“He did evil because he had not set his heart on seeking the Lord.” — 2 Chr. 12:14
Have you ever thought about what people will say when you die? The content of your eulogy, we usually think, is a description of the best days we had on earth. We tend to think that people will remember us based on all the good things we did. However, this was not the case for king Rehoboam, son of King Salomon. At the end of his life, we find in 1 Chronicles an editorial comment by the author of this historical account, his take on the life of Rehoboam; “He did evil because he had not set his heart on seeking the Lord.”
Here is what I think we can learn from this description:
When the Bible says, “he did evil”, it should suffice to conclude that this person, well, did evil and that this is clearly a bad thing. It’s already something useful to know about this king. We can safely conclude that we should make sure we don’t end up like him, and at the same time, not do the things this person did that landed him in this debacle.
The Bible, however, goes beyond this, and gives us a description of the single most important thing and characteristic of his life that led Rehoboam to obtain the tag of “evil”… the Bible says, “he did evil, because…” here is the reason why:
“… he did not set his heart on seeking the Lord.”
What your heart seeks or loves is usually what you worship, and as a result, it is also who you really are. If your heart seeks anything in a higher capacity than it does God, inevitability, it will lead to evilness since it’s only in God that we get our standard of goodness. St. Augustine said, “For when we ask whether somebody is a good person, we are not asking what he believes or hopes for, but what he loves.” So that at the end of the road the question that matters is, what is your heart seeking the most that you love the most? Notice the scripture says, “he did not set his heart…” It’s one thing to believe what you think you love or seek, it’s another thing to realize what it really is that your heart loves and seeks. Sin and evilness are expressions of our loves outside the order of the love structured in God, who is the very definition of good and love.
There are two things that we must be sure to pay attention to if we do not want to fall prey to evilness in our lives; first, you must “set your heart” and second, you must “seek the Lord”. Setting your heart is a style-of-living phrase. It is possible to “seek the Lord” without having the “heart” set to seek the Lord. Setting our hearts means that we must make sure that our whole strength, mind, and heart are set to constantly and consistently seek the ways of the Lord.
We can do things that feel like we are “seeking God” but if our hearts are not “set” on the Lord, then the things that we do are religious and shallow. For instance, we can attend church without wanting church to tend to us. We can read the Bible, and at the same time not want the Bible to read us. We can support and advertise all the social justices in the world, without wanting the ultimate Biblical justice of a holy God to carve our hearts. We can have a stance without the substance. And it sure can feel as though we are seeking and serving God, but if our hearts are not constantly and consistently positioned toward him, without exercising our hearts to constantly desire his will, without training our lives to the spiritual disciplines so that we can understand the importance of being one with God, then our worship and service to God can be shallow, and eventually lead to evilness.