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A Lamp for David

Date: Jun. 14, 2015

Author: Michael Mark

2 Kings 8:7-29

Key Verse: 2 Kings 8:19

“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 his descendants forever.”

Who here has been on a road trip before? Who here has ever tried to drive on a road far away from the city, where there are no lights? Driving out in the country at night is one of my least favorite things to do. In the daytime, it’s great. You can see the trees, the fields, the skies and the clouds. But at night, all you can see is the road that is lit up by your headlights. You can’t see what’s out to the left or to the right and you really have to focus when the road curves. What happens if your headlights are broken? Then you better not drive, or you might go off the road, hit a wall, or worse drive down a cliff. Light helps us to see things. In some sense, light is like life, in the sense that darkness is like death. When you are dead, and I know no one here has ever been dead, but I trust you understand, then you cannot see anything, you cannot hear anything, you cannot feel anything. That is like darkness, there is nothing. But when you are alive, you touch, you hear, you see, you taste and you smell. Even if you don’t see with your eyes, you can “see” with your other senses, so life is like light. Where does light come from? Where does life come from? They come from God, who has the authority over life and death. In today’s passage, we will see how a king of Judah does evil in the eyes of the Lord, and though God has every right to take away his life and remove all of his descendants, he allows David’s family to continue to rule in Judah one generation after another. He kept his promise to maintain a lamp for David and his descendants forever.

We have not heard much about the kings of Judah since before our Easter Retreat. From the beginning of 2 Kings, up to this point, the author has focused on the works of Elisha throughout Israel. Here, we see Elisha deal with the king of Aram, and then we catch up on what’s happening with the kings of Judah. Look at v.7-8, “Elisha went to Damascus, and Ben-Hadad king of Aram was ill. 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?’” Today, we know that Damascus is the capital of Syria, but here, almost 3,000 years ago, it was the capital of Aram. Elisha normally didn’t visit foreign countries, but God had sent him. When he arrived, it was reported to the king “The man of God is here.” The Arameans called him by the name he was known throughout Israel, “the man of God.” Elisha’s reputation had spread far and wide. They may have heard about how he healed Naaman, the commander of their army, from leprosy. They may have heard how he blinded their army, or how he prophesied about the famine in Samaria, but even in Aram, Elisha was the “man of God.”

Elisha and Ben-Hadad have a little bit of history. There were certain times Ben-Hadad snuck into Israel, lurking in the fields, trying to ambush and capture the king of Israel, but time and time he failed. He began to blame his own officers, saying, “Which one of you is a traitor?” And they said, “None of us, but Elisha, the prophet who is in Israel, tells the king of Israel the very words you speak in your bedroom!” After that Ben-Hadad wanted to capture Elisha, but yet again, Elisha ruined his plans. Now Elisha was in Ben-Hadad’s hometown, so what would you think Ben-Hadad might say? “Ah finally I got him! Arrest that man!!!” No, he did not. Unexpectedly, Ben-Hadad said, “Take a gift with you and meet the man of God.” A gift? A gift?! What did Ben-Hadad want? He continued, “Consult the Lord through him; ask him, ‘Will I recover from this illness?’” Wait a minute… Consult the Lord? Ben-Hadad was the king of Aram. His name means son of Hadad, the god of Aram. Hadad was the storm god of Aram, parallel to storm god Baal of Tyre. It could be, that after hearing how the God of Israel knows what he says in his bedroom, or seeing how the God of Israel sent his army right back to him, that he believed in the power of the Lord. Even though his question was selfish, “Will I recover,” and even if he might have consulted his own gods, there was at least some acknowledgement of the truth and power of the God of Israel.

Contrast this with Ahab’s son Ahaziah, a former king in Israel. When he fell from his rooftop and got sick, he sent messengers and told him, “Go and consult Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron, to see if I will recover from this injury (2 Kings 1:2).” It’s ironic that the king of Israel would consult a false god, while the king of Aram would consult the true God, the God of Israel, which is the reason why Israel is in the trouble it’s in.

See what happens next in v.9, “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?’” Ben-Hadad was serious about consulting God, that he sent forty camel-loads of gifts. Damascus was an important trade city, so it had some of the finest merchandise in the Middle East. Damascus steel was well known, and their swords were crafted with the finest artistry. One of my uncles has a sword made from Damascus steel, it’s a beautiful sword. There were probably also gifts of fine silk, oils and wines. Actually though, what the king was trying to do was to influence what Elisha would say through this extravagant gift. He thought that he could buy a favorable prophecy. That was the problem with false prophets and their false gods. They would give false predictions for lots of money, but God is nothing like that. You cannot buy God’s favor, and he doesn’t need your money. God will always speak the truth, even if it’s something people don’t like to hear.

Elisha answered in v.10, “Go and say to him, ‘You will certainly recover.’ Nevertheless, the Lord has revealed to me that he will in fact die.” This sounds like a contradiction – how can he recover, but still die? But here Elisha has just revealed the secret heart of Hazael. Elisha is in effect saying, with irony, “Go ahead and say what you were planning on saying to him, but I know you are planning to kill him.” It’s like saying to someone, “You’re going to lie, but I know the truth.” Look at v.11, “He stared at him with a fixed gaze until Hazael was embarrassed. Then the man of God began to weep.” At first this seems a little humorous. It was like Elijah was staring at him for no reason, and Hazael began to blush. Ever had someone stare at you, and you laugh, and say, “What are you looking at?” But this was a convicting stare. Like if I asked, “Who stole the cookie from the cookie jar?” and just look straight at you. Whether or not it was you, you would be embarrassed. Then, there are several ways you can respond. You might get angry if it was not you, but you could justify it. If it really was you, you might also get angry, but you might also start lying or exaggerating to hide the truth. Hazael was embarrassed because his secret was exposed. Hazael did not share his plan with Elisha, and he probably had no intention to.

Something else happened during their interaction – Elisha began to weep. Hazael asked, “Why is my lord weeping?” Elisha answered, “Because I know the harm you will do to the Israelites. 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.” These are horrible acts, but these evil things were part of wars during that time. If nations were at war, that’s what they would do to one another. Elisha saw that Hazael would be at war with Israel. He wept when he knew these things because he loved Israel, and he loved his people. These were his brothers and sisters, and these horrible things would happen to them. Imagine these things happening to your family – that’s how Elisha felt, and he wept, grieving and mourning over Israel. As terrible as these may sound, hell is much worse. Hell is a place of eternal torment and punishment, a place reserved for those who do evil. What we can learn from Elisha is to mourn, and have sorrow for sinners.

Hazael asked Elisha, “How could your servant, a mere dog, accomplish such a feat?” This was an insincere question, and Hazael was using false humility to try and convince Elisha that he had no plans to kill the king. He was asking, “How could I, your servant, who is but a lowly servant, be capable of engaging in war, especially war with Israel?” Hazael was embarrassed that he was found out, though he did not get angry, he was over-exaggerating to cover up the truth. He called himself a dog, which in those times, was a most degrading and humiliating description. Dogs were filthy and unclean animals. It’s like Hazael was saying, by today’s standards, “How could I do such a thing? I’m a worthless, stinky pile of dog doo doo. There’s no way I would ever think about killing the king.” He was trying to say to Elisha, “Who me?? Nooooo…” Despite Hazael’s fake humility and defensiveness, Elisha affirmed, “The Lord has shown me that you will become king of Aram.”

It might seem like a coincidence that Elisha has come up to Damascus at this time, and a coincidence that he met Hazael at this time, who had probably been pre-meditating and planning the murder of Ben-Hadad. But none of this was random, this was all pre determined by God. Before even Elisha was called to serve, God told Elijah what he would do. Elijah was running away from Jezebel, complaining to God that the Israelites have rejected his covenant, torn down his altars, and are putting the prophets to death. This is what Israel was doing when they turned to idolatry. So God said to Elijah in 1 Kings 19:15-17, “The Lord said to him, ‘Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you a prophet. Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu.” The Lord was raising up Hazael to be an instrument of judgment against Israel, who were putting to death the prophets of God. Elisha may have come to Damascus to fulfill the task given to Elisha, and to anoint Hazael king over Aram. He definitely came to prophecy, to predict the death of Ben-Hadad and the judgment over Israel. These predictions confirm again that the God of Elisha, the God of Israel, is the true God who has power over all people and all nations.

Look at what happens next in v.14, “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.’” Notice that Hazael only told Ben-Hadad the half truth. He did not give the whole story to him. Elisha also told Hazael that Ben-Hadad would in fact die, but Hazael conveniently hid this revelation from his master. This means that Elisha told the truth, but Hazael is the liar. He deceived Ben-Hadad, and lulled him into a false sense of security. 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. Hazael murdered the king by suffocating him, and he done it in a way that it would not look suspicious. Hazael did not just overnight decide to kill the king. If he wanted to make himself king, he would have had to conspire and think through the plan. Elisha came at just the right time, perhaps right about the time Hazael would execute his plan, but Elisha came to prophecy and predict what would happen, to make it clear that this was not outside the knowledge and control of God. God had predicted Hazael would be king, and used Hazael as an instrument of judgment against Ben-Hadad and against Israel for their idolatry.

The author of this book now comes back to the next king of Judah, and we can see by this time how Israel has influenced Judah. Look at v.16-18, “In the fifth year of Joram son of Ahab king of Israel, when Jehoshaphat was king of Judah, Jehoram son of Jehoshaphat began his reign as king of Judah. 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.” Did you read that right? A king of Judah, following in the ways of he kings of Israel? Their stories are starting to blend together. After the time of King Solomon, the kingdom of Israel split into 2: the kingdom of Judah and the kingdom of Israel. These two nations, essentially brothers, were in conflict after that for about 60 years. It was when Jehoshaphat came to power in Judah, that there was finally peace between Judah and Israel. One of the symbols of that peace was the marriage between Jehoshaphat’s son and Ahab’s daughter, but that marriage proved to be the corruption of Judah. It was Ahab’s wife, Jezebel, that brought Baal worship into the kingdom of Israel. Now it was Ahab’s daughter, who is also Jezebel’s daughter, Athaliah, who would bring Baal worship into the kingdom of Judah.

How wicked was Jehoram, the king of Judah? We find out in 2 Chronicles 21. Jehoram had 6 other brothers: Azariah, Jehiel, Zechariah, Azariahu, Michael and Shephatiah. 2 Chr 21:4 says, “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.” When he came to power, he killed all 6 of his brothers. He also brought Baal worship into Judah. Although it may have been the influence of his wife, Athaliah, Jehoram approved and had a temple of Baal built in Judah (it was destroyed in 2 Kings 11:18). More than that, he led Judah and the people of Jerusalem to worship Baal, as Ahab did (2 Chr 21:13) – and the way Ahab made people worship Baal was to persecute the prophets of the true God. Jehoram killed his brothers, established Baal worship, and coerced the people of Judah to commit idolatry.

Why was Baal worship so bad? It was because it turned people’s hearts away from God. Baal was a false god, who could not help anyone, and was powerless. So why do people turn to false gods? It’s so that they don’t have to obey or honor the true and living God. Because the false gods are not real, they can say what people want them to say. The prophets of these false gods always tell lies, they tell people what they want to hear, even if it’s not true. People naturally have a rebellious heart towards God, so they love to give their love, their attention and their affections to these idols because these idols are gods they make up for themselves. The problem is that these gods are not gods at all. Baal does not exist. But because people love and serve Baal, they cannot love and serve God. This is an evil and wicked act against God, who loves all of his people, gave them life, and provides, cares for and protects them. It’s like a husband who has a wife that loves him dearly and cares for him, but he spends his time and money on a prostitute. That’s what idolatry is like, and God compares idolatry to prostitution. When people serve idols, they are throwing spears into the heart of God, which is why idolatry has to be punished so severely.

Why is it so dangerous? Why is idolatry so dangerous? Why is sin so dangerous? It is because it is a rejection of God, and his laws. The laws of God are meant to protect us and keep us safe, happy, peaceful and prosperous. The laws of our country protect us from anarchy and chaos. They protect us from killing each other, or from driving recklessly and dangerously. What happens when people turn away from God? They turn away from the one who protects them and provides for them. They forget the laws of God, and begin to hurt and oppress each other to get what they want. They have rejected God, the source of light, and life. Because there is no other source of light and life, all who reject God will receive darkness and death.

That is what God wants to prevent. He wants us to turn to him and trust him, and he severely punishes those who lead other people astray. That is why he purged the house of Jeroboam who led Israel into golden calf worship. That is why he purged the house of Baasha who continued to lead Israel into the same sins Jeroboam committed. And that is why he is about to purge the house of Omri who led Israel into the worst idolatry yet - Baal worship. The house of Omri included King Omri, succeeded by Ahab, then Ahaziah, and currently Joram sits on the throne. Now we see here Jehoram leading Judah into Baal worship. What should God do? He should cut off his descendants, as he did with the other dynasties, so that they will not continue in the sins of their fathers and lead Judah and Israel into further idolatry. Who’s house did Jehoram belong to? He belonged to the house of David. So what should God do? He needs to purge the house of David. But what did he do?

Can we all please read v.19, “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 his descendants forever.” What did God do? He relented. He held back his hand. Verse 19 says he was not willing to destroy Judah. Not willing. We know that the Lord’s will is strong, and the Lord’s will will be done. In the same way, the Lord’s not willing is just as strong, and it will not be done. What will not be done? The destruction of Judah, the purging of the house of David. Why? For the sake of his servant David. For David’s sake God had mercy. Not for his own sake, but for David’s sake. King David had been dead by now for over 100 years, but God remembered his promise to David, and he remembered his love for David. David was in the tomb, how could he know if God kept his promise? But God kept it. He loved David so much he was unwilling to break the promise he made. God had promised king David that through him, he would establish his kingdom forever. This promise cannot be fulfilled if he purges all of David’s descendants. That is what he should do, but for David’s sake he was not willing to destroy Judah.

God promised to maintain a lamp for David and his descendants forever. Forever. This is something no human can ever do or accomplish. Who lives forever? But God made this promise, he kept it, and he fulfilled it. God kept the light on in David’s dynasty. The great Han Dynasty and Tang Dynasty in China ended hundreds and hundreds of years ago, but David’s dynasty still stands today. The lamp for David represents all of his sons, and the line of David continued hundreds of more years into the future, when Christ was born into the line of David. Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and the Son of David, and he has succeeded David to become king. Jesus Christ is God come into the flesh, he came to die on the cross for our sins, and he rose again from the dead, never to die again. Jesus lives, he lives today, and he lives forever – therefore he is the fulfillment of God’s promise to establish the throne of David forever.

Although he did not purge David’s descendants, he still dealt with the wicked kings. Look at v.20, “In the time of Jehoram, Edom rebelled against Judah and set up its own king.” Edom had been paying tribute to Judah since the time of King Solomon, and a governor from Judah ruled over there. Now we see that Edom set up its own king, the nation wanted to establish its independence, and rebelled against Judah. Jehoram brought an army them, but they surrounded him and had him trapped. He had to attack by night in order to escape, and he succeeded, breaking through, but the battle was considered a defeat, and all of his army fled to their homes. Because of idolatry, Judah was weakened to the point they could not stand up against Edom. The city of Libnah revolted at the same time. Libnah was a city that belong to the Levites, the ordained priests of Judah. They may have revolted because of the idolatry that was brought in. As for Jehoram, because he introduced Baal worship into Judah, God would afflict him with a disease of the bowels. In his last 2 years, the disease took effect, and at the end of that second year, his bowels came out because of the disease, and he died in great pain. He was not honored by the people of Judah after his death, and he was not buried with his fathers in the royal tombs.

Ahaziah his son succeeded him as king, but he too followed in the ways of the house of Ahab and did evil in the eyes of the Lord. His mother was Athaliah, the daughter of Ahab. Though his father brought Baal worship into Judah, he allowed it to continue. Perhaps he was also influenced by his mother, just as his father was. Look at v.28, “Ahaziah went with Joram son of Ahab to war against Hazael king of Aram at Ramoth Gilead. The Arameans wounded Joram.” Ramoth Gilead was an important city to both Israel and Aram. Ahab was unable to take it back from Ben-Hadad, but now that there’s a new king, Hazael, Joram may have thought that there’s no better time than to attack and try to take the city back. Ahaziah joined him, so again Israel and Judah fight side by side, and it seems that this time, they were able to retake the city, but not without cost. Joram was wounded in battle, and had to retire to Jezreel to recover. Ahaziah followed soon afterwards to tend to king Joram, who was also his uncle. I believe that they were successful in capturing Ramoth Gilead, because in the next chapter we see that Jehu, the commander of Israel’s army is stationed there to defend the city. But really soon he will be commissioned to purge Israel of Baal worship, which we will see next week.

We have seen the darkness come over Israel when Baal worship was introduced. Not very long afterwards there were hundreds of prophets of Baal who did not know what they were doing. They were speaking false prophecies to the king and the people. When they got desperate they slashed themselves to try and make their god answer. There was darkness, confusion. What’s worse, Jezebel was killing off the prophets of the true God – the only people who knew the way to the true light of Israel. That’s why God would enable a more wicked king such as Hazael to rise up and discipline Israel. Hazael was in darkness himself, and murdered to become king. Then we see the darkness spill into Judah, through an unholy alliance between Jehoram son of Jehoshaphat and Athaliah daughter of Ahab. Baal worship is brought into Judah, Jehoram slays his brothers and persecutes worshippers of the true God. Immediately you can see the darkness that comes to the world when people turn away from God.

The sad news is, we were all born into this darkness. We were all born as sinners. The Bible says “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one. (Rom 3:10-12)” We don’t seek God because we are sinners. To be a sinner means that we have fallen short of the glory of God, of his holiness and his perfection. That means we are not glorious, not holy, and not perfect. We know we were born like this, because we say, “Nobody’s perfect.” So naturally, we are sinners, and sinners do not seek God, they go their own way. Living in sin is like driving in darkness with broken headlights. You cannot see where you are, and you cannot see where you are going. If you keep driving, you will hit walls, you will be riding in the fields, in the forest or in the desert. There may be dangerous wolves nearby. You might drive over a cliff or into a lake. You sin, and you don’t know it. But one day, when you die, you will meet God, and you will give an accounting for your life – every word you spoke, every action you did, and every thought you thought. You will not have known it, but you racked up thousands upon thousands of violations against God. It’s like sleeping when your house is on fire, or walking and not knowing a lion is crouching in the field. How will you pay for your sins?

The answer, and the good news, is Jesus Christ, the eternal king, the Son of God, the Son of David. He is the light, and the only way out of the darkness. He is the only light, because in Him, we can see the price for our sins. Our sins, each one of them, pierces the heart of God. God then, must pierce us, for good measure. But we see in Christ, that God pierced him. We see in Christ, the dreadful cost for all our sin. Christ did not just die to show us the price for our sins, no, much better than that: Christ died to pay the price for our sins. Repent, repent of unbelief and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will receive forgiveness for all your sins.

Jesus says in Isaiah 43:25, “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” Remember God’s great love to David, that for David’s sake he was not willing to destroy Judah. He remembered his promise to David, and he gives this promise to Israel: Jesus is speaking, “Remember these things, Jacob, for you, Israel, are my servant. I have made you, you are my servant; Israel, I will not forget you. I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you. (Isa 44:21-22).” Though the Lord says this to Israel, for those who believe and trust in Christ, their offenses are swept away like a cloud, sins gone like the morning mist. So Jesus says, “Return to me, for I have redeemed you.” Return to Jesus.

Finally, Jesus says in John 8:12, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Jesus is the light because he gives us life. He is the light because he helps us to see the truth. He is also the light because he shows us where to go, and where to walk. He says, “Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness.” What was the problem with Jehoram, and Ahaziah? Who did they follow? In v.18 & 27 you can see that they followed in the ways of Ahab. If you follow anyone or anything other than Jesus Christ, you will end up walking in darkness. But if you follow Jesus, you will never walk in darkness. What does it mean to follow Jesus? I must admit, when I was young, I wanted to follow Michael Jordan. I wanted to be like Mike. So I watched him play, I practiced for hours, many times in the gym at IIT by myself, I worked out, and I played a lot of basketball. I also watched his videos over and over.

To follow Jesus is just like that, and to follow Jesus, is much better. If I went to the NBA, I probably couldn’t come to worship service on Sundays because I would be in the playoffs. But where would that lead? What good would it be to gain the whole world, but forfeit my soul? So I thank God I had no chance to get into the NBA, but instead got into IIT, and had the chance to serve him. To follow Jesus means to want to be like Jesus. To read about what he did. To learn from what he teaches us in the Bible. To practice what we learn in the Bible. To listen to what he says. To persevere, and endure in the faith, even in persecution. To teach and disciple others, and to feed his sheep. However, let us not rely on our own strength to do it. Believe in Jesus, and trust in the Holy Spirit to give us the strength we need to follow him. Then we will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. Jesus is the light of the world, the promised lamp of David who is everlasting and eternal.

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Haggai 2:1-23

Key Verse: 2:19b

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