God and Tragedy

God and Tragedy (CaD 1 Ki 14) Wayfarer

In the fifth year of King Rehoboam, Shishak king of Egypt attacked Jerusalem.
1 Kings 14:25 (NIV)

I have observed that every life journey is marked by a certain amount of both difficulty and tragedy. The amount is relative. The difficulties and tragedies can be the consequences of foolish choices and behaviors. In some cases, they may be directly related to system patterns inherited from previous generations. In other cases, a difficulty or tragedy simply originates in what insurance companies still call the random “act of God.”

Another observation I’ve made along my life journey is the way in which people respond to difficulties and tragedies in life. It is not uncommon for people to get mad at God, blame God, conclude that God does not exist, or conclude that if God does exist they want nothing to do with a God who would allow such things to happen. Yet others find that the difficulties and tragedies lead to greater faith and dependence on God in whom they find comfort, peace, and presence as they work through the natural stages of grief that accompany hard times.

In today’s chapter, the author of Kings gives a brief summation of King Rehoboam’s reign. He first states the Rehoboam led the Kingdom of Judah astray in the pagan worship of local deities and the detestable things they practiced in their religions. He then notes the most important event of Rehoboam’s reign after the division of Israel into two Kingdoms. The Egyptian King Shishak laid siege to Jerusalem and plundered the vast wealth of Solomon’s treasury in both the palace and the Temple. The event is corroborated in an inscription listing the successful campaigns of Shishak in a temple in Thebes. The plundering of Jerusalem was a terrible and tragic blow to the nation of Judah which was already struggling from the split with the northern tribes and the loss of lucrative trade routes. Politically, it was a terrible blow to Rehoboam’s power, wealth, and approval ratings.

What the author of Kings does not mention, is an important tidbit that the author of Chronicles made sure to mention. For the first three years of his reign, Rehoboam followed the ways of the God of Israel and was faithful to the ways of his grandfather David. It was during and after the political and military difficulties with Egypt and the plundering of Jerusalem that Rehoboam abandons his faith in God and leads his people in embracing pagan deities.

In the quiet this morning, I have to wonder whether Rehoboam was angry with God for allowing such a blow to his kingdom and his reign. When tragedy struck, did he simply choose to walk away from God because he blamed God for the tragedy? If so, he was certainly ignoring the rather major role he played in putting himself and his tribe in a weakened position that led to easy defeat. Having lived his entire life in luxury, privilege, and power, it would not surprise me that Rehoboam would have difficulty in humbly accepting his own part in the difficulties he experienced.

And of course, that leads me to consider my own reactions and responses to life’s difficulties and tragedies. My spiritual journey has taught me what I mentioned earlier, that every person will experience difficulties and tragedies in life. Nowhere in the Great Story does God promise a person a life free of it. In fact, God promises I’ll have difficulties and tragedies in this fallen world, and it is through them I develop the character qualities He desires and I progress toward spiritual maturity.

If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.

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