Day 86—“More Bad Kings”--“Surface Living” 2 Kings 8:16 – 10: 36
March 27, 2021, 5:49 AM

Day 86—“More Bad Kings”--“Surface Living” 2 Kings 8:16 – 10: 36

Another day, another massacre. And no, I am not talking about contemporary America. I am, of course, referring to the readings for today. But the horror is familiar. The stories we read in the bible are stories I would not buy to read in a novel. They are stories that create unrest and questioning in my soul as I read about Jehu’s rout of Ahab’s male descendants, the horrific death of Jezebel, and an entire temple of people who worshipped Ba’al being killed, and yes, a tiny part of me thinks about some of the stories we hear in our own world today, certainly not as overtly horrific…unless you live where these conflicts are occurring, or unless you were in the grocery store in Colorado or the Asian Spa in Georgia recently.

My friend texted me this morning. She is participating in the One Year Bible Challenge, and she texted me this: “May I whine for just a moment? Very, very tired of reading about bad kings. Not sure of the point.”

To which I replied “I think that is the point. Maybe we need to be reminded of this because we are so busy being kingmakers in our world and putting people in positions of power and expecting extraordinary things of them and then finding ourselves disappointed once more.”

Odd that I used the word ‘disappointed’ when a stronger word would be far more accurate. Once again, depending on where you live in the world, disappointment is mild compared to the terror, anxiety, and chaos that some people live with on a daily basis. Or perhaps if I was one of the nearly half a million refugees living in one of three refugee camps in Kenya, my response would have been far different as well. Disappointed is too mild a word as a response to what bad kings can do.

In Ethiopia today, violence has likely killed thousands of people, including many civilians; displaced more than a million internally; and led some 50,000 to flee to Sudan.1 Again, refugees flee from those who declare themselves kings or rulers or captain, another word we read in our scriptures to describe the warrior soldiers who routed villages, people groups, and in today’s reading, temples. 

Racism causes distrust, discrimination and death in a hundred different ways. Addiction steals the lives of young and old people from communities both rich and poor. Which death is worse: the death of a physical body or the death of a future, of a person’s spirit, the death of self-esteem, the death of possibility and the death of someone’s dreams to escape the neighborhood, the gang, the addiction, the abuse?

I am trying to reconcile the massacres of old, and that’s not my job.  These simply are the stories of the exploits of kings and warriors. We know the historicity of the kings, such as Ahab and Jehu, but we don’t know about the accuracy of the numbers reported killed. Are they an exaggeration to make the point clearly that those on the side of God always triumphed? I don’t know, but I read a great article in the Christian Century that said this: “These stories give context and ground to the story of the gospel, and to the cries for justice that came from the prophets. Here, written in a sprawling entropy of human power struggles, lies not just the culture and history of Jesus, but also the reason for the gospel.
In Saul's deepening, anxious madness, we can see it. In David's growing agony over the loss around him. In Solomon's wealth, which became both his strength and his hubris.
Human beings, struggling to find a way to be together, in which violence and power and hatred of the other are no longer in control of our lives. Without the story of history—Hebrew and Gentile alike—the necessity of the Way might feel less urgent.”
2

As our ‘glogger’ John pointed out yesterday, maybe we are asking the wrong questions. Instead of “Why did God allow this?” or even “Why did God sanction this?” perhaps we should be asking “What is God doing in this situation?” or “What’s next in this place?”

We are uniquely blessed in our time. We are insulated from much of the intentional warfare and fighting from around the globe. Perhaps it was time for us to realize how different the world was long before we ever graced it with our presence. Perhaps it’s ok to revisit the exploits of an ultimately failed system in order to realize that Jesus brought something unique to the world—peace which surpasses understanding, for a start. As we are about to walk the journey of Holy Week, perhaps it is especially important for us to remember what can happen when the kings of the world get it wrong,  And maybe we will understand the horror of that week a little bit more. Think about these kings as you celebrate Palm Sunday tomorrow. Look at Herod, and then pivot your attention to Jesus, who is a very different king, a very different king then, and now.

1 https://www.crisisgroup.org/global/10-conflicts-watch-2021

2 https://www.christiancentury.org/blog-post/ccblogs-network/what-makes-violent-story-also-sacred-text

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