Sunday, March 6, 2016

Prophets And Kings, Day 35. Elah King Of Israel

Prophets And Kings
Day 35
Elah King Of Israel

Baasha, the man who became king by assassination, haves died and hims son Elah sits on the throne.

1 KINGS 16:8-14
"In the twenty-sixth year of Asa king of Judah, Elah son of Baasha became king of Israel, and he reigned in Tirzah two years." (1 Kings 16:8) This is another king who will not enjoy a long reign.

"Zimri, one of his officials, who had command of half his chariots, plotted against him. Elah was in Tirzah at the time, getting drunk in the home of Arza, the palace administrator at Tirzah." (1 Kings 16:9) Although the prophet Jehu had prophesied an end to the house of Baasha, Elah is unconcerned. He's unaware that a plot is against him. He's busy carousing with his friend Arza while judgment is at the door. 

Elah's fate on this evening reminds me of another king who didn't believe the prophecy against him and his nation. This is Belshazzar, king of Babylon, who is thought to be a grandson or other close relation to Nebuchadnezzar. (In some translations of the Bible he is called Nebuchadnezzar's son, just as royal descendants of David are sometimes called David's sons even though they aren't literally his sons. Belshazzar's father was Nabonidus and they co-reigned together, Nabonidus being more of a military man than a political man. The exact lineage of Belshazzar is not clear enough for scholars to agree on it, but he had to have been a very close descendant of Nebuchadnezzar to be able to claim he is a "son".) On the evening of his downfall, we find in Chapter 5 of the book of Daniel that he was giving a wild party, even going so far as to bring in the sacred vessels that had been stolen from the temple at Jerusalem so his guests could drink wine from them. While they drank from the consecrated cups, they mocked the God of Israel by making toasts to their pagan gods. This is when the handwriting appeared on the wall and Daniel was called in to interpret it. Daniel informed Belshazzar that his kingdom was about to fall because he did not take heed to the way God had humbled Nebuchadnezzar for his pride, "But you, Belshazzar, his son, have not humbled yourself, though you knew all this. Instead you have set yourself up against the Lord of heaven." (Daniel 5:22-23a) The same could be said of King Elah. He knew the prophecy against his father's house and didn't humble himself and turn to the Lord. He didn't repent of the idolatry of his family and of the nation. Instead he continued pridefully on in his ways, setting himself up against the Lord of heaven.

Belshazzar didn't repent at the words of Daniel and so, "That very night Belshazzar, king of the Babylonians, was slain, and Darius the Mede took over the kingdom, at the age of sixty-two." (Daniel 5:30-31. The same fate is about to befall Elah, "Zimri came in, struck him down and killed him in the twenty-seventh year of Asa king of Judah. Then he succeeded him as king." (1 Kings 16:10)

"As soon as he began to reign and was seated on the throne, he killed off Baasha's whole family. He did not spare a single male, whether relative or friend. So Zimri destroyed the whole family of Baasha, in accordance with the word of the Lord spoken against Baasha through the prophet Jehu---because of all the sins Baasha and his son Elah had committed and had caused Israel to commit, so that they aroused the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel, by their worthless idols." (1 Kings 16:11-13) It was common in ancient times for the new ruling dynasty to kill all the males of the old dynasty so none of them could lead an uprising and claim the throne rightfully belonged to them. King David, however, is a notable exception to this, because instead of wiping out the family of King Saul he asked if there were any members of the family left that he could honor. Because of his friendship with Jonathan and his promises to him, David wanted to do good to the remains of the family of Saul. When a king knows he is divinely appointed to the throne by God, there's no room for paranoia about the former king's descendants. David didn't feel threatened by any remaining men of Saul's dynasty. No king of Israel or Judah who reigned by God's will needed to be paranoid about anyone taking the throne, as long as they walked in the Lord's ways. 

I like the way the author uses the word "worthless" when speaking of Israel's idols. Where are Elah's idols when his rival Zimri comes to kill him? Are they any help to him at all? It's no use to cry out to objects carved of wood or cast in bronze or plated with gold. They have no ears to hear with. They have no eyes to see with. They can no more help Elah than a tree standing in the forest or a gold coin being melted on the fire. Judgment is falling because the house of Baasha did not repent and their judgment is a sign to the nation that idolatry itself will be judged if the people do not repent. But they will not listen. Up to the time of the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah they still will not listen and so the Lord will say, "Therefore I will teach them---this time I will teach them My power and might. Then they will know that My name is the Lord." (Jeremiah 16:21)

The Lord is angered by our idols more for our sake than for His, in my opinion. The Lord fears no glory being taken from Him, for He is Almighty God, the Creator of all things, the King who reigns forever. Who can wrest anything from His hand? But I think He is angry for our sake because He knows that putting anyone or anything ahead of Him will lead to disaster for us. The Lord was angry that the kings of Israel led the citizens into hurtful practices. The Lord was angry that the people clung to their idols even though He sent many prophets over hundreds of years to plead with them to change their ways. The Lord is angry today when we cast Him aside to run after worldly things. We are rejecting Him at our own peril because our idols are worthless, whether they be idols of wealth or relationships or status or sex or substances. Every day I grow more concerned about the United States and how far behind we have left the principles of the Lord. I fear He will have to teach us His power and might so we will know His name is the Lord. What good will our money or status do us then? What use will our possessions be to us? What use will our excessive lifestyles of drinking or drugs or gluttony be to us? They didn't help King Elah or King Belshazzar. "As for the other events of Elah's reign, and all he did, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Israel?" (1 Kings 16:14)

I don't know who will win our presidential election this year but I have to admit I'm not especially fond of any of the candidates. I don't know whether we will end up better off or worse off in the next administration. But the best thing we can do is appeal to the only King who matters, the One who sits on the only throne that matters, just as the prophets of old did. The United States very well may have to go through a time of discipline and chastisement. But we can follow the example of the prophets, appealing to the Lord on behalf of those who are still His, asking Him to remember His eternal covenant with those who are called by His name. 

We will close today in prayer for our nation. "Almighty God, our Father, we ask Your mercy on our nation. You still have those here who have never bowed the knee to Baal. For the sake of those who are called by Your name, who are made whole by the blood of Your dear Son, preserve and protect our land. Restore us, Lord. Bring a spirit of revival on our nation such as has never been seen before. We humble ourselves before You and admit that we have sinned. We have lost ground and are daily losing our rights because we are not standing firm enough for Your name and for Your holy word. Lord, You promise us that if we humble ourselves and seek Your face and turn from wickedness, You will hear our prayers and forgive our sins and heal our land. Lord, we believe only You can truly make America great again and we appeal to You for the sake of those who are Yours. On behalf of all who are consecrated to You by Christ, we plead the blood of Christ over the United States and over its government. Because You have those here who have not denied Your name, revive and restore us. Help us to be a nation that honors You. Lord, we cast down our idols and every worthless thing that has come between us and You. We humble ourselves and seek Your face. May Your mercy shine on us. Remember Your covenant with those who are Yours in Christ. We ask these things in the name of the Lord Jesus and for His honor and glory. Amen!"

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