If you read through Kings and Chronicles, it doesn't take long before you notice just how much difficulty the kings of Israel and Judah had maintaining their faithfulness to the Lord. It's the tragic story of the sin of God's people, and you wonder how it happened. How could they turn away from the Lord who promised and delivered, who gave them so much?
And then we read a couple of particular stories of certain kings, and it becomes even more unfathomable.
Take, for example, Amaziah (2 Chronicles 25). Amaziah goes out and wages war against the enemy nations of God's people, and he wins. Decisively. He just stomps them. God's people are rejoicing; they're plundering. Life is good. But Amaziah plunders, of all things, the idols of the peoples he's just defeated. He brings them into his own place...and starts to worship them.
Here's the thing, though - Amaziah knows, acutely, that these idols are powerless. He knows they're nothing at all. At least, he should because he just defeated the peoples these idols were supposed to protect. These were the gods of the peoples he just slayed. He swept in and took everything that was important to them, and these idols did nothing to save them. Yet somehow, Amaziah sees the idols and thinks, "Oooh, shiny! I should worship these."
Skip forward a little bit and Ahaz does something surprisingly similar. He incurs God's anger because he has turned away from the Lord to worship the gods of other nations. God is mad, and He lets it be known. But instead of turning back to God, Ahaz goes off and finds more gods and more idols to try out, trying to figure out which one it is that will be able to save him from the wrath of the Lord that he has angered. Certainly, one of these idols, one of these gods, has got to be worth something. Certainly, one of them will be good enough to him to save him.
Of course, only one God is good enough to save him, but that's the God he doesn't seem to want.
Things weren't going all that badly for Ahaz until he turned away. If he wasn't worshiping the gods of the nations, then the Lord wouldn't really have any reason to be upset with him. It's insane that it doesn't occur to him to just come back to God.
But honestly? It doesn't always occur to us, either.
We are not so different from Amaziah and Ahaz, even those of us who call ourselves God's people. It's tempting to look at the way that others live and to think there's got to be something in it, especially if they are prosperous peoples. It doesn't matter if their wealth crumbles when the Lord lifts a pinky to it, there's still something shiny about it that draws us in and we think, gosh, if we could just be a little more like them, then we might have even a measure of what they had. So we wander off and worship something other than God, and maybe it seems to promise us a lot of things but what we quickly lose sight of is what it can never give us: victory. We know because the Lord has already defeated it.
And like Ahaz, it's easy for us to think that once we've turned away, we're on our own. Our best bet is to keep searching for something that can soothe God's anger, that can push Him so far away that it doesn't matter how far we've turn. God is disappointed in us, He's mad at us, He hates us (we think this even though we know that God is love) and so our best bet is to just keep going until we find something, anything, that can stand up to Him, that can stand up to the heat. Really, though, there's nothing in this world good enough to save us except God, and it doesn't matter how far we've turned, we can turn back to Him at any time. It just...doesn't occur to us.
It's crazy to read through the history of God's people and see how quickly and easily the kings turned away from the Lord. How could they? we think. Just look at what God's done for them!
But we're not so different from these kinds, really. So the real question is, how could we? Just look at what God's done for us.