After the kingdom divided, king after king ruled in Israel and Judah, and there was one common denominator among them: their success was directly dependent on their obedience to God.
It is a tricky thing, reading this one-to-one correlation between obedience and success. We often try to read into this text a rule for our own lives: if I’m obedient to God, He’ll make me successful. Thankfully, today’s reading in the Old Testament is tempered by our reading in the New. When we see Jesus’ last day through the eyes of Peter, we are reminded that obedience is not always rewarded with success and disobedience is not always punished with failure. This rankles our spirit of justice, yet is more familiar to our own experience.
Peter proclaims his worship of Jesus, claiming his willingness to die in obedience to Jesus. Yet Jesus assures him that not only will he refuse to die, he will refuse to even know Jesus within the day. And not only will he not pray fervently for Jesus in his suffering, he will fall asleep, one of the greatest ways to shun a loved one. Yet Peter is not punished by Jesus, but is rather forgiven and restored to leadership not long after. Isn’t it interesting how our flinching away from injustice is only present when we are not rewarded for obedience, not when we are not punished for disobedience.
So the age-old question applies: How then shall we live? Will we seek to mete out justice in the name of God, assuring our own hypocrisy, or will be live out the grace of Jesus Christ, assuring our own ridicule? Will we love those who are obedient or at least repentant, or will we love everyone regardless of their standing before God?