Saturday, April 30, 2016

Prophets And Kings, Day 83. Wicked Queen Athaliah Meets Her Death

Prophets And Kings
Day 83
Wicked Queen Athaliah Meets Her Death

Yesterday the high priest Jehoiada and the army commanders brought out the young boy Joash, the only survivor among all King Ahaziah's sons, and they anointed him and crowned him king of Judah. Today Athaliah, who is sitting on the throne in place of hers dead son, hears the commotion at the temple. She meets hers doom today.

2 KINGS 11:13-21
When we left off yesterday, Joash had been crowned king outside the temple on the Sabbath, a day when the most citizens would be present. The people were happily shouting, "Long live the king!" Athaliah hears the noise and goes to see what's happening. "When Athaliah heard the noise made by the guards and the people, she went to the people at the temple of the Lord." (2 Kings 11:13) Being a devoted Baal worshiper, it took this great noise to get Athaliah anywhere near the temple of the Lord.

"She looked and there was the king, standing by the pillar, as the custom was. The officers and the trumpeters were beside the king, and all the people of the land were rejoicing and blowing trumpets." (2 Kings 11:14a) None of this has to be explained to her; Athaliah knows what she's witnessing. Imagine her shock, for she believed she had managed to eradicate everyone with a legitimate claim to the throne. She is a woman so sinful that she ordered all her grandsons killed because she saw them as her rivals. Now, at the discovery that her youngest grandson is alive, she is deeply grieved not by her own actions but by the fact that an heir remains to take the throne from her.

Can any of you parents or grandparents even imagine what an evil heart would do the things Athaliah did? She ordered all her son's children killed, from the oldest to the youngest, just because power meant that much to her. She had no regard for the lives of these children who were her own flesh and blood. Had it not been for the godly woman Jehosheba, even a one-year-old boy in his crib would have been murdered by the queen's soldiers. But by the grace of God and according to His promise to David, He instructed a faithful woman to preserve the royal line of Judah and she did so. She did so even knowing that, if her "crime" were discovered, it would mean her own death. Her faithful husband Jehoiada, the high priest, hid the child for six years in the temple. He hid the child knowing that if this were found out, Athaliah would have him, his wife, the child, and all the priests killed. The faithful priests who served at the temple helped to hide the child, knowing this secret meant their life or death. Yet all these were more than willing to stand up for what was right. They were willing to risk their lives in order to perform their parts in God's plan for Judah. I praise the Lord because He calls out a people for His name in every generation! No matter how wicked the world grows, no matter how much lawlessness abounds, in every generation we will find those faithful to God. We will find those willing to take a stand for Him and for the honor of His name. We will find those ready to risk it all for the cause of Christ.

At the sight of Joash's coronation, Athaliah is beside herself. "Then Athaliah tore her robes and called out, 'Treason! Treason!'" (2 Kings 11:14b) What a hypocrite she is. Athaliah herself committed more treason against the crown of Judah than anyone before her. Yet she has the nerve to call it treason that the rightful king now stands crowned before the people. 

"Jehoiada the priest ordered the commanders of units of a hundred, who were in charge of the troops: 'Bring her out between the ranks and put to the sword anyone who follows her.' For the priest had said, 'She must not be put to death at the temple of the Lord.' So they seized her as she reached the place where the horses enter the palace grounds, and there she was put to death." (2 Kings 11:15-16) Jehoiada had warned the men ahead of time not to shed blood on the temple grounds, for the temple grounds were consecrated to the Lord. This is a holy place, not to be desecrated by the blood of a wicked queen.

Having taken Athaliah out of the way, Jehoiada is able to get on with the business of swearing in the new king. "Jehoiada then made a covenant between the Lord and the king and people that they would be the Lord's people. He also made a covenant between the king and the people." (2 Kings 11:17) The king takes vows to serve the Lord, then he takes vows to serve the people. After that the people take vows to serve the Lord and their king. 

Strengthened by the hope of a better Judah and by their promises to the Lord, the people move on to tear down the temple of Baal in their land. "All the people of the land went to the temple of Baal and tore it down. They smashed the altars and idols to pieces and killed Mattan the priest of Baal in front of the altars." (2 Kings 11:18a) It's been a bad week for Baal in both Judah and Israel. Earlier in the week we saw King Jehu of Israel and his men tearing down the temple of Baal in the northern kingdom. Today Baal's temple is torn down in the southern kingdom of Judah. And the men don't care about shedding blood and desecrating Baal's temple because Baal is a lie and his followers are deceived by a false religious system. In fact, they want to desecrate Baal's temple so no one can reuse the site for a new temple.

"Then Jehoiada the priest posted guards at the temple of the Lord. He took with him the commanders of hundreds, the Carites, the guards and all the people of the land, and together they brought the king down from the temple of the Lord and went into the palace, entering by way of the gate of the guards. The king then took his place on the royal throne. All the people of the land rejoiced, and the city was calm, because Athaliah had been slain with the sword at the palace. Joash was seven years old when he began to reign." (2 Kings 11:18b-21) What a day of rejoicing in Judah! Because a few godly people have done what is right in the Lord's eyes, a revival breaks out. Imagine then what might happen if God's people prayed daily for revival and healing in our nation. Sometimes we think to ourselves, "What can I do? How can the feeble prayers of one person accomplish anything?" But we learned this week that the feeble prayers of one godly woman accomplished much. Led by the Lord, Jehosheba rescued the infant prince at the risk of her own life, and now Judah is rejoicing and praising the Lord because this young boy is crowned king. One priest, willing to risk it all to play his part in God's plan of keeping the royal line of Judah alive, will now lead the nation back to the Lord while he lives. He will advise the young king in the ways of the Lord. 

James, the brother of the Lord Jesus Christ, promises us, "The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." (James 5:16) More than ever before I feel an urgency to pray for our nation. What if we, as God's people, devoted a portion of our day each day to pray for America? I'm not suggesting we spend hours on our knees in fervent prayer, although if the Lord ever leads you to do so, by all means do it. But a few minutes spent each morning in sincere sprayer for our country could make a world of difference. Let's pray for revival. Let's pray for the Spirit of the Lord to fall on our people like never before, that there would be a turning back to Him, that all hearts would say of the Lord Jesus, "He is my King. He sits on the throne of my heart, crowned with many crowns. Long live the King!"

Below is a song that never fails to thrill my soul because it speaks of the One who is worthy to sit on the throne, the One who will reign in righteousness over this world someday. To Him be all the honor and glory forever.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Prophets And Kings, Day 82. Joash King Of Judah

Prophets And Kings
Day 82
Joash King Of Judah

The author backs up a bit today to remind us of how the late king Ahaziah's mother tried to kill all his heirs. Ahaziah's youngest son, Joash, was hidden away by his aunt. Today the young boy Joash is crowned king of Judah.

2 KINGS 11:1-12
"When Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she proceeded to destroy the whole royal family. But Jehosheba, the daughter of King Jehoram and sister of Ahaziah, took Joash son of Ahaziah and stole him away from among the royal princes, who were about to be murdered. She put him and his nurse in a bedroom to hide him from Athaliah; so he was not killed. He remained hidden with his nurse at the temple of the Lord for six years while Athaliah ruled the land." (2 Kings 11:1-3) What a wicked woman Athaliah daughter of Ahab and Jezebel is! What a dreadful mistake King Jehoshaphat made when he arranged a marriage between his son Jehoram and Ahab's daughter Athaliah. This is the fruit of that terrible decision. 

But the Lord saves the royal line of Judah by the actions of a godly woman. The Lord made a promise to David and He intends to keep it. Jehosheba manages to rescue the youngest prince and hide him at the temple where her husband, Jehoiada, is the high priest. 

"In the seventh year Jehoiada sent for the commanders of units of a hundred, the Carites and the guards and had them brought to him at the temple of the Lord. He made a covenant with them and put them under oath at the temple of the Lord. Then he showed them the king's son." (2 Kings 11:4) It would appear that the whole nation believes all the sons of Ahaziah are dead. Athaliah herself must believe that Joash is dead or else I think no stone would have been left unturned in looking for him. When men were sent to kill all the royal princes, the men must have believed all the princes were accounted for. It could be they were confused about the number of them, or they miscounted, or it never occurred to them that anyone would hide one of the children away. I like to think this confusion was a divine confusion, sent upon the men by God in order to protect the infant Joash. 

Jehoiada brings the commanders to the temple and makes each of them swear an oath of secrecy before showing them the heir to the throne. Then he sets forth his plan. "He commanded them, saying, 'This is what you are to do: 'You who are in the three companies that are going on duty on the Sabbath---a third of you guarding the royal palace, a third at the Sur Gate, and a third at the gate behind the guard, who take turns guarding the temple---and you who are in the other two companies that normally go off Sabbath duty are all to guard the temple for the king. Station yourselves around the king, each of you with weapon in hand. Anyone who approaches your ranks is to be put to death. Stay close to the king wherever he goes.'" (2 Kings 11:5-8) Jehoiada knows Athaliah will stop at nothing to hold onto the throne. She was willing to do anything, including killing her own grandsons, in order to sit on the throne. The king must be heavily guarded to prevent any of Athaliah's henchmen from breaking through to him.

The nation is not happy with the wicked Athaliah ruling over them but up til now there has been no one strong enough to wrest the throne from her. But a living heir of the king has the right to the throne and these men are more than happy to help Jehoiada with his plan. "The commanders of units of a hundred did just as Jehoiada the priest ordered. Each one took his men---those who were going on duty on the Sabbath and those who were going off duty---and came to Jehoiada the priest. Then he gave the commanders the spears and shields that had belonged to King David and that were in the temple of the Lord. The guards, each with weapon in hand, stationed themselves around the king---near the altar and the temple, from the south side to the north side of the temple." (2 Kings 11:9-11) The Sabbath is the best day of the week to announce the new king because it's a day when people gather at the temple. The biggest possible crowd is available on the Sabbath to hear the announcement. 

"Jehoiada brought out the king's son and put the crown on him; he presented him with a copy of the covenant and proclaimed him king. They anointed him, and the people clapped their hands and shouted, 'Long live the king!'" (2 Kings 11:12) Jehoiada goes about this coronation in the proper way. He presents Joash to the people as their king and crowns him in their sight. He then gives Joash a copy of the covenant according to the Lord's command for kings in Deuteronomy 17:18-20, "When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the Levitical priests. It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the Lord his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees and not consider himself better than his fellow Israelites and turn from the law to the right or to the left. Then he and his descendants will reign a long time over his kingdom in Israel." 

Joash, being only seven, needs someone to write out a scroll of the law for him, so Jehoiada presents him with the covenant. A king old enough to write it out for himself was to do so in order to better imprint the words on his heart. As the author of Psalm 119 says, "I have hidden Your word in my heart that I might not sin against You." (v 11) The king was to further hide the word of the Lord in his heart by reading from it every day of his life. The Lord made a great promise to any king who obeys this command, that he will reign a long time on the throne and his descendants will reign a long time after him.

What a momentous and joyful day this must have been for the citizens of Judah. A new and rightful king will now sit on the throne and that awful woman Athaliah will perish in tomorrow's passage. Joash will be a good king for Judah as long as his uncle Jehoiada lives. Because Joash is only seven years old when he ascends to the throne, the priest is his adviser for many years. But later, after Jehoiada dies, Joash listens to ungodly advisers and goes astray. He will have Jehoiada's son stoned to death and because of this some of Joash's own men will assassinate him. The reign that began on such a happy note will end with Joash not even being buried with the kings.

Some of Judah's kings were good and some were wicked, but through it all we see the Lord keeping His promise to David. Not all the men who wore the crown were worthy of it, but still the Lord honors His word. He honors His word for David's sake. And He honors His word because a King is coming of the royal line of Judah, a King who will give sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf, a King who will make the mute talk and the handicapped walk, a King who will call the dead back to life, a King who will buy our souls back from the slavery of sin and give us new life and a new hope. A King is coming. Long live the King!

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.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Prophets And Kings, Day 80. Ahab's Descendants Killed

Prophets And Kings
Day 80
Ahab's Descendants Killed

Ahab's son, King Joram of Israel, has been killed. But Ahab has other sons in Samaria by his harem of wives. The new king of Israel, Jehu, sets out to remove these sons and their threat to his security.

2 KINGS 10:1-17
"Now there were in Samaria seventy sons of the house of Ahab. So Jehu wrote letters and sent them to Samaria: to the officers of Jezreel, to the elders and to the guardians of Ahab's children. He said, 'You have your master's sons with you and you have chariots and horses, a fortified city and weapons. Now as soon as this letter reaches you, choose the best and most worthy of your master's sons and set him on his father's throne. Then fight for your master's house.'" (2 Kings 10:1-3) Jehu challenges the nobles in charge of Ahab's descendants to choose a man to be king, if they believe any of the princes would be a better king than Jehu. It is a time to choose sides. They must either stand for Jehu or stand against him.

"But they were terrified and said, 'If two kings could not resist him, how can we?'" (2 Kings 10:4) King Joram of Israel and King Ahaziah of Judah were both killed by Jehu. If these mighty kings couldn't defeat him, these men don't see how they can.

"So the palace administrator, the city governor, the elders and the guardians sent this message to Jehu: 'We are your servants and we will do anything you say. We will not appoint anyone as king; you do whatever you think best.'" (2 Kings 10:5) The men decide to surrender rather than fight for a man of their choosing from among the descendants of Ahab. It could be they recognize Jehu's anointing by both Elijah and Elisha as something they can't fight against. It could be they are simply frozen in fear because Jehu has the army behind him. 

"Then Jehu wrote them a second letter, saying, 'If you are on my side and will obey me, take the heads of your master's sons and come to me in Jezreel by this time tomorrow.' Now the royal princes, seventy of them, were with the leading men of the city, who were rearing them. When the letter arrived, these men took the princes and slaughtered all seventy of them." (2 Kings 10:6-7a) Ancient kings customarily slaughtered any rivals to their rule, killing all the family of the king before them, but up til now this has not been a common practice by kings of Israel or Judah. However, in this case it fulfills the prophecy spoken by Elijah, that no male heir of the house of Ahab would be left.

"They put their heads in baskets and sent them to Jehu in Jezreel. When the messenger arrived, he told Jehu, 'They have brought the heads of the princes.' Then Jehu ordered, 'Put them in two piles at the entrance of the city gate until morning.'" (2 Kings 10:7b-8) The heads are piled up at the gates, for anyone coming in or going out to see, as a warning to anyone who might intend to rebel against Jehu.

"The next morning Jehu went out. He stood before all the people and said, 'You are innocent. It was I who conspired against my master and killed him, but who killed all these? Know, then, that not a word the Lord has spoken against the house of Ahab will fail. The Lord has done what He announced through His servant Elijah.' So Jehu killed everyone in Jezreel who remained of the house of Ahab, as well as all his chief men, his close friends and his priests, leaving him no survivor." (2 Kings 10:9-11) The Lord did indeed say through the prophet Elijah that the house of Ahab would be cut off because of their wickedness and idolatry, but He didn't command Jehu to kill all these additional people of Jezreel. The Lord spoke only of Ahab's royal line, not of his friends or top officials or priests. The Lord gave the prophet Hosea harsh words against Jehu and his house for this massacre, "I will soon punish the house of Jehu for the massacre at Jezreel." (Hosea 1:4) Jehu went above and beyond anything he may have been called to do in regard to the house of Ahab and he tries to excuse his actions by claiming all these deaths were ordained by God.

"Jehu then set out and went toward Samaria. At Beth Eked of the Shepherds, he met some relatives of Ahaziah king of Judah and asked, 'Who are you?' They said, 'We are relatives of Ahaziah, and we have come down to greet the families of the king and of the queen mother.'" (2 Kings 10:12-13) These people haven't yet heard that Ahaziah and Joram are dead. They don't know that Jezebel, the queen mother, is also dead. Ahaziah was Ahab and Jezebel's great-nephew and so these people Jehu meets on the way are related to both Ahaziah and Ahab. He decides to slaughter them too, again going beyond what the Lord has said. None of these men are likely to rebel against Jehu for the throne. They are not direct descendants of the king and are not even close enough to the royal family to be aware of the things that have just happened in their nation. 

"'Take them alive!' he ordered. So they took them alive and slaughtered them by the well of Beth Eked---forty-two of them. He left no survivor." (2 Kings 10:14) Jehu is the type of man who, if given an inch, will take a mile instead. The Lord did use him as an instrument to rid Israel of the idolatrous family of Ahab, but the Lord did not command him to kill everyone who was in any way associated with the royal family. Not every king anointed in Scripture was a man who wholeheartedly obeyed God, King Saul being a good example. Sometimes God chooses a leader to bless a nation; other times He chooses a leader to discipline a nation. Because Jehu feels his right to the throne is legitimate based on his double anointing, he goes too far and believes everything he does will be blessed. He speaks against the Lord by saying He has commanded all these deaths when in fact He did not. 

"After he left there, he came upon Jehonadab son of Rekab, who was on his way to meet him. Jehu greeted him and said, 'Are you in accord with me, as I am with you?' 'I am,' Jehonadab answered." (2 Kings 10:15a) The prophet Jeremiah spoke of Jehonadab and his people, the Rekabites, in Jeremiah 35. They were a nomadic tribe who were still obeying their forefather Jehonadab several generations later, for he had commanded them never to drink wine and they were still abiding by that command. We don't know why Jehonadab is so quick to fall in with Jehu; the ancient Jewish historian Josephus said these men had been friends for a long time and were united in their dislike for the house of Ahab.

"'If so,' said Jehu, 'give me your hand.' So he did, and Jehu helped him up into the chariot. Jehu said, 'Come with me and see my zeal for the Lord.' Then he had him ride along in his chariot." (2 Kings 10:15b-16) Jehonadab is probably a well known man in Israel, known for his obedience to the Lord, and having him in the chariot gives Jehu even more legitimacy as king in the eyes of the people. Remember how King Saul so desperately wanted to be seen with the prophet Samuel? Even after the two men had a falling-out, Saul insisted that Samuel go up on the mountain with him to sacrifice before the people, because appearances were important to him. If the people suspected Samuel was not on Saul's side they might revolt. 

I suspect Jehonadab was a godly man for another reason: because Jehu brags to him of his zeal for the Lord. This is intended to impress Jehonadab and persuade him to join in. Jehu is saying something like, "I am doing the Lord's work." 

"When Jehu came to Samaria, he killed all who were left there of Ahab's family; he destroyed them, according to the word of the Lord spoken to Elijah." (2 Kings 10:17) These in Samaria could well be members of the royal family, since this was the capitol city and the location of the royal palace. Was this slaughter the will of God? The author seems to suggest that this particular part of Jehu's work was in accordance with what the Lord said through Elijah. However, the slaughter at Jezreel was not, for the Lord condemns it through the prophet Hosea. 

Tomorrow's slaughter and its legitimacy is less clear. Elijah didn't say that a king would come who would destroy the prophets of Baal. But then, Elijah himself once orchestrated a slaughter of prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18, so I don't believe he would disapprove of Jehu's actions. Jehu will succeed in abolishing Baal worship during his reign, a worthy goal and one which the Lord appears to be pleased with later in Chapter 10, but Jehu will not do away with the worship of the golden calves, a thing the Lord will not be pleased with. So I think that, even though we don't find a specific command of Jehu to kill the priests of Baal, he was not out of the will of God when he does so. These priests were inciting the people to commit heinous sins against God, to their own harm. The priests were leading the people away from the living God into useless rituals and godless practices. The leaders of Baal worship were essentially blocking the people's avenue to salvation and I think we can safely assume that, when Jehu makes an end of these wicked men, he is doing Israel a favor.

Jehu could have been a good king but he had what the Apostle Paul calls a zeal for God, but a zeal not based on knowledge. (Romans 10:2) He could have been a man of prayer, led by God in all his ways, and God would have given him success and heirs to the throne for many generations. But he will cling instead to the religious system set up by King Jeroboam, the worship of the golden calves that Jeroboam claimed represented the God who brought them out of Egypt. Jehu will be a prideful king with a heart not wholly committed to the Lord who gave him the throne. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Prophets And Kings, Day 79. Jezebel Killed, The Royal Line Of Judah Preserved

Prophets And Kings
Day 79
Jezebel Killed
The Royal Line Of Judah Preserved

Today a prophecy from 1st Kings comes true bouts the wicked Queen Jezebel. Athaliah, mother of the now-slain King Ahaziah of Judah, assumes the throne herself and tries to wipe out the royal family. But the Lord is faithful to Hims promise to David and Him protects a member of the family to carry on the line that will someday lead to the Messiah.

2 KINGS 9:
The newly anointed king of Israel, Jehu, has killed King Joram of Israel and King Ahaziah of Judah outside the city of Jezreel. Now he goes into the city on the hunt for the Queen Mother, Jezebel. "Then Jehu went to Jezreel. When Jezebel heard about it, she put on eye makeup, arranged her hair and looked out of a window. As Jehu entered the gate, she asked, 'Have you come in peace, you Zimri, you murderer of your master?'" (2 Kings 9:30-31) When we studied 1 Kings 16 we met this fellow Zimri. He was an official who commanded half the chariots of King Elah of Israel, and he conspired against the king and slew him, taking the throne for himself. Jezebel is calling Jehu "Zimri" to accuse him of the same things. Jehu was a high official in the army of King Joram but has now killed his master and has taken the throne for himself.

Some scholars speculate that Jezebel is still a stunning woman, perhaps relying on her good looks to charm Jehu into sparing her life or even taking her as his own wife. It was an ancient custom for the new king to take over everything that belonged to the previous king, including his queen and his harem. Jezebel's beauty has no effect on Jehu. "He looked up at the window and called out, 'Who is on my side? Who?' Two or three eunuchs looked down at him. 'Throw her down!' Jehu said. So they threw her down, and some of her blood spattered the wall and the horses as they trampled her underfoot." (2 Kings 9:32-33) Eunuchs were employed to guard queens and harems because their neutered state rendered them unable to have sexual relations with the women, Kings and wealthy men could feel safe leaving their women in the care of eunuchs. Jezebel's eunuchs, however, hate her enough to obey Jehu and throw her from the window. She was a wicked, spiteful, and demanding woman who probably made their lives hell on earth. These men were likely quite glad to be rid of her.

Jezebel's fate fulfills the prophecy spoken by Elijah regarding Ahab and Jezebel and their dynasty. Elijah spoke these words after Jezebel had the innocent man Naboth executed because he didn't want to sell his land to Ahab. "Dogs will devour Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel." (1 Kings 21:23) This is about to happen while Jehu refreshes himself inside the house. "Jehu went in and ate and drank. 'Take care of that cursed woman,' he said, 'and bury her, for she was a king's daughter.' But when they went out to bury her, they found nothing except her skull, her feet and her hands. They went back and told Jehu, who said, 'This is the word of the Lord that He spoke through His servant Elijah the Tishbite: 'On the plot of ground at Jezreel dogs will devour Jezebel's flesh. Jezebel's body will be like dung on the ground in the plot at Jezreel, so that no one will be able to say, 'This is Jezebel.'" (2 Kings 9:34-37)

There is probably some symbolism about the scavenging dogs turning their noses up at Jezebel's head, hands, and feet. While she lived she possessed a mind that devised murderous plots. She had hands that shed innocent blood. She had feet that were quick to rush to evil. King Solomon had something to say about this type of character, "There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to Him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies, and a person who stirs up conflict in the community." (Proverbs 6:16-18) Jezebel was guilty of all these things the Lord hates and not even hungry mangy dogs lurking about the city gates wanted to eat the guiltiest parts of her.

No one will ever be able to stand by a tomb and visit the resting place of Queen Jezebel. Not even her ardent followers: the priests of Baal and the temple prostitutes of Asherah, will have a place to go where they can honor and mourn their queen. Jezebel perished without honor because she refused to honor the Lord. 

Next we see what's happening in the household of Ahaziah king of Judah after his death. "When Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she proceeded to destroy the whole royal family of the house of Judah." (2 Chronicles 22:10) Her own family line perished with King Joram and so she wants to wipe out any male of Judah who can lay claim to the throne upon Ahaziah's death. She intends to sit on the throne herself and so preserve the royal line of her own family.

"But Jehosheba, the daughter of King Jehoram, took Joash son of Ahaziah and stole him away from among the royal princes who were about to be murdered and put him and his nurse in a bedroom. Because Jehosheba, the daughter of King Jehoram and wife of the priest Jehoiada, was Ahaziah's sister, she hid the child from Athaliah so she could not kill him. He remained hidden with them at the temple of God for six years while Athaliah ruled the land." (2 Chronicles 22:10-12) Athaliah is so wicked she had her own grandchildren killed, with the exception of this one whom Jehosheba managed to rescue. Joash is only a year old when he is rescued because 2 Chronicles 24 tells us that he's seven years old at the end of Athaliah's six-year reign of terror. It's hard for us to imagine a woman so evil she would try to kill her own infant grandson as he lies in his crib, but as always God has His people in every time and in every circumstance. The godly woman Jehosheba saves the child's life and flees with him to the temple, where he is hidden until the Lord sets him on the throne.

Ever since Satan heard the Lord say to Eve that her offspring, the Messiah, would crush Satan's head and would bring salvation to mankind, he has attempted to eliminate the Messianic line. He led Cain to kill Abel, believing Messiah would spring from the godly Abel, but instead Jesus' lineage is reckoned from Seth, the child the Lord gave Eve in place of Abel. Later on, when Jacob had his twelve sons, only one of them was godly and so Satan incited the jealousy of Joseph's brothers against him. He tried to influence them to kill Joseph but, failing that, managed to tempt them to sell him into slavery. But once again he miscalculated because the Lord intended to bring Messiah from Judah's line, not Joseph's. Next Satan used a wicked Egyptian king to enslave all twelve tribes of Israel, bringing a spirit of paranoia upon the king to the point of killing newborn sons of the Israelites. But Moses' mother protected him as long as she could and then sent her daughter down to the river with him in a basket, later to be rescued by Pharaoh's own daughter, and thus the Lord raised up a deliverer to bring His people out of Egypt, preserving the tribe of Judah along with the other eleven tribes. Between the years of the exodus and the setting up of a king over Israel, the people fought with their neighbors and they fought among themselves. Time and again Satan tempted the people to sin and he tempted the nations around them with a spirit of anti-Semitism, hoping that the people would either sin so much God would reject them or that the other nations would destroy them. When Israel chose her first king, Saul of the tribe of Benjamin, the devil may have thought he had succeeded in turning their hearts aside, but he soon learned that God's chosen man was David of the line of Judah, and so he set out to kill him by using Saul and his paranoid delusions. But God rescued David and placed him on the throne, making him a promise that He would never let David's line die out, making an even more awesome promise that Israel's eternal King would come from David's descendants. But we see in today's passage that Satan is still at work, trying to cut off David's line, trying to make void the promises of God. It cannot be done. What God has said will stand forever. No one, not man or the angels or the devil himself can undo a single promise of God. 

The gospel according to Matthew gives the royal lineage of Jesus and in this genealogy he skips over several of the bad kings of Judah, including Joash who was saved by his aunt today. It was common to leave out persons whose actions were shameful and we will learn that Joash only follows the Lord while his uncle the priest is alive but he goes horribly astray after Jehoiada's death. Also his son, Amaziah, is left out of Jesus' genealogy, because he was an idolater. The genealogy of Jesus picks up with Amaziah's son, King Uzziah, who reigned over Judah for fifty-two years. He went astray at the end of his life but because his reign was long and prosperous and he was faithful to God until his final years, his name is included in Jesus' genealogy by Matthew. 

When the godly woman Jehosheba saves the life of her infant nephew today, she is acting within the will of God. She's an instrumental part of His plan to preserve the royal line of Judah. Her faithfulness to God is a part of Him keeping His promise to David. Joash himself will not be a godly king but keeping him alive is keeping God's promise alive. Both good kings and bad kings will spring from the line of Joash but the most important King of all is yet to come: the King of kings and the Lord of lords, the Deliverer of God's people Israel and the Deliverer of mankind, the Savior and Messiah. No plot will ever succeed against the word of God. No scheme of hell will negate God's promises. The King will come. 

Monday, April 25, 2016

Prophets And Kings, Day 78. Ahaziah King Of Judah, Jehu Anointed King Of Israel, Part 2

Prophets And Kings
Day 78
Ahaziah King Of Judah
Jehu Anointed King Of Israel
Part 2

Yesterday Elisha directed one of the young prophets to run and anoint an army commander, Jehu, as king of Israel. Currently King Joram of Israel is recovering from a battle wound and Ahaziah, king of Judah, is with him.

2 KINGS 9:14-28, 2 CHRONICLES 22:7a
"So Jehu son of Jehoshaphat, the son of Nimshi, conspired against Joram. (Now Joram and all Israel had been defending Ramoth Gilead against Hazael king of Aram, but King Joram had returned to Jezreel to recover from the wounds the Arameans had inflicted on him in the battle with Hazael king of Aram.) Jehu said, 'If you desire to make me king, don't let anyone slip out of the city to go and tell the news in Jezreel.'" (2 Kings 9:14-15) Jehu warns the men who have just declared him king not to let anyone run and tell the news to Joram. He doesn't want the king to get advance warning because he intends to catch him off guard.

"Then he got into his chariot and rode to Jezreel, because Joram was resting there and Ahaziah king of Judah had gone down to see him." (2 Kings 9:16) Because of their family connection, Ahaziah has gone to visit his wounded uncle. Jehu is going to end up "killing two birds with one stone", so to speak.

"When the lookout standing on the tower in Jezreel saw Jehu's troops approaching, he called out, 'I see some troops coming.' 'Get a horseman,' Joram ordered. 'Send him to meet them and ask, 'Do you come in peace?'" (2 Kings 9:17) The lookout can't tell from this distance whether the men are friends or foes, so the horseman rides out to meet them.

"The horseman rode off to meet Jehu and said, 'This is what the king says: 'Do you come in peace?' 'What do you have to do with peace?' Jehu replied. 'Fall in behind me.'" (2 Kings 9:18) This is not a time for peace but a time for changing the status quo in Israel. The horseman understands what Jehu is saying and he joins up with him.

The lookout finds this strange and reports it. "The lookout reported, 'The messenger has reached them, but he isn't coming back.' The king sent out a second horseman. When he came to them he said, 'This is what the king says: 'Do you come in peace?' Jehu replied, 'What do you have to do with peace? Fall in behind me.'" (2 Kings 9:19) The second man now joins with Jehu and his men.

"The lookout reported, 'He has reached them, but he isn't coming back either. The driving is like that of Jehu son of Nimshi---he drives like a maniac." (2 Kings 9:20) The lookout is concerned that the two horsemen have fallen in behind the chariot driver and his troops, but he recognizes the style of driving to be that of Jehu, one of Israel's army commanders. Jehu is evidently known for driving like a madman.

"'Hitch up my chariot,' Joram ordered. And when it was hitched up, Joram king of Israel and Ahaziah king of Judah rode out, each in his own chariot, to meet Jehu. They met him at the plot of ground that had belonged to Naboth the Jezreelite." (2 Kings 9:21) The author of 2nd Chronicles adds this detail, "Through Ahaziah's visit to Joram, God brought about Ahaziah's downfall." (2 Chronicles 22:7a) Ordinarily I don't think these kings would have ridden out personally to meet a group of men, but perhaps they think Jehu is bringing news of a victory against Aram. Since he is one of Joram's top commanders, they must think it more likely than not that he comes in peace, but they do have some doubts as we will see. It's ironic that Joram meets his foe on the plot of ground his mother took from an innocent man. Naboth refused to sell his family heritage to Ahab and so Jezebel had Naboth killed.

"When Joram saw Jehu he asked, 'Have you come in peace, Jehu?' 'How can there be peace,' Jehu replied, 'as long as all the idolatry and witchcraft of Jezebel your mother abound?'" (2 Kings 9:22) There is no peace when we are not at peace with God. When our hearts are rebellious toward Him, nothing in this world can satisfy us. There is no peace in our hearts when we push God away. Jehu wants to know how Israel can ever be at peace with herself or with her neighbors as long as she lives in rebellion against her Maker.

This reply is all Joram needs to hear to know his life is in danger. "Joram turned about and fled, calling out to Ahaziah, 'Treachery, Ahaziah!'" (2 Kings 9:23) Joram wheels his chariot around swiftly, calling the news to his nephew so he too can flee.

"Then Jehu drew his bow and shot Joram between the shoulders. The arrow pierced his heart and he slumped down in his chariot. Jehu said to Bidkar, his chariot officer, 'Pick him up and throw him on the field that belonged to Naboth the Jezreelite. Remember how you and I were riding together in chariots behind Ahab his father when the Lord spoke this prophecy against him: 'Yesterday I saw the blood of Naboth and the blood of his sons, declares the Lord, and I will surely make you pay for it on this plot of ground, declares the Lord. Now then, pick him up and throw him on that plot, in accordance with the word of the Lord.'" (2 Kings 9:24-26) Jehu tells his officer that the prophecy of 1st Kings against the house of Ahab is coming true before his very eyes. The blood of Ahab's son will now soak the same ground that once witnessed the blood of Naboth and his sons.

"When Ahaziah king of Judah saw what had happened, he fled up the road to Beth Haggan. Jehu chased him, shouting, 'Kill him too!' They wounded him in his chariot on the way up to Gur near Ibleam, but he escaped to Megiddo and died there. His servants took him by chariot to Jerusalem and buried him with his ancestors in his tomb in the City of David." (2 Kings 9:27-28) One commentary I consulted points out that Ahaziah died in the territory of the northern kingdom, where his idolatrous heart was, instead of in the territory of Judah.

Tomorrow we will see the prophecy about Jezebel fulfilled as she meets her death. Later in the week Jehu will carry out the remainder of the prophecy against the descendants of Ahab. King Ahaziah's wicked mother, daughter of Jezebel, will seize the throne of Judah for herself, putting to death as many rivals as she can. But one son of Ahaziah will be hidden and will escape her wrath. The Lord will keep His promise to David by protecting the royal line of Judah.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Prophets And Kings, Day 77. Ahaziah King Of Judah, Jehu Anointed King Of Israel, Part 1

Prophets And Kings
Day 77
Ahaziah King Of Judah
Jehu Anointed King Of Israel
Part 1

Today we study King Ahaziah, the son of Jehoram and grandson of Jehoshaphat. We also meet the man who will be the next king of Israel. 

2 CHRONICLES 22:1-6, 2 KINGS 8:25-27, 2 KINGS 9:1-13
"The people of Jerusalem made Ahaziah, Jehoram's youngest son, king in his place, since the raiders, who came with the Arabs into the camp, had killed all the older sons. So Ahaziah son of Jehoram began to reign." (2 Chronicles 22:1) Yesterday we learned that some scholars speculate that Ahaziah was already co-reigning with his father during the last year of his father's life because Jehoram had a terminal illness. This could help explain why Ahaziah was not with the other sons when they were killed. But from the verse above we can't tell whether Ahaziah already held any power in Jerusalem or whether the people confirmed him as king because he was the only man left of the royal family.

"In the twelfth year of Joram son of Ahab king of Israel, Ahaziah began to reign. Ahaziah was twenty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem one year. His mother's name was Athaliah, a granddaughter of Omri king of Israel. He followed the ways of the house of Ahab and did evil in the eyes of the Lord, as the house of Ahab had done, for he was related by marriage to Ahab's family." (2 Kings 8:25-27) Joram, the second son of Ahab, had reigned over the northern king of Israel twelve years when Ahaziah was crowned king of Judah. These two kings are related by marriage because Ahaziah's mother is a daughter of Ahab, which makes Ahaziah a nephew of Joram.

Ahaziah is not a good king. "He too followed the ways of the house of Ahab, for his mother encouraged him to act wickedly. He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, as the house of Ahab had done, for after his father's death they became his advisers, to his undoing. He also followed their counsel when he went with Joram son of Ahab king of Israel to wage war against Hazael king of Aram at Ramoth Gilead." (2 Chronicles 22:3-5a) Ahaziah allows his mother and advisers from her side of the family to control him. 

"The Arameans wounded Joram; so he returned to Jezreel to recover from the wounds they had inflicted on him at Ramoth in his battle with Hazael king of Aram. Then Ahaziah son of Jehoram king of Judah went down to Jezreel to see Joram son of Ahab because he had been wounded." (2 Chronicles 22:5b-6) Ahaziah's alliance with Joram is going to prove fateful. A man is coming to kill Joram and because Ahaziah is with him, he too will be killed. 

"The prophet Elisha summoned a man from the company of the prophets and said to him, 'Tuck your cloak into your belt, take this flask of olive oil with you and go to Ramoth Gilead. When you get there, look for Jehu son of Jehoshaphat, the son of Nimshi." (2 Kings 9:1-2a) It would help me a great deal if the Israelites didn't have so many names in common. I'm easily confused when more than one person in the Bible has the same name, but the Jehoshaphat mentioned here is not King Jehoshaphat the son of Asa but a man of the northern kingdom whose father was called Nimshi. 

We have heard of Jehu once before, after Elijah fled to the cave at Horeb and the Lord spoke to him there. As part of Elijah's final commision on earth he was to "anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel". (1 Kings 19:16a) Some time has passed since Jehu was anointed. Elijah has been taken to heaven in a whirlwind and Elisha has been ministering to the nation as a prophet for a while now. Since his anointing, Jehu has continued his work as a captain in Israel's army. This reminds me of King David. After Samuel called David from the sheepfold and anointed him king, David went right back to his duties until God gave him the throne.

Elisha continues his instructions to the messenger, "Go to him, get him away from his companions and take him into an inner room. Then take the flask and pour the oil on his head and declare, 'This is what the Lord says: I anoint you king over Israel!' Then open the door and run; don't delay!" (2 Kings 9:2b-3) The Lord confirms His choice of Jehu as king over Israel. This goes along with an article I read last week which had to do with knowing whether or not an opportunity is from God. One of the signs of this is that God will confirm His word to us more than once. During the years since Elijah anointed him, Jehu may have begun to doubt his calling. He may have told himself, "Well, Elijah was getting up in years. Maybe he was senile when he anointed me and wasn't really getting a message from God. Nothing has happened since then to get me any closer to the throne." Being anointed as king for a second time is intended to confirm God's calling on his life.

"So the young prophet went to Ramoth Gilead. When he arrived, he found the army officers sitting together. 'I have a message for you, commander,' he said. 'For which of us?' asked Jehu. 'For you, commander.' he replied. Jehu got up and went into the house. Then the prophet poured the oil on Jehu's head and declared, 'I anoint you king over the Lord's people Israel. You are to destroy the house of Ahab your master, and I will avenge the blood of my servants the prophets and the blood of all the Lord's servants shed by Jezebel. The whole house of Ahab will perish. I will cut off from Ahab every last male in Israel---slave or free. I will make the house of Ahab like the house of Jeroboam son of Nebat and like the house of Baasha son of Ahijah. As for Jezebel, dogs will devour her on the plot of ground at Jezreel, and no one will bury her.' Then he opened the door and ran." (2 Kings 9:4-10) We previously saw this prophecy in 1st Kings. Ahab has died since then but Jezebel is still alive, along with their male descendants. The prophecy is about to come true and the dynasty of Ahab is coming to an end. A new king from a different family will take the throne.

"When Jehu went out to his fellow officers, one of them asked him, 'Is everything all right? Why did this maniac come to you?'" (2 Kings 9:11a) The men of Israel don't have a high regard for prophets at this time in history. The young man who came running into the army camp, red-faced and sweating, must have looked a bit demented. When he demanded to speak to Jehu in private, the other officers probably sat outside wondering what the young prophet was saying. Then suddenly the man flings the door open and runs back the way he came, with Jehu emerging from the house with oil running off his head. These are some strange happenings and the men naturally want to know what was said to Jehu in private.

He tries to dismiss their questions, "'You know the man and the sort of things he says,' Jehu replied." Jehu is reluctant to tell the men what has just happened. This is his second anointing as king but it seems he's kept the first anointing to himself all these years. Now he wants to keep the second anointing a secret. I can see his point because he's not related to the royal family. He's not in a position to assume the throne at this very moment. Plus, most people in Israel at the time have gone after other gods and have begun to consider prophets as nutcases roaming about the countryside, much as it's beginning to seem the USA is starting to regard Christians as nutcases roaming about the countryside. If I were Jehu, I might have had to think twice about saying, "So, it seems I'm to be the future king of Israel. The man you just called a maniac says so. He says that another man you consider a maniac, Elisha, told him to anoint me."

But the men insist Jehu tell them what the young prophet said, "'That's not true!' they said. 'Tell us.' Jehu said, 'Here is what he told me: 'This is what the Lord says: I anoint you king over Israel.'" (2 Kings 9:12)

The men may not put much stock in what prophets say, or in what the Lord says, but they aren't happy with the current administration. We know this by how quickly they jump on the bandwagon. As officers in Joram's army, they have to deal with the king face to face on a regular basis, and they do not care for him. They do not care for him personally or as their commander in chief. "They quickly took their cloaks and spread them under him on the bare steps. Then they blew the trumpet and shouted, 'Jehu is king!'" (2 Kings 9:13) 

The winds of change are blowing in Israel. The Lord is about to remove Joram and set up a man He has chosen. Even the name of the new king indicates who is the true Leader of Israel, for his name means "Yahweh is He", or in more modern terms, "The Lord is He". 

You may or may not be happy with the current leaders of our government. You may or may not be happy with the leaders who get elected this fall. But always, above all kingdoms and all thrones and all principalities, there is a King of kings. The Lord is He. Jesus Christ our Savior is seated on the only throne that will ever truly matter and the best way to gain grace for our nation is to make Him the King of our hearts. We must appeal to our Lord for help, with humble hearts. I believe He will hear the cry of His people. Spiritually speaking, let's spread our cloaks on the ground before Him and declare, "Jesus is King! Jesus is King! Jesus is King!" 

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Prophets And Kings, Day 76. Jehoram King Of Judah, Part 2

Prophets And Kings
Day 76
Jehoram King Of Judah
Part 2

We conclude ours look at a bad king today. The prophet Elijah sends him a letter bouts just what a bad king him is.

2 CHRONICLES 21:12-20
"Jehoram received a letter from Elijah the prophet, which said: 'This is what the Lord, the God of your father David, says: 'You have not followed the ways of your father Jehoshaphat or of Asa king of Judah. But you have followed the ways of the kings of Israel, and you have led Judah and the people of Jerusalem to prostitute themselves, just as the house of Ahab did.'" (2 Chronicles 21:12-13a) The prophet reminds Jehoram of his heritage. He is descended from godly men like David and like his father Jehoshaphat and his grandfather Asa. Jehoram has strayed very far from the example these men set.

The prophet goes on to say, "You have also murdered your own brothers, members of your own family, men who were better than you." (2 Chronicles 21:13b) Jehoram grew up with his six brothers, playing together and getting into all the fun and all the scrapes that brothers get into. Yet after becoming king he somehow found it in his heart to turn on these men he should have loved enough to protect with all his might. And it's not as if he came from a dysfunctional family: his father and brothers were good men, according to the Scriptures, and I believe Jehoram received nothing but kindness from all of them. He killed his brothers because of his deep insecurity and fear. He killed them because he was power-hungry. He killed them because nothing in the world meant more to him than sitting on the throne. I doubt any of his brothers ever plotted to take the throne from him but in his heart he feared it. He believed they were motivated by the same passions that motivated him. And in this he erred greatly.

Because Jehoram is such a sinner and has grievously harmed his family and his nation, the Lord pronounces judgment on him. "So now the Lord is about to strike your people, your sons, your wives and everything that is yours, with a heavy blow." (2 Chronicles 21:14) Jehoram's chief wife and queen was Athaliah, the daughter of King Ahab and his wife Jezebel, but Jehoram had other wives besides her. He probably had a harem and a multitude of children.

The final piece of bad news is this, "You yourself will be very ill with a lingering disease of the bowels, until the disease causes your bowels to come out." (2 Chronicles 21:15) I did some research online to try and find out what Jehoram's affliction might have been and there are several opinions but the most likely seems to be that he had colon cancer. In those days he couldn't go anywhere for chemo or radiation. The most anyone could have done for him was prepare potions for pain relief, and I doubt those were as effective as the pain relievers we have today. 

The Bible doesn't say and I couldn't find anything in my research to back this up, but I wonder if when Jehoram put his brothers to the sword it meant they were thrust through the middle with the sword. That was a common way of killing men in battle in those times, simply thrusting through their abdomen so that the sword came out the back. It could sometimes take hours for a man to perish from a wound like that. The resulting injury would be similar to a "gut shot" that a modern soldier might receive on the battlefield and it's known as one of the most painful ways to die in battle. Even if a surgeon can patch a soldier up in time to prevent immediate death, infection tends to come along afterwards because material from the bowels gets into the bloodstream and causes sepsis. If a man doesn't die from the wound itself he's in grave danger of dying from infection. Maybe God's judgment of Jehoram was poetic justice for the agony he caused his brothers to endure. Graphic and disturbing as the thought is of a person's bowels literally coming out of their body, we must trust that God is just and that the judgment He passed down to Jehoram was warranted and was correct in its severity.

The words of the prophet begin to come true. "The Lord aroused against Jehoram the hostility of the Philistines and of the Arabs who lived near the Cushites. They attacked Judah, invaded it and carried off all the goods found in the king's palace, together with his sons and wives. Not a son was left to him except Ahaziah, the youngest." (2 Chronicles 21:16-17) We will find that the queen is still alive; only the lesser wives were taken away, probably because the queen was too highly guarded to be captured. We don't know for certain why the enemies spared Ahaziah. He was in his early twenties at the time, so he wasn't spared because he was a baby and of no use to the Philistines as a slave. He is the son of the queen and he may have been her only son, so this would have given him the right to the throne even though he was the youngest of all Jehoram's sons. If this is the case, then his life would have been protected by the palace guards just as Jehoram and the queen would have been protected. 

After this raid by the Philistines and the Arabs, Jehoram gets sick and is sick for two years before he dies. Some commentators state that Ahaziah began a co-reign with his father during the last year of his father's life because Jehoram wouldn't have been well enough to perform his duties as king. There is some evidence to back up a co-regency because of a difference between two passages of Scripture in reckoning the beginning year of Ahaziah's reign. In 2 Kings 8:25 we are told he began to reign in the twelfth year of King Joram of Israel. But in 2 Kings 9:29 we are told his reign began in the eleventh year of King Joram of Israel. Co-reigning with his father for one year would explain this. He may have begun to co-reign in the eleventh year of King Joram, then when his father died, he began to reign alone, corresponding with the twelfth year of King Joram. 

"After all this, the Lord afflicted Jehoram with an incurable disease of the bowels. In the course of time, at the end of the second year, his bowels came out because of the disease, and he died in great pain. His people made no funeral fire in his honor, as they had for his predecessors. Jehoram was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eight years. He passed away, to no one's regret, and was buried in the City of David, but not in the tombs of the kings." (2 Chronicles 21:18-20) The people did not love their king. He ruled them ruthlessly, with an iron fist, and the author tells us no one was sorry to see him go. He wasn't even awarded the honor of a king's tomb. The king who so dishonored the Lord during his life finds no honor for himself in death.

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. 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Prophets And Kings, Day 74. King Ben-Hadad Murdered

Prophets And Kings
Day 74
King Ben-Hadad Murdered

King Ben-Hadad is ill today, but that's not the cause of him ending up dead. A trusted servant takes his life. 

2 KINGS 8:7-15
We have met up with Ben-Hadad, the Syrian king, a number of times. He's been a stubborn fellow who refuses to keep his word and he's attacked Israel time and again. Now he is very ill. "Elisha went to Damascus, and Ben-Hadad king of Aram was ill." (2 Kings 8:7a) The Bible doesn't tell us why Elisha goes to visit the territory of a man who once tried to have him killed. Some scholars believe Elisha goes hoping he can persuade the king to repent and come to the Lord. Others believe the two men have come to a truce and to a position of mutual respect over the years. 

"When the king was told, 'The man of God has come all the way up here,' he said to Hazael, 'Take a gift with you and go to meet the man of God. Consult the Lord through him; ask him, 'Will I recover from this illness?'" (2 Kings 8:7b-8) Even in Syria, Elisha is known as the man of God. It is recognized that his words are the Lord's words. Ben-Hadad has been witness to this truth, for Elisha was prophetically warning the king of Israel every time Ben-Hadad plotted to attack him. Plus Elisha deceived the men Ben-Hadad sent to kill him, calling down temporary blindness upon them and leading them away from the company of the prophets. Elisha even healed Ben-Hadad's officer Naaman of leprosy. The king knows there is power in the God of Israel and power in God's prophet. 

"Hazael went to meet Elisha, taking with him as a gift forty camel-loads of all the finest wares of Damascus. He went in and stood before him, and said, 'Your son Ben-Hadad king of Aram has sent me to ask, 'Will I recover from this illness?'" (2 Kings 8:9) Forty camel-loads is an enormous gift. The Bible doesn't say whether Elisha accepted it or whether he refused it as he refused Naaman's gift. It could be the king hopes Elisha will beseech the Lord on his behalf after receiving such bounty. Or it could simply be that the king wants to send a gift that reflects the high esteem he now has for Elisha. The words he tells the Hazael to say, calling the king Elisha's son, are quite respectful, giving honor to Elisha as an elder of Israel.

"Elisha answered, 'Go and say to him, 'You will certainly recover.' Nevertheless, the Lord has revealed to me that he will in fact die.' He stared at him with a fixed gaze until Hazael was embarrassed. Then the man of God began to weep." (2 Kings 8:10-11) Elisha isn't telling a lie because Ben-Hadad's illness is not terminal. Whatever sickness he has, with time and proper care it will gradually clear up on its own. But the Lord has revealed to Elisha that Ben-Hadad will die by some other means: murder. And Elisha knows whose hands will accomplish this wicked deed; he's standing right in front of him. Elisha stares Hazael in the eyes to let him know he is aware of the harm he intends toward the king. Elisha's words and his stern gaze should have caused Hazael to repent, but instead Hazael drops his eyes and hardens his heart. Elisha is saying something like, "The illness won't result in death. If allowed to recover, Ben-Hadad will overcome his sickness. But the Lord has revealed a plot against the king's life. And if the man behind the plot does not turn from this wrong course, the king will die by unnatural means. He will be betrayed and killed by someone he trusts."

Ben-Hadad has troubled Israel but Hazael will trouble Israel in ways Ben-Hadad never dreamed of. This is why Elisha weeps. "'Why is my lord weeping?' asked Hazael. 'Because I know the harm you will do to the Israelites,' he answered. '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 8:12) What a ghastly prophecy! No wonder Elisha is weeping. If we knew an enemy was coming against our own nation to do such things, we'd weep too.

"Hazael said, 'How could your servant, a mere dog, accomplish such a feat?" (2 Kings 8:13a) Some commentators believe Hazael doesn't yet realize he is capable of such evil. Others believe he knows it but wants to know how a man in his position will ever have the power to do what Elisha says he will one day do. I think he already harbors murderous feelings toward the king. I think he already has a lust for power. I think he already believes he could be a better king than Ben-Hadad. What Hazael is about to do won't be a crime of passion, a murder committed in the heat of the moment due to rage or some type of violent argument. He is about to commit first-degree murder. He's about to assassinate the leader of his nation. I don't believe a bold decision like that happens in a split second.

Hazael can protest all he wants and put on a front of false modesty but Elisha sees right through it. Elisha sees through it because the Lord sees through it. It's ironic that Hazael's name means "Whom God Sees." God does indeed see Hazael's heart and all He finds is wickedness there. 

Elisha tells him, "The Lord has shown me that you will become king of Aram.'" (2 Kings 8:13b) This is one of those cases in prophecy where the Lord is simply revealing something that will take place; The Lord doesn't force Hazael's hand to wickedness. It appears it is God's will for Hazael to be the next king of Aram, because one of the last things the prophet Elijah did before being taken to heaven was to anoint Hazael king over Aram (1 Kings 19:15) But Hazael could have trusted in the Lord and waited patiently for the throne, just as David trusted in the Lord and waited patiently for the throne of Israel. David had several opportunities, after being told he would be the next king, to assassinate King Saul, but he would not do it. Hazael could have chosen that same route. He could have walked in David's footsteps. Had he done so, he wouldn't have had to fulfill the rest of Elisha's prophecy about the violence he will bring on Israel. He could have turned to the Lord and could have been a good king when the time came. Instead he takes matters into his own hands. 

"Then Hazael left Elisha and returned to his master. When Ben-Hadad asked, 'What did Elisha say to you?' Hazael replied, 'He told me that you would certainly recover.'" (2 Kings 8:14) Hazael keeps to himself the rest of what Elisha said. After performing his duties for the king that day, Hazael goes to his own quarters in the palace or to his own house. And he thinks. And he plots. The last thing he wants is for Ben-Hadad to recover and he knows he will because Elisha said so. The king is still very ill, his symptoms being so severe that he had feared for his life until the good news came that he would survive. Likely all the palace and the people of the nation are fearful their leader will die. And while Hazael ponders all night, maybe even pacing the floor, he realizes that no one will be shocked if Ben-Hadad does indeed die. Everyone will naturally assume the illness took his life. It could be that only Hazael and Ben-Hadad know that Elisha said he would recover and so no one will suspect foul play. But how to accomplish the murder without leaving any trace? No one must ever guess at Hazael's part in this matter. By morning he has decided how he can murder the king and get away with it.

"But the next day he took a thick cloth, soaked it in water and spread it over the king's face, so that he died. Then Hazael succeeded him as king." (2 Kings 8:15) The original language indicates that this is a heavy cloth, maybe even an animal skin with hair still on it. While Ben-Hadad sleeps deeply from exhaustion, illness, or sedating medication, he smothers and/or inhales water into his lungs and dies. It took "malice aforethought", as a lawyer might put it, to decide on a course of action and go to the king's room, to take the cloth or animal skin, to saturate it with water, to place it over the king's face, and then to stand there and watch him die. This had to take several minutes at least, and at any point Hazael could have stopped, but he didn't. 

There is still an inscription written about King Hazael by the Assyrian king Shalmaneser III which says of the fate of King Ben-Hadad, "Hazael, son of a nobody, seized his throne." He was a high official in Ben-Hadad's court but his background was obscure. He was a nobody from some backwoods town in Syria. But wasn't David a nobody from a backwoods town in Judah? In both these cases, God instructed a prophet to anoint each of these men as future kings. Samuel anointed David the future king of Israel and Elijah anointed Hazael the future king of Syria. The circumstances of their early lives seem quite similar but the condition of their hearts couldn't be less similar. I think David would have been happy watching the sheep for the rest of his life, composing songs to the Lord and enjoying the Judean countryside. Even after the throne was promised to him, he was content to let God handle it in His own time and in His own way. But Hazael, on the other hand, was never content with his position in life. From humble beginnings he moved up through the ranks until he became one of the most trusted officers of the king. But it wasn't enough for him and when Elijah anointed him king, he must have started thinking about how great a king he could be. He must have begun to look down on Ben-Hadad and to criticize him in his heart. He wasn't content to wait for God's timing. Ben-Hadad was going to recover from his illness but he was growing old. A time would come when some other natural cause would take his life, or else he would be killed in battle. But Hazael wants the throne and he wants it now. So he does something David vowed to never do: "The Lord forbid that I should do such a thing to my master, the Lord's anointed, or lay my hand on him; for he is the anointed of the Lord." (1 Samuel 24:6) Saul too had been anointed king and he was God's anointed king until the Lord took him out of the way and put David in his place. It wasn't up to David to take Saul's life. If only Hazael had David's godly attitude. So many things could have been different.