I mentioned recently that my Bible reading plan has me walking through the books of I/II Kings and I/II Chronicles. If you’ve read through these books before, you know that the section on each king typically opens and closes with whether or not they were good or evil. Of the nineteen Kings of Israel only one (Jehu) manages even a mixed review. All the others get the dreaded “did evil.” The Kings of Judah fair moderately better: of the twenty mentioned six did rightly, two mixed, and the other twelve receive the dubious “did evil.” I often thought that the difference between the good and evil kings boiled down to their actions. Good kings lived and ruled righteously, evil kings were, well, evil. The truth, however, is much more interesting and tells us a lot about the character of God. See, in the Old Testament, even good kings fail. Whether it be David, Solomon, Hezekiah, or Josiah, even good kings encountered moral and spiritual failure. The biggest difference between the good and evil kings wasn’t necessarily their actions, it was how they responded to their sinful failings.
Let’s take King Hezekiah, one of the most heralded of kings. I took a course on the Kings of the Bible once, and Hezekiah seemed like a shinning star amidst so many awful rulers. So much so that I went through a phase where I wanted to name our son Hezekiah (thankfully for him we went with the markedly more pronounceable Daniel). Hezekiah was used by God in many great ways, but he soon began seeing his successes as his own and not as from God, becoming puffed up with pride. He shows that even good kings fail.
In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death, and he prayed to the Lord, and he answered him and gave him a sign. But Hezekiah did not make return according to the benefit done to him, for his heart was proud. Therefore wrath came upon him and Judah and Jerusalem. But Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart, both he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the wrath of the Lord did not come upon them in the days of Hezekiah. II Chronicles 32:24-26
Here is King Hezekiah acing the good king test until he falls into pride. This is the same problem that made so many kings before and after him crash off the rails. Notice the difference here: Hezekiah realizes he has sinned and confesses his sin to God. What is God’s reaction? He forgives him and allows him to continue ruling. That’s a message in the books of Kings and Chronicles that we cannot miss. Even good kings fail, and when they do the confess their sins and God forgives them. It’s no different with any of us. Everyone of us is going to fail, sometimes in big and messy fashions. It’s not the failure the makes us good or evil, it’s how we respond to that failure. If we follow Hezekiah’s example and confess then God is always ready and willing to forgive.
If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. I John 1:8-9