Day 102—Following in their Footsteps--“The Disciplined Life”—2 Chronicles 21:1 – 24:27
April 12, 2021, 7:05 AM

Day 102—“The Disciplined Life”—2 Chronicles 21:1 – 24:27

Guidance is very important. The kings we have been reading about, some good, some evil, are dependent on guidance in order to know how to reign, how to make decisions, when to go to war, how to organize a kingdom according to God’s ways. And that last phrase, of course, is the most important indicator as to how a king’s reign will be recorded. Did the king follow God’s ways or his own?

That sentence is a predictor, in fact, for many of our lives. Did [Laurie—fill in your own name here] follow God’s ways or [his/her] own? We know that no one manages this perfectly, but the question matters, and the resulting actions matter too.

So our friend Joash, the boy king, is familiar to us from 2 Kings 11-12, but the information that we read about Joash’s apostacy at the end of his reign is new. The phrase that caught my attention was this: “Joash did what was right in the sight of the LORD all the days of the priest Jehoiada,” (2 Chronicles 24: 2) Joash needed Jehoiada’s guidance in order to see his responsibilities clearly. We think of the priests as supporting members of the cast of the kings we continue to read about, but their influence could be profound, as it clearly was for Joash.

But King Joash strayed far from his roots, from the days of his young kingship when his spiritual advisers led him on God’s pathways. Upon Jehoiada’s death, the gap left behind in King Joash’s life was quickly filled by officials of Judah who had abandoned God’s ways, and we read again about high places (pagan), sacred poles (asherath), and idol worship. So quick to fall!!

Was the fall due to the fact that Joash did not seem to want spiritual advisors any longer, that he sought out the ‘power brokers’ of his time rather than the priests? Obviously. Jehoiada’s son, Zechariah, a priest, clearly thought so and he was stoned to death as he attempted to bring Joash back into the covenant relationship with God. One of the great death scenes in all of scripture is recorded—as Zechariah is being stoned to death he yells out: “May the Lord see and avenge!” (2 Chronicles 24: 22b) Between this death and the bowel-spilling death of Jehoram earlier in our reading today, we have some spectacular, made-for-TV storytelling.

Following the rule of God, staying on the way of God and walking in the shadow of God—these are clearly hard work for people who are in power, and I think it remains so today, as I say exhaustively in this blog, but a pivot of thought occurred for me as I read the contemplation by Hildegard of Bingen. Her thoughts seemed so contemporary to me.

“You say ‘It is not our job to live a good, disciplined life. That is the business of priests and those who are in religious communities’” (p. 507). This struck me because, even thought Hildegard wrote this during the Middle Ages, in the mid 1100’s, these words are still breathtakingly true. We think this!! We may actually think, “Well, I’ll never be as good or as holy as people who are called to ordination or to life in a religious community…” First of all, words such as ‘good’ and ‘holy’ are distractions, or maybe I should say we think of them as desitnations—a place where we will arrive when we do everything right, which we know can never happen.  Somehow we manage to exempt ourselves from requirements for a life dedicated to God by assuming that the religious people are doing all the heavy lifting. Maybe we just need to show up, listen, and then go live our lives, but we don’t have to be holy or different, right? That’s not our job, is it?

So-called religious people—people we know who are clergy, who are nuns or who are spiritual writers/leaders such as Richard Rohr or Rick Warren or even Anne Lamott—can be important guides in our lives of faith (please note that I think of myself as among the followers), and when we follow and learn from those who seem truly connected to God, when we read and learn from their teaching, those examples can be powerful. However, we don’t get a pass when these religious guides stop writing, when they die, or when their own lives go off the rails in a different direction. We ae still required to see through the chaff of this world (useless husks of wheat without any nutritional value) and to fight for the wheat (bread!! Even the Bread of Life!!).

Joash lost his way and lost his connection to God. We don’t know if this happened because he did not have another religious advisor he trusted after Jehoiada’s death, or because he simply took a shine to the plots and plans of men who quickly surrounded him with images and stories of earthly grandeur, which seems more likely.  God continued to call Joash back to God’s ways by sending priests and prophets, yet we read this fateful sentence “They would not listen,” (2 Chronicles 24:19b) Not Joash. Not the men around him.

So simple, isn’t it? They wouldn’t listen. I don’t listen therefore I will not hear. You don’t listen therefore you cannot hear.

Hildegard continues to write: “More than all these clergy, you are bound as God has commanded, to live in that way which was declared to you…For the guiltless Lamb of God embraced you with great love when because of your sins God allowed the Divine Son to be placed in the winepress of the Cross,” (p. 507). Another searing image to end with, and appropriate to the season of Easter.

Be blessed and be a blessing to others,

ML

 

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