Biblical Interpretation from Someone with no Training in Biblical Interpretation
One of my favorite parts about reading the books of Kings and Chronicles is that every king listed has a little sign hanging before their story which denotes whether they are a good king or a bad king (in terms of holiness, not skill). For example, 2 Kings 13:10-11 says,
In the thirty-seventh year of Joash king of Judah, Jehoash son of Jehoahaz became king of Israel in Samaria, and he reigned sixteen years. He did evil in the eyes of the Lord and did not turn away from any of the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit; he continued in them.
Most of the kings are noted as being evil; however, a few are good here and there.
Now, the designation of good and evil is not that of status, but of cumulative activity. We can learn this because of the story of Manasseh. 2 Kings 21:1-2 reports,
Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem fifty-five years. His mother’s name was Hephzibah. He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, following the detestable practices of the nations the Lord had driven out before the Israelites.
However, as evil as he was, Manasseh repented of his evil when he was taken away as a prisoner to Assyria,
In his distress he sought the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. And when he prayed to him, the Lord was moved by his entreaty and listened to his plea; so he brought him back to Jerusalem and to his kingdom. They Manasseh knew that the Lord is God (2 Chronicles 33:12-13).
We have a judge in heaven, who will weigh on the scales all that we have done, whether good or bad. Peter explains that all people will appear before the judgment seat of Christ. He writes, “But they will have to give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead” (1 Peter 4:5). Our Lord does see what we do, nothing is hidden from him. Isaiah 29:15 actually tells us,
Woe to those who go to great depths
To hid their plans from the Lord,
Who do their work in darkness and think,
“Who sees us? Who will know?”
Woe to those who do not think the Lord is watching!
I have a few favorite stories in the Bible, but one of them is my favorite partly because I find it very confusing. King Hezekiah, very excited about and proud of all that God has done for him, welcomes some visitors from Babylon (this is before the two nations were fighting). As Hezekiah welcomes these strangers, he shows them around and then they leave. After they go, Isaiah goes to the king,
Then Isaiah the prophet went to King Hezekiah and asked, “What did those men say, and where did they come from?”
“From a distant land,” Hezekiah replied. “They came to me from Babylon.”
The prophet asked, “What did they see in your palace?”
“They saw everything in my palace,” Hezekiah said. “There is nothing among my treasures that I did not show them.” (Isaiah 39:3-4)
Now, imagine Hezekiah, totally unaware that he was likely entreating spies, smiling. Isaiah, frustrated by the king’s actions rolls his eyes and sighs. He then explains why,
Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, “Hear the word of the Lord Almighty: the time will surely come when everything in your palace, and all that your fathers have stored up until this day, will be carried off to Babylon. Nothing will be left, says the Lord. And some of your descendants, your own flesh and blood who will be born to you, will be taken away, and then they will become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.” (Isaiah 39:5-7)
Did you know that it was the actions of King Hezekiah that started the chain of events that would eventually lead to Israel’s exile? As far as the scripture is concerned, Hezekiah was the man who sold his people out. What gets me though is the last verse of this story, “’The word of the Lord you have spoken is good,’ Hezekiah replied. For he thought, ‘There will be peace and security in my lifetime’” (Isaiah 39:8). He didn’t even care! Hezekiah just acknowledged that the Lord is holy and assumed he wouldn’t have to worry about it. Now, a man like this, do you know what his sign says? Check it out,
Hezekiah was twenty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem twenty-nine years. His mother’s name was Abijah daughter of Zechariah. He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father David had done (2 Chronicles 29:1-2).
King Hezekiah had done such god in his heart and in his actions, that his carefree attitude toward the plundering of Jerusalem is completely overlooked. 2 Kings 18:5-6 explains,
Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel. There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him. He held fast to the Lord and did not cease to follow him; he kept the commands the Lord had given Moses.
So by devoting his life to God, Hezekiah was able to outweigh the bad with the good.
What about us? What does your sign say? Sometimes I think if we all had a note above our heads saying how good or bad we were the world would act differently. Nobody wants to have a bad reputation. However, I think many people don’t realize or have forgotten that nothing is hidden from the Lord. Eliphaz says to the wicked in Job 22:13, “Yet you say, ‘What does God know? Does he judge through such darkness?’” God sees everything; nothing is hidden from our creator. I will tell you what your sign says if you don’t have Jesus in your life: “Sinner: unfit for the Kingdom of God.” We know this because it says in Romans 3:10, “As it is written: ‘There is no one righteous, not even one.’” Well what about those, who though without Jesus, excel in doing good? Paul writes, “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather through the law we become conscious of sin” (Romans 3:20). Furthermore, even to those who are good from a worldly standpoint, God says, “I will expose your righteousness and your works, and they will not benefit you” (Isaiah 57:12).
How then can we change our status from “evil” (like Manasseh) to “good” (like Hezekiah)? Paul tells us,
But now a righteousness from God, apart from the law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus (Romans 3:21-24).
By believing that Christ died for your sins, your sign switches from “bad” to “righteous.” Just like that the Lord switches our name sign in his history books. Not only that, but when we believe in Jesus, the Holy Spirit begins to work in our lives so that our actions can more closely resemble how God sees us. So,
Let the wicked forsake his way
And the evil man his thoughts.
Let him turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on him,
And to our God, for he will freely pardon (Isaiah 55:7).
To those the Lord declares righteous, he gives a wonderful promise,
You will go out in joy
And be led forth in peace;
The mountains and hills
Will burst into song before you,
And all the trees of the field
Will clap their hands.
Instead of the thornbush will grow the pine tree,
And instead of briers the myrtle will grow.
This will be for the Lord’s renown,
For an everlasting sign,
Which will not be destroyed (Isaiah 55:12-13).
So, what does your sign say?