DAY 162: 1 Kings 12; 2 Chronicles 10-11; Song of Solomon 1
WHERE DIVISION COMES FROM
A week with Jesus was probably what we needed in our biblical pilgrimage! When we last left the Old Testament and the Book of Kings, we heard the last chapters of Solomon’s life. We come back and hear of his son, Rehoboam is made King of Israel. Relatively quickly the new King is roiled in controversy. The people go to him asking for relief from the labors that his father had imposed on them (remember his elaborate building campaigns). Rehoboam tells them to give him three days to reflect on it – asks two different groups for their advice who give completely contradictory counsel: the older men say to ease up while the younger men, his contemporaries tell them to expect even harder labor. Only surprising to an arrogant ruler, this doesn’t go over well. Soon after, we hear of the split of the kingdom.
But the reality is that while we can look at this incident as the cause – it’s really only a symptom of a bigger issue. Where does division come from? This is a black and white issue without any grays: Whenever people turn away from God, there is a turn towards the evil one. Remember at the end of Solomon’s life? He had amassed chariots and horses he had 1400 chariots and 12,000 horses, an abundance of gold and silver … oh and 700 wives and 300 concubines… including foreigners who brought their “gods” with them. We had heard the sadness and anger that the Lord had because Solomon’s heart had turned away from the Lord.
This breakdown of the Kingdom isn’t divine retribution – but the effects of a family who had lost sight of the Lord God. And sadly the ripple effects are continuing as we get deeper into this section of “the Divided Kingdom.” There are now two Kings, who the Lord commands that there not be strife between the Kingdoms. In the midst of their brokenness, God is still trying to protect and prevent worse destruction and division. But no sooner after that, Jeroboam the King of Israel decides to make some golden calves. Seriously. It’s worth noting that the Great Adventure Bible mentions that this wasn’t meant to introduce pagan gods but was being made as “images” of God. But the principle was a pagan one – and not in anyway in keeping with God’s commands. So in reality, Jeroboam was furthering that turning away from God.
As we just finished our encounter with the Gospel of Mark, Fr Mike made an impassioned reflection on looking at the crucifix and recognizing the fullness of sin which caused such horrendous acts on God – and yet His love taking it all on Himself. It makes it harder to read these dastardly acts by people who should have known better… It’s even harder recognizing I can be just as neglectful.
DAY 163: 1 Kings 13; 2 Chronicles 12-13; Song of Solomon 2
SEEMS A BIT UNFAIR
Just reading through the comments yesterday – just a quick note to tell you that, don’t worry if you’re a bit confused with these readings the last two days. The transition we had back into the Old Testament is a bit jarring now that we’re dealing with a “divided kingdom” that wasn’t necessarily the result of a single major event. I would recommend listening (or re-listening) to Fr. Mike Schmitz and Jeff Cavins podcast episode “Intoduction to the Divided Kingdom.” They did a great job of laying out how this came about and how it will really affect the bulk of the Old Testament moving forward. Particularly as we start to encounter different prophets and hear their words within the historical context we’re traveling together through.
Speaking of prophets, and confusion – today’s reading from 1 Kings 13 has both. We have this mysterious figure who is named a holy man who (coming from the Southern Kingdom of Judah) speaks a prophetic word to the Kingdom of Israel, and their King, Jeroboam. He sees the altar(s) that Jeroboam has built with their golden calves, which violates what God had established as true worship in Jerusalem at the temple with these false idols… and it’s to those idols, God has told him to utter a condemnation “Altar, altar, thus says the Lord…” – the “threat” isn’t well received by the King who orders him to be arrested, and as he picks up his arm in threat to the holy man, it is paralyzed and the altars split and crumble.
After the entire episode, the holy man makes leave as directed by the Lord, when one of the “prophets” of the North chases after him and begs him to come with him for a meal, and that it’s okay to discount what God had initially told the holy man, because being a prophet, God had told him to invite him. No sooner that he finishes eating, he reveals he was lying. And as the holy man of Judah begins to leave, he gets eaten by a lion. Yeah, so that went south really quickly.
I’m imagining that an initial reaction was “that’s really not fair, the one who lied should’ve been the lions dinner…” (And I’ll be curious to hear Fr. Mike’s take on this one) but one reflection is that it is easy for us to get distracted, off-track from God’s will – sometimes by voices that sound reasonable and logical and that we don’t have a reason to distrust. But the thing that was missing – the holy man never goes to the Lord to “test” this “prophetic word of invitation.” A wise man will later say To those whom much is given, much will be required (that’s Jesus by the way 🙂 ) And that seems to be the principle at work here. After he has just completed calling the Kingdom of the north out for their false worship, he should be even more aware of the need to be obedient to God’s word, particularly as he’s walking among people who seem to have great difficulty with that themselves.
DAY 164: 1 Kings 14; 2 Chronicles 14-15; Song of Solomon 3:
DARKNESS TO THE NORTH, AND THE SOUTH
I’m going to be a bit repetitive here just because it can get crazy confusing to read and listen to these chapters to try to keep things straight – Israel is the Northern 10 tribes; Judah is two the south (2 tribes) The reason it’s crazy confusing – that’s what division, that’s what sin, that’s what evil does: whether it’s in our personal lives, our families, our nations…
Chapter 14 begins in the North, with King Jeroboam- whose son is sick. He sends his wife to Ahijah – the same prophet who had prophesied that Jeroboam (back in chapter 11 that we read over a week ago), who had been pretty much a commoner raised to royalty – now he’s scared to go and sends his wife in a disguise. Why? Shame. He knows he has sinned. He has not become an atheist, and disbelieving in God – it’s worse, he’s simply abandoned him. So not only has his heart grown dark – he’s really kind of stupid here. If you’re sending someone to a prophet, who you legitimately know is from God, do you really think you can fool them with a disguise?
Things aren’t better to the South with the King of Judah named Rehoboam. A curious detail is added – “His mother’s wife was Naamah” (vs 21) – why’s that a big deal? Because she is one of the pagan wives of Solomon. So you guessed it, they too gave turned against the Lord. The translation we have talks about “male cult prostitutes” which doesn’t quite capture the levels of sexual depravity and immorality that were taking place. Some scholars argue that they were defiling sacred spaces with pagan fertility “rituals”; or that prostitution was being utilized to pay for temple taxes. It was sexual immorality as well as it defiling the sacredness of the temple and of worship of God by introducing these pagan acts into them which is what enraged God.
What’s missing is the response of the people. Yes, their leaders are depraved and leading them astray. But they weren’t ignorant to what God had laid out for them, what was expected of them as His people. It’s been a matter of a few years since the temple was built – which was a watershed moment in their lives as His people – which was something that all of them helped to build whether in sweat equity or finance. But in the face of these blatant transgressions, they are silent. A chapter earlier when King Rehoboam told them he was going to make their yokes heavier – they rebelled. We don’t see any “rebellion” or protest to any of the depravity in the north or the south. Just a spiral into darkness.
A thought for reflection is that yes, leaders hold a great responsibility in their roles whether they be secular or religious. But as “followers” we’re not exempt from and culpability…When we see a religious leader not being faithful, when we see a politician enacting laws or policies that are depraved or violates God’s teaching – what is our response? Part of the judgment we will face is who are we truly following?
DAY 165: 1 Kings 15-16; 2 Chronicles 16-17; Song of Solomon 4
AS THINGS PROGRESSIVELY GET WORSE…
Things seem to be moving much faster now. When we think about the bulk of our time in the book of Kings (the first 13 chapters) covered basically one king, Solomon and a time frame of 50 years – the rest of the time in 1 Kings (a total of 7 chapters) will cover 80 years, a whole bunch of Kings and two different, split Kingdoms (Israel, 10 tribes in the North; Judah, 2 tribes in the South). The human authors kind of keeps things brief and concise since in the North, things will basically go from bad to worse and in the South, there will be some peaks and valleys in terms of good/poor Kings (more valleys than peaks). Someone asked about the reference to the “Annals of the Kings” that are referenced in scripture that provides more details about the various kings and their reigns – “where can I find them?” That’s what everyone wants to know 🙂 Sadly these historical records have been lost to history.
As things are moving faster, we see the darkness is spreading in both Kingdoms- the rulers and the people are abandoning God with each successive reign. In its wake is pain, suffering, even greater division than there was already, tensions, economic losses…one would think that someone would’ve connected the dots.
But before we get too tough on our ancestors, it’s a good reminder of how when we find ourselves in a sinful state, it’s easy to get trapped in a vicious cycle. We feel the guilt, the shame – which further isolates us from God. We believe the lies of the devil that tells us: now that we’ve succumbed to this sin, there’s no hope, that God in His (justifiable) anger has abandoned us… we’ve made our bed/unmade our bed/completely destroyed the bed sheets and frame and there’s nothing we can do but sleep in it. That seems to be the path that our ancestors are stuck in, which is painfully obvious as the people of God begin considering rebuilding the walls of Jericho (which if you remember from Joshua, that mighty city had been ruined by the people of God obeying His command to march around it for 7 days and blowing a horn – in other words, by God’s might – and the Lord had told them to leave it in ruins as a memory of what the Lord had done for His people…) Sin can sometimes lead not just to further disobedience, but the futile attempt to erase God from memory.
This is why the Song of Solomon is an interesting counter-point in the background for us. As we hear this erotic poetry, Jewish and Catholic traditions have revered it as an illustration of God’s love for His Bride Israel; Christ’s love for His bride, the Church. Love doesn’t always mean one will like what the beloved does… but is unrelenting in trying to bring healing, restoration, and reconciliation. As the Kingdoms become increasingly pagan, in the not-so-distant future, one of God’s fiercest, passionate preachers, Elijah, is ready to burst onto the scene…
In the meantime, Catholic musician Matt Maher wrote one of my favorite of his songs, based on the Song of Songs. We probably could all use a pick me up, and the reminder of the strength of Divine love: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dy_TGOeESrw
DAY 166: 1 Kings 17-18; 2 Chronicles 18-19; Song of Solomon 5
BACK TO BASICS
Chapters 17 and 18 are probably more familiar to us than any we have read so far from this First Book of Kings. The arrival of Elijah and his first moves come up in readings at Daily and Sunday Mass, so there’s probably familiarity with at least the story of Elijah going to the widow of Zarephath and how when she offers the little she has in hospitality to the prophet, the “jar of meal shall not be spent and the pitcher of oil shall not fail…” We see one of the greatest miracles in the Old Testament (pre-figuring Christ) by his intercessory prayer, God restoring life to that widow’s son – and then the story of Elijah competing with the prophets of the false god baal.
I know for myself, coming in the midst of this daily reading through the Kingdoms of Israel (the Northern Kingdom of 10 tribes) and Judah (the Southern Kingdom of 2 tribes) with these unsettling, disturbing, and disheartening stories of apostasy and arrogance, we get a better sense of the importance of Elijah than we might have encountered in our learning about him at Mass. Because at Mass, he kind of abruptly shows up at different points with usually a connection to the Gospel readings and to see how Jesus Christ fulfills the law and the prophets of the Old Testament.
As we encounter Elijah here and now, we see the beauty of God’s love for His people. In the midst of wicked and corrupt generations, He sends His word to this simple man. When both nations have turned their backs on God, He calls to this one single person, Elijah who listens and does what God asks of him. First, it’s to simply go and be by himself near the Jordan and drink from the brook and eat the food provided by ravens. It’s a parallel to when the entire people of God were united and were being led through the wilderness and God provided food and manna for them. Elijah is obedient in these small matters and is renewed in his belief that when God calls and one is obedient, He provides. That lesson is replicated in the miraculous stories and in the dramatic confrontation with the prophets of baal.
It will be through this one man’s witness and example is enough to cause all the people to renounce their apostasy “The Lord, He is God; The Lord He is God!” and eliminate the false prophets from baal from their midst, and end the drought that they had been suffering. Just think about that – one man’s obedience to God is able to help lead these people out of the darkness that they had been (through self-inflicted wounds) suffered.
May we give thanks for the “Elijah’s” in our day and time that do the same for us. That goes against the conventional wisdom, swims against the stream, and what is popular to remind us of God’s law and the need to be faithful, to be obedient. May we be obedient and attentive to listen to God’s call and obediently respond so that we can be an Elijah ourselves.
DAY 167: 1 Kings 19-20; 2 Chronicles 20; Song of Solomon 6
MEASURES OF SUCCESS
You’re faithful to all that the Lord asks of you. You follow His commands. You walk in His ways even when the entire world seems to be going against you. And after all that, you feel alone, abandoned, isolated. Wait a minute, did we just jump back to the book of Job? Or rather, does this seem oddly relatable?
That’s where we find Elijah the prophet as we pick up in 1 Kings 19 today. He has just demonstrated how false the pagan god baal and their prophets were in an epic and dramatic showdown… such that King Ahab is convinced and in fear and awe of the Lord. Yet when he goes home to tell wifey-poo all that happened, she’s less than impressed. Queen Jezebel is livid and threatens Elijah’s life (how serious a threat it was is debatable – one would think if she wanted him dead, she would have sent assassins rather than messengers. Perhaps in some corner of that darkened heart, she too fears the Lord God and by extension, his prophet? But she’s most definitely not a fan and makes it clear, she wanted Elijah out of there yesterday!)
Elijah heads off, first to get his servant to safety. Is exhausted himself and feeling even more depressed than before as he’s praying for the Lord to take his life. At which point he gets a respite, some heavenly sustenance where an angel prepares a meal for him. Then Elijah goes further into the wilderness himself on a forty-day and forty-night journey to Mount Horeb (aka Sinai) – the mount of God *note again, another biblical moment of 40 days/40 nights being a period of preparation to encounter the Lord.
But let’s just pause here for a minute to think about how here is the prophet of the Lord has gotten to this moment of despair. Up till now, he’s fearlessly confronted enemies of the Lord – prophets, Kings who wanted him dead… He spent a year in a wilderness surviving on the food provided by the Lord through ravens – where his own faith in the Lord God was tested and deepened. That fidelity was affirmed and demonstrated with those miraculous encounters with the widow – first in providing food then in restoring the life of her son… All of which was a precursor to this moment where he was going to confront the apostasy of the Northern Kingdom. After that monumental experience, he saw many repenting of their sins and returning to the Lord. But not King Ahab and Queen Jezebel – who rather than have their hearts turn to the Lord in gratitude see Elijah (and ultimately God Himself as a threat to their power). He feels like a failure.
This is why the way the Lord meets Elijah in verses 9- 19 so moving to me. This passage of where Elijah finds the Lord who asks Him – Elijah, what are you doing here? Then the Lord invites him to go out and wait for the Lord to pass by. And the Lord does, but not in the strong wind that tore the mountains, not in the earthquake, not in the fire – but in the small, still voice. The Lord then asks again What are your doing here?
Does Elijah get the message? This is another one of those passages that is a favorite on retreats and is often assigned to people in Spiritual Direction when going through periods of discernment… so do we?
Elijah had his already preconceived notion of what success was supposed to look like. And because those hardened hearts of the King and Queen aren’t cracked (at least to Elijah), he is probably doubting his effectiveness, second-guessing all his sacrifices and wondering what was all this for. Yet the Lord gently points out to him that he can’t necessarily see, or hear, or appreciate the effect that his faithfulness and fidelity would mean in the History of Salvation. That sometimes in the grand scheme of things, his efforts, our efforts can seemingly be insignificant, like a small still voice in the face of winds and earthquakes and fire. Yet when it is fulfilling the will of God, these acts of obedience end up being foundational in His ultimate plan and desire for humanity. Just think, Elijah some, 3,000 years ago as he’s wondering if he was a complete failure could never imagine that you and I would be reflecting on his story.
But here we are. 3,000 years later. Not called to confront Kings and Queens and challenge the prophets of baal – but being faithful to the Lord, witnesses to Jesus Christ in a world that’s eerily similar in finding new “false gods” to worship and as resistant (if not more) to the truth of the Gospel than these rulers were to the Lord God.
Can we hear that still small voice, encouraging us as we break open these scriptures to persevere, to dig deeper? Inviting us to trust that every act of love, of sacrifice, of fidelity to Him continues to advance the Gospel of Jesus Christ -whether we see the effects of it or not…
DAY 168: 1 Kings 21-22; 2 Chronicles 21; Song of Solomon 7
WHAT ONE SEEKS
Kings 21 is fascinating on a bunch of levels. We have King Ahab acting like an unruly child throwing a temper tantrum. You can picture him in his bed crying “Naboth won’t sell me his vineyard and I WANT IT!” In fairness to the crybaby, he did make a good offer – and probably imagined that since he was the king that Naboth would be amenable to the proposition.
But there’s a very good reason Naboth doesn’t want to accept the offer, or rather, can’t accept the offer. One that the very non-observant Jewish king of Israel is oblivious to or has forgotten. The vineyard being a “family inheritance” – goes back to when God had led the people into Canaan, the land was divided up and given to different families. Naboth’s response “The Lord forbid” wasn’t just an utterance of shock or disbelief. It was a statement of truth. God had forbidden that the land be sold because they had reverence and respect that it wasn’t their’s in the first place. It was God’s land that He had gifted to the people of Israel (and parceled out to each family) Even if Naboth was open to the idea of selling this property in favor of a better parcel of land, he’s mindful that this was insulting and a violation of God’s law. We read (or heard) how this royal couple dealt with that truth. Lying, manipulating, conspiring and having Naboth killed.
There’s a lot of lessons to unpack: 1 – Being faithful and obedient is oftentimes costly. It’s grossly unfair to see Naboth treated the way he was – but as people of faith, we always have to have a more expanded vision to recognize that there’s more than just this earthly life of ours. 2 – tied to that is how the desire for possessions, for things ultimately never satisfies those deepest longings within. Look at Ahab and Jezebel, they’re constantly scheming to somehow advance , their wealth, their power, themselves and with each move they find themselves discontent. With God at the center of his life, Naboth seemingly easily dismisses the proposition outright “it’s forbidden” – he doesn’t entertain it, fantasize about it, look for a loophole. By displacing God the King and Queen have seemingly never been satisfied. No matter how much they had – it was never enough. It never will be. God alone suffices. 3 – There is no room for sin in a persons life. Look how this snowballed – ignoring God’s word turned to envy, which turned to lying, fraud, killing and stealing. And the fact that Ahab continues to listen to his wife who’s been proven time and time again to be leading him astray.
Once again, God’s word comes to King Ahab – and by extension Queen Jezebel, and once again their eyes, their minds, their hearts are closed to receiving His message. It was so awful that Elijah is sent to pronounce judgment on the King saying “there was none who sold himself to do what was evil… did very abominably.” (Vs 25-26). We see then, for some reason, Ahab’s eyes are open. Maybe the fact that Elijah had been validated in such a dramatic way with the prophets of baal resonated in his mind as he’s hearing these pronouncements of the Lord to him. That coupled by the fact that he went from desiring a garden to now the real possibility that it will have cost him his life and family.
As we reflect on these chapter, the words of C.S. Lewis come to mind: “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, “Thy will be done,” and those to whom God says, in the end, “Thy will be done.” All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell. No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. Those who knock it is opened.”
May we desire that true authentic Joy and always remember the only sure fire way to receive it is in pursuing Him who pursued us first.
DAY 169: 1 Kings 22; 2 Chronicles 23; Song of Solomon 8
DEFINITION OF INSANITY
It’s said that Albert Einstein was the one who first said “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” To bad he was about 2,000 years to late to share that sage advice with King Ahab. Then again, it’s doubtful he would have listened in the first place.
Ahab seems insistent not only in doing bad things, to countless examples of horrific results; but purposely ignoring good advice, divinely given advice – which also ends in horrific fashion. Here he and the King of Judah, Jehosophat who are united as in-laws (since Ahab’s daughter has married Jehosophat’s son) and at one of their family gatherings Ahab brings up that a city that was lost in war to the Syrians three years ago belonged to his Kingdom (North, Israel) so he asks Jehosophat and his Kingdom (south, Judah) to help him in this cause.
Because Jehosophat is from the remnant that is at least somewhat more faithful to the Lord, He says “maybe we should ask God first” (Good call Jo Jo) Ahab says “sure… you want prophets” and he brings out 400 “prophets” – who are really simply yes men. Jo Jo isn’t quite so convinced and asks “uh, Is there not here another prophet of the Lord?” Which is when Ahab proves his insanity “yeah there’s another guy, (Micaiah) but he never tells me what I want to hear.”
You have to admire one thing – the guy’s being honest. Sure enough, he gives Ahab news he doesn’t want to hear “if you fight, you will die.” Ahab thinks if he just wears a disguise, he will be able to avoid getting killed, which, unsurprisingly, doesn’t work.
I’m left wondering why it was Jehosophat went along with the plan, when obviously he could see the folly from the get go (he was the one who first wanted to inquire of the Lord and it was he who recognized that of the 400 prophets that were speaking, none of them seemed genuine or sincere) But the disastrous end of a disastrous reign of Ahab provides an opportunity for our reflection. The importance of genuineness and sincerity when we go to the Lord. Because the true purpose of prayer is not about getting what we want or our desire to change God’s mind – but rather it is meant to change us to conform to His desires and align ourselves with God’s mind.
DAY 170: 2 Kings 1; 2 Chronicles 24; Psalm 69
SPEAKING TRUTH – IN SEASON OR NOT
Today we begin 2 Kings – which is basically a continuation of the narrative when the people of God were ruled by Monarchs (Israel with 10 tribes to the North; Judah with 2 tribes to the South). And it’s about halfway through that time period (1 Kings covers about 150 years and 2 Kings covers about 190 years) So again, it’s not you if you’re feeling a bit confused. We’re covering a lot od history and two different kingdoms that overlap.
We can see how that confusion isn’t just in our reading/studying of these scriptures, but very much a part of this history. We pick up today with the recently deceased Ahab’s son Ahaziah has assumed the throne. We read he’s not effective as a ruler (Moab was a city that had been under the Northern Kingdom, Israel’s rule since King David). So the Kingdom of Israel was continuing it’s downward spiral in terms of power and authority. That was due to the worse downward spiral – spiritually. Which is obvious when Ahaziah suffers this tragic fall that left him seriously injured. The old saying “there are no atheists in foxholes” comes to mind here – when facing a serious issue, when it’s a matter of life and death, people reveal their deepest hopes and beliefs. So the man who hasn’t darkened a Church his whole life, might offer a silent prayer to God when faced with a serious medical diagnosis.
For Ahaziah, this critical moment has him turn not to God, but the false, pagan gods of baal. This wasn’t just a personal preference – this was an example that he was instilling in the people as well. What happens next is interesting. The Lord God intervenes, sends Elijah to give him the message that Ahaziah, you’ve abandoned God for these false gods and you will die as a result of this. Ahaziah realizes this is Elijah and sends troops to search for him. Suffice it to say this isn’t to throw him a “thank you party.” Ahaziah sees Elijah as that pain in the neck to his family – and his pagan beliefs are so ingrained that he believes that Elijah can change this prophecy if he’s captured and forced too. That’s why the King is so insistent on sending troops three times after Elijah. The arrogance and lack of humility is what calls down fire upon these folks (interesting to note that when Jesus’ apostles James and John the “sons of thunder” want to do the same in Samaria, Jesus has a much different tact… but I can digress and this can get really long here 🙂 )
One of the inspiring take-aways is reflecting on how Elijah doesn’t falter. The heartbreak he had experienced when Ahaziah’s parents had not listened to his prophecies, the rejection and isolation that had driven him at one point to be so crushed he prayed God to take his life, are gone. He confidently returns and proclaims God’s word once again, which is fulfilled soon after. In that he reveals that a true prophet will proclaim God’s truth – whether it’s welcomed or not. As we encounter a world growing more and more hostile to the Lord, following all sorts of false gods and consulting fake prophets, kind of like Ahab did – telling them what they want to hear, the importance of our faithfully proclaiming God’s word is more important than ever. Yet, to do it without “fire” and always modeling our example after that of God incarnate, Jesus Christ.
DAY 171: 2 Kings 2; 2 Chronicles 25; Psalm 70
ELIJAH AND ELISHA
The “transition” of Elijah is one of the most mysterious of chapters we will come upon in the Old Testament. Unlike Moses who dies and is buried, as Elijah is preparing for his departure, God repeats what He accomplished through Moses, the parting of the Sea, and then Elijah is taken up in a whirlwind, a chariot of fire and horsemen into heaven. Throughout this experience, his right-hand man, his “apprentice”; his “spiritual” son, Elisha is with him through it all. He asks for a “double portion” of Elijah’s prophecy skills (which sounds presumptuous, but in this time and place, would have been on par with what was customary of the eldest son inheriting from his father, a double share of the Father’s property – so Elisha is reinforcing his conviction that Elijah has been a father to him)
What’s even more curious is after this miraculous and unprecedented ascension, the other prophets want to send a search party to look for him! Our scripture professor in seminary explained that for ancient Jews their understanding of heaven was still very unclear. It was hard for them to believe he would be with God himself, so they wonder if perhaps God had transported him to some other remote location… a sort of “retirement” if you will.
After three days and the search party finds no trace of him, they return to Elisha, the one appointed by God to succeed Elijah. One of the first things that happens is an even more bonkers event with these “youths” mocking Elisha for being bald, and Elisha seemingly thin-skinned about it and using these new prophetic powers to get even, by summoning she-bears to maul and attack them.
One commentary explains that this is a connection with Elijah and the way he was treated in the previous chapter by Ahaziah who sent groups of soldiers to get him to come back and “change” the prophecy he didn’t like (predicting his death). If you remember, three sets of 50 went, the first two were consumed by fire. The main infraction was the lack of respect they had not for Elijah personally, but his being a prophet of the Lord. Particularly at a time when idol/pagan worship had displaced God’s centrality among His people.
That’s continuing here. This mob of “unruly youths” weren’t simply mocking Elisha’s lack of hair, but mocking the new prophet of the Lord. We see in all these mysterious events how God’s power and authority are still being displayed. And how He will continue to try to speak to closed-minded, hardened-heart people – who remain His people.
DAY 172: 2 Kings 3; 2 Chronicles 26-27; Psalm 72:
READY FOR THE BATTLE?
With all the names, and trying to keep the narratives straight, Chapter 3 is a confusing one to be sure. At the beginning of this second book of Kings, we first heard about the Moabites rebelling against Israel. After that brief mention, we had a lot of ground to cover with the ending of Elijah’s life and Elisha’s ascending as a new prophet that now we return to that issue.
Jehoram who has become King of Israel (the Northern 10 tribes) builds a coalition with the King of Judah (the Southern Kingdom of 2 tribes) and the neighboring Kingdom of Edom to get Moab back under the authority of the Kingdom of Israel. This territory, Moab, had been a part of the Kingdom since the time of King David as a “vassal state.” The rebellion was a costly one as we heard all those lambs and rams that were part of their annual tribute were jeopardized. So there were a lot of economic, political issues at work here. And you can see that’s what is the downfall to the Kingdom of Israel once again: God is an afterthought to Jehroam. It’s only when they are in a bind en route to this battle with Moab that Israel, that they think to reach out to God “is there no prophet here?” Elisha ultimately gives them God’s message – first, he provides pools in the desert and tells them that He will lead them to take Moab and “conquer every fortified city.” He is once again inviting them back into a relationship with Him where they would be His people and He would be their God.
As they are coming close to victory, a horrific thing occurs that shakes the united forces. The King of Edom believes if he sacrifices his son, the crown prince who is to succeed him on the throne to their god chemosh, that they will be victorious. In the face of such evil, what happens? The shock, grossness, and barbarism of this human sacrifice demoralize and strikes fear in the Israelites that they abandon their fight and retreat.
God had ordered them to take Moab. He had provided for them and promised them victory, and now they are running in fear of a false god. Had they remained obedient to God’s promise they were certain to have emerged victorious.
But that’s the point. They haven’t been obedient for some time. And what the Israelites demonstrate is that faithfulness isn’t a light switch they can simply turn on and off. This fundamental lack of trust in God and fear for a false god caused them to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. And embolden this rebellion to become an enemy and ongoing obstacle for the Israelites.
God promises to equip us, walk with us, fight for us in the battle that matters the most: against evil. But we have to be ready and prepared for the fight.
DAY 173: 2 Kings 4; 2 Chronicles 28; Psalm 127
FILL ME UP
Reading 2 Kings 4, something hit me that hadn’t before (I doubt that this is an original thought, just “new” to me 🙂 ) This widow goes to Elisha the prophet telling him of her crisis. She’s out of money, she has debts, and the creditor is coming to take her children as “slaves” (which you might remember, was not like our horrific history of slavery… it was not uncommon in these ancient civilizations as a way of paying off their debts for someone to end up being a slave for a period of time).
The first thing that stood out is noticing what the widow did. It would have been easy to become bitter and negative “why did my husband have to die;” “why did he leave me with all these debts;” “no one cares…” It’s understandable that we can have those thoughts and feelings when faced with struggle and there’s seemingly no way out. But the widow has not turned in anger against God or stopped trusting in His goodness and care. By going to the prophet of the Lord, she’s demonstrating she still believes, she still trusts, she has faith.
What she discovers is God isn’t just looking to fix this issue. We have a God who is a loving Father and wants to pour out in abundance. In this instance literally and figuratively! Elisha asks her “what have you in the house” and her response “nothing, except a jar of oil.” He tells her, you’re going to want to get some more jars – as many jars as you can get.
Immediately my mind went to the different Gospel accounts when Jesus wants to five the multitudes surrounding Him something to eat and the apostles respond that all they have is two loaves and a few fish. We know the rest of the story – thousands are fed, – “all who ate were satisfied” – and then there was more fish and loaves leftover than what they started with.
This is what happens for this widow as well. Only when she’s run out of jars does the oil stop flowing – which supplies more than enough to pay off her debts… She and her sons will never live as slaves.
God is constantly looking for ways to fill us up with what we need. With His grace, His favor, His blessings… If I get frustrated with what is lacking in my life if I fixate on what I don’t have that can quickly turn to bitterness, anger, and envy. The widow reminds us to put our hearts and minds in alignment with God, bring what “little” we have and prepare to be amazed by how God continues to pour out an abundance to fill what is empty, how He wants to show off how He can do far more than we ever conceived.
DAY 174: 2 Kings 5;Hosea 1-3 ; Psalm 101
Today, as Fr. Mike mentioned on the podcast yesterday, we’re pausing on the book of Second Chronicles and beginning to delve into the “minor prophets” (minor only in terms of the length of the books of scripture, not in importance). We begin with the prophet Hosea, who’s name means “one who makes salvation.” A couple of unique characteristics to keep in mind:
Hosea is from the Northern Kingdom and his prophetic words are directed to them. But right our of the gate, (to confuse us trying to keep the North and South in order) he mentions four Kings of Judah. While the Southern Kingdom resisted falling into the complete degradation that the North does, they aren’t without their problems. Uzziah violated the temple worship rules by taking a priestly role to himself, Jotham starts to allow some of the corruption of the North to influence his reign in the South; Ahaz will be characterized as a “wicked” king of Judah who stubbornly refuses to repent. That trio will be followed by Hezekiah who brings about reform and restoration to Judah, enacting reforms for the temple and proper worship.
In the North, the King we hear about is Jeroboam (who we talked about on days 162 & 163) the first King of Israel who brought in “golden calves” so the people didnt have to go to Jerusalem anymore to the temple (which if you remember was a really, really bad idea).
Anyway, while the book of Hosea isn’t very long, it actually covers 40 years of the prophetic ministry that the Lord entrusts to him. 40 years of God’s sadness over what has become of His people – that’s what is front and center from the outset. He tries to find a way for people to imagine it and uses the wrenching example of a spouse who’s spouse is unfaithful to them. Think about the awesomeness and vulnerability of God sharing this intimate part of Himself: God’s broken heart. Yet it will take 40 years for that message to break through. For a change to occur. For repentance to begin. A commentator described it like this: A man trying to break a stone smashes a hammer on it and there’s no visible change. He smashes again and again with seemingly no results. After 10 attempts, finally the stone crumbles. Was it the last swing or the result of all those attempts up until then? Obviously it was the latter.
In Hosea we encounter God who with his broken heart, doesn’t smash, but keeps knocking on the hardest, coldest of hearts to relent, to melt and finally return to Him.
DAY 175: 2 Kings 6-7 ; Hosea 4-7; Psalm 103
Yesterday’s introduction to Hosea and some of the reactions it stirred up for people was interesting to read. Again we’re reminded of what a gift it is to enter into the fullness of scripture in a way that we don’t get to experience at a Catholic Mass where we hear proclaimed excerpted passages from these texts. Reading the full book so many other dimensions are revealed:
Hosea, who as a prophet is giving voice to God, sounds emotional, somewhat irrational, even contradictory at times – I’ll forget your children… I will not punish your daughters when they play the harlot. It can be hard to follow which is why it’s good to remember that we are reading in 4 days what was Hosea’s words over a 40 year period. Some of the more emotional utterances are trying to capture the stages of anger, of grief, of hurt that a spouse has when their spouse has been (and continues to be) unfaithful as illustrative of the hurt God feels by His people’s rejection, worshiping false gods and idol worship. At the same time, God, remains faithful, whose mercy is without end, whose love is unconditional. So you have historical realities, poetic imagery, parables all mixed together all with the goal of somehow capturing these unfaithful people’s attention and ultimately their hearts.
For us, Hosea’s prophetic words resonate outside of this particular time and space to speak similarly. We who are believers who strive to remain faithful have to receive it with a bit more of an expansive mindset. For example, hopefully, we’ve not fallen into full apostasy, idol worship allowing that to displace God’s centrality in our lives. But perhaps God’s not fully at the center. He certainly isn’t in the world around us. And when we recognize that, the lack of peace, the confusion we hear in these chapters is a bit more relatable. It’s then that verses like: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because you have rejected knowledge…” (Hosea 4:5) stand out. In this instance, as the prophet is addressing the unfaithful northern kingdom, he seems to be shifting to believers here. How some have information about God, but not an intimate relationship with Him – and the ripple effect that has in ignorance metastasizes.
Which is one of the reasons this Bible in a Year is so important. More than likely there was a variety of reasons each of us felt compelled to sign up for that podcast. Maybe it was a New Years Resolution; or a bucket list thing of something we always wanted to do. Maybe it was the invitation of a friend or we just saw the notification on iTunes under “New and noteworthy” and decided to check it out. Whatever the initial reason we thought we were doing this, by now, hopefully, we recognize the work of the Holy Spirit initiating that in a specific and personal way, ultimately to help foster a more “Biblical world view” as Fr Mike has mentioned many times. In that, we help to turn an “unfaithful generation” back to the Lord. We hear the prophet’s call and respond with proper repentance and ultimately a desire to return to Him with our whole hearts.
DAY 176: 2 Kings 8; Hosea 8-10; Psalm 108
The last few days as we’ve delved into the prophet Hosea, we’ve focused on the heartbreak of God in light of the infidelity of the people of Israel (characterized as infidelity of a wife to her spouse) In today’s reading from 2 Kings, we come to a verse that stands out “…and the man of God wept” (2 Kings 8: 11) That might remind you of how when we read through the Gospel of John, we encountered the shortest verse in the entirety of the Bible- Old and New Testament: “Jesus Wept” (John 11: 35)
What has happened is that this King of Syria has inquired of Elisha if he would recover from his illness. That’s surprising in itself since this is a gentile (non-Jewish) king who had a bit of a negative history with the people of God (1 Kings 15, 1 Kings 20; 2 Kings 6) Yet despite that history, obviously the King recognizes something of truth in the Lord God that he sends forth this emissary to see what his future entails. (Again we see, there are no atheists in foxholes 🙂 ) Elisha tells Hazael that Ben-hadad will not die from the illness, but that he will die as he fixes his gaze and stares at Hazael. Which is what causes him to weep.
Hazael seems taken aback wondering what’s going on. Did he not know what he himself was capable of doing? Or rather was he unaware that the prophet of the Lord who would be able to see into the future, could also see what was in this man’s heart. He saw past the false humility of the man thinking there was no way he’d become King. He exits pretty quickly when Elisha mentions the evil that would be unleashed on the people of Israel by this future King (who promptly goes home and suffocates Ben-hadad)
What causes Elisha to weep, is seeing the destruction that such an evil man will unleash on the people of God (if a servant could go and suffocate his king, how would he treat foreigners whom he has no respect for?) Elisha also weeps at what always causes God to weep- seeing any hearts of people far from God. Whether it’s Jesus at the tomb of Lazarus – seeing how sin has unleashed sickness and death have caused such heartache, grief to what was perfection of creation, or when Jesus “wept over Jerusalem” recognizing that even though the crowds would cheer and welcome Him on Palm Sunday, they would scream “crucify Him” days later demonstrating how far they were from truly embracing God.
Hearts far from God. That’s what caused Elisha, caused God to weep. And it still does.
DAY 177: 2 Kings 9; Hosea 11-14; Psalm 109
Rarely do I find myself feeling emotional reading something. Watching a movie or TV program it happens on occassion (especially the Chosen, there’s not been an episode yet that hasn’t made me tear up if not once, then multiple times) But reading I don’t normally have that experience. But these chapters of Hosea, perhaps after being with the prophet for the last few days and reading the entirety of it I found it profoundly moving.
Because while in the background, there’s that refrain of Israel’s infidelity – which a few times now, we’ve discussed how heart wrenching that is for God – and that’s being recounted again in these last chapters – what’s even more obvious? God can’t stop loving – on them, on us…
My heart recoils within me
my compassion grows warm and tender
I will not execute my fierce anger (11:8)
As God recalls “the long history of rebellion” – it’s not in anger – there’s sadness at the failures for sure, but it’s recounted with a hopeful optimism of people’s eventual coming home, returning to the Lord. You can almost hear Jesus’ composing His parable of the prodigal son as we reflect here.
And as Hosea closes out there’s a confidence in God’s “plea” for reprentance. “You have stumbled” is followed by “I will heal their faithlessness; I will love them freely…”
There’s an exquisite beauty in these three chapters. One thing I plan on doing is preparing to go for confession by doing an examination of conscience and then re-reading these three chapters recognizing that as much as our sins bring sadness to God, He rejoices in being our savior…
Whoever is wise,
let him understand these things;
whoever is discerning,
let him know them;
for the ways of the Lord are right,
and the upright walk in them,
but transgressors stumble in them (14:9)
DAY 178: 2 Kings 10; Amos 1-3; Psalm 110
After spending the last few days with Hosea- today we start with another “minor” prophet, Amos (reminder, “minor” meaning the books are short in comparison to someone like Isaiah). Amos is a somewhat mysterious figure. Unlike Hosea who spent 40 years in this ministry, Amos’ time as a prophet is only 2 years. His main occupation was as a shepherd and farming. Although he was from the Southern Kingdom of Judah, his ministry was in the Northern Kingdom – and eventually these words were written down for benefit to the people in the Southern Kingdom, and all God’s people in subsequent generations.
He’s dealing with King Jeroboam who is remembered as a “wicked” king. He was wicked because while he was enjoying success from a political perspective (mostly in rescuing territories the Kingdom of Israel had lost to other nations) he loses sight that this was not of his own doing. He forgets God – and as Israel enjoys wealth and prosperity, many of the people do as well. Amos finds himself suddenly enlisted into service by the Lord to speak this word of judgment, calling Israel to repentance.
One of the beautiful things about Amos – is his humility. He makes no pretense about who he is. Right from the outset it’s like “look I’m a shepherd, I was busy about doing my work, and God is ticked and wanted me to tell you, so here it is folks.” And then after that he kind of disappears from scripture. There’s a simplicity and trust in that – God asked Him to share this message, he does and then he is happy to simply return to his life before. In that, you get the sense that this “interruption” wasn’t such to Amos. He obviously was already in relationship with God to recognize his life before this ministry was a gift from God – as was this time of prophecy. There’s a bold and unequivocal surrender to God’s call, which is in stark contrast to the entirety of the Kingdom of Israel (and in some smaller ways the Kingdom of Judah as well) God is able to use this man’s genuineness and sincerity to make him an even more authentic witness to the prophetic words.
As we enter into these chapters, and continue along in 2 Kings, may we take some time to humbly recall the gifts that the Lord entrusts to us for His glory. How is He looking to utilize all the amazing gifts, talents that you already possess to help people encounter the Lord, to hear His voice, to turn away from the sinful ways of our world and look to be in right relationship with Him?
DAY 179: 2 Kings 11-12; Amos 4-6; Psalm 122
THE YOUNG KING
These chapters of 2 Kings are pretty rough to navigate. Not just with the violence (i.e. yesterday’s reading of a pile of heads) but trying to keep tracked of everyone being mentioned. Particularly in today’s readings it gets even more confusing because we have some crossovers between the Northern and Southern Kingdom.
We are dealing with the Southern Kingdom of Judah today, but Athaliah is the daughter of that dynamic duo from the North – King Ahab and Jezebel. Athaliah had married the King of the South, Jehoram. Their son, Ahaziah, having succeeded his father on the throne for a year before himself being killed when visiting the Northern Kingdom of Israel. The mother in her “grief” decides to take the throne for herself and kill every possible heir to the throne. She’s successful in killing her grandsons, except for Joash, who is saved by Jehosheba (sister of King Ahaziah).
I know, I know, like sands through the hour glass, these are the days of the People of God’s lives… – the soap opera gets more and more complicated with each twist and turn. The rivalries, envies, plotting and scheming and manipulations – all with this ongoing refrain of false worship of baal having spread throughout the kingdom of the North – now starting to work it’s way down into the Southern Kingdom is a lot to navigate.
Always a good reminder – division, lack of peace, tension, turmoil – are all signs of the devil at work, they always follow sinfulness. Yet in the midst of this, we see a child with a divine destiny being saved and protected from the evils of the world (like Moses before him… like Jesus after him). God is still at work of rescuing his people from their waywardness by working with the remnant of good, God-fearing people who remain. Joash will help bring restoration of true worship to Judah.
As we recall how Joash was preserved and brought to this moment for this purpose, it’s good opportunity to pause and reflect on where we are in our lives, in our response to God’s initiatives, fulfilling His purpose here and now. Hopefully we’re not trying to elude murderous grandmothers, but our families, friends, workplaces are usually a mixed bag of benevolent and malevolent people. There’s temptations to give into the worldly fears – while the fear of the Lord calls us into deeper intimacy and relationship with God seeing past this world. Imagining the 7 year old being crowned – how has God crowned you with His favor? How do you respond to your divine call?
DAY 180: 2 Kings 13-14; Amos 7-9; Psalm 124
A childhood friend who from my earliest recollections wanted to be a United States Marine (practically every Halloween he dressed up as a Marine in a variety of different uniforms) He enlisted, a few years out of high school. When sharing his experiences of boot camp, he talked about the seemingly maniacal regimented life style and the strict discipline that consumed his life for those 12 + weeks (makes seminary seem like a cake walk 🙂 ) The easiest explanation to this training was that the instructors needed to break them down in order to build them up again. It’s an overhaul physically, mentally, even spiritually for many of the men and women who enter into the corps. And it was undeniable recognizing the transformation upon his graduation.
That memory came to mind as we conclude these chapters from the prophet Amos today. It can sound pretty dire when we come upon those verses describing “striking” “shattering” “shaking the house of Israel as one shakes with a sieve…” That’s been a recurring theme through these 9 chapters. We’re well acquainted with why: God’s people had become spiritually hollow – keeping some of the traditions and trappings of their faith, but lacking any authenticity, any sincerity. They had gone after false gods, become worldly. And so Amos has been warning of the coming “humbling” of the people.
That’s not a vengeful, angry God looking to settle the score with them. He’s allowing the consequences of their choices to be fully felt. They are already experiencing devastating effects of their infidelity. The prophet is just underlining it for them and telling them God is allowing you to experience that, so they will get to “rock bottom” because without God, that’s where one will always find themselves. But the prophet isn’t rubbing this truth in their faces and shrugging their shoulders in a “told you so mentality” – he’s telling them, God has allowed them to experience this, so He can rebuild them again. In those closing verses we hear the tender language of rebirth of what God will do to His people:
I will restore the fortunes of my people…
They shall rebuild…
They shall plant…
They shall make gardens…
It’s a painful lesson they – and we – sometimes have to learn, and re-learn, and re-learn again. But at the heart of it, the one consistent, eternal, unchanging thing: God is always faithful.
DAY 181: 2 Kings 15; Jonah 1-4; Psalm 138
Last week, at Daily Mass, one of the readings came from Genesis and was recounting the story of Abraham and God’s covenant with him. We heard God promise to make this (at that point) childless old man and his wife, he would have: “descendants like the dust of the earth; if anyone could count the dust of the earth, your descendants too might be counted.” (Genesis 13: 16) Abraham kind of balked at that word – as did Sarah.
It just seemed too improbable.
Kind of like a prophet ending up in the belly of a fish.
Or that this prophet after such disobedience to the Lord, praying from the belly of the fish would experience salvation and another chance.
Or these non-Jewish, pagan people hearing the words of the prophet and repenting better than most of the Jewish listeners to other prophets.
God consistently shocks His creation making the improbable – probable. Ever since Genesis He’s revealed Himself to be a Father who wants His creation to rejoice in His glory, to allow ourselves to be surprised and moved to reverence and wonder and awe at who He is and how He loves us and longs for us.
What’s somewhat sad in this short narrative is how Jonah who as a prophet is purportedly a man of God – that he still is confused. The closing chapter finds him more depressed over a gourd plant dying then the potential for people to have been consumed in God’s wrath. His vision is still too narrow, his heart is still too narrow to recognize how the Father cares for the people of Nineveh just as he does the tribes of Israel and Judah and all of the earth. Did he miss how David envisioned: All the kings of the earth shall praise you O Lord ? The descendants of Abraham, scattered throughout the earth – how will that come to be? The original vision of God’s people being a light to all the nations has gone off course as they are still falling for pagan gods themselves, infighting, and rejecting God’s commands. So God uses Jonah to speak a prophetic word and rather than rejoicing at the response, he’s sulking.
Fortunately for Jonah, God is patient even with the reluctant preacher. Fortunately for all of us who are undeserving of His mercy and forgiveness, who are unfit for the Kingdom of God, He continues to come after us in order to save us.
DAY 182: 2 Kings 16; Micah 1-4; Psalm 139
NOTHING IS MINOR TO GOD
Today we begin another “minor” prophet – Micah. Now even though we’ve discussed that “minor” isn’t in relation to the importance, but a characterization about the length of the writings – in Micah’s case, there’s another thing that slightly diminishes him. He’s a contemporary of prophets like Isaiah and Jeremiah. So he can get lost or overlooked in some biblical scholarship.
But there’s something incredibly special and important about Micah. Not only is his ministry directed to the Northern Kingdom but also the Southern Kingdom – and Jerusalem in particular speaking to some of the abuses and corruption that had now infested what was supposed to be the holiest of places and “the remnant” that will be so essential (as we read in 2 Kings the infighting between the North and the South and the beginning of the devastating time of exile) But for us as Catholic Christians, we look to Micah for something beautifully contained in his messages.
As Micah’s calling out the failures, calling people to repentance, predicting the setbacks that will occur – there’s this nugget: But you O Bethlehem Ephratah, who are little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose origin is from of old from ancient days.
Bethlehem – a minor town… a minor prophet thinking that this message of importance is speaking to the historic realities he was confronting. As prophetic as Micah was, he probably had no idea the importance of Bethlehem, Who that ruler was going to be, and exactly how everlasting that reign would be. A good reminder that when dealing with God, there is no such thing as “minor.” With all humility, we should be mindful and eager to participate in each of our individual roles that we play in God’s continued unfolding plans for His creation.
DAY 183: 2 Kings 17; Micah 5-7; Psalm 140
THE REST OF THE STORY
Some years ago, there was a radio personality named Paul Harvey who in these couple-minute monologues would reveal characters or aspects that might have been unknown to a majority of people regarding some familiar stories. I’m hopeful that as we encounter these somewhat difficult and sad chapters, the same is true for us.
Today we read of the “fall” of Israel. It’s described as a “fall to Assyria” – the foreign power that is successful in conquering the kingdom. The immediate reason for the fall doesn’t seem overly dramatic in comparison to some of what we’ve read up to this point. In fact, there’s not a lot of detail about what “the evil in the sight of the Lord” King Hoshea had done. But the reality is this “fall” has been a long time in coming, which is the point that verses 7-23 itemizes in tragic detail.
As I was reading that, what came to mind was Abraham’s “bargaining” with God back in Genesis over Sodom “what if there are 50 innocent people… 45?…. 40?” as he continues to beg God not to level the wickedness of that depraved people. At Abraham’s intercession, God held out hope and promised even if there were but 10 people he would not destroy it, and sadly, we know the rest of the story.
No doubt some in Israel were surprised when their kingdom ultimately had fallen. And the reason they were surprised? Because they had become presumptuous of God’s mercy. They had heard the prophetic warnings but with each relenting of punishment, rather than being thankful for that undeserved gift, moving towards Him, making their repentance and contrition genuine, sincere and complete – instead, the lukewarmness, the indifference continued to grow in their hearts, in their words, in their actions.
As they experienced the loss of the promised land, found themselves displaced, we can only imagine what was in their hearts. Sadly, some would continue in this rebellious way and double down on their apostasy, their rejection, their rebellion. We read in today’s chapter how foreign peoples are brought into Samaria – and what we will find in the chapters to follow, that when some of the Jews are allowed to return, they “inter-marry” them. Which had been forbidden from the earliest days of the Jews making their way through the wilderness, awaiting the fulfillment of entering the Promised Land.
But what’s interesting for us is how this is the root of “the rest of the story” of all the tension and hatred between Jews and Samaritans when we read about Jesus and the Woman at the Well in the Gospel of John. We are at the beginning point of all that mess here in 2 Kings. What’s exciting to realize is that we can rejoice knowing how Jesus will utilize that as a beginning point to His proclamation of the Gospel – the message of salvation to not just 12 tribes or a single people but to the entire world.
Which is one of the gifts of this biblical journey. Through this study, we’re being able to examine the masterpiece of God’s creation – seeing different shades and colors we may have never noticed before. Yes these dark shades in and of themselves are frustrating and seemingly destroying all that God had intended in His original design. But we can take a step back and see how he would bring about even more beauty in the face of those messes and errors and missteps.
May we learn from our ancestors not to presume God’s mercy, we’re supposed to be thankful for it. Recognizing and allowing ourselves to be changed by the fact that no matter what “mess” we may find ourselves in, at our own doing or the failures of those around us, all it takes is that moment of authentic returning for Him to change the rest of our story.