I’m sure you’ve seen the phenomenon before. You’re sitting there watching a baseball game on TV when all of a sudden a large sign pops up in the stands behind the batter’s box reading, “JOHN 3:16.” It’s a well-known technique of stealth evangelism and quick-strike Gospel proclamation that’s been around for decades at various televised sporting events. As soon as that sign appears, no doubt thousands of unsaved viewers are sent scrambling for a Bible to see what the hubbub is all about.
But do they really?
It makes me wonder what would happen if someone decided to really shake things up by holding a sign that read (for no particular reason), “HABAKKUK 3:8.” Hoo, boy, I bet a good number of folks would be suddenly Googling THAT peculiar reference on their smartphones — just to get some sort of informational closure. A “John 3:16” sign? Not so much.
The fact is, most folks know the basic gist of John 3:16 because they’ve seen it constantly promoted as Christianity’s go-to catchphrase. They know it’s an advertisement slogan for Jesus as much as “Just Do It” is a pithy salute to Nike. And therein lies the problem. In some ways, “John 3:16” has become just another billboard cliché in a sea of American consumerism that has blended into the cluttered landscape as a benign symbol of conventional Christianity.
Don’t get me wrong; I like the quick spark of a succinct Bible verse. I’ve always thought highly of John 3:16. I even enjoy Acts 13:48 as an interesting follow-up. A few years back, I was waffling between a special fondness for 2 Timothy 3:16 and Ephesians 2:8. Then I had some friends who turned me on to Romans 1:16 and John 14:6.
Recently, however, I’ve zeroed in on a new favorite Bible verse to put on public display. It’s 2 Kings 11:2. Yeah, that’s right: Second Kings. It comes right after First Kings when you’re flipping past the “tedious” Old Testament to get to the cool parts about Jesus. For those silly Christians out there who have failed to memorize this pivotal verse (wink), here it is with the preceding sentence thrown in for context:
When Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she rose and destroyed all the royal offspring. But Jehosheba, the daughter of King Joram, sister of Ahaziah, took Joash the son of Ahaziah and stole him from among the king’s sons who were being put to death, and placed him and his nurse in the bedroom. So they hid him from Athaliah, and he was not put to death.
Rather obscure, isn’t it? You better believe it. Bold choice, you say? Hey, that’s just how I roll. This passage involves some heavy lifting, too. Not only will the long string of biblical names give you a charley horse in the tongue when you try to pronounce them, but there is some serious drama going on here that will probably make you cringe.
According to this passage, Grandma Athaliah wasn’t knitting scarves or baking apple pies during her golden years, was she? No, she finds out her son, King Ahaziah of Judah, has died and she decides that the only way to preserve her newfound power in the kingdom is to make sure all the king’s heirs—her own grandchildren—are also dead. So she has them massacred as only a sweet old grandmother with an unhealthy ambition can do. The only problem is, little Joash is secretly hidden away by his Aunt Jehosheba and escapes the fate of his siblings. Nice family.
So why is this my new favorite verse? Probably because it proves the point that we shouldn’t focus too much on a few popular verses to summarize our theology. I like to think that God wants us to consider every verse in the Bible with equal awe and reverence because every jot and tittle speaks to how precisely and beautifully God’s word lays out the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The fact is, 2 Kings 11:2 will never make it in any Christian’s list of top 100 favorite Bible verses. And yet, this verse reveals a profound truth that is woven throughout every verse, chapter, and page of the Scriptures: God is sovereign and His word will not return void.
All the way back in the Garden, after Adam and Eve had fallen into sin, God made the Gospel promise that one day the Seed of the woman would crush the head of that lying serpent, the Devil (Genesis 3:15). This promised Messiah was spoken of again and again throughout the history of Israel by their many prophets until the day when Jesus Christ finally appeared to fulfill that great pledge in exact and perfect detail. And God orchestrated it all. This was no happy accident.
You see, if little Joash (along with the rest of the royal seed) had been killed by his grandmother, then the messianic line would have been severed and the prophesied “shoot from Jesse’s stump” (Isaiah 11:1-11) and the “Branch of David” (Jeremiah 33:15) would have been cut off and destroyed. Yet by the power and grace of our Lord God, the helpless Joash was preserved under the bleakest of circumstances… just like Noah was miraculously preserved from the flood, David was protected from his murderous enemies, and young Jesus was safeguarded from the hands of godless King Herod until such time that He could grow up to fulfill His divine mission on earth.
Honestly, if you really look at the situation with Joash, you would be hard pressed to explain how he could have survived. How could Grandma not notice him missing among her slain grand-kids and not continue to hunt him down and finish him off? Does this apparent oversight not smack of Divine Providence and God’s unthwarted will to save His people?
As an observant preacher and friend once noted concerning this passage in Second Kings 11, the history of the world has been filled with many powerful dynasties and kingdoms that came and went because of the demise of a royal family line where heirs were never born or were struck down before they could reproduce. And yet, in the annals of Hebrew history, no such disaster befell the messianic line of Judah, despite the constant assaults against them by Satan and their enemies.
What we see in Second Kings 11, therefore, is another striking display of God’s sovereignty and power as He brings about His amazing plan of salvation and restoration through His Son, Jesus Christ and the building of His Church.
As the Scripture says in Isaiah 55:11:
So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth;
It will not return to Me empty,
Without accomplishing what I desire,
And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it.
Wow. Reading that bold assertion from Almighty God brings such blessed peace and comfort, does it not? Yep, I think I found my new favorite Bible verse to put on a big sign for the whole world to see… at least for today.