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Saturday, August 05, 2017

Consequences (2 Kings 22-23; 2 Chronicles 34-35)

I have this memory fragment of entering my parents' bedroom.  Mom is making the bed, and I sheepishly make some observation.  She looks at me and says, "You hurt my feelings.  You can't just come in here and pretend you didn't and make things better."

You know how you have family stories that you tell over and over, so that you remember the story but not the event?  This ain't one of those.  Mom doesn't remember it.  I was probably five; Mom would have been only a few years older than my son is now.  It hurt to realize that I could be genuinely sorry but that did not eliminate the pain I'd caused.

In today's selection Judah finds itself in a similar place.  The back and forth of good and wicked kings continued: Evil Ahab, Good Hezekiah, Evil Manasseh, Good Josiah.  But, the people have permanently damaged their relationship with God.

After a half century of evil rule, Josiah takes over (at age 8) and begins restoring the temple. Having rediscovered the book of the law, Josiah's religious leader went to the prophet Huldah to seek guidance. 
She said to them, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: Tell the man who sent you to me, ‘This is what the Lord says: I am going to bring disaster on this place and its people, according to everything written in the book the king of Judah has read. Because they have forsaken me and burned incense to other gods and aroused my anger by all the idols their hands have made, my anger will burn against this place and will not be quenched.’ 18 Tell the king of Judah, who sent you to inquire of the Lord, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says concerning the words you heard: Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before the Lord when you heard what I have spoken against this place and its people—that they would become a curse and be laid waste—and because you tore your robes and wept in my presence, I also have heard you, declares the Lord. Therefore I will gather you to your ancestors, and you will be buried in peace. Your eyes will not see all the disaster I am going to bring on this place.’”
2 Kings 22:14-20; compare 2 Chronicles 34:22-28.  Notice that the best God can do, is delay the disaster until Josiah is dead.  Happily ever after is off the table.

Photo credit.  Sometimes, as the saying goes, there is hell to pay.  In criminal justice settings we talk about one's debt to society.   Before speaking sweetly of malice toward none and charity toward all in his second inaugural address, Lincoln considered whether the Civil War needed to continue "until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword."


Of course, how foolish would it be to continue amassing debts for fear of the consequences for the debts we already have.  If today all who benefitted from systems of privilege somehow instantly ceased to benefit from such systems, it would not mean that the wounds would be healed.  It would not mean that there was no reckoning to be had.

If you have been wronged, what must happen for you to be made whole?  If you have wronged someone, what must you do to restore your relationship?  Are there scars that remain even after healing has taken place?  And finally, do these relate to community as well as individuals?

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