A couple of years ago, my wife and I got into the habit of reading one chapter of the Bible together every night before going to bed. We started at the beginning (always a good place to start) and have been slowly working our way through the books of the Bible in sequential order. At times, the chapters have been engrossing or enlightening, and at other times, tedious (the book of Numbers is called so for a reason), or even gruesome (some of the sacrificial rituals and some of the political conflicts are described in quite graphic detail!). But recently, six short words really caught my attention, and prompted me to go back, re-read, and compare to some other passages.
The context of this particular passage is a record of the history of the kings of Israel, found primarily in 1 and 2 Kings, and 1 and 2 Chronicles. These histories, which serve as dual accounts of the same events recorded in two different places, often with complementary details, follow the recorded history of the establishment of the rule of kings, in 1 and 2 Samuel. Those two books tell the stories of Samuel, Saul, and David, and describe the circumstances and events around the transition of rule by judges to rule by kings (and often reads like a soap opera). The books of Kings and Chronicles then begin with the reign of Solomon, followed by the division of the nation of Israel into the north and south kingdoms, and trace the lineage of leadership through many kings, until eventually both kingdoms are captured and taken into exile. Along the way, we read a continuing saga of good and bad rulers (more bad than good); “this one did was right in the eyes of God,” or “that one did what was evil,” and so on, back and forth, for a few hundred years.
It was in this setting, nearing the end of the rule of the kings, that I came across a particular passage – 2 Chronicles 21 – where we learn about he reign of King Jehoram. We only know a few details about his leadership –that he was 32 when he became king, he reigned for eight years, and “he did evil in the sight of the Lord.” As a result of his bad leadership and sinful rule, the nation was attacked and pillaged, and the Lord caused him to become sick with an incurable disease (it sounds like an extreme case of hemorrhoids; don’t believe me? Read verses 15-18.) And then, in verse 20, we read that when he died, “he departed with no one’s regret” (ESV) – and that was the phrase that caught my attention. Wow, what a statement! At 40 years old he died, having been the most powerful person in the kingdom, and no one was sorry that he was gone.
After I read this, I began to pay more particular attention to what was said about the kings and rulers at the end of their lives, and a few days later I read another passage that was a complete contrast to Jehoram. This one, 2 Chronicles 24, described the rule of King Joash, and the priest who served as his counselor and guide (since Joash was only 7 when he became king). Joash and Jehoida together were responsible for repairing the temple of God and prompting a spiritual revival. When Jehoida finally died, we read in verse 16 that “they buried him in the city of David among the kings, because he had done good in Israel, and toward God and his house.” You could even say that he fulfilled the great commandments, as they were stated by Jesus – to love God and to love people. Now, that’s a different legacy!
The contrast of the passing of these two men was a vivid lesson and reminder to me about the kind of legacy I will leave behind in my leadership. It prompted me to ask myself: will I depart to no one’s regret, or will I be remembered well because of the good that I have done? And it’s the same question I would ask of you. What kind of legacy will you leave behind?, These two men, with opposite responses to their deaths, teach us a valuable lesson for our own leadership. Become intentional about leadership that reflects goodness, reflects love for God, and reflects love for others. Whatever you do, don’t be a regrettable leader.