Friday, April 22, 2016

Prophets And Kings, Day 75. Jehoram King Of Judah, Part 1

Prophets And Kings
Day 75
Jehoram King Of Judah
Part 1

We haves been studyin things in Israel and now the author takes us to Judah and introduces us to King Jehoram, the son of Jehoshaphat.

2 CHRONICLES 21:1-11, 2 KINGS 8:17-22
We read several weeks back about the death of King Jehoshaphat of Judah and since then we have been studying events of the northern kingdom of Israel. Today the author picks back up with what's been going on in the southern kingdom of Judah. We will be looking at passages from 2nd Kings and 2nd Chronicles.

"Then Jehoshaphat rested with his ancestors and was buried with them in the City of David. And Jehoram his son succeeded him as king. Jehoram's brothers, the sons of Jehoshaphat, were Azariah, Jehiel, Zechariah, Azariahu, Michael and Shephatiah. All these were sons of Jehoshaphat king of Judah. Their father had given them many gifts of silver and gold and articles of value, as well as fortified cities of Judah, but he had given the kingdom to Jehoram because he was his firstborn son." (2 Chronicles 21:1-3) Jehoram had six brothers but his father passed the throne on to him because he was the firstborn. This will prove to be an unwise choice. Although it was traditional in royal families around the world to pass leadership to the oldest son, there are times when the oldest son is not the best choice. For example, King David chose his son Solomon to be king after him, and Solomon was way down the line. Solomon wasn't as godly as he could have been but as we learned in our study of 1st and 2nd Samuel, he was more godly than his older brothers.

"He was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eight years. He followed the ways of the kings of Israel, as the house of Ahab had done, for he married a daughter of Ahab. He did evil in the eyes of the Lord. Nevertheless, for the sake of His servant David, the Lord was not willing to destroy Judah. He had promised to maintain a lamp for David and for his descendants forever." (2 Kings 8:17-19) You may recall that Jehoshaphat had formed a familial alliance with the house of Ahab by arranging a marriage between his son Jehoram and Ahab's daughter Athaliah. This too was a poor decision. Athaliah is an idolater just like her parents Ahab and Jezebel. Jehoram is also an idolater because we are told he followed the ways of the kings of Israel. He is not following in his father's footsteps, who served the God of Abraham. It's only God's unbreakable word to David that keeps Him from cutting off the royal line of Judah due to the wickedness of Jehoram. 

"When Jehoram established himself firmly over his father's kingdom, he put all his brothers to the sword along with some of the officials of Israel." (2 Chronicles 21:4) The author of Chronicles frequently interchanges the words Judah and Israel, so I think the officials were probably Judah's high officials, not officials from the northern kingdom. Jehoram wants to rid himself of any potential rivals to the throne and he's willing to do anything to keep it. Now none of his brothers can rebel against him and win over the people and be declared king. Neither can any of the top officials. We saw yesterday that an official of King Ben-Hadad of Aram murdered him and took the throne. There are cases where men unrelated to the royal family managed to end up crowned as king and Jehoram is aware of this. He wipes out anyone who might have the political power to take the throne from him.

"In the time of Jehoram, Edom rebelled against Judah and set up its own king. So Jehoram went to Zair with all his chariots. The Edomites surrounded him and his chariot commanders, but he rose up and broke through by night; his army, however, fled back home. To this day, Edom has been in rebellion against Judah. Libnah revolted at the same time." (2 Kings 8:20-22) "Libnah revolted at the same time, because Jehoram had forsaken the Lord, the God of his ancestors." (2 Chronicles 21:10b) Jehoram deals with trouble during his reign because he's an idolatrous man. The Lord isn't blessing him with a long reign and great victories as He blessed Jehoshaphat. Sensing he is a weak man without the spiritual power his father had, territories that were subject to Judah decide to rebel against the king. Even his own soldiers lack the courage to stand behind him and they flee the battle. There's something about Jehoram that doesn't inspire confidence. He intended that the killing of his potential rivals would strengthen his claim to the throne but instead it revealed what was at the heart of him: his deep insecurity. His father, King Jehoshaphat, trusted in God for his security. Jehoshaphat found his identity in being a child of God. But Jehoram is an idolater, following the pagan customs that the northern kingdom adopted from the nations around them. Those nations had many gods and no one could ever be certain which god was the best one to cling to or which gods were pleased or displeased with their actions. Jehoram doesn't have the security of being a child of the living God. His identity is bound up in his political position and his greatest fear is losing that position. He is the type of man the Lord's brother James warns us not to be, "A double minded man is unstable in all his ways." (James 1:8)

It's bad enough that Jehoram himself has fallen into idolatry, but he causes the nation to sin. "He had also built high places on the hills of Judah and had caused the people of Jerusalem to prostitute themselves and had led Judah astray." (2 Chronicles 21:11) Jehoram rebuilds what his father tore down. Jehoshaphat had removed the pagan high places from Jerusalem but his son puts them back. I have to wonder if Jehoram is so insecure in himself that he is even jealous of God. Maybe he doesn't want to share the people's allegiance with the Lord. So he sets up a multitude of altars to a multitude of gods so that the people are not united together in the worship of only one God. The last thing he wants is for the nation to unite except in its allegiance to him. It could be he was afraid the people, in spiritual devotion to the God of Abraham, would rise up against his wicked throne and denounce him as unfit to rule the nation. 

Those Jehoram manages to lead astray are called prostitutes because they are being unfaithful to God and also likely because they are taking part in fertility rituals as part of their new idolatrous worship practices. The king has managed to take the people's minds off how ruthless and violent he is by introducing carnal practices to occupy their time. He has succeeded in keeping anyone in Judah from standing up, pointing a finger at him, and accusing him of being an unfit leader. But there is a prophet in Israel who is not afraid to call it like he sees it and tomorrow we will study what he has to say to Jehoram on the authority of God. He will call out Jehoram's sins, he will reveal the wickedness in Jehoram's heart, and he will pronounce a judgment upon Jehoram's household. 

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