By Alex Florez
Reading through the histories of the kings of Judah and Israel, we are hard-pressed to find anyone fit to be the leader of God’s people on earth. Looking closely, we see a pattern of how the authors of Scripture rate these monarchs. For the really bad ones, they are described as having committed evil. Slightly less direct but equally damning, some are characterized as following in the footsteps of their evil predecessors. Another type of summary asserts that a king “did not do what was right,” which, I suppose, is not as bad as being called “evil,” but it’s definitely not a glowing review.
There are several flashes of hope when we read about kings who “did what was right in the sight of the LORD” (2Chronicles 26:4), but with just a little bit of digging, we see that even the kings who “did what was right” had issues with inconsistency, and the ultimate human foible, pride. Even for the good kings, the authors of Scripture often qualify their “goodness.” For example, here’s what we learn about King Amaziah: “He did what was right in the LORD’s sight but not wholeheartedly” (2Chronicles 25:2).
The original Hebrew phrase translated here as “wholeheartedly” includes the word shalem, which shares a root with shalom, often translated as “peace.” This makes me wonder: why didn’t Amaziah have shalom in his heart when it came to obeying the Lord? What could be amiss in the heart of a sovereign king, leader of a nation, commander of armies, ruler of lands?
From the outside, these men had it all, yet there seems to have been some disquiet in their hearts. Perhaps they wrestled with an internal conflict about who the real King was. Looking around, they could reasonably conclude that they were the masters of all, the highest power, the apex authority in their lives. Something compelled them to live in obedience to God.
Maybe the lack of peace in their hearts derives from their inability to reconcile their sense of absolute supremacy and their need to surrender to God. If so, it should be no surprise that even a germ of pride would infect their hearts, consume their peace, and, ultimately, lead to their downfall.
I read through the stories of Judah’s and Israel’s kings the way I rewatch a movie with a tragic conclusion. I know how it will end and the calamity that awaits, but I still find myself wishing for a happy ending where one of the leaders finally figures out how to steer God’s people back into His good graces.
But this glowing ember of hope has little to do with these kings we encounter in Chronicles; it has everything to do with King Jesus. His resurrection and the hope for His return are the elements that stoke the flame and, someday, will set ablaze the peace that even the most wicked among us desire.