Friday, June 6, 2008

It's All Part of The Plan

Today's Bible reading had me in the book of 2 Kings, another in a series of relatively dry books describing the history of the Jews after they settled into the Promised Land. It's been a pretty depressing read as of late. Over twenty times in the books of 1 and 2 Kings alone does the Bible say that somebody — typically one of the kings of either Israel or Judah (yes, a nation split into two, as if the story wasn't enough of a downer) — "did evil in the eyes of the Lord". And usually, that phrase is followed with "… like his father". [Sidebar: Dads, if you think you've got even a remote chance of your kids not learning to behave from own example, you've got another think coming!]

So today I braced myself for more tales of war, deceit, betrayal, and some good old-fashioned doin' evil in the eyes of the Lord. And the reading didn't disappoint. 2 Kings 21 briefly describes Manasseh and Amon as two more of the evil kings.
But there was one bit in a previous chapter (chapter 19) that was actually hopeful; that actually made me read it twice over. In 2 Kings 19, the prophet Isaiah is comforting King Hezekiah (of Judah) with words from the Lord regarding the very real threat of an Assyrian takeover of Jerusalem. Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, had been pen pals as of late with Hezekiah, but was using his quill to hurl insults against God and his people. Hezekiah knows the score: Assyria has basically conquered every land they've stepped foot it, and without some divine intervention, Jerusalem would surely be just another statistic in the Assyrian conquest. And now Isaiah is presenting to Hezekiah God's response to Hezekiah's earnest prayers for help.

You can read the response for yourself in 2 Kings 19:20-31, but if I may, I'll summarize it here. The response goes something like this:
My dearest Sennacherib,
You're nothing.

Yeah, yeah, you talk all big. You've got some military successes behind you, and you're getting a kick out of bragging about all that. I get it. But — oh? what's that? — oh, you didn't know? All that stuff you think you did back then?

That was all me.

You say you knocked over some strong cities? That was me. Oppressed some people? Me again.

It's all part of my plan, a plan I developed looooooong ago. And per my plan, you're time has come. Enough is enough. Lights out. Game over.

Sincerely, Almighty God
Within the time span of the next six verses, Assyria is struck by a plague that kills 185,000 people, and Sennacherib is murdered by his own sons.

God intervenes often in the stories of the Old Testament, but I appreciate how He reminds us now and again that He's ultimately in control of everything, even the stuff that looks at first glance like it's only happening to us because He's too busy to notice how we're getting dumped on.

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