Thursday, April 28, 2016

Prophets And Kings, Day 81. Jehu Kills The Prophets Of Baal

Prophets And Kings
Day 81
Jehu Kills The Prophets Of Baal

Today the new king of Israel, Jehu, gets rid of the prophets of Baal and the temple of Baal. But him doesn't rid the land of another form of idolatry.

2 KINGS 10:18:35
Jehu has picked up his friend Jehonadab, a Rekabite, and they are heading for the temple of Baal to destroy the pagan system of worship. The Rekabites were known to be godly people, for in Jeremiah 35 we find the Lord using them as an example to wayward Judah. Jehonadab joins in with Jehu in his slaughter of the false prophets because he wants to see the worship of the one true God restored. However, Jehu is going to stop short of turning back to true worship.

"Then Jehu brought all the people together and said to them, 'Ahab served Baal a little; Jehu will serve him much." (2 Kings 10:18) This is quite a statement! Ahab served Baal more than any man before him but Jehu promises that he is going to serve him even more. He's setting a trap with his words.

"'Now summon all the prophets of Baal, all his servants and all his priests. See that no one is missing, because I am going to hold a great sacrifice for Baal. Anyone who fails to come will no longer live.' But Jehu was acting deceptively in order to destroy the servants of Baal." (2 Kings 10:19) The priests and high officials in the cult of Baal must have thought to themselves, "Wow, this new king means business! His administration is going to do great things for those of us who are faithful to Baal."

"Jehu said, 'Call an assembly in honor of Baal.' So they proclaimed it. Then he sent word throughout Israel, and all the servants of Baal came; not one stayed away. They crowded into the temple of Baal until it was full from one end to the other." (2 Kings 10:20-21) I picture this crowd uncomfortably mashed together inside the temple, with little room to move about. I can well imagine no official of Baal stayed away since staying away meant death, according to Jehu's words.

"And Jehu said to the keeper of the wardrobe, 'Bring robes for all the servants of Baal.' So he brought out robes for them." (2 Kings 10:22) I believe these robes were for the purpose of marking the men who were to be killed, so that in the close quarters and the confusion that might result, only the followers of Baal would be attacked.

"Then Jehu and Jehonadab son of Rekab went into the temple of Baal." (2 Kings 10:23a) This is probably the first time either of these men has ever stepped foot in this pagan temple. It will be their last time.

"Jehu said to the servants of Baal, 'Look around and see that no one who serves the Lord is here with you---only servants of Baal.'" (2 Kings 10:23b) He goes a step further in marking out the men to be killed. He tells the servants of Baal to look around them and make sure no one in the assembly is actually a follower of the God of Israel. Jehu doesn't want any followers of the Lord to lose their lives.

"So they went in to make sacrifices and burnt offerings. Now Jehu had posted eighty men outside with this warning: 'If one of you lets any of the men I am placing in your hands escape, it will be your life for his life.' As soon as Jehu had finished making the burnt offering, He ordered the guards and officers: 'Go in and kill them; let no one escape.' So they cut them down with the sword. The guards and officers threw the bodies out and then entered the inner shrine of the temple of Baal. They brought the sacred stone out of the temple of Baal and burned it. They demolished the sacred stone of Baal and tore down the temple of Baal, and the people have used it as a latrine to this day." (2 Kings 10:24-27) This is the temple King Ahab built for his foreign wife Jezebel. This is the religion Ahab and Jezebel supported with government funds. The men enter the inner shrine (a room similar to the Most Holy Place in the temple at Jerusalem) and they remove something known as the sacred stone. We don't know exactly what this was but because it was in the inner room we can safely assume it was the most revered object of the temple, just as the Ark of the Covenant was the most revered object in the temple at Jerusalem. This stone is demolished and the temple torn down, with the site used thereafter as a public restroom. The original text literally means it was used as a toilet for human excrement. 

What an ignoble end to Baal worship in Israel! And how fitting! Any form of worship not directed at the one and only God is as useless as dung, as the Apostle Paul once pointed out after his conversion to the Lord Jesus Christ. He formerly pursued worldly power, moving up through the ranks of the Pharisees, enjoying his position and privilege in Jerusalem. But after coming to Christ, Paul said he had lost all the former things that once meant so much to him and he counted those things as dung. (Philippians 3:8) Nothing meant anything to the Apostle Paul without Christ. 

"So Jehu destroyed Baal worship in Israel. However, he did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit---the worship of the golden calves at Bethel and Dan." (2 Kings 10:28-29) Jehu has done well in removing Baal worship from Israel and he could have used this moment to turn the hearts of the people back to the Lord. But instead he only points them back to the worship system his predecessor King Jeroboam set up: the worship of the two golden calves. Jeroboam set these objects up as a stand-in for going to Jerusalem to the temple because he feared the people would revolt against him and get behind the king of Judah instead. He didn't want them going anywhere near the territory of Judah to worship, so he set up these calves and claimed they symbolized the Lord. But this was just another form of idolatry and it moved the nation one step closer to complete apostasy. It laid the groundwork for their falling into Baal worship during the reign of Ahab.

The Lord now has a message for Jehu and we are not told whether the Lord speaks to him directly or through a prophet. We have seen the Lord speak directly to kings before and we have seen Him make promises to them if they will obey Him. So I think it's possible the Lord actually speaks to Jehu personally rather than through an intermediary. "The Lord said to Jehu, 'Because you have done well in accomplishing what is right in My eyes and have done to the house of Ahab all I had in mind to do, your descendants will sit on the throne of Israel to the fourth generation.'" (2 Kings 10:30) The Lord doesn't promise Jehu that his descendants will sit on the throne from now on, but as a reward for his zeal in removing Baal worship from the nation, the Lord makes the promise that Jehu will have descendants on the throne for several generations. 

The Lord points out that it was His will to take the kingdom away from Ahab's descendants, so we know Jehu was in God's will when he killed the heirs to the throne. However, as we studied yesterday, the prophet Hosea will later say by the Spirit of the Lord that Jehu did wrong in the slaughter at Jezreel. At Jezreel Jehu went beyond what he was supposed to do in killing everyone connected with Ahab's family, such as friends and servants and officials. It was only the sons of Ahab, those who could lay claim to the throne, who were meant to be cut off according to God's prophecy given to Elijah. The people killed at Jezreel were innocent and Jehu should not have laid a hand on them.

The Lord is showing mercy to Jehu and is offering him a relationship with his Maker. Things could have gone in a wonderful direction now, both for Jehu and for the nation, but Jehu stops short in his zeal for the Lord. In his heart he probably harbors the same fears Jeroboam harbored, that if he allows the people to go up to Jerusalem and worship as they are commanded to do by God, their hearts might turn away from the northern kingdom. They might ally themselves with the southern kingdom of Judah and revolt in an attempt to unite all twelve tribes again. If only Jehu had the faith to believe what God said! God has commanded two prophets to anoint him as king. God has given him the throne. God has promised the throne to his descendants for four generations. With God on his side, why fear letting the people go to the temple? With God supporting him as king, why fear anyone taking the throne from him? It's the Lord who gives and the Lord who takes away. (Job 1:21) Jehu need have no fear of man.

"Yet Jehu was not careful to keep the law of the Lord, the God of Israel, with all his heart. He did not turn away from the sins of Jeroboam, which he had caused Israel to commit." (2 Kings 10:31) God's words have no effect on him. Jehu doesn't have the faith to take a stand and remove the golden calves and point the people back to the temple as God's place of worship.

"In those days the Lord began to reduce the size of Israel. Hazael overpowered the Israelites throughout their territory east of the Jordan in all the land of Gilead (the region of Gad, Reuben and Manasseh), from Aroer by the Arnon Gorge through Gilead to Bashan." (2 Kings 10:32-33) This is part of God's judgment on Israel for her sins. She is still not committed to the Lord and her citizens continue to bring sacrifices and offerings to the two golden calves. This is the beginning of the prophecy of Elisha that he spoke to Hazael before Hazael became king of Aram after assassinating Ben-Hadad, "You will set fire to their fortified places, kill their young men with the sword, dash their little children to the ground, and rip open their pregnant women." (2 Kings 8:12b) Elisha wept as he said this. He wept bitterly and with a broken heart, just as centuries later the Lord Jesus Christ wept over Jerusalem and her coming downfall. 

"As for the other events of Jehu's reign, all he did, and all his achievements, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Israel? Jehu rested with his ancestors and was buried in Samaria. And Jehoahaz his son succeeded him as king. The time that Jehu reigned over Israel in Samaria was twenty-eight years." (2 Kings 10:34-36) We don't have all the books of the kings of Israel in our times and we don't find Jehu mentioned again except in the parallel account of his life in 2nd Chronicles. 

Jehu is a man who missed an awesome opportunity. How might the history of Israel gone differently if he had been fully committed to the Lord? What if he had gone up to Jerusalem to worship at the temple as God commanded the people to do? What if he had led a revival in Israel? 

Missing opportunities for the Lord is one of the saddest things in life. I'm sure I've missed opportunities by not having the faith to step out and believe He will supply whatever is needed for what He calls me to do. I think this lack of faith comes from being afraid we will fail. We fear failing ourselves and we fear failing God. But it doesn't depend on us. It depends on Him. And as the Lord Jesus said, with God all things are possible.

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