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A Theological Bump Test

I used to work at a retailer which recommended a “bump test” when putting together a display of items on the sales floor. For example, if we got in a large shipment of foot baths for Christmas, we might stack them on an end cap or pallet in a prominent location. Then, just to make sure our display wouldn’t accidentally collapse on top of an unsuspecting customer, we were supposed to “bump” the display and see what happened. If everything stays in place…it passed. If everything crashed to the ground…you had to start over.

Some passages of Scripture are a sort of theological bump test. If we are paying attention as we read our Bibles, you will sometimes come across passages that bump up against our cherished over-simplifications of the truth. One such passage is 2 Kings 13:1-9. Here we find a story that doesn’t seem to fit so many things we have been “taught” to believe.

In this passage of Scripture we find a wicked man making a selfish prayer…and God hears him and answers his prayer. “Jehoahaz…became king over Israel…and he did evil in the sight of the Lord.” He was a wicked man. And the Lord was angry and “delivered them into the hand of Hazel king of Syria (2 Kings 13:3).” And then listen carefully: “So Jehoahaz pleaded with the Lord, and the Lord listened to him…Then the Lord gave Israel a deliverer…” (2 Kings 13:4,5).

A wicked man, makes a selfish prayer, and God hears him and answers that prayer.

Wait. What just happened? That just doesn’t sound right.

Bump test.

Does God hear the prayers of wicked men? We’ve been taught to say “no.” Will God give us what we pray selfishly for? Again, we’ve been taught to say no.

But we were taught wrong. Or at least, such teaching failed to appreciate some important distinctions.

It is true that God is not pleased with the selfish prayers of wicked men. He doesn’t delight in them. But He DOES hear them. And sometimes…He answers them!

The lesson we are to bear in mind here is that while God is under no obligation to answer any man’s prayers, He sometimes actually answers the prayers of sinners, unbelievers and enemies. And when He does so, men are even more accountable to repent. If you have made a selfish request to God, and He answered you, then you owe Him even more than before your repentance and holiness of life.

Sadly, in the case of Jehoahaz, God’s mercy and goodness did not lead him to repentance. “Nevertheless they did not depart from the sins of the house of Jeroboam…but walked in them (2 Kings 13:6).”

What about you? Has God mercifully heard a desperation prayer for help from your lips and delivered you in your time of need? If so, He heard your prayer. He answered your prayer. What have you done about that? Has His goodness led you to repent? Or have you simply taken His goodness for granted and forgotten your promise to return to the Lord?

And Christian – have your or I ever said something like “God never hears the prayers of sinners.”? Is that really an appropriate way to express the truth? And if He never heard the prayers of a sinner…where would you and I be today?

Photo by Tungsten Rising on Unsplash

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