Someone told me about the impression I’d left on a group of people we both know and I was crushed. I felt so misunderstood. But I can’t undo the past; that is, sadly, the way I’ll always be remembered by them.
“…did evil in the sight of the Lord, more than all who were before him.” (1 Kings 16:30)
“Did what was right in the sight of the Lord….” (2 Kings 22:2)
As you read through I and II Kings you’ll notice that every king of Israel or Judah is profiled in a similar way. Their introductions typically include notes on year and age of ascent, length of reign, and name of parent(s). The writer also includes a sentence on whether they were a ‘good’ or a ‘bad’ king. Although these kings reigned thousands of years ago, that one sentence gives us a picture of who they were. The defining characteristic of the upstanding kings was their obedience to God. In contrast, the nefarious kings are remembered for “doing evil in the sight of the Lord.” If you were to die today, how would you be remembered?
God’s impression of you matters most.
The writer doesn’t comment on whether each king did right or wrong in the sight of humans. That’s irrelevant. Unfortunately, sometimes we are pleased by things which displease God. Therefore, he comments solely on how God viewed their actions. It irks me when people use “only God can judge me” as a casual remark. God’s impending judgement isn’t something to be taken lightly, or used as an ignorant retort to well-meaning rebuke. One day, God will indeed pass judgement on whether or not you did right in His sight. in light of this, you must strive to live a life that pleases God more than yourself, or your fellow human beings.
The kings that are remembered in a positive light were focused on doing what was right i.e. obedience. Each of the bad kings also knew what was right, they just chose to do what was wrong. Many of their descendants decided to proliferate the evil of their ancestors rather than bucking the trend. Frustratingly, there were also some kings who chose to usher in evil instead of building on the good foundation they inherited (e.g. Ahaz after Jotham – 2 Kings 16:2). Their actions aren’t surprising: your natural inclination is to please yourself, not God.
Obedience is the key to being remembered positively.
King Rehoboam’s evildoing is attributed to the fact he “prepared not his heart to seek the Lord” (2 Chronicles 12:14). By extension, this means that the good kings lived righteously because they did invest time in seeking the Lord. If you’re not actively seeking God and this hasn’t caused you to commit evil per se, that’s not an excuse to carry on. There’s a difference between doing what is right in a broad sense (general obedience), and being obedient to what you have been called to do (specific obedience). Therefore, you must invest time in seeking the Lord so you can discern and execute His will – both generally and specifically.
Obedience shouldn’t be a temporary endeavour. There are a few kings whose righteousness was short-lived (e.g. Joash – 2 Chronicles 15:1-2, 27). Surprisingly, that also includes the wisest man to ever live, “Solomon did evil in the sight of the Lord, and did not fully follow the Lord, as did his father David” (1 Kings 11:6). The obedience he had in his former years waned as he got older. Why? Because he allowed his wives to become an idol: their opinion mattered more than God’s. It is impossible to start, or continue, to be obedient to God if you put someone/thing before Him.
Idols inhibit consistent obedience.
Solomon started strong, but he didn’t finish strong. Don’t let that be you. Irrespective of whether you feel you’ve started strong (i.e. lived righteously to date), you can still finish well – look at Paul! Furthermore, David had ‘hiccups’ in his life, however, he is still the yardstick by which future kings were either compared (e.g. 1 Kings 15:11; 2 Kings 18:3), or contrasted (e.g. 1 Kings 14:8; 1 Kings 15:3). In a body bent towards evil, living obediently isn’t easy. However, God is fair in that He judges you according to what you know (Romans 2:12-16). Strive to be obedient to that which you do know. Consistently.
- Reflect – on areas where you’re being deliberately stubborn. The bad kings’ disobedience implied that they knew better than God. Likewise, you’re doing the same when you fail to do what is right in His sight.
- Ask – loved ones for an honest response about your bad habits/character traits. There may be things you need to work on that you’re blind to.
- Commit – to living obediently. Whilst some days may be more difficult than others, choose to do what you know is right.
Try as you might, it’s unlikely that everyone you meet will remember you fondly. However, God is far more objective. For Him, the criteria for fond remembrance is simply being obedient. Purpose in your heart that you will indeed be remembered as a good and faithful servant (Matthew 25:23).