“Nevertheless, the high places were not taken away.
The people still sacrificed and made offerings on the high places.”
(2 Kings 15:4)
My Bible reading plan (I am using M’Cheyne’s plan, which has you read all of the OT once and the NT and Psalms twice over the course of one year) has me reading through the book of 2 Kings right now. I am always fascinated by the records of the kings, and there is always something new to discover there. Be it the succession of notoriously bad kings in the Northern kingdom of Israel, who continually led their people astray by requiring they worship the golden calves at Bethel, or the turmoil of inconsistent leadership in the Southern kingdom of Judah, the stories of the kings hold so much wisdom and truth for us today. The only thing that each king had in common with the kings that went before: they all died and someone else reigned in their place.
One of the things that caught my attention in this reading of the kings was the heritage that was left from one king to the next. With every king from the north we are told that “So-and-so did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, as his fathers had done…” Sometimes the indictment is even worse, as with Ahab, of whom it is said, “as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, he took for his wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and went and served Baal and worshiped him. He erected an altar for Baal in the house of Ball, which he built in Samaria. And Ahab made an Asherah. Ahab did more to provoke the Lord, the God of Israel, to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him” (1 Kings 16:31-33). No matter how strong the economy might have been under the reign of the king, no matter the what his public opinion poll might have said, because the kings of Israel continued in the sin of Jeroboam – worshiping the golden calves – the legacy they left to the next generation was one of sin and corruption.
But that’s not to say that the southern kings did a whole lot better. True, a majority of the southern kings, we are told, “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord” (2 Kings 14:3). Some kings made foolish allegiances with surrounding nations, leading the people of Judah astray and into oppression. But the kings of the south had a heritage of worship in the Temple of the Lord and they ushered in periods of religious and political reform according to the word of God.
With just about every king of Judah, even though we read that they did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, there always seems to be a caveat. We keep coming back to the word “Nevertheless.” Nevertheless, the high places were not taken away… While the national religion was still practiced in the Jerusalem Temple, the people still had their own private altars, and the faith of the nation was not kept pure. The legacy of the southern kings was one of obedience and walking with the Lord, yet not in a wholehearted way.
And do you know what happened to both the northern and southern kingdoms? They were both destroyed, carried away by conquering kingdoms, and the people were scattered. The legacy of the kings, while greatly different, each led to the same end.
So here’s something to think about: What legacy are you leaving the next generation? Have you lived a life of wholehearted faithfulness to the Lord, or are there things in your life that you know don’t belong, but you lack the strength to remove them. What are the high places that need to come down, so that your worship of God may be pure, and your heart undivided before the Lord. What are the pressures and powers of this world to which you still bow down, when there is only one name in heaven and on earth for which our heads should bow?
When your life is gone and your story is told, will there be a “nevertheless”? He was a really nice guy, but…
My hope and prayer is that the stories of the kings, if nothing else, will remind us of our need to cast out the idols that this world offers, and to cling wholeheartedly to our savior Jesus Christ!
Now that’s a legacy worth leaving.