2 Chronicles 21
In my "read through the Bible in a year" series, I've worked through Samuel, Kings, and now Chronicles. Israel and Judah had more than a few terrible rulers. God gave them chance after chance, but most of them never repented leaving foreign altars, marrying foreign women, and worshiping foreign gods. A few of the better kings tried to reinstate the true theocracy, but still failed to remove all the false gods' temples and altars from the high places.
As bad as they were, most of them were buried with the former kings.
And then came Jehoram. His first act as king was to kill all his brothers. Then he married a daughter of Ahab-one of the most wicked people to ever walk the face of the earth. After that he built up more temples to false gods and forced the people of Jerusalem to worship at them. Both Edom and Libnah rebelled and set up their own kingdoms to protect their people from the wicked king. Jehoram went out of his way to rebel against God and lead people away from what is good and holy. Finally, the prophet Elijah send the king a letter:
“This is what the LORD, the God of your father David, says: ‘You have not followed the ways of your father Jehoshaphat or of Asa king of Judah. 13 But you have followed the ways of the kings of Israel, and you have led Judah and the people of Jerusalem to prostitute themselves, just as the house of Ahab did. You have also murdered your own brothers, members of your own family, men who were better than you. 14 So now the LORD is about to strike your people, your sons, your wives and everything that is yours, with a heavy blow. 15 You yourself will be very ill with a lingering disease of the bowels, until the disease causes your bowels to come out.’”
One would think that might be sufficient warning, but it wasn't. God finally allowed the Philistines and Arabic Cushites to overthrow Jehoram, plunder everything, and take the family (except the youngest son.) Then the promised disease struck, and Jehoram died after two years of agonizing pain. Apparently he maintained his evil mind, because there was no pity on him and no royal funeral pyre. He was buried, but not in the tombs of the kings. When he died it was "to no one's regret."
I may not be a trained Bible scholar, but in my reading, I don't recall any other person dying "to no one's regret." Not Pharaoh, not Ahab, not Jezebel, not any other king who rebelled against God. "To no one's regret" means that every soul in the kingdom was relieved to have him gone. We can't even say that about Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Napoleon...choose a historical figure who did evil. As wicked as they were, someone mourned them. Someone regretted the lost life. But Jehoram was in a league of his own.
How does one man immerse himself in rebellion against God so deeply that his death is beneficial for everyone?
For everyone living today, there is a hope for a better legacy than that. There are those who deny God and who teach that this life is all there is. They say that death is followed by decomposition and nothing more. Most of them are blinded by their own god-complexes. To believe in any deity is to deny their own superiority.
There are also those who choose to remain blissfully ignorant. They're too busy living to really care about what happens after death. Many of them have visions of harps and wings and familiar faces. These are the ones who believe that, if there is a heaven, they're probably good enough to get in.
There are others who have a skewed perspective of God. They humanize the Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent, Sovereign Creator of the Universe, in order to make Him more "approachable" or more "familiar." This is a dangerous path, for the God who struck down Jehoram is unchangeable.
Others claim to know the mind of God. (Harold Camping comes to mind.) Many of these people form religions and practices based on what they want God to be. In the end, they generally become enthralled with their own power over others, and are revealed as frauds.
The problem with all these concepts is that they ignore the fact that God is not man and man is not God (or even a god.) God's justice is real. His standard is perfection. And His love endures forever.
It's a dichotomy that the finite mind cannot understand, no matter how high the IQ or how sensitive the empathy. Fortunately, we don't have to stay mired down in the murkiness of mankind's mess. God, in his love, makes it possible to seek after Him heart, soul, mind, and strength. He asks so little of us---and yet it requires giving up everything we think we are: powerful, intelligent, witty, attractive, capable, talented...whatever.
First, we acquiesce to the fact that this life is NOT all there is. Peggy Lee sang it well...there is no reason to do anything other than drink and dance if that all there is. There's no hope for anything better unless there is more than this life.
Secondly, we take a long and honest look at ourselves. Pretty good? Probably. Evil as Jehoram? Not even the wickedest one among us. But perfect? Far from it. We are inherently selfish, wanting that which brings us pleasure (sex, money, and power---it's one of the three.) On our own, it's hopeless...and we may as well keep dancing.
However, as improbable as it seems, there is a way around the perfection expectation. God instituted a series of feasts, festivals, offerings, and sacrifices in order for people to demonstrate that their hearts and minds wanted to please the Creator in spite of their imperfections. Kings like Jehoram eliminated them, and the people suffered. Eventually, the people abandoned them and scattered from Jerusalem all over the world. In His mercy (and it can only be love and mercy), God provided an ultimate feast/festival/offering/sacrifice. He came and lived as one of us: Jesus. Jesus said over and over that He and the Father were one. He put aside his deity for a time so that he could fulfill all the feasts and festivals and offerings and sacrifices in a way that no king could ever destroy. When Jesus died (having done nothing wrong-ever) and when He came back to life, the need to keep festivals and feasts and offerings and sacrifices disappeared. It doesn't make sense to the logical, rational mind, but logic and reason are limited. God is limitless, so the things that mankind cannot comprehend makes perfect sense to Him.
So then, the third step is to acknowledge that Jesus is the way around the perfection expectation. When we choose to trust Jesus with our lives, our future is assured. God looks at Jesus (and at Himself, since He is One) and opens wide the doors to confidence and assurance that this life is NOT all there is and that there is an eternal hope and future.
Finally, God gave us three things to do as we live our lives: Do justly, Love mercy, Walk humbly with Him. (Micah 6:8)
The legacy of King Jehoram was his ultimate rejection of God, which led to ultimate rejection by his people. I want my legacy to be that I embraced God and demonstrated that by doing justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with Him, knowing that, anything I count in my favor is nothing in comparison to His glory.