2 Kings 10:7 When the letter arrived, these men took the princes and slaughtered all seventy of them. They put their heads in baskets and sent them to Jehu in Jezreel.
It’s one of the bloodiest moments in the Bible and it’s done in the name of God. Seventy young princes are beheaded by their guardians simply because their father’s enemy Jehu believes that he is fulfilling God’s prophetic word of condemnation upon Ahab and his descendants. It seems that men way back then, just like now in the Middle East, justified their most gruesome and inhumane acts through the trappings and convenience of religion.
When I read of those macabre events, as well as the cruel beheadings of innocents that are taking place today, it causes me to both despair of religious humanity, as well as to ask serious questions about God. If the slaughtering of people is the means by which God’s promises are fulfilled, does that mean that we are following a capricious deity who could wipe out the entire planet on a whim? I feel uneasy about asking that question because it may appear to others that I am casting doubt in the true existence of God. Be assured that I am not - what I’m really exploring is the sinful human ability to use God as the means of justifying wicked acts.
This reminds me of what happened to Jesus. Religious people conspired against Him and used their scriptures to justify the decision to destroy Him. Jesus was conveniently killed by a political capital punishment process, but make no mistake about this, it was God-fearing servants and clergy who put Him on the Cross. The irony of it all was this: the people who believed that they were following and fulfilling God’s will were actually killing His Son. The wickedness and defiance of religious people against embracing God’s Son revealed the absolute depths of brutality, vehemence, and sin that people of faith will often justify, even today.
So what’s the lesson in all of this? What can we glean and apply in our own lives? I think that the answer is one of self-awareness. Our zeal for God can destroy our love for one another. Our religious stances can obliterate our Gospel witness. Our strong faith can overpower and oppress those who are weak, vulnerable, and alienated – the very people that Jesus meant for us to tolerate, support, and love.
Questions for personal reflection
Have I ever used my faith to put down or humiliate someone else? If so, have I sought Christ’s forgiveness, or do I still justify my sinful action?
Prayer: Lord Jesus, protect us from our self-righteousness and religious bigotry. Open our hearts and minds to Your loving teachings that continually challenge our passions and principles. Keep us on Your faithful path and protect us from our unjust ways. In Your Holy Name, we humbly pray. Amen.
John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to comment or ask questions about today’s passage, please send him an email to Traqair@aol.com.
Today’s image is one of my latest Halloween drawings, made with crayons and paper sculpting. It’s called “Halloween Hoot.” If you would like to view a larger version, please click on the following link: Owl.