Friday, April 8, 2016

Prophets And Kings, Day 61. War With Moab, Part 1

Prophets And Kings
Day 61
War With Moab
Part 1

Today some subjects of Israel, the people of Moab, decide to rebel against Israel and King Joram.

2 Kings 3:1-20
Joram son of Ahab became king of Israel in Samaria in the eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, and he reigned twelve years. He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, but not as his father and mother had done. He got rid of the sacred stone of Baal that his father had made. Nevertheless he clung to the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit; he did not turn away from them." (2 Kings 3:1-3) Joram rejects Baal, the god his mother Jezebel brought into the nation when she married Ahab. For whatever reason, which may be political rather than religious, Joram removed the Baal stone and reverted back to the form of idolatry Jeroboam set up. This was the worship of the golden calves. In a sense, Jeroboam intended these to be symbolic of the Lord so the people wouldn't go up to Jerusalem to worship in Judah's territory. But the making of idols and images is a sin and the worship of anything in addition to the Lord is a sin. It's a slippery slope when making an image to represent God because it leads people to fall headlong into idolatry. Joram may have thought he was getting rid of Baal and getting back to Israel's roots but he was far from the truth. 

"Now Mesha king of Moab raised sheep, and he had to pay the king of Israel a tribute of a hundred thousand lambs and the wool of a hundred thousand rams. But after Ahab died, the king of Moab rebelled against the king of Israel." (2 Kings 3:4-5) With a new king on the throne, one possibly less powerful than Ahab, Mesha decides now is the time to try and get out from under Israel's rule.

"So at that time King Joram set out from Samaria and mobilized all Israel. He also sent this message to Jehoshaphat king of Judah: 'The king of Moab has rebelled against me. Will you go with me to fight against Moab?'" (2 Kings 3:7a) Some scholars believe we find the clue here as to why Joram rid the land of visible monuments to Baal. He may have wanted to appear godly enough to impress Jehoshaphat to make an alliance with him. During Ahab's lifetime, Jehoshaphat allied himself with him against Ben-Hadad of Aram, and the Lord was displeased with the alliance because Ahab was such an ungodly man. 

Because the reigns of the kings of Judah and Israel overlap, we will often find a story from the life of a king whose death we have already studied. Jehoshaphat reigned twenty-five years and his reign coincided with the reigns of the Israelite kings Ahab, Ahaziah, and now Joram. So even though we studied his death in 1st Kings, this story in 2nd Kings goes back in time a bit and tells us a story that involves him. Jehoshaphat agrees to ally himself with Joram, "'I will go with you,' he replied. 'I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses.'" (2 Kings 3:7b)

Joram, being a younger and more inexperienced king, seeks Jehoshaphat's advice, "'By what route shall we attack?' 'Through the Desert of Edom,' he replied." (2 Kings 3:8)

"So the king of Israel set out with the king of Judah and the king of Edom." (2 Kings 3:9a) Because the author told us at the end of 1st Kings that Edom had no king during this time, Bible scholars believe the king referred to here is a man that Judah has set in charge over Edom. We recall that Jehoshaphat and Ahab attempted to build a navy of ships in Edom because it was a territory subject to Judah then. This would help explain why Jehoshaphat believes taking a roundabout route through Edom is the best way to approach Moab: because he has the governmental right to use that territory as he pleases.

"After a roundabout march of seven days, the army had no more water for themselves or for the animals with them." (2 Kings 3:9) Water in the desert is like the blood in our veins: without it, no one can live. Because they chose a long route in order to surprise their enemy from an unexpected direction, they can't carry enough water with them for the journey and must depend on finding water as they go. But there is no water. 

"'What!,' exclaimed the king of Israel. 'Has the Lord called us three kings together only to deliver us into the hands of Moab?'" (2 Kings 3:10) This is an interesting statement because the author has already told us that Joram is a man who sins in the eyes of the Lord. First of all, his words indicate he has put his trust in the Lord, a thing we know is not true. Did he say this to impress the godly Jehoshaphat and the man over the territory of Edom? Second, when he says the Lord called the three of them together, he's saying they have undertaken this battle in God's will and at God's instruction, as if Joram spent time in prayer first. I highly doubt he did this. Third, Joram is putting the blame on God for their troubles, maybe out of a guilty conscience, maybe because he doesn't really trust or honor the Lord. It's a bit hypocritical to set out on a path without consulting the Lord and then blame Him for the outcome. In addition, I wonder if Joram isn't also blaming the godly Jehoshaphat for suggesting this route, as if he should have known better. 

In the midst of this trouble, finger-pointing, and despair, Jehoshaphat is the voice of reason, "But Jehoshaphat asked, 'Is there no prophet of the Lord here, through whom we may inquire of the Lord?'" (2 Kings 3:11a)

Joram doesn't seem to know or else doesn't want to seek a prophet, and so one of his officers speaks up. "An officer of the king of Israel answered, 'Elisha son of Shaphat is here. He used to pour water on the hands of Elijah.'" (2 Kings 3:11b) The officer is saying, "Elisha the prophet is here. He was the servant of the prophet Elijah." The pouring of the water indicates that this student of Elijah was of humble character, performing the duties of a servant, just as Christ performed the duties of a servant by washing the disciples' feet. Before we can lead, we must learn to serve. 

Jehoshaphat knows that any student of Elijah must be a good man or else Elijah wouldn't have chosen him. "Jehoshaphat said, 'The word of the Lord is with him.' So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat and the king of Edom went down to him." (2 Kings 3:12)

Elisha is well aware of the wickedness in the heart of King Joram. When the three men come to him, he has scathing words for the king of Israel. "Elisha said to the king of Israel, 'Why do you want to involve me? Go to the prophets of your father and the prophets of your mother.'" (2 Kings 3:13a) He says something like, "You haven't sought the word of the Lord before today. Why seek Him now just because you are in trouble? Why don't you go to the prophets of Baal instead, the prophets your father Ahab and your mother Jezebel revered?" 

"'No,' the king of Israel answered, 'because it was the Lord who called us three kings together to deliver us into the hands of Moab.'" (2 Kings 3:13b) Joram seems to feel their current trouble is some kind of punishment from God. Maybe it's because he knows he's a sinner. Maybe he just feels like blaming God. Either way, if the trouble is from the Lord, he feels their only help is from the Lord. In his heart it's likely he has bought into the pagan belief that there are multiple gods in charge of various aspects of life. If the God of Israel has brought this trouble, then it's the favor of the God of Israel they must seek. If the God of Israel has brought this trouble, he sees no point in appealing to Baal.

"Elisha said, 'As surely as the Lord Almighty lives, whom I serve, if I did not have respect for the presence of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, I would not pay any attention to you. But now bring me a harpist.'" (2 Kings 3:14-15a) Elisha is no respecter of persons, just as the Lord is no respecter of persons. It means nothing to Elisha that Joram is king of Israel because Joram is an ungodly man. But because the godly king of Judah is with him, Elisha will give assistance. 

In our study of Genesis, we made note of the fact that God rescued Lot from Sodom not because of Lot's righteousness but because of Abraham's. In truth, Lot wanted to live a life that straddled the fence. He wanted to retain his belief in God while blending in with an ungodly community. But because Abraham honored the Lord and made intercessory prayer on behalf of his nephew, God brought Lot out safely. We must never underestimate the value of our prayers on behalf of others. "The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." (James 5:16b) We have loved ones who are not in Christ. We have friends and neighbors and co-workers who are not in Christ. The prayers of God's children are powerful and effective and we mustn't give up.

I love it that Elisha uses music today while he seeks a word from God. Music speaks to me spiritually. Listening to Christian music lifts my spirit and puts me in the right frame of mind. Isn't it nice to know that Elisha felt the same way? "While the harpist was playing, the hand of the Lord came on Elisha and he said, 'This is what the Lord says: 'I will fill this valley with pools of water. For this is what the Lord says: You will see neither wind nor rain, yet this valley will be filled with water, and you, your cattle and your other animals will drink. This is an easy thing in the eyes of the Lord; He will also deliver Moab into your hands. You will overthrow every fortified city and every major town. You will cut down every tree, stop up all the springs, and ruin every good field with stones.'" (2 Kings 3:15b-19) This is wonderful news. The Lord is not only going to solve the urgent problem of the lack of water but He's also going to solve the national problem of the uprising of Moab.

"This is an easy thing in the eyes of the Lord." I love this verse! He's about to fill a dry desert valley with water and it's an easy thing for Him. Sometimes our hearts and souls feel like a dry desert valley. We get weighted down by our cares. We need the refreshment of the cool water of the Spirit. And when we go to the Lord for revival in our spirit, it's an easy thing for Him, we can be sure of that.

"The next morning, about the time for offering the sacrifice, there it was---water flowing from the direction of Edom! And the land was filled with water." (2 Kings 3:20) What a faith strengthening experience this was for the men. If God can fill the valley with water, He can also give them victory over their enemy. It was the Lord's will for Moab to remain subject to Israel, even though during the time period of today's passage Israel had fallen into idolatry. But Moab had been in idolatry for many generations and it was God's will to have them be subject to His children He brought out of Egypt. Though Moab will not repent, God's own Son will be a descendant of Ruth, a woman of Moab, who will marry Boaz and convert to the faith. This too is an easy thing in the eyes of the Lord. No matter how many generations of sin there has been in a family, He is still able to change hearts and lives. No matter what our background, no matter what our past, if we are willing to heed the voice of the Lord, He can do great things in our lives and in the generations to come.

Today, if you are feeling like a dry desert in your spirit, it's an easy thing for the Lord to refresh you. We all go through periods of time when we feel down or maybe just not as close to Lord. The only solution is to immerse ourselves in Him, in His holy word and in prayer and in listening to music that lifts up His name. I pray that we all are refreshed in the Lord today.

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