2 Chronicles 21
Over the last several chapters of 2 Chronicles, I’ve noticed an interesting trend. See if you can spot it in this passage from today’s chapter: "Jehoram was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eight years. He followed the ways of the kings of Israel, as the house of Ahab had done, for he married a daughter of Ahab. He did evil in the eyes of the Lord. In the time of Jehoram, Edom rebelled against Judah and set up its own king. To this day Edom has been in rebellion against Judah. Libnah revolted at the same time, because Jehoram had forsaken the Lord, the God of his ancestors." (vs 5-6, 8, 10)
Have you noticed that when the kings of Judah were submitted to the Lord (such as Jehoram’s father, Jehoshaphat, was), the surrounding nations were submitted to Judah? And when the kings of Judah revolted against the Lord (such as Jehoram did), the surrounding nations revolted against Judah? I think that’s more than just a coincidence, don’t you?
Of course, some might say that being subjected to war instead of enjoying peace was some sort of punishment from God for Judah’s disobedience. But I don’t think it’s as punitive as that. I’m not saying that God doesn’t discipline us when we do the wrong thing—of course He does!—but I also think there’s something to grasp here about God’s power and how it involves submission.
God had chosen the Israelites for a special mission—to be His ambassadors to the surrounding heathen nations. For the most part, the Israelites failed at that mission. It seems like they could never remain faithful to God long enough to be any sort of a lasting positive influence on their neighbors.
However, there were isolated pockets of time in Israel’s history when they were surrendered to God. There were times when they actually trusted in God and didn’t try to just use Him as a good luck charm. During those times, the nation was prosperous. During those times, there was peace in the land, as the surrounding nations—who were often hostile to them—submitted themselves to Israel’s rule.
When Israel was submitted to God, the surrounding nations often submitted to them. I think one of the main reasons for that is because when Israel was submitted to God, it was safe for others to submit to them. When Israel had submitted themselves to God’s holy influence, they could be trusted to be wise leaders of the nations around them also. However, when they decided they’d had enough of God’s ways and rejected Him and His methods, the heart of the nation was often filled with corruption, bribery, and greed. At those times, it would not have been safe for them to lead themselves—let alone any of their neighbors!
God’s power structure is based on submission, not force. When the Israelites (in this case, Judah) were submitted to Him, the surrounding nations submitted to them and there was peace. And I think the same thing is true for us on a personal level. When we are submitted to God, His power reigns in our lives and subdues the sinful passions that might otherwise enslave us. However, when we are not submitted to God, those same passions can flare up with a ferocity that astounds us.
I don’t know about you, but there are things in my life that I would like to get rooted out! But it’s often so tempting to try to root them out on my own, in my own strength—to try to "go to war" with my sin and subdue it by force. But that’s not how things are overcome in the kingdom of God. In His kingdom, power comes through submission, not force. It is only in submitting to Him that we will find the victory over the sin that surrounds us.