An imaginative retelling of a true story
Longstanding tradition in our land gives the sons of the kings the right to marry the daughters of the priests. I do not know why it is so, or why my father Zechariah could not protect me from this unhappy life. He was a man of God, wise and possessing understanding in the visions of God, and I was raised to love and honor God from my earliest days. By the time I was a young woman, I lived a set-apart life, dedicated to the worship and adoration of God, and I dreamed of having a man at my side someday who would share that godly vision.
Alas! It was not to be. My husband was a pagan, an idolater, one who surpassed all the deeds of his fathers in wickedness and abhorrent acts. Even before he became king, I knew his character. Everyone did. He made no pretense of following God's law. But he was the king's son, and he must have his way. So when he took a fancy to me, I was not allowed to have a say in the matter.
"How could God do this to me?" you might wonder. But I never doubted Him. I never strayed from following Him. I purposed in my heart that my life would be as pure and wholeheartedly dedicated to Him as if He had given me a godly man whom I loved.
When my precious little son came along, I purposed to train him up, too. All the other wives and concubines in the palace had varying views on how to raise their children, but none cared as much as I did about training my son in the ways of the Lord. I had him read the law over and over again. I taught him God's words. And we prayed. Oh, how we prayed.
Imagine how heart-wrenching my prayers were when my husband the king announced that he was going to select one of his sons to pass through the fire to a strange god. What if it should be mine? Oh how I prayed! But God spared his life, and another poor boy was murdered in the satanic ritual.
Imagine how it grieved me to see my husband's time constantly consumed with building altars under every green tree and in every high place. He wasted so much time and so much good livestock sacrificing to gods of wood and stone who can neither see nor hear nor help anyone. The multiplication of false prophets and false priests further sent the country spiraling into rottenness, and I prayed for God to send a wake-up call.
He did. War.
Neighboring nations, even those who were historically friendly, began to invade and conquer our territory. But instead of turning to the Lord of battle, my husband turned to dreaded kings in distant territories, hiring them to counterattack. He stripped the gold from the house of the Lord in order to pay for this, impoverishing our land and desecrating our holy temple.
My son and I continued to trust in God, even when the king did foolish and dangerous things, pushing his luck, crossing the line again and again. Once he went to another country and saw their altar. Delighted with its elaborate construction, he made a pattern of it and commanded the priest to construct an identical one in our land. Then he transferred all the temple worship to this great altar, while treating the ancient and beautiful temple equipment with callous dishonor.
How I trembled lest my son should turn and follow his father's ways! I never ceased to pray, and I was gratified at little signs that my son had clear spiritual insight and a steady faithfulness to God in the midst of everything.
I don't know what it was that sealed my son's determination and resolve to follow God, but perhaps it was through seeing the majesty of God at work through his servant Oded.
There was war with our brother-nation. Their kings had often been merciful, but not this one. In a power-hungry quest for plunder and more territory, he invaded and killed a hundred and twenty thousand of our soldiers in one day. Our valiant men fell because we had departed from God.
Their most audacious mighties invaded right into the heart of our defense, and killed one of the king's sons, the governor of the house, and the second-in-command of the kingdom.
Not content with slaughter, the enemy king took two hundred thousand captives--women, sons, and daughters, and carried away much spoil with them to their capital city.
That was a dark day. The whole land mourned. Those who feared God fell on their faces before Him and implored His favor and kindness. My husband remained unmoved.
What loss! What grief! What rupture of families--men killed, and their wives and children removed to a foreign land, never to be seen again! And God angry with us! How could we hope to intercede for their lives? Yet we did.
And a prophet of the Lord was there, whose name was Oded, and he went out before the host that came into the capital city. He prophesied unto them, and those who heard it recorded the words that he spoke. He boldly commanded them to return the captives.
Then a strange thing happened. It was as if the fear of God entered into the elders of the city. The rose up and said, "Do not bring the captives in here, for whereas we have offended against the Lord already, ye intend to add more to our sins and to our trespass: for our trespass is great."
So the armed men left the captives and the spoil before the princes and all the congregation.
Imagine our surprise, then, when the captives came walking back home--fed, clothed, and even mounted on donkeys if they were feeble! Imagine the jubilation and astonishment that spread from house to house.
My son and I rejoiced to see our people set free, and our faith was strengthened in the power of God to do the impossible.
I think the last straw was when my husband shut the doors of the house of the Lord. Did he resent my devotion? Did he jealously regard my wholehearted love to God, a love that my husband knew he would never share? Perhaps it wasn't personal and was merely another in his endless litany of atrocities, but it certainly affected me personally--and every true worshiper in Jerusalem.
So maybe that's why when my son Hezekiah became king, he made it his first act of business. He didn't waste any time. On the first day of the first month of his reign, he opened the doors of the house of the Lord, and repaired them.
Ah, what joy! He turned completely away from the ways of his father and reversed all his work. He walked in God's ways, kept the feasts, and trusted in the Lord to deliver him from his enemies. God blessed him and rewarded him and spoke very highly of him.
So you see--my marriage, my grief, my pain all had a purpose. I don't look at my suffering and say "why"; I look at the privilege of being allowed to participate in building a man of God whom all of history remembers.
Me? I'm only remembered by, "And his mother's name was Abi, the daughter of Zechariah." But I think that says it all.
Inspired by 1 Kings 16:1-20, 18:1-8, 2 Chronicles 26:5, 28:1-27, and 29:1-3.