2 Kings 20:1–21:26, Ephesians 4:1–32, Proverbs 8:27–36
Mothers and fathers know the guilt they might feel over a child that turns bad. They raised him with instruction and lived a good example, but for some reason the child decided to not follow their teaching.
Hezekiah was a good king. When he died, his son Manasseh reigned in his place. He was only twelve years old and his reign in Jerusalem lasted fifty-five years, but his behavior was evil in God’s sight. He followed the sinful practices of the nations God had banished. He rebuilt the high places that his father had destroyed, erected altars for Baal, made an Asherah, worshiped all the host of heaven and served them by building altars in the two courts of the house of the Lord. He burned his son as an offering and used fortune-telling and omens and dealt with mediums and with necromancers. (2 Kings 20:21–21:6)
The Lord was angry and conveyed this message through His prophets: “Because Manasseh king of Judah has committed these abominations and has done things more evil than all that the Amorites did who were before him, and has made Judah also to sin with his idols, therefore . . . I am bringing upon Jerusalem and Judah such disaster that the ears of everyone who hears of it will tingle.” (2 Kings 21:10–12)
Manasseh became a leader in Israel’s downfall. When he died, Amon his son reigned in his place. He was twenty-two years old and reigned only two years. His servants must have been sick of having an evil king for they conspired against him and put him to death. “Then the people of the land struck down all those who had conspired against King Amon, and the people of the land made Josiah his son king in his place.” (2 Kings 21:18–24)
I feel like I’m reading the morning news. Many nations in the world have histories like this with evil leaders, military coups, internal wars, and horrendous suffering. While many people do not see it this way, the Bible says that much of our pain and conflict comes because we do not heed God and His Word, and we refuse the wisdom God offers. If only we would love wisdom.
Solomon personified wisdom: “And now, O sons, listen to me: blessed are those who keep my ways. Hear instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it. Blessed is the one who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors. For whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the Lord, but he who fails to find me injures himself; all who hate me love death.” (Proverbs 8:32–36)
He affirms my thoughts. Wisdom comes from the fear of God and obedience. With it we find life and the favor of God. Without it, we are drawn to death. If only we would listen and obey, instead of being so unwise.
However, the NT says that the people of God are offered wisdom for the asking. We need it. Our world is filled with evil, and if it were not for the claim of Jesus Christ on our lives, we would be drawn into it. Instead, God calls to us with wisdom and grace. In Ephesians 4, He says through the Apostle Paul, “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:1–3)
The kings of the OT knew this calling. Some walked worthy; many did not. Yet as God’s people, they were not to live like the nations around them. Neither are His people today.
Again, Paul says, “Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.”
Then he gives this contrast: “But that is not the way you learned Christ! — assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness . . . . Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32)
There are so many acts of violence, so much sorrow since the world began. When I read OT history, when I look at world history, when I consider even my own history, all I can say is, If only, if only . . . .