Mishpatim and Shekalim
For the week of February 13, 2010 / 29 Shevat 5770
Torah: Shemot / Exodus 21:1 - 24:18 & 30:11-16
Haftarah: 2 Melachim / 2 Kings 12:1-17 &
1 Samuel 20:18-42
And Jehoash did what was right in the eyes of the LORD all his days, because Jehoiada the priest instructed him. Nevertheless, the high places were not taken away; the people continued to sacrifice and make offerings on the high places. (2 Melachim / 2 Kings 12:2,3; ESV)
The books of Melachim (English: Kings) recount the happenings of the divided kingdom of Israel and Judah. Much of what we read centers around the life of the various kings. Our Haftarah recounts the reign of King Joash, also called Jehoash. As is common when the Scriptures introduce us to a king, we are told whether or not he did right in the sight of God. Very few of the approximately forty kings of Israel and Judah are classified as good to any extent, Joash being one of them. How this is described in our reading is interesting in that the writer provides us with this disclaimer of sorts: "Nevertheless, the high places were not taken away; the people continued to sacrifice and make offerings on the high places."
There were certain kings like Joash, who did what was right for the most part and yet tolerated this significant inappropriate aspect of the life of their nation. The people had been instructed by God to perform his prescribed rituals only at the location God determined. By this time, that place was the temple in Jerusalem. These other locations, called "high places", were sometimes used for pagan worship and other times for the worship of the true God. From the way the kings are assessed by the biblical writers, it sounds as if the issue of the "high places" was secondary, yet nevertheless important. Kings like Joash did what was good. Nevertheless, their reluctance to remove the "high places" to some extent undermined the good they were otherwise seeking to do.
We see by this that God seems to have some toleration for the inaccurate ways in which we relate to him. There are some aspects of inaccurate spirituality that he puts up with. Nevertheless, just because he tolerates them doesn't mean that we shouldn't address them.
Among our "high places" today are all sorts of traditional and cultural expressions of worship that have great importance to us, but were never sanctioned by God. He puts up with them, but, nevertheless, would prefer that we remove them. We preserve our "high places" to our own detriment. We may be technically doing what is right in the sight of God, yet at the same time, there hangs over us a significant "nevertheless." How much better off we would be if we no longer tolerate our "high places" and would not have to hear God say about us, "nevertheless".
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