Monday’s Column: Neal At The Cross
The writer of 2 Kings is constantly diverting his attention from Israel to Judah and vice versa. So, he introduces us to Azariah, also known as Uzziah, anointed king over Judah at age 16. We will read much more about him in 2 Kings 15, but he seems to be referenced here only to give us the chronology for when Jeroboam II is anointed king of Israel. It is in the 16th year of Uzziah’s reign that Jeroboam comes to the throne. This will be the next-to-last generation in the dynasty of Jehu, but his son, Zechariah (29), will be murdered after six months. When he ascends to the throne, Israel only has about 70 years left before they are destroyed by the vicious Assyrians. God has been patient with Israel for almost 150 years, as king after king behaves just as Jeroboam will behave: “He did evil in the sight of the Lord; he did not depart from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel sin” (24).
He will reign 41 years over Israel, an evil king over a wicked and disobedient people. But, these are God’s people, Abraham’s descendants and once part of the United Kingdom. If we do the impossible and try to put ourselves in God’s place, can we imagine giving to and doing for a people who are continually unappreciative, rebellious, and unfaithful? How long could we go before we ran out of patience? How many times could we be betrayed and hated by the recipients of our generosity before we gave up on them? Or, having God’s power, how long before we destroyed them all? God will go over 200 years, restraining Himself as His people served other gods and gratified their flesh.
Isn’t it amazing how much grace and kindness God shows to this faithless people? The Jonah who God graciously sends to the Assyrians to preach repentance (Jonah 1:1) is also sent to Israel (25). Despite Jonah’s flaws, his ministry seemed to be to extend God’s grace to an unrighteous people. Then, read what the author says about God and Israel next. “For the Lord saw the affliction of Israel, which was very bitter; for there was neither bond nor free, nor was there any helper for Israel. The Lord did not say that He would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven, but He saved them by the hand of Jeroboam the son of Joash” (26-27). You want insight into the heart of God, as He deals with our sins? He cares when His people suffer. He views us with compassion, sympathy, and concern. He doesn’t want to reject us or let us go. God sent His prophet Hosea to this very people and speaks His mind on this subject: “How can I give you up, O Ephraim? How can I surrender you, O Israel? How can I make you like Admah? How can I treat you like Zeboiim? My heart is turned over within Me, All My compassions are kindled. I will not execute My fierce anger; I will not destroy Ephraim again. For I am God and not man, the Holy One in your midst, And I will not come in wrath” (Hosea 11:8-9).
No one will be able to legitimately say at the Judgment, “God, you were harsh, hasty, and hateful!” No, even in the face of faithlessness, God shows His matchless grace! His patience can be exhausted and His justice will not allow impenitence to go unpunished (read Exodus 34:7). But let no one accuse God of reckless wrath! He is the God of unending love. May this lead us to repentance (Rom. 2:4) and faithfulness (Rev. 2:10)!