Then the king called together all the elders ofJudahandJerusalem. He went up to the temple of the LORD with the men of Judah, the people ofJerusalem, the priests and the prophets–all the people from the least to the greatest. He read in their hearing all the words of the Book of the Covenant, which had been found in the temple of the LORD. The king stood by the pillar and renewed the covenant in the presence of the LORD–to follow the LORD and keep his commands, regulations and decrees with all his heart and all his soul, thus confirming the words of the covenant written in this book. Then all the people pledged themselves to the covenant. – 2 Kings 23:1-3 (NIV)
The cycle ofIsrael’s history is a reflection of man’s history and even the lifecycle of many individuals: realization of God’s existence, walking in God’s protection and will, growing apathetic and worldly, open disobedience toward God, suffering the consequences of bad choices, repentance and revival. The passage today is part of the repentance and revival movement in the cycle and is tied to the discovery of God’s Word and a revelation of their history as a people of God. While this cycle does not reflect God’s desire for His people it does reveal some important things about His character.
First, God is merciful. After initially introducing Himself to the people ofIsraelthrough Moses, God runs into rebellion upon rebellion from a stubborn and cowardly element in the ranks. Instead of abandoning the Israelites and starting over with another group of people, He is merciful. He relents in His anger. He withholds His wrath. God is merciful.
Second, God is patient. With miracle upon miracle and sign after sign, God revealed Himself toIsraelas powerful and true to His promises. And yet His power is forgotten quickly when things don’t go the wayIsraelwants them to go. They fall easily into fear and worry and begin finding solutions of their own, which inevitably gets them into trouble. Despite the overwhelming evidence of God’s providence and power, the people ofIsraelput their trust in other things. But God gives them opportunity to find redemption. He sends His messengers to bring truth and warning. He sends signs and wonders to show His power. He waits for them to turn to Him in repentance and humility. God is patient.
Last, God is unchanging. Each time the Israelites go through their broken cycle, God is still the same when they come around to obedience. He never did change throughout their cycle, whether they were following Him or in the midst of rebellion, but they did not know it until repentance brought them back to wisdom and truth. He was merciful and loving and patient and kind every step the Israelites took through their checkered history. God is unchanging.
DoesIsraelremind you of anyone? I seeIsrael’s painful cycle every time I look in the mirror. I know first hand the insipid weakness of my human condition and have cried out to a merciful God to raise me from my rebellious mess. Gratefully, I have learned from my own failures and the cycle is less often repeated in less severe fashion. God is merciful, He is patient and He is unchanging and He asks us to pass that along to our children. As He has done to us, He wants us to do to others, especially our children.
This is something I am working on. It was one thing to accept God’s mercy, patience and unchanging presence, but trying to emulate that for my children is a challenge. The question arises, “How can I reflect the mercy, patience and constancy of God to my children?” Good question and I think the life of God’s people gives us the answer: honor His Word. Every time the people ofIsraelfell out of good graces, it was because they ignored the Word of God or at least became apathetic toward it. If we want to help our children avoid the broken cycle, we need to be people who honor the Word of God.
This is more than reading the Bible everyday and more than being involved in a Bible study, although those things can inform what is important. To honor the Word of God requires that the Word is more important than us; more important than what we think or feel, more important than what is popular, more important than our fears and worries. To be people who honor the Word of God, we must place it as something more than a reference on how to fix our lives. It is the living and active Word of God. It is not a tool in our hands, it is a sword in the hand of the Holy Spirit to divide truth from untruth and set us right. But we cannot expect it to keep us from the broken cycle if we only see it as something that gets us out of trouble.
The Word is what keeps us from trouble, but we must be in and it must be in us. There should be less and less difference between what the Word says and the way we think. In this way we honor the Word and if we honor the Word we will honor the God who gave it to us.
Lord, help me be a man who honors Your Word. Keep me from the broken cycle that leads to shame and hurt and pain. Help me lead my children into a right relationship with Your Word that they might follow you all the days of their lives. Amen.