Category Archives: Chapter-a-Day

“Right”

Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it. Then he went up to the temple of the Lord and spread it out before the Lord.
2 Kings 19:14 (NIV)

The author(s) of Kings and Chronicles record the reigns of the 39 monarchs of the divided kingdom. There were 19 kings of Israel and they are all listed as having been evil in the sight of the Lord because of their idolatry and accompanying practices such as sacrificing their own children. Of the 20 kings of Judah, only eight were recorded to have done right in the eyes of the Lord. That leaves the tally of those who did evil at 31, and those who did right at 8. I can’t help but think of Jesus’ words describing the path to life being a narrow road and few following it, while the highway to destruction is pretty much a busy interstate.

The story of Judah’s King Hezekiah is one of the most intriguing and inspiring of all the kings of Israel and Judah. In fact, the author of Kings calls him the undisputed leader of the “Right Eight.” His story is made all the more intriguing due to the fact that the miraculous fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy and the decimation of Assyria’s besieging army in today’s chapter are historical facts, as is Isaiah’s prophetic description of the King of Assyria’s patricidal assassination and the ascension of his younger son to the throne.

So what was it that made Hezekiah a leader of the “Right Eight?”

The first clue I have is from the previous chapter. While some of the other members of the “Right Eight” had rather lenient policies regarding those in Judah who wanted to follow the evil practices of the regional pagan deities and cults, Hezekiah refused to allow the evil practices to officially continue in the nation under this leadership.

The second clue is also from yesterday’s chapter in which it states that Hezekiah “held fast” to his faith and trust in God. There was whole-hearted loyalty that never waned during his nearly 30-year reign.

In today’s chapter, I noticed my third clue in two separate very scary moments. I think about the scary moments of my life like losing a job, having my hotel room burgled, finding out a loved one has cancer or getting the call that our company was losing our biggest client. These things can’t compare to the terror Hezekiah is experiencing in today’s chapter.

The Assyrian Empire was incredibly successful at destroying other kingdoms, incredibly nasty at what they did to their victims, and was on a very long undefeated streak. The fact that they had surrounded Jerusalem was not good news. Hezekiah had every reason to be terrified. He and his people were facing the prospect of being starved to the point of cannibalizing their dead friends and relatives, the city eventually being burned, slavery, exile, rape, cruel and unusual forms of murder, and citizens dismembered and their body parts piled up outside the city gates to let everyone know the Assyrians had been there.

After the first smack-talking parley from the Assyrian commanders, Hezekiah immediately goes to the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah was God’s mouthpiece and Hezekiah desperately wanted to hear from God.

After receiving a subsequent threatening letter from the Assyrians, Hezekiah “went up to the temple and spread it out before the Lord.”

In both of these instances, Hezekiah’s first reaction to a crisis was to go right to God. It reminded me so much of “The Chain Reaction of Praise” that I’ve written about on multiple occasions. One of the first things the author of Kings says about Hezekiah in yesterday’s chapter is that he “trusted” the Lord God of Israel. His actions in today’s chapter are evidence of this fact.

My “one word” for 2023 is “trust,” and in the quiet this morning I can’t help but feel as though Hezekiah is a prescribed example for me to contemplate and emulate. When I consider the circumstances terrifying me and compare them to those from which God delivered Hezekiah, I can’t help but realize that God’s provision for my needs is an easy thing.

NOTE: Wendy and I are going somewhere warm for a week. I’ll be back to finish up the chapter-a-day journey through 2 Kings on Feb 12. In the meantime, if you’d like a fix for the next six weekdays just choose one of these links: Galatians, Ephesians, or 1 Timothy. Each has six chapters and the linked index page will then link you to each chapter’s post in one convenient place.

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

Sacred Things

Sacred Things (CaD 2 Ki 18) Wayfarer

[King Hezekiah] broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it. (It was called Nehushtan.)
2 Kings 18:4 (NIV)

Wendy and I had the joy of visiting a local high school yesterday to provide feedback on two student theatre pieces on their way to All-State contests this weekend. It was so much fun for us.

Before leaving, we got into a conversation with one of the teachers regarding the ways individuals get offended and bent out of shape by different things. It’s not unusual. In the years that I was President of our local community theatre, I got to field many calls and personal visits from people who were offended by this or that.

One of the things that I observed amidst the anger and the criticism I listened to is that people sometimes hold the most unusual things personally sacred – things I would never expect.

I’ve experienced the same with church. I remember once getting into hot water because the ratty, old, falling-apart King James pew bibles were replaced with new pew bibles in a more modern translation. The ratty, old, falling-apart bibles had become sacred to someone.

In today’s chapter, we begin the story of ancient King Hezekiah of Judah. As the author lists all of the things Hezekiah did to abolish idolatry in the kingdom, he mentions that people had been burning incense to a most unusual object.

Around 750 years before Hezekiah, Moses was leading the Hebrew tribes out of slavery in Egypt. Snakes were biting and killing the wandering tribes. God told Moses to make a snake on a pole out of bronze and anyone bitten by a snake could look at it and they would live. Fast forward to the days of Hezekiah (a time when snake worship was common), and individuals had begun worshipping the bronze pole rather than the God who miraculously used it for a specific purpose at a specific point in time to address a specific situation.

In the quiet this morning, I am simply reminded of the human tendency to make certain things sacred and worship them. I’ve observed people making sacred and worshipping homes, buildings (especially churches), children (deceased or living), ancestors, traditions (lots of these), memories, treasures, celebrities, hobbies, clothes, cars, et cetera.

It is especially easy for me to do exactly as the people of Hezekiah’s day had done. I can hold certain trappings of religion more sacred than the living God to which those trappings are supposed to point me.

So, what do I hold sacred? Are there things, other than God, that I actually worship without thinking about it in those terms?

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

Note: The featured image on today’s post was created with Wonder AI

“But He Also…”

"But He Also…" (CaD 2 Ki 17) Wayfarer

They worshiped the Lord, but they also served their own gods in accordance with the customs of the nations from which they had been brought.
2 Kings 17:33 (NIV)

Today’s (rather long) chapter tells the end of the story for the northern Hebrew tribes’ Kingdom of Israel. Their Kingdom was under constant threat from their neighbors. They were paying tribute to the Assyrian Empire, but the successive Kings of Assyria were increasingly aggressive. They weren’t content with simply getting paid off for protection, they were bent on the far more lucrative conquest and control of more and more territory.

Hoshea, the last King of Israel, sends envoys to Pharaoh in Egypt in an effort to escape the power and threat of Assyria. I find it ironic that the former slaves return to their former slave masters to indenture themselves from the very one from whom God delivered their ancestors. Hoshea’s gambit failed. Assyria attacks Israel and sends the Israelites into captivity and exile. They then send people of other conquered people groups to resettle in the towns of Israel under Assyrian control.

An interesting side-note: It was the foreign people groups planted by the Assyrians in the towns of Israel who would mix and intermarry with the Hebrews that were left in the land. They became known as the Samaritans, as in the Good Samaritan of Jesus’ famous parable, and the woman at the well whom Jesus spoke to in John 4.

These people whom the Assyrians planted in Israel embraced the God of Israel, but they also clung to the gods they had always known in their homelands. In worshipping the God of Israel, they appointed their own priests outside of the instructions given to Moses for the priesthood in Exodus. Thus they became the “sort of” Jews who were held in contempt by the “true Jews” in Jesus’ day. To put it in the metaphorical terms of Harry Potter, the Samaritans were “mudbloods” to the “pureblood” Jews in power. Jesus famously crossed those religious and cultural boundaries, Dumbledore-like, and was criticized and hated for it.

In the quiet this morning, I couldn’t get the phrase “but they also” out of my mind after it was repeated in subsequent verses. It resonated deeply within me.

How often could it be said of me, “Tom loved God, but he also

…loved the things of this world he was commanded not to do.”
…hated his neighbor whom he was commanded to love.”
…refused to forgive [insert list here].”
…treated [insert label of ‘those people’ here] with contempt.”
…cared more about money, pleasure, and comfort than obedience.”

Ugh.

It’s so easy to shake my self-righteous head at the ancient Hebrews and Samaritans as I read about their double-minded, half-hearted faith.

When I point my finger at them, there are three fingers pointing back at me.

I leave the quiet this morning with a humble prayer of confession, and the endeavor to live today in an effort to strike “but he also” out of any description others would make of me.

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

Destructive Deference

Destructive Deference (CaD 2 Ki 16) Wayfarer

[King Ahaz of Judah] took away the Sabbath canopy that had been built at the temple and removed the royal entryway outside the temple of the Lord, in deference to the king of Assyria.
2 Kings 16:18 (NIV)

I hate conflict. I don’t like difficult situations. I’m sure I’m not alone.

One of the realities of this life journey in this imperfect world is that conflict is unavoidable (not that I haven’t tried to avoid it) as are difficult situations and crucial conversations.

This morning as I sat in the quiet and wrote my Morning Pages, what poured out of me was a string of events, situations, and relationships over many, many. years in which I chose passivity rather than purposed initiative, silence rather than strife, and escape rather than engagement. As the confession rolled off my ballpoint onto the pages I had to acknowledge the collateral damage I caused because of my unwillingness to simply step up to the plate and into the box.

Then, I opened the Great Story and it was as if God had synchronized my confession and the content of today’s chapter.

Ahaz takes the throne of Judah. The political situation in Judah is tenuous. Judah has been squeezed and diminished by enemies on all sides who have whittled away at their territory. Ahaz appears to be the quintessential “pleaser” who caters to everyone. There’s not a god he won’t worship, not a sacrifice he won’t make (even his own child), nor an offering he won’t give to ensure his power and security.

The Arameans and the Northern Kingdom of Israel come to lay siege to Jerusalem, and Ahaz appeals to the ascendant Assyrian Empire for help. Ahaz steals gold and silver from God’s Temple and sends it to the king of Assyria as a gift. When Assyria comes to the rescue, Ahaz visits the Assyrian king. He then sends word to the high priest Uriah back in Jerusalem to build an altar like the Emporer uses for worship and to put it in God’s temple. He orders that God’s temple be altered to be like the one where the Emporer worships. He orders that the worship of God be changed to be like what the King of Assyria does. He does all of this “in deference” to the king of Assyria. Ahaz’s faith was in appeasement. His trust was in the most powerful human protector he could afford.

Along my life journey, I’ve observed that deference can be a noble quality in the right context. However, the twenty-twenty hindsight in my Morning Pages this morning also reveals that I have often used “deference” as a cover and an excuse for my fear. I used it as an excuse for not appropriately confronting people and circumstances when I should have. I leveraged it to rationalize my passive avoidance of crucial conversations. Like Ahaz, my deference has been ultimately destructive.

Mea Culpa.

In the quiet this morning, I am grateful for God’s grace, mercy, and forgiveness. No matter how far I get in my spiritual journey, I still have more to learn, more to confess, and more to grow. I can’t do anything to change the mistakes of my past, but I can make different choices and decisions today than those I made before.

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

How the World Works

Then Pul king of Assyria invaded the land, and Menahem gave him a thousand talents of silver to gain his support and strengthen his own hold on the kingdom. Menahem exacted this money from Israel. Every wealthy person had to contribute fifty shekels of silver to be given to the king of Assyria. So the king of Assyria withdrew and stayed in the land no longer.
2 Kings 15:19-20 (NIV)

When I was just out of high school, I took a manual labor job that I knew would only last four months until I went to college. I chose not to join the union, as was my right because I knew it was just four months. I was bullied, coerced, and threatened until I quit. When I complained I received a shrug of the shoulders. “This is how the world works.”

Another job I had as a young man was for a private company working in a government building. By federal law, there was no smoking anywhere in the building, yet two ladies sat at their desks every day smoking like chimneys as I passed by. When I asked about it, my boss told me that they were legacy employees protected by the local political machine that had been in power for decades. They could do whatever they wanted. They were untouchable. “This is how the world works.”

In another department within that same building was another legacy employee who refused to help me when I came in with a records request. I was a bit confused when she told me, “I’m not working today. Go to another window.” When I told my boss and co-workers what had happened I got the same familiar shrug. “This is how the world works.”

I worked for several different churches in different denominations when I was a young man. I learned very quickly that there were the official boards and consistories that were set up to govern the church, and then there were individuals (typically wealthy, prominent, legacy, and generational members) who really called the shots. By this time, I should have learned: “This is how the world works.”

Today’s chapter contains an overview of five successive kings of the northern Kingdom of Israel. Four of them were assassinated by the person who then claimed the throne. One of them, Shallum, assassinated his predecessor and sat on the throne for one month before he, himself, was assassinated in the same manner by a man named Menahem. Whoever has the guts to assassinate the king gets the throne. “This is how the world works.”

Menahem happened to be on the throne when the army of Assyria came raiding. Menahem was a big fish in a small pond compared to the ascendant Assyrian Empire. Menahem didn’t have the army to withstand a takeover, so he had one choice. He extracted money from his wealthy citizens and paid the King of Assyria. It was really no different than the mafia or a local gang extracting money from neighborhood businesses for “protection.” It was just done on a larger scale. “This is how the world works.”

In the quiet this morning I’m reminded that the more things change, the more they stay the same. With the dawn of the technological age, my generation has arguably experienced greater change than any other generation in history. And yet, what has not changed is the human condition. The culture wars being waged online are simply a reboot of tribal warfare. Throughout COVID lockdowns there were endless examples of those in power (on both sides of the political aisle) who made rules for constituents, then flagrantly violated those same rules.

“This is how the world works.”

Into this world, Jesus came to exemplify and prescribe an alternative. Before beginning His ministry Jesus was approached by the Evil One whom Jesus referred to as “The Prince of this World.” The Prince of this World offered Jesus “all the kingdoms of the world” if only Jesus would bow to him. It was quite an offer. Jesus could then change the world as He wished in a top-down power grab. It would surprise no one. That’s how the world works.

Jesus declined the offer.

Instead, Jesus asked me and all of His other followers to live, think, act, speak, and relate to others “not as the world works” but as the Kingdom of God works. It’s one of the things that drew me to Jesus and continues to draw me in.

I learned how the world works.

I don’t want to live that way.

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

Humiliating Defeat

Humiliating Defeat (CaD 2 Ki 14) Wayfarer

Jehoash king of Israel replied to Amaziah king of Judah: “You have indeed defeated Edom and now you are arrogant. Glory in your victory, but stay at home! Why ask for trouble and cause your own downfall and that of Judah also?”
2 Kings 14:9-10 (NIV)

There are certain things that one simply experiences and knows from growing up and living in Iowa. For example, there’s the sport of wrestling. For whatever reason, the sport of wrestling is a thing in our state. Our major universities have long histories of success in the sport, and they’ve produced some of the most dominant wrestlers in history.

When I was growing up, wrestling was part of the required P.E. curriculum in the Middle School years. When you’re the youngest of four children, that means that older siblings came home and taught what they’d learned. I had never really wrestled in any official capacity, but I knew a few things from what my siblings taught me. I remember being paired up with partners in P.E. class and whoever my partner was, I had a pretty easy time of it.

Then we were allowed to challenge others in the class while the entire class looked on. I chose to challenge one of my classmates who was about my size. I figured I would at least be able to hold my own. What I didn’t know is that the guy I chose was already an accomplished wrestler and would go on to be a formidable wrestler in high school. It took less than five seconds for him to pin me. It was total humiliation.

It’s funny the things that I remember, and that still come to mind, over forty years later. There have been moments along my life journey when I experienced humiliating defeats and crashes of different kinds. Moments of shame are hard for me to forget. They have definitely served a purpose, however.

In today’s chapter, King Amaziah of Judah finds himself flying high after defeating the army of Edom. Feeling good about his victory, he challenges the Kingdom of Israel to a battle. Jehoash, King of Israel, tells Amaziah to reconsider and gives him the opportunity to withdraw the challenge, but Amaziah will have none of it. It does not go well for him. It ended up a humiliating defeat and Amaziah’s own people eventually turned on him and killed him.

In yesterday’s post, I wrote about the seasons of life. In the ebb-and-flow of the journey, I have experienced seasons of victory in which I felt on top of the world. It’s easy for me to think I’m going to stay there or fly even higher. Eventually, life always hands me a loss.

I also wrote yesterday that I’ve learned to embrace every season for what it is. Seasons of loss, defeat, shame, or humiliation are good soil for growing faith, humility, perseverance, and proven character. The “mountain-top” soil isn’t suited to grow those things.

In the quiet this morning, I’m praying a word of gratitude for the defeats, losses, and humiliating moments along my life journey. They’ve taught me a lot, including when to be content with life’s victories and appreciate how transient they can be. I’m also saying a prayer for my classmate who humiliated me on the wrestling mat (Yes, Wendy, I still remember his name!). I hope he’s in a good place on his own life journey.

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

Seasons of Life

Seasons of Life (CaD 2 Ki 13) Wayfarer

Now Elisha had been suffering from the illness from which he died. Jehoash king of Israel went down to see him and wept over him.
2 Kings 13:14 (NIV)

As I have progressed in my life journey, the more aware I have become of the flow of seasons of life. From our current waypoint on the road of life, Wendy and I find ourselves in a season in which we are walking with parents and a grandparent as they walk ahead of us on life’s homestretch. We also have children on the road behind us in the busy years of establishing careers, parenting little children, and hanging on as life traverses the roller coaster peaks and valleys of adulthood.

When I was parenting our daughters, I endeavored to engage and enjoy every stage of their development. This meant embracing the ups and downs of diapers and Disney princesses, boy bands and body changes, hair days and horomones. Of course, I found some stages personally more enjoyable than others. Yet by choosing to embrace each stage of development, I learned to both love the journey in every season as well as appreciate more fully the women they’ve become.

Along the way, I’ve found that my spiritual journey also has its seasons. There have been seasons of tremendous spiritual growth when God seemed to be doing amazing things in my life all the time. There have been seasons that have felt like a trek through Death Valley when everything felt dry and I was desperate for an oasis. There have been seasons of planting, seasons of storms, seasons of wandering, seasons of change, and seasons of abundance.

Today’s chapter tells of the reigns of Kings Jehoahaz and Joash of the northern tribes of Israel. In the middle of the chapter, it mentions the prophet Elisha for the first time since back in the ninth chapter. Given the dates and the lengths of the reign of Israel’s kings, Elisha has not been part of the story for some 43 years.

I meditated on this in the quiet this morning. Through the days of Ahab and Jezebel, the prophets Elijah and Elisha were central figures in the story. They called down fire from heaven, raised the dead, performed breathtaking miracles, and were central players in the highest level of politics.

Then, with the end of Ahab and Jezebel’s dynasty, Elisha exits stage right and is not heard from again for over four decades when he is called back on stage for his death scene.

I have observed both in myself and in others, the expectation that life has some sort of predictable trajectory. There certainly are general stages of this life that most people experience with some broad commonalities. Within that, however, I’ve found there to be tremendous ebb and flow.

We forget that Jesus spent only three years in ministry. He spent thirty years in obscurity growing, learning, and then plying his father’s carpentry trade.

Moses spent 40 years as a shepherd before God called him to lead the Hebrews out of slavery.

Elisha and Elijah were raised up to be God’s mouthpiece during the reigns of Ahab, Jezebel, and their descendants. It was a period of some 36 years. Then Elisha disappears from the scene. Was God done with him? Certainly not. He simply entered a different season of life.

I’ve come to understand that part of the spiritual journey is embracing every season of that journey, just as I tried to embrace each season of our daughters’ development. There have been seasons of excitement and seasons of grind. There are seasons of mountaintop vistas and seasons of slogging through the desert. There have been seasons in the spotlight and seasons in the wings.

Two things I have done no matter the season in which I find myself:

First, I stick with my daily relational touchpoints with God and others. I spend time in the quiet. I read the Great Story. I have conversations with God. I stay connected with an inner circle of others with whom I share the journey.

Second, I constantly remind myself what the sage of Ecclesiastes wrote: “There is a season for every purpose under heaven.” If I can trust the Story and God’s purposes for me in it, then I can press on through each and every season knowing that it’s somehow preparing me for the next season.

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

Today’s featured image was created with Wonder AI.

Wrong Person for the Job

Wrong Person for the Job (CaD 2 Ki 12) Wayfarer

The priests agreed that they would not collect any more money from the people and that they would not repair the temple themselves.
2 Kings 12:8 (NIV)

Many years ago I had a colleague at work who falsified data for a major client project. It was an egregious mistake that cost us what might have been a lucrative client relationship. The reason he did this was not criminal, but personal. He didn’t want to do the work. In fact, it was clear to me that his actions were basically a cry for help. He was in the wrong job, a job he couldn’t stand and for which he was ill-suited, with a boss he greatly respected and didn’t want to disappoint pushing him daily like a square peg into a round hole.

After being caught, my colleague was greatly ashamed. He did the work he’d fail to do. I and another colleague were brought in to assist, oversee, and do our best to smooth things over with the client. In the end, we responded the best we could but, understandably, we never worked for the client again.

My boss called me to inform me that he had chosen to forgive our colleague and that he was not going to fire him, but give him another opportunity. It was, perhaps, the most contentious argument I ever had with him. I told him that he was making a mistake. I argued that our colleague didn’t want to do the job. It didn’t fit his strengths or passions and it was killing him inside. Firing him was not only the right thing to do for our business, but it was also the best thing we could do for our colleague who needed to be freed to follow his gifts and passions to a job that was a better fit for him. I felt so strongly about it that I threatened to quit. My boss said that as a follower of Jesus, he had no choice but to extend forgiveness and grace and let our colleague keep his job. I countered that we did need to graciously forgive him, but to keep him in a job that he clearly was not suited for was only going to perpetuate the problem. I quoted the ancient proverb says: “As a dog returns to his vomit, so does a fool to his folly.”

In the end, our argument was moot. Our colleague packed up his things and simply disappeared.

This came to mind this morning as I read about King Joash of Judah. The Temple in Jerusalem needed to be repaired, and King Joash created a plan for raising the money and tasking the priests with making the necessary repairs. They raised the money, but the repairs never happened. When King Joash calls them to account for not carrying out the repairs, it is agreed that the repairs will be outsourced to carpenters, stonemasons, and construction workers. In other words, the priests should never have been tasked with it in the first place. Priests are not construction workers. Their priests. If you want a construction project to succeed put the right people in the right positions.

In the quiet this morning, I thought about our weekly staff meeting yesterday. It went over by twenty minutes because two colleagues were discussing an internal project I have them working on. They are so well-suited for this task. It plays to both their strengths and passions. It was almost as if they couldn’t stop talking about it. I just sat back and enjoyed their conversation and the moment. The sage of Ecclesiastes wrote that it’s a gift of God when a person enjoys his or her job.

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned as an employer and a boss is that I want the right people in the right jobs where their strengths and giftedness can flourish. One individual in the wrong job can negatively impact the entire system.

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

The Spare & the Savior

The Spare and the Savior (CaD 2 Ki 11) Wayfarer

When Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she proceeded to destroy the whole royal family.
2 Kings 11:1 (NIV)

I’ve observed of late that popular culture has been focused on the British royal family and, in particular, on Prince Harry and his wife Meghan. The powers of media have aligned to ensure that the popular Netflix series The Crown was released just before Harry and Meghan’s Netflix special and then followed up with the release of Harry’s book Spare just last week. So, it’s no surprise that everyone is talking about it.

Unless you’ve been somewhere hiding under a rock, you know that the title of Prince Harry’s book, Spare, is based on an old saying that the royal family needs “an heir and a spare.” I have not read the book, but I’ve read multiple reviews with a generous number of excerpts. Harry obviously feels that his family dismisses his existence as nothing more than a necessity should his older brother need a kidney. He also wants to be left alone and given his privacy. This would be a lot easier to come by without a multi-episode Netflix special and the release of a tell-all memoir that includes mention of both his and his brother’s privates.

The world is obviously very interested in the royals, and there is something fascinating about the deeply archaic and historical traditions in our modern society. Monarchies were the primary system of government for most of the world throughout most of human history. It’s amazing how similarly monarchies around the world operated in history’s game of thrones.

This is a great segue to today’s chapter where we find that the Kingdoms of both Israel and Judah have been dominated by Ahab and Jezebel for decades. In the Kingdom of Judah, the line of David was to determine who was king, but the Queen mother, Athaliah, was the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel who had been married into the royal house of Judah to make an alliance.

In recent years, the house of David had been decimated. Athaliah’s husband, King Jehoram, had murdered all of his brothers upon ascending the throne to reduce any threat of a challenge. More recently, King Jehu, the usurper King of Israel, had slaughtered much of the royal family of Judah as he, Michael Coreleone-like, settled all family business when taking power. Athaliah, upon hearing of her son’s death, realizes her chance to claim the throne for herself. She was clearly her mother’s daughter. Athaliah runs the family’s well-worn playbook and has all of the sons in the royal family slaughtered to secure her throne. Yes, it’s highly likely that she had her own grandchildren murdered in order to maintain power. She wanted to make sure there wasn’t a “Spare” to be found.

However, Athaliah’s sister-in-law steals away to Solomon’s Temple with a royal infant named Joash, where he and his nurse are hidden away and protected. Seven years later, the high priest and nobles of Judah crowned the boy king, assassinated Athaliah, and tore down the Temple of Baal, the god that she and her family worshipped.

What makes the story of the surviving Spare Joash intriguing beyond the events of today’s chapter is the fact that Judah clung to the Davidic royal line because it had been prophesied that the Messiah would one day come from the line of David, and the line of David would be an eternal throne. The actions of Aunty Jehosheba and the priest Jehoiada were motivated by faith that the royal line would stay intact and persevere and the prophecies would be fulfilled. The Spare made way for the Savior.

Fast forward nine hundred years or so. It is recorded that the crowds listening to Jesus teach in the temple called him the “Son of David.” In doing so, they were recognizing Him as the Messiah and king. The high priest of the Temple in Jesus’ day conspired with the local King Herod to have Jesus arrested and executed in order to eliminate the threat Jesus might have posed to their positions and power. As I mentioned earlier in the post, there are stark similarities to how systems of monarchy operated over the centuries.

In the quiet this morning, I am reminded that all systems of human government are subject to different variations on the game of thrones. They are all kingdoms of this world in which power and wealth are brokered, challengers are eliminated, threats are mitigated, and those in power go to great lengths to cling to it. And, I find the way of Jesus to be a transformative path that leads in the opposite direction. God’s Kingdom stands in stark contrast to the Kingdoms of this world:

Love is the only law.
Power flows through and out of humility.
Leadership is measured by the quality of service to others.
Kindness leads to change in others.
Enemies are blessed, not cursed.
Forgiveness is absolute.
Struggling is growing.
Loss is gain.
Giving is receiving.
Death is the way to Life.

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

Cardiac Self-Examination

Cardiac Self-Examination (CaD 2 Ki 10) Wayfarer

Yet Jehu was not careful to keep the law of the Lord, the God of Israel, with all his heart.
2 Kings 10:31a (NIV)

Much of human history is a violent, bloody affair. Pull back from the minutiae and look at it from a distance and the vast majority of it is the story of tribes and empires violently competing for power, wealth, and dominance, then clinging to that power against the next tribe or empire seeking to ascend to power in humanity’s never-ending game of King of the Mountain.

The story of Jehu the usurper in yesterday’s and today’s chapters is a microcosm of this violent game of tribes and empires. He’s a fascinating character because he was “The Son of Nobody” who was at the right place at the right time to seize a rare opportunity to ascend the political system of his tribe and to become King of the Mountain.

Being a military officer, Jehu had a front-row seat to witness and participate in the violent oppression with which Ahab and Jezebel had ruled the nation. Who knows how many atrocities Jehu had committed or overseen himself at their behest. Jehu had been told by the prophet to “destroy the house of Ahab” which certainly meant ensuring there were no male heirs left to claim the throne. Jehu, however, goes even further. He kills the King of Judah, who was Ahab and Jezebel’s son-in-law. He kills their friends, their cronies, their officials, and their known associates. He kills off all of the prophets and priests of Ahab and Jezebel’s patron pagan god, Baal, and turns the temple of Baal into a community latrine. The story is a perfect example of Jesus’ warning to Peter and His followers that violence begets violence. Ahab and Jezebel violently lived and ruled by the sword, and they violently died by it.

Jehu’s vengeance against the house of Ahab and Jezebel was beyond complete. Jehu’s devotion to God wasn’t. Jehu destroyed the worship of Ahab and Jezebel’s patron god out of vengeance against Ahab and Jezebel, not out of devotion to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel. His heart wasn’t devoted to God, it was devoted to vengeance and seizing the opportunity to grab power for himself and his family. As I meditate on the story of Jehu, I consider him to be an example of one who does the right thing (ridding the nation of an evil regime) for the wrong reasons (personal gain).

So, in the quiet, that leaves me ending this week in introspection. Is there a disconnect between my heart and my actions? Do I, like Jehu, do the right things for self-centered reasons? Jehu and David were both soldiers and warriors. They were both violent men who spilled a lot of blood. God used both of them in the grand scheme of the Great Story. The difference between the two lies in their hearts. David was called “a man after God’s own heart” while Jehu’s heart seems to have been after Jehu’s own self-interest. How much of my heart is truly about God’s desires and how much is just Tom’s self-interest?

As I contemplated these questions, the Spirit reminded me of Proverbs 21:2:

A person may think their own ways are right, but the Lord weighs the heart.

I head into this weekend with a cardiac self-examination.

I want to be a David, not a Jehu (or a Yahoo).

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