Weekly Thought: Encouragement from Every Book
2 Kings: Open Eyes to the Living God

It has often been noted that we tend to become like what we admire. We imitate what we
deem to be valuable and worthwhile; it’s only natural. And the object of our admiration tends to
be what we most often set before our eyes. What we choose to gaze upon, to behold, has great
influence on what and who we are. This fact is at the root of the danger of idolatry (the worship
of false gods). Not only does idolatry dishonor God and devalue his great holiness and worth, it
traps us by deceiving our eyes into admiring what is not ultimately valuable. We pass up the
living, active, loving God for mere objects: statues of gold, figurines of silver, or pictures on a
Some readers of the Bible might wonder why the Almighty God takes idolatry so
seriously. Why does he seem to care about that particular sin in many cases more than he does
about seemingly graver injustices like murder and violence? Is God’s jealousy and anger about
idolatry a result of mere ego or pettiness from the creator? What we may not realize is that
almost all evil and injustice finds its source in idolatry. They are inextricably linked. Why? It’s
because we become like what we admire, what we worship.
As Psalm 115:3-8 reminds us, we become like what we worship and trust in. Worship of
anything besides the true God corrupts us and makes us lifeless because we elevate what is
material and temporary over the one who is just, compassion, transcendent, and powerful over all
things. If we value lifeless images of gold and silver (or anything else for that matter) over God,
we become dull to the needs of others and we forget the just commands of God that remind us to
love God and love neighbor. When we choose gods of our own design, we neglect and reject the
fact that there is a holy standard that should govern our lives. We are implicitly saying that we

are the determiners of our own lives; we decide what is right and wrong because we decide what
our personal god is rather than submitting to a standard outside of ourselves.
All of this is at the core of what goes wrong in Israel in the book of 2 Kings, which
recounts the long and tragic demise of God’s people by recording the consistent failures of the
rulers of Israel and Judah. King after king is listed in the historical record, and what the inspired
author emphasizes is not the great military victories or accomplishments. Rather, the focus of the
text is on the wickedness or righteousness of the king in question. The major criteria for each
king is first and foremost how they responded in relation to idolatry. Did they worship the false
gods of pagan nations or did they tear down idols and high places? That’s the key question for
each king, and only a handful get a passing grade (and even the good kings usually don’t go far
enough). 2 Kings 17 records the eventual fall and destruction of Israel, the natural consequence
of so many years of sin. The chapter sums up well how God’s own people could end up at such a
low point:

“ And they did wicked things, provoking the Lord to anger, and they served idols, of which
the Lord had said to them, “You shall not do this.” Yet the Lord warned Israel and Judah by
every prophet and every seer, saying, “Turn from your evil ways and keep my commandments
and my statutes, in accordance with all the Law that I commanded your fathers, and that I sent to
you by my servants the prophets.” But they would not listen, but were stubborn, as their fathers
had been, who did not believe in the Lord their God. They despised his statutes and his covenant
that he made with their fathers and the warnings that he gave them. They went after false
idols and became false, and they followed the nations that were around them, concerning whom
the Lord had commanded them that they should not do like them. And they abandoned all the

commandments of the Lord their God, and made for themselves metal images of two calves; and
they made an Asherah and worshiped all the host of heaven and served Baal. And they burned
their sons and their daughters as offerings and used divination and omens and sold themselves to
do evil in the sight of the Lord, provoking him to anger” (2 Kings 17:11-17).

In this lengthy text, horrible atrocities and crimes of Israel are mentioned. They begin to
even burn their own children in sacrifice to false gods. How did Israel come to do the
unthinkable? How did they become like the worst of the pagans? The text clearly shows the
natural progression. It starts with idolatry and disobedience to the commandments of the Lord.
And as verse 16 says, they “went after false idols and became false.” They became like what
they worshipped. They were unloving and violent and untrustworthy because they abandoned the
God of Israel, who is the only truly loving and just one. And the book of 2 Kings vividly displays
the tragic consequences. Violence begets violence and there are constant rebellions and coups
and betrayal and soon Israel is just as bad and unjust as any other nation. Idolatry only leads to
wickedness and trouble and pain.
Yet even as Israel and Judah sets their eyes on worthless idols, the faithful God is
revealing himself through his prophets and his mighty deeds. He even delivers his undeserving
people from their enemies when they call out to him. One example of this comes in 2 Kings 19
when Hezekiah, a rare righteous king of Judah, calls out to God as they face the mighty armies of
Sennacherib. Notice his prayer:

“O Lord, the God of Israel, enthroned above the cherubim, you are the God, you alone, of all the
kingdoms of the earth; you have made heaven and earth. 16 Incline your ear, O Lord, and

hear; open your eyes, O Lord, and see; and hear the words of Sennacherib, which he has sent to
mock the living God. 17 Truly, O Lord, the kings of Assyria have laid waste the nations and their
lands 18 and have cast their gods into the fire, for they were not gods, but the work of men’s
hands, wood and stone. Therefore they were destroyed. 19 So now, O Lord our God, save us,
please, from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, O Lord, are God

Hezekiah is one of the few who recognize that the Lord is the only true God. And we
later read that God does answer this prayer by destroying the vast enemy armies in one night,
showing himself to be the only God. Yet, the irony is that Hezekiah asks God to open his eyes to
what is happening when really it is God who has been seeing everything all along. It is the
people who are blind to how God has been working. What the people really need is to open their
eyes to who God is and what he has been doing. This is illustrated on a different occasion in 2
Kings 6. In this instance, Israel is surrounded by the enemy armies of Syria and the prophet
Elisha’s servant is greatly afraid. However, Elisha knows there is no need to fear:

“And the servant said, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” He said, “Do not be afraid, for
those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then Elisha prayed and said,
“O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man,
and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha”
(2 Kings 6:15-17).

If we had open eyes to see, we would know all that God is working for us and how powerful he
truly is. We could see that he alone can help us when our idols inevitably fail and frustrate. We
could God’s incredible ability to deliver. While we set our gaze on worthless things, God is
trying to shift our eyes and open them to his goodness and glory.
If there is evil and injustice that we are concerned about in the world, rest assured that
God cares about that injustice too. What God wants us to see, though, is that all that evil occurs
when we turn our eyes from him and his standard. Only by looking upon him and his plan can
the great problems of our world (and our own hearts) be solved. The consequences of our evil
idolatry are much great than we think, and the power of God to defeat that evil is much greater
than we realize. If we fix our eyes on Jesus, we will be able to see all that God has done and is
doing to confront evil in the world, and we will begin to realize that he is transforming us into a
kind of people who reflect the goodness and beauty and truth of God’s righteous character. Lord,
open our eyes to see!

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with
unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from
one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:17-18).