[Important note: After I published this devotional, a reader from our congregation pointed out to me 2 Chronicles 26. I was aware of Uzziah's actions and the curse he experienced, but failed to realize that the king called Amaziah here in 2 Kings 15 is the same guy described in 2 Chronicles 26. As I wrote on our Facebook page: "I stand by the point of what I wrote--that God allows the affects of the fall to be distributed throughout creation in ways that seem random; this means that even godly people experience bad times. But this is clearly the wrong example as Amaziah/Uzziah clearly received his leprosy as an act of divine judgment."
Even though I made mistakes in my devotional below. I'm leaving the devotional up; I think it would be wrong to bury my error but also wrong to leave it and hope nobody else notices. The devotional as I originally wrote it is below; please be aware of my error. I apologize for the mistake --Pastor Brian]
If you’re following the schedule, you should read these chapters today: 2 Kings 15, Titus 1, Hosea 8, Psalms 123–125. Click on any of those references to see all the passages in one long page on BibleGateway. If you can’t do all the readings today, read 2 Kings 15.
Why do bad things happen to good people? That is a constant question among people. One correct answer is that we have misdefined what a “good” person is, applying a relative human-to-human standard instead of God’s standard of goodness.
Still, sometimes bad things happen to people who have been declared righteous by God. That happened to Azariah king of Judah here in 2 Kings 15:1-7. On one hand Azariah “did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father Amaziah had done” (v. 3) but despite that “The Lord afflicted the king with leprosy until the day he died…” (v. 5). The Bible here calls him a righteous king (though see verse 4), yet verse 5 says “The Lord afflicted the king with leprosy….” This suggests that God directly and intentionally leprosized Azariah. Why would God do that to a righteous king?
There are a couple of things to keep in mind here in answer to this question. The first is that God is sovereign meaning he rules over creation like a king. As king of all created things, God has the power to do anything. He can do things by actively causing them to happen. But, since God knows all things, he also passively wills things to happen by not preventing them from happening though he knows they will happen. It is possible that the author of 2 Kings has this latter sense in mind. Somewhere in his life, King Azariah came into contact with a leper or he contracted that disease some other way. God knew this would happen and could have prevented it, but did not. In that sense, he “afflicted the king with leprosy” by allowing it to happen. Because there is no reason given in 2 Kings 15 to explain why “the Lord afflicted the king with leprosy,” it seems likely to me that God allowed him to be afflicted rather than directly causing him to be afflicted.
My explanation, however, does not answer the why question. The ultimate answer is that we live in a fallen world. Every disease, every problem, every hardship, every bit of pain and anguish that happens in life is ultimately traceable to the fall. Since we are not told that Amaziah contracted leprosy as a consequence of his own sin or because it fit into some larger plan of God, it seems that God allowed it to come into his life because the fall affects all of us. In other words, the effects of the fall are felt by us all—in different ways and to different degrees, yes, but none of us is excepted or exempted. I think this means that God allows the affects of the fall to be distributed in ways that appear to be “random” to us. They are not random in the sense that they are outside of God’s knowledge or his will or his control but they seem random because there is no guided, intelligent cause that makes them happen. Instead, they happen due to genetic mutations or the laws of physics or human negligence or whatever. God knew that a child would be born disabled, for instance, but that’s what happens in a fallen world so he allowed it to happen. It wasn’t the child’s fault or the parent’s fault; it is the painful side effect of our rebellion against God. I’m sure there are times when God steps in to prevent some accident or some mutation or to keep someone from contracting a disease, but most of the time, it seems, he lets the affects of sin run its course. It is unfortunate that a good king like Amaziah contracted leprosy; God could have prevented it, but he chose not to do so. The same is true when a good person, a godly person, a person whose faith is in Christ, contracts Alzheimer’s or dies in a car accident or has a stroke or a heart attack at an age where it is unexpected.
God allows these things to happen so that we will trust him. We can learn to trust him in tragic times that we don’t understand but we can also learn to trust him for a world where sin is eradicated and the effects of the fall no longer oppress us. Don’t be discouraged or lose faith when some “random” event falls into your life; instead, look to God for help and wait for his coming deliverance in the kingdom of Christ.
Now for your thoughts: What stood out in your Bible reading for today? What questions do you have about what you read? What are your thoughts about what I wrote above? Post them in the comments below or on our Facebook page. And, feel free to answer and interact with the questions and comments of others. Have a great day; we’ll talk scripture again tomorrow.