Struggles of Israel Meditations: 16. Ongoing Folly
2 Kings 3:1 Joram … did evil in the eyes of the Lord
Continuing with the Northern Kingdom: Let’s observe in our pursuit of the northern kings, the kings following Ahab and the activities of their enemies:
- Ahaziah, Ahab’s son, starts to reign, for just two years, but he is a bad king (1 Kings 22:51-53): “He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, because he followed the ways of his father and mother and of Jeroboam son of Nebat, who caused Israel to sin. He served and worshiped Baal and aroused the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel, just as his father had done.” (1 Kings 22:52,53). It must be no coincidence that the next thing we read is, “After Ahab’s death, Moab rebelled against Israel.” (2 Kings 1:1) Elijah is sent to Ahaziah with a condemnatory word and, subsequent to an accident, Ahaziah dies. Note, he had the opportunity to repent but did not take it and subsequently died. (see 2 Kings 1).
- Joram, brother of Ahaziah, takes over (2 Kings 3:1) and reigns for 12 years but again is a bad king: “He did evil in the eyes of the Lord… he clung to the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit; he did not turn away from them.” (2 Kings 3:2,3)
- Jehu, prophesied over to be next king, (2 Kings 9:1-13) kills Joram (9:24) and all of Ahab’s family (10:1-11) and the prophets of Baal (10:18-28) yet, “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.” (10:29)
- Jehoahaz, Jehu’s son, reigns after Jehu’s death, reigns for 17 years but, “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)
Moab & Aram: Note it is early in Joram’s reign that Moab rebels (2 Kings 3:5) and so, like his father before him, he calls on Jehoshaphat to help him (and Edom! 2 Kings 3:9) and with Elisha’s help, they defeat the Moabites (see 2 Kings 3:7-27). (Triumph No.1). It also appears at this time that Aram was still making incursions into Israel (see 2 Kings 5:1,2) which seems to later develop into a full scale war (2 Kings 6:8) which continued until Elisha’s ‘victory’ at Dothan (see 2 Kings 6:8-23). (Triumph No.2). Despite this, a while later the king of Aram comes against Israel and lays siege to Samaria (2 Kings 6:24) but the Lord throws his army into disarray and they flee (2 Kings 7:5-7). (Triumph No.3).
What is amazing is that although the Lord clearly used Moab and Aram to discipline Israel, nevertheless, presumably in His endeavours to draw them back to Himself, He clearly fights on Israel’s side and gives His prophet, Elisha, a major part to play in that. In this short account we have observed the Lord giving Israel three victories, which is amazing considering the constant negative descriptions of them. This is the grace of the Lord seeking to win their hearts back. But that was not all the Lord was doing.
The Lord’s Activity: In a strange incident the Lord sends Elisha to the sick king of Aram and to his commander, Hazael, and reveals Hazael will become king and do harm to Israel (2 Kings 8:7-15). Thus Hazael is set up as Israel’s next adversary.
Thus following on from this, during Jehu’s reign, we read, “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.” (10:32,33) i.e. the scribes recording these things recognised the Lord implying a warning, ‘enough is enough’ it would seem, as he used the latest king of Aram, Hazael, to cut them back. This obviously continues, for in the reign of Jehoahaz we then read, “So the Lord’s anger burned against Israel, and for a long time he kept them under the power of Hazael king of Aram.” (2 Kings 13:3)
The Attackers: Earlier on in the series we identified the various tribal nations that occupied Canaan when Israel went in to clear it out. We then, in Study No.11 identified and described both the ‘local nations’ such as Edom and Moab and the ‘big powers’ such as Aram and Assyria and as we proceed with these studies you may find it helpful to jump back to No.11 and recap who and what was going on.
Summary: The comings and goings of all these kings can be confusing so let’s summarise again what we have covered in this particular study:
– Ahab was worse than any others, repented, but died trying to outwit the word of God, by being killed by a stray arrow.
– Ahaziah, followed idols like Jeroboam, Moab rebels, died from a fall.
– Joram, not quite as bad as his father, killed by Jehu.
– Jehu, rebuked but no record of his mode of death
– Jehoahaz, continued the sin of the north but curtailed by Hazael, king of Aram.
And So? I have had to agree with you that these are, in some ways, not exactly enlightening times but if we were in any doubt, my conclusion that I have often made – that the Lord allowed Israel to reveal the sinfulness of mankind – rings loud and true as we consider these particular kings who, we have to add, are fairly typical of all of the kings. What we should also now have noticed more than a few times, is that so often when Israel or Judah turn from the Lord, the next thing that happens is that an enemy invader appears and puts pressure on them – most noticeably in this period, Aram. Only rarely though, did they then turn to the Lord for help.
The lessons must be that to stray from the path of the Lord open us up to enemy activity that the Lord uses to discipline us and draw us back to Himself. The struggles that Israel confronted in this period, as we said before, were both physical (neighbouring invaders AND civil war AND assassination) and spiritual, failing to hold on to the Lord, failing to be the people of God they were called to be. It is a shameful period and one that should bring warnings to us that we need to heed.
And yet, to avoid getting swamped in gloom and doom by the folly of these kings, hold on to the things we have seen the Lord doing. In the previous study we saw the Lord sending Elijah, and another prophet and Micaiah, all to speak His will into the situation and challenge these ungodly kings. In this study we have seen Him use Elisha twice and intervene in power Himself once on behalf of these ungodly people. Put all this together and we see that although this is a terrible time that does not stand up well when compared to the reign of David and the early reign of Solomon, it is a time when the Lord is powerfully active by word (through His prophets) and by deed, to act on behalf of His people. They could never ever say that he wasn’t there for them.
And Us? Consider what we have. His word, the Bible. The Church with its two thousand years of history. The testimony of millions of the saving grace of the Lord through the work of Christ on the Cross and the working of the indwelling Holy Spirit. We too have no room to say that He isn’t here for us. Look back over your life and see the hand of the Lord in it. If you’ve never done that, pray and ask Him to open your eyes to see His hand that has been there working quietly (and maybe sometimes not so quietly) in the background of your life. No, we have, like the kings of Israel, no excuses, He has been there for us and is still there for us today. Let’s rejoice in that and worship Him!