I finally finished II Chronicles. It started with the glory of King Solomon's rule -the height of Israel's glory days. By chapter 36, the outlook is very different. The mighty nation of Israel has been split into two warring factions - Israel and Judah which included the tribe of Judah and Benjiman; the temple has been destroyed; the walls of Jeruselum (the walls being a sign of a nation's strength and power) had been reduced to rubble; and both divisions of the once united Israel were in captivity. It's a sad story of a people who had had God's blessing but still went looking to idols; of leaders who let their power and authority corrupt them. Throughout the history, there ARE glimpses of redemption and blessing where God rewarded those who followed Him.
As I looked back over this book, three things stood out to me in bold relief. Once again, as it did in I & II Kings, the importance of wholeheartedness jumped out at me. There were several kings that did right but the Bible notes that they were not wholehearted in their devotion to God. What was the difference between those that just did right and those that were wholehearted? Those that were wholeheartedly devoted to God took action. They sought out the high places and the alters that previous kings and the people built and tore them down. They got rid of the priests that tended these false gods. They rooted out what was such an anthema to God.
The truth is, leadership - particularly when it is spiritual - is something to be taken very seriously. What leaders do or don't do trickles down to those underneath them. I'm sure, even under wicked kings, there were people that still did right, but they were in the vast minority. But when a king did what was right and was wholeheartedly devoted to God, there was often a huge revival in the land. Most of the people jumped on board. I am not any kind of formal spiritual leader but I am a mother. My kids will notice if I am wholeheartedly devoted to God or if it is just lip service. They will note if I allow idols to remain even in the background. I think this is why so many Christian young people turn away as they leave home - they saw only a partial devotion to God in their homes and it struck them as false. As a parent, I can't be perfect, but I can be wholehearted in following God.
The second thing I saw was how many times a king started out following God and doing what was right, even doing it wholeheartedly, when God had made them strong and given them peace, they often started doing things in their own strength and even worshipping false idols. The one that floored me the most was Amaziah. God told him he'd have victory in battle and he did! But no sooner was he back home than he was burning incense to the gods of the people God had just defeated for him. I guess that is why so many times in the Bible we are told to be thankful, to remember where our blessings, strength and success really come from.
Finally, the thing I saw was God's abundant mercy, grace and patience with His wayward people. The Old Testament is often looked at as showing God's justice side and not much mercy, but when I began reading it, that really wasn't true. Over and over again, God gave even the wickedest kings the opportunity to repent. Some took Him up on it, but most didn't. In the final chapter of II Chronicles in verse 15 we see the evidence of God's mercy, "The Lord, the God of their fathers, sent word to them again and again by His messangers because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place."
The chapter ends seventy years into their captivity and once again God gives new hope and mercy to His people. It ends with an invitation from the most unlikely of sources - the king of Persia, Cyrus. "Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and He has appointed me to build Him a house in Jeruselum, which is in Judah. Whoever there is among you of all His people, may the Lord his God be wtih him, and let him go up!"
What a comfort to know that no matter how far off the path we get, no matter how deep into captivity we fall, God grants us His forgiveness, His mercy and His grace when we truly repent and seek Him.
~ Blessings, Bronte