Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Prophets And Kings, Day 86. King Jehoahaz Of Israel

Prophets And Kings
Day 86
King Jehoahaz Of Israel

The author of 2nd Kings now introduces us to a new king of Israel.

2 KINGS 13:1-9
"In the twenty-third year of Joash son of Ahaziah king of Judah, Jehoahaz son of Jehu became king of Israel in Samaria, and he reigned seventeen years." (2 Kings 13:1) We were told earlier that King Joash of Judah demanded an accounting of why the temple project wasn't completed in his twenty-third year, so Jehoahaz is crowned king of Israel at about the same time.

"He did evil in the eyes of the Lord by following the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit, and he did not turn away from them." (2 Kings 13:2) The sins of Jeroboam were that he set up a golden calf in Dan and a golden calf in Beersheba and proclaimed them the symbols of the God who brought them out of Egypt. He put something in place of God so the people wouldn't go up to Jerusalem to worship at the temple, for he feared their hearts would turn from him to the king of Judah. Jeroboam didn't trust God and so he led the people astray by introducing a form of idol worship. Now we find that this is still going on in Israel and the new king Jehoahaz does nothing to stop it. Instead, he joins in with it.

Because the king and the people continue to rebel against the God who has provided for them all these years, the Lord chastises them. He is angry but He is merciful. The trouble He sends them is intended to turn them back to Him. Some of our troubles in this life are of our own making and the Lord is merciful when He lets us suffer the consequences, for its the consequences that cause us to take stock of our hearts, that cause us to stop and think about just why these things are happening to us. "So the Lord's anger burned against Israel, and for a long time He kept them under the power of Hazael king of Aram and Ben-Hadad his son." (2 Kings 13:3) 

As the prophet Elisha predicted earlier in our study, the wicked King Hazael continues to oppress Israel. He's a ruthless man, one who assassinated his own king and took the throne, one who has the nerve to name his own son after the king he killed. Evil though Hazael is, the Lord uses him as an instrument of discipline on a wayward people. I believe if the people had repented early and if they had burned up their golden idols and turned wholeheartedly to the Lord, He would have given them freedom from this enemy much sooner. 

When we live in sin we are held captive by it, just as much as if we were locked in a prison cell or chained to a dungeon wall. The longer we cling to our sin the longer we remain captives. We are like those of whom the psalmist says, "Some sat in darkness, in utter darkness, prisoners suffering in iron chains, because they rebelled against God's commands and despised the plans of the Most High." (Psalm 107:10-11) It's not God's will for us to live in shackles but to walk in the glorious freedom of His grace. If He disciplines us for our sins, it's a kindness to us. His anger at our sins, in my opinion, is anger for our own sakes, anger about the harm we are doing to ourselves. Jesus Christ died to give us liberty, to give us hearts like His, so we could walk in the light of life. And this is what He wants to do for us, "Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He saved them from their distress. He brought them out of darkness, the utter darkness, and broke away their chains. Let them give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds for mankind, for He breaks down gates of bronze and cuts through bars of iron." (Psalm 107:13-16)

I bless the day the Lord Jesus broke down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron to get to me! When at last, sitting chained in darkness, I looked up and called out His name, He didn't let anything get between me and Him.

Jehoahaz is not able to throw off the yoke of Israel's Syrian oppressor so at last he turns to the only One who can help. "Then Jeoahaz sought the Lord's favor, and the Lord listened to him, for He saw how severely the king of Aram was oppressing Israel." (2 Kings 13:4) We will find that Jehoahaz doesn't experience much of a conversion because he doesn't remove the golden calves from Israel, but the Lord does listen to his cry for help. I think there's a couple of good reasons for that, even though Jehoahaz's heart isn't really right with the Lord. First, Answering Jehoahaz's prayer proves to the king that there is a real God in Israel. Bowing down to the calves has done nothing to help the situation. Military might has done nothing to help the situation either. Nothing Jehoahaz has tried has worked until he prays to the Lord. When the Lord answers, this could have been a life-changing experience for Jehoahaz if he had really allowed God into his heart. Secondly, the Lord answers the prayer because the king of Aram is so vicious. We recall the things Elisha predicted he would do, including killing infants and pregnant women. (2 Kings 8:12) Hazael is overstepping his bounds and the Lord is disgusted with his actions. It's one thing to conquer another nation and make them subject to you, to make them pay taxes and tributes, but it's yet another to perform such cruelties. 

"The Lord provided a deliverer for Israel, and they escaped from the power of Aram." (2 Kings 13:5a) The author does not make it clear who this deliverer is and from my background study it appears that scholars are divided in their opinion of who this is. I tend to agree with the ones who say the deliverer is Jehoahaz's own son who succeeds him as king, because later in Chapter 13 we find his son defeating the Arameans on several occasions and taking back the towns the Arameans had captured.

"So the Israelites lived in their own homes as they had before. But they did not turn away from the sins of the house of Jeroboam, which he had caused Israel to commit; they continued in them. Also, the Asherah pole remained standing in Samaria." (2 Kings 13:5b-6) In spite of the Lord's kindness, the people don't turn back to Him. They were sorry when things were going badly for them and were willing to call on the name of the Lord, but after His deliverance they fell back into the same old habits. Haven't we all done that, though? Haven't we ever ignored the Lord when times were good, merrily going on our way, living as we pleased? Then didn't we call on Him in our troubles when we had tried everything else and it didn't work? I know I've been there. There were times in my past that I was pleased to ignore the Lord and His laws and do whatever my carnal mind wanted. Then when trouble came I'd call to Him for help, say a brief "thank You" when my situation improved, and then go right back to whatever I was doing before. That's not a true conversion and I lived that way for a long time in my teens and early twenties. I was raised in church and knew just enough Bible to talk the talk but I wasn't walking the walk. 

"Nothing had been left of the army of Jehoahaz except fifty horsemen, ten chariots and ten thousand foot soldiers, for the king of Aram had destroyed the rest and made them like the dust at threshing time." (2 Kings 13:7) This is how decimated the army of Israel was after the king of Aram was finished with them. If the Lord had not stepped in, the nation could well have been destroyed. What mercy He shows to them and to us! The Lord would be within His rights to wipe any of us off the face of the earth for our sins. But as the prophet Jeremiah said, "Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness." (Lamentations 3:22-23) It's because of the Lord's great love for His people that He rescued them. He could have allowed the king of Aram to eradicate them. After all, the royal line of Judah was continuing on, the line from which Messiah would come, so the Lord could have allowed the northern kingdom of Israel to perish. But He loved them. His mercies were new every morning. Every morning the Lord looked down on the nation and saw that they were continuing down the same old path of sin, yet His heart never turned away from them. Day after day He witnessed them bowing before golden calves instead of bowing at His feet, yet He preserved their lives. Great is His faithfulness! Morning after morning I used to get up and continue down my same old path. For many years nothing changed and I fell deeper and deeper into a pit of sin. Yet the Lord preserved my life. Yet He kept dealing with my heart. Yet His compassion never failed. His mercies were new every morning. 

"As for the other events of the reign of Jehoahaz, all he did and his achievements, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Israel? Jehoahaz rested with his ancestors and was buried in Samaria. And Jehoash his son succeeded him as king." (2 Kings 13:8-9)

The link below is to a song that reminds me of my own life, before and after I came to Christ. It says, "I knew all the stories and I learned to talk about how You were mighty to save, but those were only empty words on a page." I grew up in church, grew up with a Christian mother who told me about Jesus, and I knew all the stories. I could talk the talk, as I said above, but my walk was far from Him. But when I had a face-to-face encounter with the living God I realized I knew nothing. As this song says, "Then I caught a glimpse of who You might be. The slightest hint of You brought me down to my knees." When we meet Him, we only see a glimpse because His full glory would consume us in our weak mortal flesh, but He is faithful to give us a glimpse just like He gave Moses as He hid him in the cleft of the rock. And that glimpse is so holy, so overwhelming, so real and so true, we can't help but fall to our knees. Lord, great is Your faithfulness! Great is Your mercy!

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