2 Kings 13
Such a familiar refrain to begin this chapter: "In the twenty-third year of Joash son of Ahaziah king of Judah, Jehoahaz son of Jehu became king of Israel in Samaria, and he reigned seventeen years. He did evil in the eyes of the Lord by following the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit, and he did not turn away from them. So the Lord’s anger burned against Israel, and for a long time he kept them under the power of Hazael king of Aram and Ben-Hadad his son." (vs 1-3)
Ah, yet another evil king in Israel. Just one in a long string of many. And all of these evil kings seemed to have something in common: they continued to allow the idol worship that had been instituted by Jeroboam. In other words, they didn’t set an example for the Israelites in worshiping and following the God who had brought them out of Egypt.
But the Bible records that something different happened during the reign of Jehoahaz: "Then Jehoahaz sought the Lord’s favor, and the Lord listened to him, for he saw how severely the king of Aram was oppressing Israel. The Lord provided a deliverer for Israel, and they escaped from the power of Aram. So the Israelites lived in their own homes as they had before." (vs 4-5)
Wouldn’t you get tired of people only calling on you when they were desperate? Wouldn’t you get tired of people acknowledging your existence only when they wanted to be bailed out? If I were God, I would get awfully tired of that. But God doesn’t seem to, and certainly, He doesn’t seem to hold any grudges against those who never call on His name except when they need something.
When Jehoahaz, this evil king of Israel, called out to the Lord, the Lord heard him and answered. Even though he had engaged in idol worship up to that point, and even though God’s deliverance didn’t cause him to turn away from idol worship (vs 6), God still acted graciously toward him and the Israelites. He sent a deliverer to Israel so they could escape from the Arameans.
For me, this is still one of the most amazing things about God: He returns good for evil. When He is dealing with His evil children, He still looks for every opportunity to bring blessing to their lives. He acts kindly toward those who despise Him. When I talk about wanting to be more like God, this is one of the hardest concepts for me to wrap my mind around. When I see people doing evil, the last thing that crosses my mind is to look for an opportunity to treat them with kindness!
But that’s what God is like. He returns good for evil. He shows kindness to evil people.