I used to read statements like, “Some Philistines brought Jehoshaphat gifts and silver as tribute, and the Arabs brought him flocks” (2 Chronicles 17:11) as incidental to the Biblical story. However, through careful attention to the promises of God, lines like this prove instrumental in grasping the implications of Israel’s moral progression or regression.
Ideally, Israel’s obedience and faithfulness would reflect God’s worth to the surrounding nations. Often enough, like in today’s reading, when Israel reflects God’s greatness, and so blesses the nations, they return the favor by blessing Israel. Israel is unique because of God’s work, and when God’s work meets with faith, everyone benefits, especially Israel. Unfortunately, Israel often rejects God’s plans for them and fails to bless the nations, while the nations repay the favor through war and conquest.
Life is not always so simple as “do good and blessings will flow,” or “do bad and curses will come,” but in many ways Israel’s ultimate fate, role, and outcomes were decreed to be this straightforward. God has only one plan (what theologians call God’s “secret” or “hidden” will), but the plan he has given Israel for their flourishing is one Israel often rejects (what is called God’s “revealed” will). Though we cannot know all God’s “hidden will” for us as individuals, as a church, or as a nation, God’s “revealed” will is plain. Like Israel, we do a disservice to ourselves and everyone around us when we reject God’s revealed will for us.