The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man,
to see if there are any who understand,
who seek after God.
there is none who does good,
not even one.
I’m reading through the kings again. A decade ago I tucked into my Bible a chart detailing the names, dates, years of reign and “character” of each of the kings of Israel and Judah. The character column lists simply, “good” or “bad.” Yesterday a Sunday school student showed me his Bible’s updated table. It adds “mostly good” and “mostly bad” to the characterizations.
David-“mostly good.” Recall: Goliath, psalms galore, grace to bloodthirsty Saul AND Bathsheba.
Solomon-“mostly good.” Recall: Prayer for wisdom, temple construction AND 1000 wives, princesses and concubines.
Fast forward a half dozen or so kings to wicked king Ahab. Ahab who “did more to provoke the Lord, the God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel before him.” Whose hundreds of priests of Baal faced off against Elijah on Mt. Carmel. Who, with his lovely Jezebel, knocked off righteous Naboth. For his vineyard. The murderous thug. Big, ugly, sin. Selfish,ugly, melancholic king.
But Ahab humbled himself. God saw his contrition. Bad king (mostly). Repentant king, shown mercy. Maybe enough to move from the “bad” to “mostly bad” category?
Three kings later: Jehu- zealous for God. So zealous that he executes Jezebel, slaughters Ahab’s 70 sons. Not satisfied, Jehu “with cunning” manages to gather the prophets and worshipers of Baal worshipers and wipe them out too. Such a righteous warrior! Good-er, make that “mostly good.”
Jehu didn’t “turn aside from the sins of Jeroboam” the worship of the golden calves. His zeal was incomplete; Jehu was not careful to walk in the law of the Lord with all his heart.
I think God does not want this inconvenient truth obscured. No one is righteous, no not one. Neither is His arm too short or his ear stopped to the cries of the humble and contrite. Ezekiel preached it to God’s exiled people.
Yet you say, ‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way not just? Is it not your ways that are not just? When a righteous person turns away from his righteousness and does injustice, he shall die for it; for the injustice that he has done he shall die. Again, when a wicked person turns away from the wickedness he has committed and does what is just and right, he shall save his life. (18:25-27)
My stomach still churns, my mouth grimaces at the thought of it all. The impact on the ministry, the victim, his family, the suffering saints in North Korea and Columbia and Nigeria whose causes he championed all these years. A seasoned and mature seeming saint, imprisoned in Cuba decades ago for his faith. Good? Mostly good? A sexual predator and hypocrite. Bad? The Lord only knows.
And if you’re feeling like your epitaph would more likely include “bad” (or “mostly bad”), take heart from persecutor turned apostle Paul, The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.(1 Timothy 1:15-16)
Pondering this with my mom she nodded, smiled knowingly and recited:
No one whose good is all good,
Or whose bad is all bad.
Rather we’re all shades or gray
That’s me. Us. We’re gray and plaid. Not all good, not all bad. Serving with joy one moment and then wallowing in jealous, self-pity the next. Check out Jon Bloom’s blog “You don’t have to obey.” His depiction of the war that rages within is right on.
I know it. I live it. I hate to admit it, but I lose sleep over my desires, turned demands, turned idols. I don’t always fight sin hard enough, drawing strength from my union with Him, from His Spirit within. Ugly, sinful, melancholic. I, Abigail, am Ahabesque. But I am not a slave to sin. No sir!
We have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end eternal life. (Romans 6:22)
Good. Very good.