Tag Archives: 2 Kings 21

Taking Measure of Life

I will stretch out over Jerusalem the measuring line used against Samaria and the plumb line used against the house of Ahab.
2 Kings 21:13 (NIV)

It’s been about two and a half years since Wendy and I moved into our new house. I think we grow to appreciate it more as time goes on. We’re incredibly grateful for our home.

It has been an interesting experience for me to move into a newly built house and see how the structure stands the process of settling and the test of time. The contrasting heat of Iowa summers and cold of Iowa winters makes for a tremendous amount of expanding and contracting. As we sit and have breakfast in the mornings we watch the sun coming up in the eastern sky and can hear the little structural creaks of as the suns rays warm the house and things expand. Moulding that was flush when we moved in now shows a hint of a gap. You begin to see a house’s strengths and weaknesses when measured against time and the elements.

In today’s chapter the scribes record the words that the prophets (they don’t specify who) spoke about King Mannaseh’s life and reign. They use a word picture that God shared through the ancient prophets repeatedly. The metaphor was a measuring line and/or a plumb line:

  • I will make justice the measuring line
        and righteousness the plumb line (Isaiah)
  • This is what he showed me: The Lord was standing by a wall that had been built true to plumb, with a plumb line in his hand. (Amos)
  • Who marked off [the sky’s] dimensions? Surely you know!
        Who stretched a measuring line across it? (Job)
  • “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when this city will be rebuilt for me from the Tower of Hananel to the Corner Gate. The measuring line will stretch from there straight to the hill of Gareb and then turn to Goah. (Jeremiah)
  • He took me there, and I saw a man whose appearance was like bronze; he was standing in the gateway with a linen cord and a measuring rod in his hand. (Ezekiel)
  • Then I looked up, and there before me was a man with a measuring line in his hand. (Zechariah)

Both a measuring line and plumb line are construction tools used to make sure a structure is measured correctly and on the level. Different versions are used to this day. My friend Doug is a master carpenter. Despite all of the modern technology available to him, I’ve watched him pull out his trusty, dusty old “plumb bob” when he’s hanging a door just as carpenters have done for thousands of years.

It’s a powerful metaphor when you think about it. Does my life measure up to what I say it does? Are my intentions, thoughts, words, and actions on the level with what I profess to believe? Even Jesus used this word picture parallel between life and construction. It eerily apt this morning in light of watching coastal homes destroyed by hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria in recent weeks:

“These words I speak to you are not incidental additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living. They are foundational words, words to build a life on. If you work these words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who built his house on solid rock. Rain poured down, the river flooded, a tornado hit—but nothing moved that house. It was fixed to the rock.

“But if you just use my words in Bible studies and don’t work them into your life, you are like a stupid carpenter who built his house on the sandy beach. When a storm rolled in and the waves came up, it collapsed like a house of cards.” Matthew 7:24-27 (MSG)

This morning I’m prompted to take an honest “measurement” of my own life. Mannaseh was King of Judah and a branch of the tree of David, who was “a man after God’s own heart,” but Mannaseh’s life and actions didn’t measure up. His life was “off-plumb.”

What about me? Where has time settled me into behaviors that have slowly left me off-center? Where have the elements and circumstances of life revealed weaknesses in my foundation? Where is my life creaking? Where are my relationships worn?

One of the things that I’ve learned as a homeowner is that its far easier and less expensive in the long run to catch small, “off-plumb” problems and fix them before they become disastrous headaches.

Chapter-a-Day 2 Kings 21

Madison Tom & Herman Vander Well c. 1993 LF Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king. He ruled for fifty-five years in Jerusalem. His mother's name was Hephzibah. In God's judgment he was a bad king—an evil king. He reintroduced all the moral rot and spiritual corruption that had been scoured from the country when God dispossessed the pagan nations in favor of the children of Israel. 2 Kings 21:1-2 (MSG)

Last night my wife and I had a friend, a professor from Central College, over for dinner. It was a wonderful evening. I thought of my grandfather, who graduated from Central in 1929. In 1927, he became a charter member of a fraternal theatrical organization which still operates within the college's theater department. I was not aware of this when I moved here six years ago.I happened upon his signature on the group's charter hanging on a wall. How ironic that eighty years later I would move to the same area and be involved with the theatrical community he helped get started. 

I look back at the generations before me, and I feel fortunate. While no one is perfect, I can look back through my father's family and my mother's family and recognize grandparents and great-grandparents who sought to live right and parent well. There are key individuals who desired to leave a legacy of faith and life which I recognize in my own life and, I pray, will continue to be lived out in my children and the generations to come.

This resonates as I think about Manasseh in today's chapter. His father, Hezekiah, was listed among the "good" kings but his legacy, realized in his son, was unparalleled evil. When confronted by Isaiah with the prophecy that his descendents would be submitted to a terrible captivity, Hezekiah's response was completely self-centered: "Well, I'll be gone by then." The first ten years of Manasseh's reign, he was co-regent with his father Hezekiah. They shared the throne as Hezekiah battled his illness. Hezekiah had every opportunity to teach and mentor his son, but he left little or no imprint of faith and righteousness.