We had three readings from the Book of Kings this week at Mass. A hard book to read because, though it’s a history of the kings who succeed King David, it’s not history as we know it. For one thing, it’s clearly biased towards the kings of Judea and antagonistic to the kings of Israel, the northern kingdom.
Besides, kings are judged by their loyalty to God, by how they listen to the prophets and how they promote Jewish worship, particularly temple worship. It’s not building programs and political success that count; it’s listening to prophets like Elijah, Elisha and Isaiah.
If they don’t do this, kings are given low marks, and God sends the Assyrians, the Babylonians and other Middle Eastern powers to subjugate his people because of their evil ways.
We hear about two good kings Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of this week Hezekiah and Josiah. ( 2 Kings 17-23) Yet, today’s reading offers a caution about Josiah who restores the down-trodden temple in Jerusalem but forgets something very important. Absorbed with temple building, he seems to forget its mission.
Someone finds a copy of a book (probably parts of the Book of Deuteronomy) in the ruins of the temple and the king calls the people to come together to listen to God’s word. Before all else, the word of God points out what to do.
Today we still try to balance questions of maintenance and mission, in civil society, in the church and in our personal lives.
It’s not a matter of figuring things out by reason or going by what is or what was. The Book of Kings tells us to listen to God’s word, our living guide to the future.