Things in Israel are...rather unstable for much of the Old Testament. The people sin, come back, are sent away, are restored, feast, have famine, and so on as their human flesh battles against the Lord's Spirit on them. We're taken on a roller coaster ride that has our emotions all over the place, and only rarely do we get a place to truly settle out.
One of those places is in 2 Kings 8, when the widow whose son had been revived by the prophet has her land and possessions restored to her by the king.
It's deeply satisfying in our souls to see this widow taken care of...again. There's something about seeing this story tied up in a nice little bow that makes us breathe a sigh of happy relief. Yes, we think - this is what God does. This is how things turn out when God is in control.
But let's not lose sight of the difference here between two stories in this woman's life:
The king merely did a favor for a woman for whom God had done a miracle.
The king had every authority in all of the world to give the woman her land back. He had the power in his position to decide what happened to the land of his kingdom. By nature of his position, he was able to simply speak a word and restore to her all that she had lost in yet another period of downturn for God's people.
Yet we read that story and think, "What a good king!" There must have been something special about that king, something special indeed. That he would stoop so low to care about just one person in his kingdom, that he would use his power and authority to do this for a woman he didn't even really know. That he would take care of a widow, just the way that God wants His people to do. Ah, yes, what a good king.
But men do favors for one another all the time. We're always using our power and authority and ability to shift pieces around on the board in favorable ways for those to whom we have some sort of obligation. It's what we do. Who among us wouldn't lend a quarter to a person in front of us at a grocery store who is just a little short on her total? Who among us wouldn't help a neighbor move a piece of furniture that's too large for just one person to handle on his own? Who among us wouldn't return what we borrowed?
We're nice. Let's not, though, confuse that necessarily with holy.
Because when we confuse "nice" with "holy," we lose part of the essence of our holy God, who is so far beyond nice that we can't even fathom it. God raised this woman's son from death to life. That's a miracle. That's provision. That's incredible and amazing and wonderful.
And so much more than "nice."
If we let ourselves get away with thinking that God is nice, then we expect that God should be nice to us. If what we think of His greatest works is how nice they are, we start to believe that our God is nice. And He is, but He's much, much more than nice; He's glorious, and He's good.
In fact, I think this is one of the greatest challenges we've created to our own Christianity. We have come to a place in our faith where we believe that our Lord is "nice," and we've forgotten that He is good. We don't even expect Him to be good any more. Or glorious. Or holy. Or amazing. Or indescribable. Or wonderful. Or miraculous.
We just expect Him to be nice.
In doing so, we miss out on the very essence of all that He is, which is so, so much more.