The Saddest Obituary

I have been reading my way through the history of Israel, and what a rocky history it is! The cycle is vivid and depressing. Rejection of God, tragedy, exile, repentance, restitution. Over and over again.  This verse in 2 Chronicles 21:20 really struck me, “No one was sorry when he (Jehoram) died…” Wow! That has to be the saddest epitaph ever! No one mourned! The king had died, and the people were relieved.  They did not build a great funeral fire in his honor; nor did they bury him in the royal cemetery!

What kind of life leads to that tragic of an end? Verse 6 sheds some light, “Jehoram did what was evil in the Lord’s sight….”  This king rejected the God of his father David and refused the warnings of the prophets. He chose instead to marry into Ahab’s wicked family, to build pagan shrines, and to encourage the people of Judah to prostitute themselves before false gods. The people of Judah had suffered the attacks of their enemies through out his reign. Jehoram’s stubborn refusal to turn to the Lord even after God’s judgement fell upon him, resulted in an agonizing end. What a wrecked life! And what a wretched death.

Our “enlightened” culture loves to offer answers for the  existential question, “What is the true meaning of life?” Some answers suggest we find fulfillment in life by loving and serving others. While others suggest that the true meaning of life rests in accepting our finite existence and enjoying what we have while we have it. Some argue that meaning is meaningless. Others proclaim that each person has to find their own journey to true meaning. So many voices shouting so much junk!

Good literature often makes a point by showing the counterpoint and I think that is exactly what this Old Testament story does for us in regard to the meaning of life. Jehoram’s life and death were tragic, because he sought meaning where it does not exist. He defied his creator and attempted to create his own “meaning.”  No God–no meaning. Oh, how familiar this sounds! And the result–tragedy in life and death. Jehoram’s story stands as a stark warning and a brilliant reminder that without God, life truly is meaningless, and death is a solitary affair.

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