Your Life Trajectory
YOUR LIFE TRAJECTORY
When a professing Christian appears to have made a shipwreck of his or her faith (1 Timothy 1:19) – whether through heresy or moral catastrophe – certain questions arise in our mind. For one thing, we may rightly wonder if the person was ever truly saved in the first place. A big part of the answer to this question is whether they experience repentance, recovery, and restoration on the other side of their shipwreck. But the longer people remain in a settled state of disobedience, the more reason we have to believe – with heavy hearts – that such people do not truly belong to the Lord. “For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.” (Hebrews 3:14 ESV) In other words, those who have a true and saving faith in the Lord Jesus Christ demonstrate this reality by persevering in faith-filled obedience until their earthly journey ends.
With this general context in mind, it is instructive to ponder the various ways in which the Lord describes the many different kings of Judah. If you are familiar with the books of 1 & 2 Kings and 1 & 2 Chronicles, then you know that the kings are described as either ‘having done what is right’ or ‘having done what is evil’ in the sight of the Lord. But actually the descriptions of these kings are more nuanced and varied. Life is messy, after all, and the life trajectory of each person is complex and in some sense even unique. So let these six different biographical summaries of the kings of Judah serve as good grist for the mill.
Fundamentally Good Kings
First, there were fundamentally good kings: David, Jehoshaphat, Jotham, Hezekiah, and Josiah. ‘Fundamentally good’ doesn’t mean flawless, but it does mean that their hearts were consistently and truly set on the Lord. Josiah’s biographical summary says: “And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, and walked in the ways of David his father; and he did not turn aside to the right hand or to the left.” (2 Chronicles 34:2 ESV)
Good Kings Who Finished Poorly
Second, there were good kings who finished poorly: Solomon, Asa, and Uzziah. These men honored the Lord for many years, but in due course their hearts turned away from the Lord and they acted wickedly. Consider what is said of Uzziah: “And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, according to all that his father Amaziah had done. He set himself to seek God in the days of Zechariah, who instructed him in the fear of God, and as long as he sought the LORD, God made him prosper…. But when he was strong, he grew proud, to his destruction. For he was unfaithful to the LORD his God” (2 Chronicles 26:4-5, 16 ESV).
A King with Decent Conduct, but a Divided Heart
Now Uzziah’s father Amaziah – who was just mentioned in the above verses – could be included as a (somewhat) good king who finished poorly. But the way that Scripture describes his ‘goodness’ deserves a category all its own. So we have a third category: having conduct that measures up, but having a heart that doesn’t. About Amaziah we read: “And he did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, yet not with a whole heart.” (2 Chronicles 25:2 ESV) Sometimes the cup that sparkles on the outside has some serious cracks on the inside. And the Lord sees even if we don’t.
Evil Kings Who Started Well
Fourth, there were two fundamentally evil kings who nevertheless had started well: Saul and Joash. Saul showed promising signs until he rejected the Lord’s word and consequently rushed ahead on the downward path to destruction. Joash presents a different kind of cautionary tale: Joash’s evil was restrained by an influential advisor, but when this advisor died, Joash’s true colors showed. Scripture says: “And Joash did what was right in the eyes of the LORD all the days of Jehoiada the priest…. Now after the death of Jehoiada the princes of Judah came and paid homage to the king. Then the king listened to them. And they abandoned the house of the LORD, the God of their fathers, and served the Asherim and the idols.” (2 Chronicles 24:2, 17-18 ESV) Joash had never internalized the ways of the Lord, and thus when opportunity arose it was easy for him to embrace the path of wickedness. So great was Joash’s fall that he even had Zechariah, Jehoiada’s Spirit-empowered son, stoned to death.
Fundamentally Evil Kings
Fifth, there were a number of fundamentally evil kings: Rehoboam, Abijam, Jehoram, Ahaziah, Ahaz, Amon, Jehoahaz, Jehoiakim, and Zedekiah. ‘Fundamentally evil’ doesn’t mean that they never did or said anything that could be regarded as good, but it does mean that their hearts were consistently and truly set against the Lord. Here is the assessment of Jehoram: “And he walked in the way of the kings of Israel, as the house of Ahab had done, for the daughter of Ahab was his wife. And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD.” (2 Chronicles 21:6 ESV)
A Wicked King Who Found Mercy and Finished Well
Finally, there is one king of Judah whose life trajectory differed from the rest. His name was Manesseh. In contrast to those few good kings who finished poorly, Manasseh gives us a sixth category: he was a thoroughly wicked king who found mercy and finished well. Scripture says: “Manasseh led Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem astray, to do more evil than the nations whom the LORD destroyed before the people of Israel. The LORD spoke to Manasseh and to his people, but they paid no attention.” (2 Chronicles 33:9-10 ESV) Consequently the Lord brought severe judgment upon Manasseh. And that’s when it happened: “And when he was in distress, he entreated the favor of the LORD his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. He prayed to him, and God was moved by his entreaty and heard his plea and brought him again to Jerusalem into his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD was God.” (2 Chronicles 33:12-13 ESV) True conversion is a beautiful thing, whether it happens earlier or later in life. God’s grace proved to be far greater than the gravity of Manasseh’s prior sins, and the good fruit of obedience followed.
Give Thought to Your Ways
Friends, God cares about where you are and the direction you’re headed. By God's grace, be sure that you are on the faithful path, not a treacherous one. By God’s grace, strive to finish the race well, not poorly. By God’s grace, aim to do what is right in God’s sight with a whole heart, not with a divided one. By God’s grace, seek to internalize the ways of the Lord so that when circumstances change or godly influences are taken away, you keep walking in the path of righteousness. By God’s grace, make sure that you know truly and profoundly and personally that the LORD is God and that He delights to show mercy to those who call upon His name. Abide in Him always, and you will never make a shipwreck of your faith.
NOTE: Header Image/Featured Image Photo by Ray Fragapane on Unsplash