Up until about thirteen years ago I thought that Jesus was Plan B. God had created the world, things didn’t go too well, so he had to go back to the drawing board. The New Testament provided God’s answer to the failings depicted in the Old Testament.
I now know that this line of thinking is a heresy called Marcionism, which essentially scraps the Old Testament in favor of the New. It suggests a fundamental difference in the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament. As orthodox Christians we reject that belief, as seen in our credal statement, “We believe in one God . . . ”
The characteristics of God that we are faced with at the end of 2 Kings are his justice-seeking nature and his wrathfulness. Here is a desolate illustration of the consequences of the people’s idolatry. War, pillaging, mass executions, burning of entire villages, and starvation are all part of daily life. Yet there is a light shining in all the darkness, Josiah king of Judah: “Before him there was no king like him, who turned to the Lord with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, according to the Law of Moses, nor did any like him arise after him.” (2 Kings 23:25)
What a refreshing change from all the other kings who did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. In an attempt to recommit the people to God’s law, Josiah goes on a rampage to eradicate idol worship, tearing down altars and throwing out false priests. The scene is a striking foreshadowing of Jesus’ cleansing of the temple, referenced in all four Gospels. Unfortunately, Josiah doesn’t make it, and the kings who follow return to their own devices.
However, in the last lines of the book there is a glimmer of hope. King Evil-merodach of Babylon spares King Jehoiachin of Judah and gives him a place of honor in his kingdom. This is crucial because Jehoiachin is the surviving representative of the house of David. God’s promise is sustained, an act of love even in spite of the people’s apostasy.
The bottom line is that our God is a God of justice and of love. He always has been and he always will be. The same God who could not tolerate the depravity of his beloved Israel also cannot tolerate our depravity today—BUT— in his love he provided a way for us to be reconciled to him through Jesus.
As we read through the Bible together this year, I hope that we will all be able to see the continuous plan of our fall, rescue, and redemption that the Lord has unveiled beginning with the first line of Genesis and continuing through to the end of Revelation.
“The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen.” (Revelation 22:21, RSV)