“For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him. You have done foolishly in this, for from now on you will have wars.””
Michael Patton is rethinking 2 Chronicles 16:9 and I think he has a point. After explaining the historical context (which is really important in this case) his main point is as follows:
When I look at this verse, I think that if I have a united heart toward God, he is going to give me something special. Translation: he is going to make sure the bills are paid, my kids are obedient, my job is enjoyable, my car never breaks down, lots of people show up to learn at the Credo House, and I don’t get sick right before the filming of a new session of the Church History Boot camp (coming soon). But it is virtually impossible to take this passage this way for two reasons:
1. Look at what happens to Hanani: He gets thrown into the stocks. End of story. Nothing more said about him. He followed the Lord. He brought the message of what seemed to be prosperity for those who truly follow the Lord with their whole heart, and he gets thrown in prison for it. What gives? I can see his son Jehu, along with his wife, trying to figure out what happened to him. Why didn’t he return home for dinner? Because he was in prison. Maybe for the rest of his life. What does that tell us about those whom the Lord blesses?
Do you want in?
2. The word used here is obviously not “blesses”, well, not in the way we think of it. The New American Standard puts it this way: “For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His” (emphasis mine). But the word that translates “strongly support” may be better translated “encourage” or “strengthen.” In this case, God does not lead us out of the trouble, but through the trouble. Those that are completely his are not guaranteed a safe ride in this life, but encouragement through the difficulties.
Hanani was in prison. Hanani’s heart was completely the Lord’s. But I imagine that Hanani was strengthened in prison by the Lord. So much so that his son was encouraged to follow in his father’s footsteps and opt for the same career. Can you believe that?
What does this mean for us? Quite a bit. There are those of you out there who have done what Hanani did. You have taken the risk and followed the Lord. You have stayed in a hard marriage, kept your integrity in a business deal, took a step of faith and went to seminary, started a Sunday Schoo class, or said what is difficult to hear a dear friend. You expected the Lord to bless you. However, you find yourself in prison. Your marriage is worse than ever, you lost your business due to the deal, no churches will hire you after seminsry, no one showed up to your Sunday School class, or you lost your best friend forever. What is up with that?
The Lord is here to strengthen and encourage those whose hearts are completely devoted to him. He is under no obligation to make things “work out” the way we often want. He is under no obligation to keep us from pain and suffering. His eyes move to and fro about the earth look to see if you are completely devoted to him so that he may be able to take you through these difficulties and know that you will not jump ship.
Take the time to read the rest and chew on it.