Day 128: 2 Chronicles 17-19; King Jehoshaphat

King Jehoshaphat was arguably the first of the great kings of Judah.  As we have read throughout the books of 1 and 2 Kings, the spiritual state of Israel goes up and down based on the king that is reigning at the time.  We saw how the actions of Rehoboam and Abijah lead that Southern Kingdom wars and even servitude to other nations, and now with Asa and Jehoshaphat we see the flip side of the coin.  When the people follow God, worship Him, and do not go after other gods, the blessings shower down once again.  We see this very clearly with Jehoshaphat and the wealth and fame that is given him and how the “fear of the Lord” descended on the nations around Judah.

Asa, Jehoshaphat, and Joram Photo Credit: www.chinaoilpaintinggallery.com

Asa, Jehoshaphat, and Joram
Photo Credit: www.chinaoilpaintinggallery.com

We read today about the many reforms that took place during the time of Jehoshaphat as well.  Interestingly, he does, in some ways, exactly what our Deuteronomy 17 passage about the Kings of Israel says he should do.  I think that this is the first time I have said this since we started reading about the Kings of Israel.  For us, this has been one of the laws that has guided our vision of what the kings shouldn’t be doing when they are walking in the ways of sin… kind of a “see, I told you so” thing from the Law.  However, there is a section in this chapter that also talks about what the king should do, and this is kind of what Jehoshapaht does, with a little extra on the side!

And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests.  And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them,  that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel.

Not only does Jehoshapaht follow the laws of God, he appoints people to take the book of the law with them out to the people of Israel, to teach them the ways of the Lord.  Some of these names might be familiar to you as they were people mentioned in 1 & 2 Kings.  People like Obadiah, Micaiah, and Adonijah were also prophets that were mentioned as folks that talked to the King’s of the Northern Kingdom, particularly Ahab.  While he isn’t named here, this is also the time of Elijah and Elisha, who would be making appearances before Ahab and trying to bring back the ways of the Lord in Israel.

Ahab Killed in Battle Photo Credit: www.jesusfootprints.wordpress.com/

Ahab Killed in Battle
Photo Credit: www.jesusfootprints.wordpress.com

Speaking of Ahab, we encounter once again, the deviousness of the Northern Kingdom under king Ahab.  The narrative of Ahab and Jehoshapaht going up against the army of Ramoth-gilead is ultimately the culmination one of the worst kings in the Northern Kingdom.  Why it is that Jehoshapaht decides to go up with Ahab we will not know.  However, what is primarily pointed out here is how the leader and the people of the Kingdom of Israel have indeed fallen away from the way of the Lord.  Again, this is a narrative of contrasts, seeing Jehoshapaht’s desire to seek the way of the Lord in the face of Ahab’s false prophets.

Ultimately, given the context and the audience that is being spoken to here, the writer is pointing out the dangers of taking counsel with sinners.  There are many echoes in this narrative to Psalm 1.  Jehoshapaht is clearly a king that is living for God, but even so he finds himself in a situation where he must stand for his beliefs in the face of one who certainly doesn’t want to hear it.  Yet the King of Judah stands up for his beliefs and seeks the face of God in spite of Ahab’s displeasure, and it winds up saving his life.

PSALM 1

Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.

He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.



Day 108: 2 Kings 9-11; Jehu, the Best Bloody King of Israel

English: Jehu was king of Israel, the son of J...

English: Jehu was king of Israel, the son of Jehoshaphat [1], and grandson of Nimshi. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Legacy of King Jehu is somewhat of a double-edged sword, and our reading today reflects this is many ways.  He does a great deal of good in the land of Israel, but does it in a ways that is one whale of a blood bath.  Today’s reading is certainly not rated G or PG in nature, but I think that it lends itself to the reality of what sometimes needs to happen to rid evil from the land and from our lives as well.

This whole narrative begins with the anointing of Jehu, an anointing that is quite unlike all of the others.  Elisha sends his servant rather than going himself.  His instructions are basically to do the deed and get the heck out of there… “Do not linger” he says.  Whether Elisha is aware of what is about to take place or not, it is abundantly clear that the man Jehu is to be feared.  Our suspicions are confirmed when we read of the people that are look-outs and see him coming.  They say that he drives like Jehu, which indicates to us that Jehu has a reputation for bad driving, or perhaps wild behavior.  In any case, Elisha doesn’t risk himself and doesn’t want his servant caught in the cross-hairs (if you can call it that with bows, swords, and spears) either.

The resulting conflict is indeed bloody and swift.  Jehu wipes out the entire family of Ahab.  Scripture tells us that all of Ahab’s male relations, his friends, his priests, and anyone that was close to him.  Scripture is also very specific as to why this is done.  Unlike some of the kings anointed before him, Jehu takes the task he is given from the Lord rather seriously, perhaps maybe even to a fault?  I don’t think he was meant to kill the family of the King of Judah, at least not that I can remember, yet he does.  He almost seems like the perfect man for the job.  He follows the Lord’s command, carrying out what the Lord had proclaimed again Ahab, Jezebel, and all their family.  Through Him all the words of the Lord came true against Ahab.

He also takes out all the prophets of Baal, his worshipers and the house in which they worship.  The Bible says, “Jehu wiped out Baal from Israel.”  However, even to this credit, He still did not turn Israel around.  He left up the golden calves that were erected by Jeroboam and did not remove the idolatry from Israel.  Even with his failings though, the Lord looks favorably on him and says that the house of Jehu will reign for four generations, a promise that would not have gone unnoticed by the king, however evil he was.

English: Joas was the king of the ancient King...

English: Joas was the king of the ancient Kingdom of Judah, and sole surviving son of Ahaziah. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Meanwhile, back in Judah, there are some royalty issues going on as well.  Jehu killed king Ahaziah and much of his family too.  In his stead his mother took control of the throne and sought to wipe out the entire royal family.  The actualization of this would have completely mitigated the Lord’s Covenant with Daivd.  Of course, this couldn’t and doesn’t happen.  One of the slain king’s sons was sneaked out by his sister, the only one of his line to remain alive.  How this got overlooked we’ll never know.  Only by the grace and power of God I imagine.  In any case, the Queen was even and Joash, also know as Jehoash was crowned king by those who were faithful to the royal family and God provides a good adviser for the 7 year old who would be king.  The Queen is put to death and Jehoash is crowned king at age 7.  Once again, God has shown Himself to be faithful to all that He has promised and has maintained the line of Kings from David for the sake of David and the Covenant that God made with him.

These stories often leave us with some uneasy feelings about how God can use something so seemingly evil to bring about His working and will in the world.  But I think, without over generalizing this story down to something smaller than what it is, we get a good picture of the wrath of God against the evil of the land.  We know that God is Love, but we also know that God is Holy and is completely opposed to sin.  We have seen time and again that God punishes His people when they sin through various means.  This is very much a part of the Covenant relationship that has been made with God.  But it is not a heartless beating, but rather like a Father punishing His child.  While this metaphor doesn’t work well due to all the death, perhaps it is better to look at the death as the working toward removing sin in the lives of the people.  Removing entrenched sin in our lives is often like going to war, having to struggle and cut things out of our lives in what can be a Spiritually bloody battle against the deceiver.  But even here we see God’s abundant faithfulness.  He does not leave His people to suffer alone with no hope, but instead brings someone that can do battle on their behalf… He has done this for us in Jesus Christ as well: God becoming human to taking on the sin of the world, to take it on himself… to do battle for us… and to overcome completely the oppression of sin and death in the world.



Day 104: 1 Kings 21-22; Naboth's Vineyard and the Death of Ahab

I feel like today’s reading has called into question some things that I would otherwise have taken for granted about God.  However, before we get to that, let’s talk for a moment about Naboth’s Vineyard and what happens when Ahab takes it.

English: Jezabel and Ahab Meeting Elijah in Na...

English: Jezabel and Ahab Meeting Elijah in Naboth’s Vineyard Giclee. Print by Sir Frank Dicksee. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We read that there is a Vineyard that King Ahab wants.  Naboth owns it and won’t give it to him because it is part of his “inheritance.”  What he means by this is that, likely, this was the plot of land that was given to him when the people of Israel entered and conquered the land of Canaan.  Remember that every tribe was given a plot of land and every family was given land within that land to call their own.  There are a great deal of laws that have to do with the possession of the land including things like the Year of Jubilee and laws that governed the sale/transfer of ownership of the land.  This land was very important to the people.  It was given to them by God as part of the Covenant promise that God made with Israel and therefore was to be kept in the families.  As I understand it, even when someone had to sell their land or had lost it somehow, it was to be returned to them after a period of time.  This is spelled out fairly specifically in Leviticus 25.  So it doesn’t come as a surprise then that Naboth is unwilling to sell his Vineyard as it is part of (or perhaps all of) his inheritance.  The land was sacred to him, given to him by God, and he didn’t want to give it up.  Likely it is that he knew the King wouldn’t honor the codes of the Law in returning it to him in the Year of Jubilee.

The other part of today’s reading had to do with the nature of King Ahab’s death.  Returning to my original statement, this narrative is a bit confusing.  We read a of a vision that the prophet Micaiah speaks to Ahab and Jehoshaphat prior to the conflict with Aram.  He talks about a decieving spirit sent directly from God to disceive the prophets that Ahab had so that he would wrongfully attack Aram.  In doing so, we read, God is ensuring that Ahab would end up dead.  This can be confusing because it seems to be out of character from God.  We don’t equate the word “decieving” with God often.  We belive the Lord God is the essence of truth.  Being decitful is considered to be sinful in most situations, so seeing God sending someone or something to decieve seems completely out of character.  Yet I think that we can understand that there is a bit more going on here than simply God lying to someone in order to get him killed.

English: The Death of Ahab (1Kings 22:29-40) Р...

English: The Death of Ahab (1Kings 22:29-40) Русский: Смерть Ахава (3Цар. 22:29-40) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In fact, here we see very clearly that God is being true to Himself and His own words.  A couple times now there have been prophecies, which are words from the Lord, that have to do with the death of Ahab and his evil wife Jezebel.  In this action, God is ensuring that His word comes true, which happens despite Ahab’s attempts to hide himself.  We read that a random arrow strikes Ahab, likely a 1 in a million shot being that the king’s armor was much better than the normal soldier’s armor, and King Ahab dies exactly in the manner which God says… dogs and all.

So what do we do with things like this?  They do make us question things that we think we know about God.  Yet I think it is important for us to know that, as much as anyone tries to explain away the actions of God, we have to know that God is God and He is abundantly higher and greater than we ever are or will be.  “Who can know the mind of the Lord?” the Psalmist writes,  “Your ways are higher than our ways.”  We may not know or understand how or why God is working in the ways that he does, but we know that He is always true to Himself.  God cannot act outside the nature of God, and we know that the nature of God is first and foremost a God of love and faithfulness.  God is true to His own being always, and in all things will indeed be faithful to His people.



Day 103: 1 Kings 19-20; Elijah and Ahab

Today’s reading continues the narrative of the prophet Elijah and his work for the Lord in Israel.  Yesterday we saw the awesome power of God in the face of the gods that the people of the Northern Kingdom had turned to.  However, today, even after that amazing power is displayed before King Ahab and all the people of Israel, we find Elijah running for his life because of death threats from the king.  When I read this, I don’t necessarily know what to think of it.  God’s power is displayed before all the people, the prophets of Baal and their gods have been defeated and put to death, and yet Elijah runs from the threats of the Queen.  Does this display a lack of trust?  Or does it model, in some way, the life of Israel before God.

Prophet Elijah, Russian Orthodox icon from fir...

Prophet Elijah, Russian Orthodox icon from first quarter of 18-th cen. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In many ways, the prophets, as well as speaking for God, also model in many ways the life of Israel to the people of Israel.  There are many correlations between Elijah’s running away and any number of instances in Israel’s past in which they complained, wept, or were in fear just after witnessing the power of God in their lives.  However, unlike Israel, Elijah actually runs to the mountain of God, seeking the will of God instead of running to the “power” or other gods.  We see that in his journey he is miraculously provided for and journeys for 40 days and 40 nights, numbers that are always significant.

While at Mount Horeb, God speaks to Him.  Here we see and interesting contrast in the way that God reveals Himself to His people.  We had just witnessed a God that provides for His prophet, a God than is more powerful than any other god, and now a God that speaks in that still small voice.  It is so awesome to see the many ways in which God reveals Himself.  God almighty, the creator of the universe can face down any challenge with omnipotence that He possesses, and yet meets Elijah in his time of struggle, fear, and perhaps even questioning/doubt in the “still small voice” that speaks to Elijah’s heart and calms his mind.

On another note, there are some folks that are named here today that we should keep in mind.  They were have prominent roles in the chapters to come, especially in 2 Kings.  Ben-Hadad is the “King of Aram (Syria) and attacks Ahab and the Northern Kingdom.  Ultimately this attack fails because God provides for His people again, even in their sinful nature.  We are also introduced to Hazael.  He is Ben-Hadad’s second in command, trusted adviser, and the anointed king of Aram.  We never actually read that Elijah makes good on this anointing, but it is clear that God has chosen him for some purpose in the future.  Jehu is also someone that we meet today.  He will be king over Israel soon as well.  All of these people have been hand picked by God for some purpose, most of which is described by God to Elijah.

The other important person that we hear mentioned today is that of Elisha who will be the successor to Elijah as prophet.  We don’t hear much about these folks today apart from some of the story about what they are doing (primarily Ahab and Ben-Hadad), but what we learn here is that God is at work in people, all sorts of people, both local and abroad to bring about His will in the world and with His people.  Interestingly, God is showing here, once again, His power to work in the lives of people all over the place to both bring about His will and to show once again His faithfulness to the covenant that has been made with His people.



Day 102: 1 Kings 16-18; Enter Elijah

English: Ahab was king of Israel and the son a...

English: Ahab was king of Israel and the son and successor of Omri (1 Kings 16:29-34). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

All the Kings of Israel are Evil.  One after another, the do worse and worse things.  Scripture even says that some of these kings did so much worse that all the others before them.  Today we come to Ahab, who fits that profile and then some.  He “did evil in the sight of the Lord,more than all who were before him. 31 And as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam.”  Israel has walked away from God continually from the time of the Northern Kingdom’s inception.  Now they are worshiping the Baals as well as Asherah, following in the ways of the nations around them, just as Moses warned before they entered into the promised land.

Interjected into the story of Ahab becoming king and ruling is the little known story of Hiel, the man that rebuild the city of Jericho.  Scripture tells us this story in 1 quick verse:

“In his days Hiel of Bethel built Jericho. He laid its foundation at the cost of Abiram his firstborn, and set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub, according to the word of the Lord, which he spoke by Joshua the son of Nun.”  1 Kings 16:34

The word of the Lord to which this verse refers is back in Joshua 6:26, when Joshua say the very words which come true for Hiel:

“At the cost of his firstborn shall he
    lay its foundation,
and at the cost of his youngest son
    shall he set up its gates.”

Enter Elijah, the most famous prophet without a book to call his own.  Elijah enters this scene in much the same way that Moses enters the scene over 400 years earlier.  Israel was enslaved by Egypt then and is enslaved by foreign gods and sin now.  Once Elijah says his piece to Ahab he goes out into the wilderness where God provides for him bread and meat, much like the mana and quail from Israel’s wilderness experience.  After this wilderness experience, like that of Israel and of King David (and later Jesus as well), Elijah emerges and begins to do the work of the Lord in a land permeated by evil.

The Prophets of Baal Defeated Photo Credit: http://102grow.blogspot.com/2011/03/god-hears-us-2.html

The Prophets of Baal Defeated
Photo Credit: http://102grow.blogspot.com/2011/03/god-hears-us-2.html

The story of the challenge between Elijah and the prophets of Baal is probably a familiar one to those who attended Sunday School as a child.  It can also be a popular story to preach from in churches, but I think that this story, when read in the context in which we find it in today’s reading helps to bring out a great deal more of the depth of meaning that is taking place here.  In the land of Israel, there really hasn’t been any sort of following of God over the course of the last 50+ years or so.  We can look as far back as Solomon’s reign to see that the kings have turned away from the Lord and are following after idols.  By this point the grip of idolatry is very strong on this nation.  Yet even here, God does not abandon His people and leave them in their apostasy.  God sends his prophet and challenges the evil that is present.  Again, as we talk about pretty much every day, God remains faithful even when the people clearly are not.  Yesterday it was covenant faithfulness with the kings of Judah, today God will not simply surrender His people to the Baals or Asherah goddesses or any other idols.

God does not shrink away when we sin.  He is not threatened when we turn away or doubt.  God is not put off by our questions.  He does not turn away when we do not live for Him.  No, God challenges the status quo and the idols that we may have.  God doesn’t let the things of this world take His people away while just idly standing by helplessly.  Today we read that through Elijah, God takes on the gods of Baal in front of all, inviting it to show its power for all to see.  Obviously Baal doesn’t show up because it has no real power.  But God shows up in a very real way, sending an all consuming fire that eats up the sacrifice, the water, and even the rocks on which it is placed.  God’s power is almighty; nothing can stand before Him.

Do not live in the fear that you may have angered the Lord.  Do not live in the lie that you have walked away too far or that you have done something that is unforgivable.  God did not abandon the people of Israel and He will not abandon you ether.  God is faithful.  He is Loving.  He is Jealous for His people.  He is quick to forgive.  If you are wandering, listen for His voice… He IS calling you back and He IS ready to fight for you.