One of my favorite Old Testament Theologians, John Goldingay, once said, “We have to remind ourselves that these stories are not merely contemporary newspaper reports or journal entries. They are more like a memoir in which someone reflects with the benefit of some distancing on the significance of their experience.” This section of Kings is written like Judah’s later reflection on the life of Israel. It is concerned with Israel’s story (in the North) in order to discover what Judah needs to learn for its own life (in the South). Eventually, both kingdoms come to the same fate under exile from Assyria and Babylon. It is easy to read these stories as a lesson in history to know what happened. It is important that we read these stories as a mirror into our own lives. I haven’t set up golden calves for Baal worship or made alliances with foreign nations but what do these stories tell me about the church’s relationship with God today? As you read these stories, what do you learn about yourself?
I hope you pay attention to Hezekiah. He does some amazing things in his reign as king. He makes major reform in Judah in attempts to bring people back to God. He shuts down the high places and destroys the pillars associated with Canaanite-style worship. Remember the bronze snake in Numbers 21? It is called the Asherah pole. God had Moses set it up so that the people could look on it and find healing. God gave it as a sacrament of healing but the people started worshipping it. Hezekiah tore it down. Is there anything that God has given us that was intended to give us healing but we have started worshipping it as though it were God?
I’m going to keep my reflections short and end with one last image of Hezekiah. In 2 Kings 19:14-19, Hezekiah receives a letter from the messengers. Upon reading it, he then takes it to the house of the LORD and spreads it out before the LORD. What a beautiful image of prayer. We have a tendency to say, “When all else fails, pray.” Prayer is the first thing Hezekiah does. He doesn’t way his options and then decides that prayer is his best option. When you receive bad news, what is the first thing you do? How would your life be different if you took your “letter” and laid it out before God and said a prayer like this: God in heaven. You are LORD over everything, especially this situation. Father, look at this, listen to your Children, and deliver us from this situation. LORD, when you deliver us from this situation, you will proclaim to the whole world that you are LORD, the One True God!
If I’m honest with you (and I hope I always am), this kind of prayer scares me. It takes control out of my hand and puts it in the hands of God. It scares me because God might not respond how I’d like him to. It scares me because I often feel like the father in Mark 9:24 when Jesus says, “Everything is possible for one who believes.” And the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” Maybe we need to start with prayers asking God to help us overcome our unbelief. I find myself praying this more and more often.