Degrees of Righteousness

Not that long ago, I was listening to the Daily Audio Bible reading about the story of Jehu.  He was anointed by one of the prophets to be king over Israel in private, and then the prophet was to flee the area (2Ki 9:1-3).  Jehu was anointed in order to avenge for all the evil done by Ahab and Jezebel (vv 7-10).

Jehu did carry all of this out.  He took revenge upon the entire family, even demanding the death of Ahab’s 70 sons (2Ki 10:1-7).  He even killed the followers of Baal (vv 18-28).

Was Jehu “righteous”?  Apparently not:

 29Howbeit from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, Jehu departed not from after them, to wit, the golden calves that were in Bethel, and that were in Dan.

 30And the LORD said unto Jehu, Because thou hast done well in executing that which is right in mine eyes, and hast done unto the house of Ahab according to all that was in mine heart, thy children of the fourth generation shall sit on the throne of Israel.

 31But Jehu took no heed to walk in the law of the LORD God of Israel with all his heart: for he departed not from the sins of Jeroboam, which made Israel to sin. (2 Kings 10:29-31, King James Version)

Notice 2 things:

  1. Jehu continued in the religious traditions that had been handed down to him.  He preferred tradition over the word of God in this case.
  2. God blessed him.

Don’t these things seem contradictory?  Why would God continue to bless him in spite of his wrongdoing?

God is a God of grace.  Over and over again, we see Him giving people room to either turn back to Him or hang themselves in their own noose.  “Mercy” is used to describe the seat above the Ark of the Testimony.  In a very real as well as symbolic sense, mercy is above law.  If it were not, then who among us could stand before Him?  Jesus came so that the righteous Law could be satisfied, i.e., the penalty would be paid for our sins.  How much mercy does that take?

 12Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!

~ Jas 2:12-13 (NIV)

God is gracious and extends mercy.  By definition, none of us are deserving of the great blessings He gives!  Otherwise, it would not be mercy!

Does God then dole out blessings in levels according to one’s attitude and/or conduct?  I believe a case can be made for this.  Take the examples of the righteous:

1. All of the “good” soil doesn’t produce the same amount of fruit (Mt 13:8, 23).

2. Each servant was blessed according to his ability (Mt 5:14-30).

3. Each servant was given the same amount, but some did better (were blessed more) than others (Lk 19:12-27).

Even though we inherit eternal life, not all will be rewarded equally.

 11For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.

 12Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble;

   13Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is.

 14If any man’s work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward.

 15If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire. (1 Corinthians 3:11-15, King James Version)

Let us not forget too quickly that ancient Israel looked for the stubble and hay.  Even just after coming out of Egypt, they complained about water, about meat, etc.  They paid more attention to their stomachs than the great blessings God had given them.

God knew they were physical, mortal and fallible.  He promised them physical, mortal and temporary blessings (in comparison to what would come later).

And yet, there were exceptions, were there not?  King David, Samuel, Moses, Aaron, Isaiah, Daniel, Job, Abraham …  Will they not receive a greater reward?

Back to Jehu.  What if he had stopped at killing Jezebel?  Do you think God would have still given him the reward of four generations on the throne?  What if he tore down the golden calves as well?  Could he have received 10 or 20 generations on the throne?  What if he changed the fall festival back to the right day, then what?

Do we not do the same to our own children?  Do we not reward them more when they do right?  Do we not punish them or at least take away from their rewards when they disobey?

Think about that.  If we as humans know these things, then how much less credit do we give to God for knowing these things?  Does He not shape the entire history of the world in order to mold His children?

Many of you are likely the seed of Abraham.  Many of you have received great physical blessings because the country you are in was founded by descendants of Israel.

What if Great Britain’s prominent religion was still the Celtic religion?  What if they all worshipped Norse gods instead?  Do we really think Great Britain would have become the dominant power in North America?

No, the US is not nor was a “Christian nation”.  However, we cannot dismiss the fact that the Pilgrims came to America in the 1600s, approximately 100 years after the Protestant Reformation.  The King James Version wasn’t even completed until 1611, so reading the Bible was a new thing.  They and even more so the Puritans came to try to live as they saw in the Bible.  Sure, they fell short, but don’t we all?

Were we ever a “righteous nation”?  Was ancient Israel, or ancient Judah for that matter?

However, I cannot fathom events unfolding the way they did if some form of Christianity were not prevalent amongst those who settled here.  As it was, they endured great hardships.  Yet, they still used every opportunity to give thanks to God.

If Jehu received 4 generations of blessings, then don’t those who broke away from the idolatry of Catholicism deserve a smidgen more?

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