2 Kings 17: A Stiff-necked People
Friday, May 29, 2015
We humans can get in our own way to such an extent that we tumble head over heels and find ourselves unable to pick ourselves up from the place we have fallen. We can allow our ego and self-interests to narrow our world view to such a point that we can only see ourselves. Sometimes we are so consumed by saving the world that we neglect ourselves and those closest to us. When this imbalance happens we look for someone to blame, and when we do this we miss the whole point of Jesus’ message: when mistakes are made, reparations can follow . . . allowing forgiveness and mercy to transform people of our sorrow into people of joy, hope, and salvific love.
The ancient nation of Israel splits into two kingdoms; northern Samaria is taken over by the Assyrians in 722 B.C.E.; southern Judah eventually falls in 586 B.C.E. The people have begun to worship other gods, the leaders believe that the nation’s survival hinges not on their fidelity to their agreement with God, but on their own skill as diplomats and negotiators. They have gone to bed with the enemy and are swept up by the siren song of power, fame and prestige. They have arrived in a place from which only drastic measures can redeem them. They have become a truly stiff-necked people.
We modern day believers fall into the same traps and so we benefit from asking ourselves: Who and what are our idol gods today? Are we unable to balance ourselves our world and our God? Have we succumbed to the myth that God watches us from afar and does not love us enough to save us? Do we believe that we are unworthy of redemption, or that we are so special that no one understands us? Is our case too far gone, our actions too self-serving, our needs too great? Reading this Chapter today, we might remember that no place and no people are beyond God’s reach.
The Books of Kings were written by a Judean in exile in order to preserve the history of his people for future generations. He writes not only the episodes of depravity, but also those of greatness and glory as Kings rise and fall. When we are in exile, these stories – along with those of the prophets Elijah and Elisha – remind us of our true vocation: to be holy people of God, authentic in our pledge of faith, hopeful in God’s plans for us, and full of God’s love for all creation. The twin themes of judgment and prophecy are ones we might take up and examine in order to apply them to our own stiff-necked-ness. And after this self-examination, we must lay all that we are and all that we have done at God’s feet, ask forgiveness, and return to God’s welcoming arms transformed by deep and abiding love. This is where we find joy. This is the purpose of grinding pain and soul-wringing sorrow. We are made to seek, to wonder, to learn and renew. We are made for conversion and for love. We are made in God’s image because of God’s love, and to this love we must return after exile . . . for we are, when all is said and done, love itself.
Adapted from a reflection written on January 17, 2009.