It is not immediately clear, even for those with the most solid theology of creation, that this world deserves our allegiance.
If it is only a clearing in the woods where the most unaccountable and vicious violence can be visited with impunity upon the innocent, then we ought to turn our backs on it, shake its pathetic dust off our sandals, and long for another place.
The biblical narrative allows us to flirt with just this despair. Yet it pulls us back from the brink when we have drunk from its cup the bitterest juices.
This is not, we are instructed, a place for despair.
At points the space that separates us from such a dismal conclusion is reduced to a whispered—or groaned—prayer.
Jehoida, a righteous priest and son of godly stock that might have led us to anticipate just this, is murdered by the myopic Judahite king Joash and his henchmen.
He dies praying:
Then the spirit of God took possession of Zechariah son of the priest Jehoiada; he stood above the people and said to them, ‘Thus says God: Why do you transgress the commandments of the LORD, so that you cannot prosper? Because you have forsaken the LORD, he has also forsaken you.’ But they conspired against him, and by command of the king they stoned him to death in the court of the house of the LORD. King Joash did not remember the kindness that Jehoiada, Zechariah’s father, had shown him, but killed his son. As he was dying, he said, ‘May the LORD see and avenge!’
One is reminded of the sinewy, seminal, powerful narratives of the book of Genesis’ earliest chapters. There brother murders brother, with apparent impunity. Yet, we are told, in YHWH’s world innocent blood cries out from the soil into which it bleeds.
Jehoiada’s prayer banks on this truth, rendered nearly implausible by the unobstructed flow of evil events yet planted into the hearts of those who would trust YHWH.
If Jehoida’s last words are mere sentimentalism, then let us end it all now.
Yet on the possibility that this world’s Maker hears such ultimate prayers the whole universe tilts and balances.
If YHWH is deaf or simply not there, despair is the intelligent choice.
But if he hears?
A world unfolds. Joy is possible. Confidence is rational. Faith finds its place.