If it seems that life in our nation has taken an evil turn, it’s not your imagination. Not only do the headlines of factions, violence, and subjugations back it up, but many have personally experienced it. What used to happen to “someone else” has arrived on the doorstep. This additional stress to the usual stressful navigation of life often parlays into hopelessness when it appears there is no relief in sight. At times like these, God can seem to be very distant. But the truth is that the Lord of Heaven and Earth has not gone anywhere. Scripture recounts numerous instances of oppression that God did not create, but that He determined to use to get people’s attention with the goal of turning hearts to Him.
The stories of the many kings who ruled the divided kingdoms of Judah and Israel as a result of Solomon’s idolatry depict the terrible times endured when an evil, ruthless king ascended to power – often through assassination. Israel was the most corrupt as King Jeroboam encouraged idol worship by making golden calves and erecting high places to worship. One evil king followed another, the successor often worse than his predecessor, with the people blindly adopting their leader’s practices. In the land of Judah, kings cycled from good to bad repetitively, the people also following suit.
Well into this period of kings, the Lord allowed the king of Aram to subjugate Israel during the reign of Jehoahaz. “Then Jehoahaz sought the Lord’s favor, and the Lord listened to him, for He saw how severely the king of Aram was oppressing Israel. The Lord provided a deliverer for Israel, and they escaped from the power of Aram. So the Israelites lived in their own homes as they had before. But they did not turn away from the sins of the house of Jeroboam, which he had caused Israel to commit.” (2 Kings 13:4-6) Sadly, when the people were granted a reprieve from their oppression, they returned to their old ways, causing crushing oppression to return. The land of Judah enjoyed the blessing of God when its king sought the Lord in obedience. But the king’s successor often lost the blessing through his intoxication with the power and riches of his predecessor. Pride and greed resulted in forsaking God which ushered in oppression until a new king arose who was determined to serve God once again.
From a historical perspective, it is easy to judge the Israelites for their unfaithfulness. Unfortunately, we also tend to judge God as being punitive. In actuality, His heart’s desire was to deliver His people from their harsh circumstances. It was His grace to use the oppression to get their attention, giving them the opportunity for repentance. The obedience to repent satisfied His justice, allowing His blessings to flow.
When difficulties strike today, we almost always search for solutions without ever asking God if there is something amiss in our lives. Only when the situation is beyond our self-sufficiency do we consider consulting Him. Then, though God wasn’t our first go-to in the crisis, His amazing grace still kicks in. As a result, are we so overwhelmed at His love and mercy that we determine to steadfastly follow Him, or do we drift back into our old ways of serving idols of status, power, wealth and pleasure once the crisis is past? A summary in 2 Kings 17:15b says, “They followed worthless idols and themselves became worthless.” God’s appeal follows in v.38b-39, “do not worship other gods. Rather, worship the Lord your God: It is He who will deliver you from the hand of all your enemies.” Perhaps today’s evil is our opportunity for the ruthless self-examination that leads us to the foot of the cross.