Why do good things happen to bad people? (2 Kings 14)

Why do good things happen to bad people? (2 Kings 14)

We’d all like to believe in a world where everything made easy, logical sense. In this ideal world, all the faithful people would be rewarded with a blessed and easy life. All those who reject God and hate Him would go through struggles and all kinds of problems. That’s why the idea of karma seems so attractive to people. We like the idea of people getting what they deserve.

But life is not so neat as this. For example, we read these verses in 2 Kings 14:23-29:

23 In the fifteenth year of Amaziah the son of Joash, king of Judah, Jeroboam the son of Joash, king of Israel, began to reign in Samaria, and he reigned forty-one years. 24 And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD. He did not depart from all the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin.

 25 He restored the border of Israel from Lebo-hamath as far as the Sea of the Arabah, according to the word of the LORD, the God of Israel, which he spoke by his servant Jonah the son of Amittai, the prophet, who was from Gath-hepher. 26 For the LORD saw that the affliction of Israel was very bitter, for there was none left, bond or free, and there was none to help Israel. 27 But the LORD had not said that he would blot out the name of Israel from under heaven, so he saved them by the hand of Jeroboam the son of Joash.

 28 Now the rest of the acts of Jeroboam and all that he did, and his might, how he fought, and how he restored Damascus and Hamath to Judah in Israel, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel? 29 And Jeroboam slept with his fathers, the kings of Israel, and Zechariah his son reigned in his place.

King Jeroboam II of Israel was an evil king, someone who worshipped golden calves and had no time for the true God. He was named after the most unfaithful king in his kingdom’s history and he continued that tradition. Yet, under his reign, he won victories over major enemies and expanded the borders of his kingdom. The borders were expanded so much as to match the size of the kingdom under Solomon and the ideal borders described in Deuteronomy. So often in the Old Testament we see God’s people win battles due to their trust in God and lose battles due to their unfaithfulness. This passage describes the opposite. An ungodly king is blessed with victory, a long reign, and a peaceful passing of the kingdom to his son.

How might we explain this? We don’t need to guess. We are told of two reasons why this happened. The first is that it is a fulfilment of a prophecy made by Jonah (v25). The second reason is that God loved his people and wanted to help them, despite their unfaithfulness, so he worked through Jeroboam to save them (v26-27).

Jeroboam himself would have had no idea that this was what was going on. We are not told if he interacted with Jonah the prophet himself. We know he was evil and uninterested in worshipping the true God. Most likely, he thought his success was due to his own talent and strength. Yet the real reason was God’s work that Jeroboam could not see.

What does this tell us about the world we live in? Here are two suggestions:

  1. We shouldn’t be too quick to draw conclusions about why things happen. Your relative success and peace right now might not be a reward for your faithfulness. It might be God’s kindness despite your sin, calling you to respond in thanks. Likewise, your difficulties might not be God’s judgement on your sin. They might be God’s grace in refining you and building your character and hope. God works in mysterious ways. We can be confident God is working for our good, and we can trust Him even if we don’t always see why things happen.
  1. Justice might well not be seen in this life. Jeroboam deserved punishment, not earthly success. We are people who trust in the God of justice who, one Day, will make everything right. The apparent ease of the wicked has always been a problem for believers (just read Psalm 73), but it is a temporary and unreliable thing. Those who trust in Jesus the King will be shown to be on the right side in the end. Keep on living to serve Him. Whether you have ease or struggles now, one Day it will be obvious you have been following the right Person.