II Kings 14 tells a story which is hard for many of us to put in our “box”, theologically speaking. It relates how Jeroboam II came to reign over the northern tribes of Israel. Jeroboam was named for the infamous king who split Israel from Judah, and whose deviant religious practices influenced generations to come. Jeroboam lived “down” to his namesake! 14:24 says “He did evil in the sight of the Lord.” But it is the story of the prosperity of his reign which is difficult to deal with.
Understanding the evil of the reign of Jeroboam II, one might think that God would punish him, and the people of the nation who were following his leadership. But the opposite is true! Verse 25 says that Jonah the prophet actually prophesied that Jeroboam would attain victories, and restore the border of the land, which he did. Verse 27 even says that “(God) saved them by the hand of Jeroboam the son of Joash.”
This leaves one wondering: why would God do such a thing? Why would He allow a wicked king to prosper, and the land to be restored under his reign? It would make more “sense” that He would allow the land to suffer under the evil king, and restore it under the reign of someone more righteous. But He didn’t.
We face similar questions in our day, don’t we? Why does God allow wicked leaders to prosper? Why would He let ungodly people be elected to office, and apparently succeed? Why do so many compromising pastors and churches flourish, while others who seem to be more godly struggle?
One hint is found in verse 26, where it says that God “saw the affliction of Israel, which was very bitter.” He did have compassion on His people, even if they were led by an evil ruler at that time. The success Jeroboam experienced was due more to the greatness of God’s compassion and grace for His people, than His “approval” of the wicked king’s actions.
One truth this chapter reinforces: material and popular “prosperity” is not always a sign of God’s favor and approval. The presence of worldly “success” does not necessarily signify God’s blessing — and the lack of it does not indicate His disapproval — although it is usually very difficult for those of us without great faith to perceive it any other way!
Most of us would likely say that blessing the reign of the “Jeroboam’s” of this world is not the course of action WE would take — but we need to add to our considerations that we are not God. And He does not always work in the neat formulas and in the little boxes we like to construct for Him!