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Balanced Perspective

The formula is set: King after king "did what was evil in the sight of the Lord," and although prophets abound try to correct the leader, the people follow their king into idol worship. Jeremiah, Habakuk, Zephaniah, and Nahum record warnings against Judah, the remnant nation of David's kingdom. Yet the Chosen People still choose to disobey God.

We are gifted with a glimpse of hope in King Josiah, who brought religious reform to Judah. Imagine living in a time period when the worship center was filled with offerings and prayers to various deities. Imagine all of that confusion and chaos: which god to please when life goes wrong, and which god to thank when life is going well. The shocking reality that the Israelites had strayed so far away from God that the Law (i.e., 10 Commandments, the Torah, the story of the Exodus) was no longer taught. The worshipping community did not even know the basics of their faith -- the very reason for their existence in that land.

Josiah comes onto the scene and corrects these confusions. He follows the God of his ancestor David, the last great king of his people. Josiah starts leading his people back to God before the Law is rediscovered; he doesn't lead them back to God out of a sense of fear of damnation but out of his own love for God. 2 Chronicles tells us that Josiah purged Judah of altars to other gods before the Book of the Law is even re-discovered (2 Chronicles 34:3-7), dusty in some forgotten corner of the temple.

It can be tempting to declare that Josiah is a wholly good king. In fact, that is what the writer of 2 Kings does and places each ruler into an either/or category. King Manasseh, predecessor to Josiah, was a completely wicked monarch, according to the same author. Yet, 2 Chronicles paints in shades of gray: while in captivity, Manasseh repents and believes in God, a tidbit not mentioned in 2 Kings. 2 Chronicles also tells us more of Josiah's death: he foolishly insisted on fighting Pharaoh Neco, even though God spoke through Neco by telling Josiah to stand down. Seems Josiah was all that perfect after all.

Having a balanced perspective is important, especially in our faith walk. Our Bible has both the cut and dry assessment or rulers present in 2 Kings as well as the more nuanced explanation of the same characters in 2 Chronicles. These differences in story lead us to a more complete understanding of our forebears in the faith.

More importantly, the two perspectives tell us a Gospel truth: our faith in Christ calls for us to be both harsh and graceful. We are to critically assess ourselves and others in the manner of 2 Kings while we are simultaneously seeing the shades of gray in everyone-ourselves included-per the wisdom of 2 Chronicles.

The formula for judgment is no longer set to be a convenient either/or, but a complicated both/and, the fullness of God's love while we are still sinners.

~ Brittany Kooi

(Last week's devotional, "Book of Comfort," was written by Matt Aggen. His name was inadvertently omitted.)

July 29th Readings
2 KINGS 21:1-9
2 CHRONICLES 33:1-9
2 KINGS 21:10-17
2 CHRONICLES 33:10-19
2 KINGS 21:18
2 CHRONICLES 33:20
2 KINGS 21:19-26
2 CHRONICLES 33:21-25
2 KINGS 22:1-2
2 CHRONICLES 34:1-7
JEREMIAH 1:1-2:22

July 30th Readings
JEREMIAH 2:23-5:19

July 31st Readings
JEREMIAH 5:20-6:30
2 KINGS 22:3-20
2 CHRONICLES 34:8-28

August 1st Readings
2 KINGS 23:1-20
2 CHRONICLES 34:29-33
2 KINGS 23:21-28
2 CHRONICLES 35:1-19
NAHUM 1:1-3:19

August 2nd Readings
HABAKKUK 1:1-3:19
ZEPHANIAH 1:1-2:7

August 3rd Readings
ZEPHANIAH 2:8-3:20
2 CHRONICLES 35:20-27
2 KINGS 23:29-30
JEREMIAH 47:1-48:47

August 4th Readings
2 CHRONICLES 36:1-4
2 KINGS 23:31-37
2 CHRONICLES 36:5
JEREMIAH 22:1-23
JEREMIAH 26:1-24
2 KINGS 24:1-4
JEREMIAH 25:1-14