ends with this statement- “he died to no one’s regret.”
What a sad way to be remembered! A life so worthless and evil that everyone was glad to see you go. A life so insignificant or so repugnant that people were glad you died. It is the same thing that could be said of Hitler, or even Ebenezer Scrooge before his transformation. But here it was said of a king who murdered his family and several others who might be a threat to his power, deliberately led an evil life, and led his nation to rebellion against God.
Compare him to others in the Bible and see what a difference obedience to God makes. There’s Abraham, whose faith ‘was counted as righteousness’. There’s David, described as a ‘man after God’s own heart’. Both of these men were imperfect, and made some horrible, sinful mistakes in their lives. But both also repented and turned back to God and were blessed for it by being promised a nation and kingdom that would last forever.
There’s another interesting verse in Jehoram’s account. In verse six and seven of 2 Chronicles 21 we’re told “He did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, but because of the covenant the Lord had made with David, He was unwilling to destroy the house of David since the Lord had promised to give a lamp to David and to his sons forever.” Jehoram’s family was carried off in a raid by the Philistines, but his youngest son was left and became king. He, too, was an evil king, but the line of David was preserved.
There are two points to be made here. When God establishes a promise He will never break it- it will be fulfilled. Though the ruling line of David was carried off into captivity, it was through his descendants that Jesus Christ was born, lived, died, rose again and established his kingdom that shall never end. Through him God established a new covenant, a fulfillment of the one made with Israel, that makes His redemption and reconciliation available to all who will accept it and surrender themselves humbly in obedience to Him. When God makes a promise, it is trustworthy and eternal.
When God sets His purpose, it will be accomplished, sometimes in ways we may not comprehend and through individuals and methods that seem strange to us. God uses imperfect people (since there are no other kind) to bring about His plans. Sometimes it is in ways and through agents we find incomprehensible or even unjust. In the Old Testament, Pharaoh, the Assyrians and the Babylonians are all described in various places as ‘God’s chosen instrument’ to discipline His chosen ones. It is important to note that once God accomplishes what He desires through these instruments they become subject to His judgment and punishment as well.
In the account of 2 Chronicles we see that God kept his covenant with David through a line of rebellious, evil kings. That didn’t mean that they weren’t condemned by God, or honored in their lifetimes. Some were murdered by their own people, some died of horrible diseases, and it can be said that their sins found them out. But God’s eternal purpose was accomplished through them nonetheless.
Whether we choose to follow Christ and surrender our lives to him as Lord or reject His offer and calling, God desires to bless each of us through His promises. But without humble obedience, we cannot receive those blessings. If we choose to be our own god and live for only ourselves, it might end up being said of us, “he (or she) died to no one’s regret“, to be followed by the words, “Depart from me, I never knew you.”