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Grace and Compassion

Date: Jul. 12, 2015

Author: Bob Henkins

2 Kings 13:1-25

Key Verse: 2 Kings 13:23

“But the Lord was gracious to them and had compassion and showed concern for them because of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. To this day he has been unwilling to destroy them or banish them from his presence.”

In last week’s passage we saw how Joash king of Judah and how he repaired the temple. In this week’s passage we take a look at a couple of the kings of Israel and we get to see Elisha’s final days. But mostly we’ll see once again God’s grace and compassion. [So lets get right to it]

This morning’s passage concentrates on the line of Jehu the king that was zealous for the Lord (2 Ki 10:16), purged Israel of Baal worship (2 Ki 10:28) and drove like a maniac. (2 Ki 9:20) For what he did, the Lord promised him, “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 Ki 10:20) And even though the Lord was gracious to him, Jehu wasn’t careful to keep the law of the Lord with all his heart and didn’t turn away from the sins of his ancestor Jeroboam. And here’s a theme that I noticed in chapter is a kind of flip flopping where we see people flipping between following and not following the Lord.

Take a look at verses 1-3. “In the twenty-third year of Joash son of Ahaziah king of Judah, Jehoahaz son of Jehu became king of Israel in Samaria, and he reigned seventeen years. 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. So the Lord’s anger burned against Israel, and for a long time he kept them under the power of Hazael king of Aram and Ben-Hadad his son.” In these verses we see the first of Jehu’s descendants that will be part of the four generation dynasty the Lord promised him. And right off the bat we get a summary of Jehoahaz’s life from the Lord’s point of view: he did evil. What did he do that caused the Lord to summarize his life in this way, he followed in the sins of Jeroboam. Over and over again we are reminded of this fact. And the root of his problem was that he didn’t follow the Lord according to the way God wanted, but he did it his own way. [Like Frank Sinatra – I did it my way] So it comes down to incorrect worship of the Lord. It was not outright defiance like Baal worship was, humanly it didn’t look that bad but it was still twisted. When Jeroboam followed God, he did it out of fear and convenience rather than seeking the Lord with all his heart. So he set up the golden calves in a couple of different places for the people to go and worship the Lord so that they didn’t have to go all the way to Jerusalem. But this made the Lord mad because they were not obeying his commands and his anger burned against them. As a result God punished them by using the king of Aram, Hazael to oppress them throughout Jehoahaz’s seventeen year reign.

Then in this flip flop tradition Jehoahaz, seeing the foolishness of continual disobedience, does something unexpected and takes an unusual step for an Israelite king and actually seeks the favor of the Lord. Listen to what it says in 2 Chronicles 15:2, “…“Listen to me, Asa and all Judah and Benjamin. The Lord is with you when you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you.” Again in Deuteronomy 4:29 “But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul.” Verses similar to these are scattered throughout the Bible. The Lord promises that when you seek him, you will find him. And so when Jehoahaz seeks the Lord, the Lord listens to him just as he promised. The Lord had compassion and mercy upon Israel because he saw how badly they were being oppressed by Aram. The people must have been taken away because in verse 5 they were able to return to their homes. “The Lord provided a deliverer for Israel, and they escaped from the power of Aram.” (v5) Some believe this deliverer comes in the form of the Assyrian ruler Adadnirari III whose attacks on the Arameans of Damascus in 806 BC enabled the Israelites to break the Aramean control over them.

After God frees the Israelites from their oppression they turn to the Lord for the rest of their days and live happily ever after right? Nope. Verse 6 tells us they flip back again, “But they did not turn away from the sins of the house of Jeroboam, which he had caused Israel to commit; they continued in them. Also, the Asherah pole remained standing in Samaria.”It seems the more the Lord does to change Israel’s bad habits, the more they choose to follow their own way down toward a destructive path. They never turn away from their sins and we find out they have an Asherah pole in Samaria. If you remember that is part of Baal worship and either it was left over from the time of Ahab and Jehu missed removing it during the purge, or it was brought back during Jehoahaz’s time. Either way it’s there and it’s evidence that they haven’t given themselves fully to the Lord. One way to evaluate leaders is to compare the state of their organization before and after they took office. The result of Jehoahaz’s reign was that Israel was much weaker when he died than when he became king. God used Aram to wipe out Israel’s army turning it to dust. I believe that if Jehoahaz had decided to follow the Lord fully, things would have ended much better for them.

Take a look at verses 10-11. “In the thirty-seventh year of Joash king of Judah, Jehoash son of Jehoahaz became king of Israel in Samaria, and he reigned sixteen years. 11 He did evil in the eyes of the Lord and did not turn away from any of the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit; he continued in them.” Next we are introduced to Jehoash the second in Jehu’s dynasty. How is his life summarized, by using the same statement for almost every king of Israel since Jeroboam, [C’mon say it with me] “He did evil in the eyes of the Lord and did not turn away from any of the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit.”

There are a couple of things Jehoash is remembered for, his war against Judah and being the last king to see Elisha alive. “Now Elisha had been suffering from the illness from which he died. Jehoash king of Israel went down to see him and wept over him. “My father! My father!” he cried. “The chariots and horsemen of Israel!”” (v14) Jehoash is a bit of a flip flopper, he does evil in the eyes of the Lord and yet he visits the prophet Elisha. It was quite unusual for an Israelite king to visit a prophet. Usually it was the other way around, the prophets traveled to the king. (most likely to rebuke them or something) What is really unusual is that Jehoash weeps over Elisha. In the past, the kings of Israel were always at odds with the prophets, but here we find him weeping for the man of God. And he cries out. “My father! My father!” he cried. “The chariots and horsemen of Israel!” This statement is strange because it’s not the first time we’ve heard it. [Who knows where this came from?] This is the exact phrase that Elisha said when Elijah was taken up to heaven. Only Elijah and Elisha were present when this happened and maybe Elijah didn’t even get a chance to hear it because he might have been a little distracted as he was being lifted up to heaven. So how did Jehoash know this statement? I don’t think that it’s a coincidence. I think that it reveals that either it was a well-known statement or that Jehoash knew some intimate details of Elisha’s life. Personally I think the latter is true given that he was the one who visited Elisha. Jehoash shows Elisha respect by calling him “My father! My father!” And when he cried, “The chariots and horsemen of Israel!”, this shows that Jehoash thought that Elisha did more to protect Israel than Israel’s army.

The next section is almost the last thing Elisha does. Take a look at verses 15-17. 15Elisha said, “Get a bow and some arrows,” and he did so. 16 “Take the bow in your hands,” he said to the king of Israel. When he had taken it, Elisha put his hands on the king’s hands. 17 “Open the east window,” he said, and he opened it. “Shoot!” Elisha said, and he shot. “The Lord’s arrow of victory, the arrow of victory over Aram!” Elisha declared. “You will completely destroy the Arameans at Aphek.”” Even in dire sickness, Elisha still has a fighting spirit that he will never give up. Maybe he was inspired by Jehoash’s weeping, who knows but he reveals Israel’s complete victory over Aram at the city of Aphek. Many commentators think that Elisha is Israel’s deliverer because during his lifetime he owns the Arameans, defeating them time and time again. As Jehoash to shoot the bow, the arrow is a sign of the Lord’s victory for Israel over Aram.

Then Elisha said, “Take the arrows, Strike the ground.” He struck it three times and stopped. (v18) [Unfortunately it was 3 strikes and you’re out. Since its baseball season and the White Sox has beaten the Cubs the last 2 games] Elisha seems to be expecting Jehoash to strike the ground more than three times because verse 19 says, “The man of God was angry with him and said, “You should have struck the ground five or six times; then you would have defeated Aram and completely destroyed it. But now you will defeat it only three times.” At first I didn’t know why Elisha was so upset. He didn’t tell Jehoash how many times to strike the ground so I didn’t understand. But as I studied the passage I came to realize that when Elisha told Jehoash to strike the ground he must have did it without much enthusiasm. And it was Jehoash’s lack of enthusiasm that revealed his half-heartedness toward God’s deliverance. And because of this Israel would not have complete victory. Elisha was pumped up about the Lord’s deliverance and Jehoash was not really impressed [he was like, ummmmh ok] and this angered Elisha. Maybe its what killed him because in the next verse he dies.

However Elisha’s impact is not over. Take a look at verses 20-21. “Elisha died and was buried. Now Moabite raiders used to enter the country every spring. 21 Once while some Israelites were burying a man, suddenly they saw a band of raiders; so they threw the man’s body into Elisha’s tomb. When the body touched Elisha’s bones, the man came to life and stood up on his feet.” This part is so weird. Elisha died and was buried in a tomb. Years later Israel is raided because they can’t defend themselves. The raid happens during a funeral. In a rush to get away from the raiders, they put the dead man in Elisha’s tomb. When his dead body touches Elisha’s bones – he is brought back to life. Elisha has more spirit in his dead body than all of Israel’s living men. Even in death, Elisha performs miracles.

In the next section we see the grace of God. Verse 22-23 say, “Hazael king of Aram oppressed Israel throughout the reign of Jehoahaz. 23 But the Lord was gracious to them and had compassion and showed concern for them because of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. To this day he has been unwilling to destroy them or banish them from his presence.” Hazael king of Aram continues to oppress Israel. Under normal conditions Aram probably would have defeated Israel but once again the Lord has compassion upon Israel and once again God remembers his promise to Abraham. But I ask this, how long can the Lord’s patience last? How long can the people be protected by the greatness of their ancestors’ relationship to the covenant God? Judgment looms on the horizon if no changes are made. Now that Elisha is dead, how long can Israel survive without the necessary “chariots and horsemen”?

So how does all this apply to us. We don’t have an Asherah pole in our back yard. We’ve never been forced out of our homes. Can we relate to what happens in the passage? But I can connect it to us in this way, the Lord is so gracious and compassionate toward his people when we seek him. The evidence is all over the place in the Bible. But we waiver back and forth following the Lord and then disobeying him. We are like waffles flipping over and back again. How long can we do this before God’s judgement comes? God is patient. Until we die or Jesus comes again.

The king of Israel didn’t show enthusiasm at being delivered. God has sent us a deliverer in Jesus his son. But we sometimes act like the king when we hear the message of deliverance through Jesus. Sin oppresses like Aram. We can be set free, but we act like Jehoash, ho hum. When we cry out to God, he hears us and remembers his promises. Can we trust in God’s promise to deliver? We can because we see the evidence of him keeping his promises. Based upon what we’ve done, our sin, God doesn’t have to show grace or compassion. We don’t deserve his grace, but thanks be to God for his grace and mercy. God doesn’t want anyone to perish.

The disciple Peter wrote, “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.”(1 Pet 1:15-19) God had compassion on the Israelites when they were oppressed by Hazael, and he provided a deliverer for them – because he remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Israel. They cried out, and he freed them from their oppressor. He redeemed his people from tyranny. We all live under tyranny, oppression from sin. We are all guilty because we have not loved God with all of our heart, soul strength and mind everyday – though he loves us every day. We know he loves us because of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Israel – he promised to make Abraham a great nation, and because God made the promise, he never broke it.

A covenant is an agreement between two parties. A marriage is a covenant relationship, and a sign of that covenant is the wedding ring. When I look at my wedding ring, I’m reminded of the covenant I made with my wife, and how much I love her and pledged to be with her forever until death do us part. In the same way when God remembers his covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Israel, he remembers the promise he made and how much he loved and wanted to bless Abraham, Isaac and Israel. He remained committed to that promise through the best and worst times in Israel, and through Abraham, through Christ, we have all been blessed.

We are guilty because we have been unfaithful to God, because we are sinners. We turn to God one day, but then next moment we find ourselves turning away, turning back to sin, because of our sinful tendencies. We try to do right, but we find ourselves guilty. But God had compassion, and he sent a deliverer, a redeemer. It was not with perishable things, such as silver or gold that we were redeemed, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, and he has redeemed us, because through his death, he has made available to us the complete forgiveness for all our sins.

God has redeemed us from slavery to sin through Christ. He has kept his promise to Abraham, to make him a great nation. When we believe in Christ, we become children of Abraham. Just as Abraham was known as the father of our faith, when we believe, we become his children. When we are children of Abraham, we are part of his great nation, which is the kingdom of God. The Israelites were very forgetful people, as we saw today. They constantly went back to the sins of Jeroboam. We are the same way – but Jesus gave us something to remember him by. He gave us the Lord’s supper, and asked us to do this in remembrance of him. When we feel the burden of our guilt, when we feel the weight of our sin, come, bring it to this communion table, and ask for forgiveness and peace. I pray that God may bless you to remember his body broken for you, his blood poured out for you, and grant you the peace that surpasses all understanding, and remind you that you have been redeemed, delivered, and brought into the safety and security of the kingdom of God through Jesus Christ his Son.

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Daily Bread

Seek Righteousness, Seek Humility

Zephaniah 2:1-15

Key Verse: 2:3

  Seek the LORD, all you humble of the land,
    who do his just commands;
  seek righteousness; seek humility;
    perhaps you may be hidden
    on the day of the anger of the LORD.

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