Saturday, January 6, 2018

Year 8, Day 6: 2 Kings 8

Theological Commentary: Click Here

For today’s post, I have an interesting moral quandary.  The issue comes out of the story of Hazael and his trip to see Elisha.  The king of Syria, Ben-hadad, gets sick and sends Hazael to seek Elisha to see if he will recover from the illness.  While Hazael is in Elisha’s company, Elisha begins to weep.  Elisha explains to Hazael that he is weeping because God has shown Elisha all of the things that Hazael will do to the Hebrew people once he becomes king over Syria.  When Hazael returns to Ben-hadad, Hazael kills him so that he can take over as king!

There are two quandaries, actually.  I believe that the first is more readily navigated than the second.  The first one is: would Hazael have had the plan to kill Ben-hadad had Elisha not told him that he would be king?  The reason that this quandary is navigated easily is because I believe the answer to be yes.  Human beings are inherently evil, so the lan to kill Ben-hadad and assume all of his power would have certainly developed in Hazael eventually.  It wasn’t God’s idea, therefore it was Hazael’s.  He would have come to that decision at some point.  In fact, one could make the case that Elisha’s word weren’t actually what spurred Hazael to commit murder but to affirm publicly what was already hidden away in Hazael’s heart.  This is actually what I think is going on in this chapter.  God isn’t inspiring Hazael to become king, God is trying to show Hazael His power by revealing knowledge of the plan that u until now has been privately festering in his heart.  Naturally, this is speculation on my behalf.

The second quandary is far more difficult to navigate.  If God knew about all of the evil that Hazael would do, why didn’t God have Hazael killed by Elisha or eaten by some wild animal on his way back home?  It isn’t like that hasn’t been a plotline in other stories surrounding Elisha, even!

The reason that this is a quandary is because it points us to a truth that we don’t like to talk about when pondering God.  God has the power to utterly destroy evil.  But for the sake of free will, He doesn’t.  God allows Hazael to live, even though he will bring much pain and suffering on other human beings.

That puts us in a tight spot emotionally speaking.  God doesn’t kill Hazael and allows him to become king.  For the record, in the future we’ll see how God brings forth the Assyrians to do bring Israel under judgment.  God brings forth the Babylonians to bring judgment upon Judah.  Both the Assyrians and the Babylonians do horrible things to the Hebrew people.  The reality is that God doesn’t vanquish true evil wherever it exists.

If we are willing to accept that – as difficult as that may be to accept – we can actually see why.  I believe there are many reasons; I’ll outline two here.  First, if God were to have a standing policy to vanquish evil, we should all die right now.  The reality is that evil lies within my heart.  I am sinful and evil.  I fight against it, but I am still evil within my heart.  I should be vanquished.  Second, God uses that evil to try and teach His people about faith.  The end result of the Assyrian and Babylonian captivity is that His people spiritually return to Him.  The end result of the evil of the crucifixion is a spiritual people devoted to the teachings of His Son.  God allows evil to continue to exist because through His greatness He can work through the evil and produce far greater outcomes than would be gained by crushing the evil outright. 

That doesn’t make the evil right, nor does it justify the evil in any way.  What it does is demonstrate to us the power of God to even work true spiritual righteousness out of even the most unspeakable evil.  That’s a learning that can only come through the study of the quandary the arises when we ask why God allows Hazael to live when He knows the evil that is about to ensue.