2 King 9 – 'The Death of Jezebel'
Consider these three statements;
God is good. God is love. God is kind.
True or false? True, true and true always. Consider these three statements;
God is angry with the wicked every day. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. The Lord most high is terrible.
True, true and true. Not popular, perhaps not cherished, but true. Our passage this morning is a dark one, it isn't a comfortable read – it shouldn't be at least. Some seek to avoid such passages altogether or attempt to explain them away. That is not however, our right. Nor is it our desire because although this chapter and the one that follows it are uncomfortable they are necessarily uncomfortable. Within the solemnity of these passages there are things that we must understand and things even that we might learn to cherish.
I have three points for us to observe, all concerning God's judgement;
1. God's judgement is forewarned
2. God's judgement is incredibly just
3. God's judgement comes through His word by the man He has appointed
1. God's judgement is forewarned
Take a look at v1-3 of ch9 on p266;
1 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 oil with you and go to Ramoth Gilead. 2 When you get there, look for Jehu son of Jehoshaphat, the son of Nimshi. Go to him, get him away from his companions and take him into an inner room. 3 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!"
Jehu is to be anointed as King over Israel. So there will be regime change in Israel Jehu will succeed Joram as king, significantly he is to be anointed unlike all the kings since Saul he is God's man. However this is more than a personal change, this is a seismic shift from an age of patience and grace to an age of judgement. How do we know this? It has already been promised back in 1 Kings 19 we've been waiting for them all the way through Joram's reign. 1 Kings 19 is the immediate aftermath of Elijah's great triumph over Baal on Mt. Carmel, despite this he is weary and depressed the only prophet left convinced that Jezebel (who we'll come too later) will murder him. God gives him this instruction in 1 Kings 19.15-17;
15 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. 16 Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. 17 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.
This three-fold command to anoint Hazael and Jehu as kings and to appoint Elisha as his successor comes at least 17 years before the events of 2 Kings 9. These three are to be God's instruments of judgement on Israel for its wicked unfaithfulness. Israel has been put on notice, the axe has been raised and now we begin to see it fall. Three weeks a go we saw Elisha's tears as Hazael fulfils his part of the promise; murderously becoming King of Aram and now Jehu who; 'will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael' is to be anointed King over Israel. Elisha knows what this means, God's judgement is here; He promised it and He always delivers on His promises. Perhaps this is why Elisha sends a young man, his servants he knows what is coming next.
There is however, grace here. Israel deserved judgement even long before that three-fold command was given to Elijah, this is how he describes Israel in the verse before that command is given;
14 He (Elijah) replied, "I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too."
Israel is like a promiscuous wife who has brought her lovers back to the marital bed. She has broken her covenant with God, thrown his blessings back at him and murdered his followers. Ahab who is King at the time is characteristic of the nation as a whole having taken Jezebel a Sidonian woman whose father's name meant Baal as his wife soon to be even further corrupted by her.
And yet God is gracious, He is kind. He does not bring judgement immediately because of the depth of his love for Israel, He even reveals himself mightily to Ahab in a series of miraculous military victories giving time to repent. Imagine you go over your overdraft by a thousand pounds but the bank calls you and says we need to sort this out but we'll give you time to do so and here's a job at the bank with a ten thousand pound golden hello. That is not the way banks act but it is the way God acts. Remember what Paul said in Acts 17 which we read earlier?
26From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. 27God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us…
…we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by man's design and skill. 30In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31For he has set a day when he will judge the world.
God has set the world up in such a way that men would seek and reach out to Him, He commands all peoples to repent so that when He judges the world we might be found in Him and not in darkness. God is more than fair he has given notice, most supremely by His Son that he is real and that he will bring justice. Furthermore he has given time to repent and the means by which we may through no effort of our own come back into relationship with Him and enjoy his blessings. God is more than fair he is gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He is not impotent though it is only the greatness of His love which holds back the fierceness of His anger. When the time is right the axe will fall.
So God's judgement is graciously fore-warned, what I want to look at now is how God's judgement comes, in particular the justice that it delivers, that's what I want to bring out in our second point; 'God's judgement is incredibly just'.
2. God's judgement is incredibly just
The axe is falling on Israel; Jehu is anointed king and in v7-10 he is given his instructions;
7 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. 8 The whole house of Ahab will perish. I will cut off from Ahab every last male in Israel—slave or free. 9 I will make the house of Ahab like the house of Jeroboam son of Nebat and like the house of Baasha son of Ahijah. 10 As for Jezebel, dogs will devour her on the plot of ground at Jezreel, and no one will bury her.' "
The rest of chapter 9 simply follows how this Word from God is fulfilled. Specifically we will see Judgement fall on Ahab's descendants Joram and Ahaziah as well as on Jezebel; Ahab's poisonous wife. I want us to notice that God avenges the blood of His people and the terror of opposing God.
After hearing The LORD's instruction, Jehu gathers and army and rides out against Joram king of Israel. Ahaziah is there too visiting Joram who had been injured in battle against guess who - Hazael the other instrument of God's judgement. In v22 Joram calls for peace with Jehu;
22 … "How can there be peace," Jehu replied, "as long as all the idolatry and witchcraft of your mother Jezebel abound?"
23 Joram turned about and fled, calling out to Ahaziah, "Treachery, Ahaziah!"
24 Then Jehu drew his bow and shot Joram between the shoulders. The arrow pierced his heart and he slumped down in his chariot. 25 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 made this prophecy about him: 26 '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.' [b] Now then, pick him up and throw him on that plot, in accordance with the word of the LORD."
Joram's place of death and burial is not an accident. As v26 states it is in accordance with the word of the LORD. Joram's blood falls on Naboth's field which Joram's father Ahab had stolen. Naboth had refused to give it to Ahab and so Jezebel organised people to falsely accuse Naboth of cursing God and the king – he was then stoned. In response God says; 'In the place where dogs licked up Naboth's blood, dogs will lick up your blood—yes, yours!'
God is just he punishes the wicked but he also avenges those who suffer for Him. Naboth would not give his inheritance to Ahab who led Israel into evil, to us he is a small footnote but to God He is precious, his life was of great worth to Him. God remembers Him and provides a very specific form of justice. Perhaps we are reluctant to celebrate such justice but it is indeed justice, it shouldn't lead us to blood lust but into deeper trust of God's promise; 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay.'
Joram then is dead and Ahaziah follows shortly what about Jezebel who is credited with bringing idolatry and witchcraft to Israel? Her end comes in v30-37, Jehu arrives to find Jezebel made up her eyes painted, hair arranged. There's some debate over whether this was an attempt to seduce Jehu or simply an act of defiance, if she was going down she was going down fighting. Certainly this would fit with what we know of Jezebel's past when Elijah spectacularly defeats her prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel rather than accepting the reality of God's awesome power she vows to murder Elijah. But no matter because judgement has come and she cannot escape. Jehu calls for allegiance from the court and they throw Jezebel down from the window v33;
33 "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.
The Queen is dead, Jehu goes to bury her but v35;
35 But when they went out to bury her, they found nothing except her skull, her feet and her hands. 36 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. [e] 37 Jezebel's body will be like refuse on the ground in the plot at Jezreel, so that no one will be able to say, 'This is Jezebel.'
Again the Lord's promise to avenge is kept specifically. Jezebel's death is terrible, her body devoured so that even in death she cannot be recognised, she is blotted out. This is the result of defying the living God. Scripture like this may be seem unpalatable but we must not ignore them for this is reality. These are not games, not frightening ghost stories to keep people in church. The terror of God is real, it is the natural result of his passion for justice and holiness – he must punish wickedness fully.
So God's judgement is incredibly just; he avenges the blood of his people and administers terrible justice to those who would stand opposed to Him.
3. God's judgement comes through His word by the man He has appointed
One final thing to notice about how God's judgement comes; it is through His Word, by the man He has appointed. God's Word is the catalyst for everything that happens in this chapter.
So when Elisha commissions his servant to make Jehu king in v3 he is to say;
'This is what the LORD says: I anoint you king over Israel.'
When Elsiha's messenger speaks to Jehu in v6;
"This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: 'I anoint you king over the LORD's people Israel. 7 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.
God's judgement will come through Jehu but it is set in motion by the power of His Word, we see that in the deaths of Joram and Jezebel. In v25b and 26 Jehu remembers that Joram's death is the fulfilment of an earlier prophesy and as we have just seen. In v36 Jezebel's death fulfils the Word of the Lord given to Elijah. God's Word and its fulfilment is the engine which drives history.
Many people would be happy to call God's Word a Holy book, a guide for moral living perhaps. But God's Word is goes beyond that it is the thing which sustains reality; Hebrews 1.3 says that Jesus sustains all things by his powerful Word. Is that how we approach God's Word? Is it to us part of the thing which holds the very weight of reality in its hands?
God's Word drives these events, this judgement and specifically it drives it through God's chosen instrument Jehu. If you were to sit down and quickly read ch9 and 10 you would hear the refrain so Jehu did this, Jehu went here, Jehu said this. It is clear that he is the man God has appointed to bring judgement on Israel and we have even greater clarity now that we have read God's three-fold command to Elijah in 1 Kings 19 to anoint Jehu as both King and bringers of destruction on Israel. God works through men that he appoints, national histories, governments and leaders are not accidents but instruments, instruments that God uses to bring about His purposes in the earth. This should bring us immense confidence in observing history unfolding around us if we trust in Christ, we are not slaves to the forces of politics, economics or nature rather they are slaves to God and His plan of redemption.
In the end all these things will come under the eternal King God has appointed; Jesus. He will come in his glory and administer justice as we read in Acts 17;
31For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead."
Jehu was God's appointed man to bring judgement on Israel; Jesus is God's appointed man to bring judgement on the earth. What is more he has given warning and proof of the fact by raising Jesus from the dead. His return is certain and so is it's nature, this will not be gentle Jesus meek and mild but a warrior king with his sword drawn.
For those who are his friends it will be a solemn day as justice is done and punishment given, that same punishment which nailed Jesus to the cross. But it will also be a glorious day because pain and suffering and hurt will be avenged and done away with forever. For those who have ignored Jesus it will be the darkest day, when God's judgement comes swiftly without mercy for the time for mercy will have passed. On that day Joram and Jezebel's death will pale in comparison with the terribleness of God's wrath long held back. This evening, God-willing we will celebrate Holy Communion together, we do that as a reminder of God's appointed man; Jesus until He returns. God's judgement is coming, let's eat that meal together as a foretaste of heaven's wedding banquet and not watch it pass by as condemned men and women.
God's judgement is terrifying for those who stand in its way but we don't have to stand there, Jesus will stand there for us if we will just trust in Him. I'm going to pray now a prayer to help us do that because we only stand here today by God's sheer grace. If you wish to heed God's warning you can pray it for yourself. Let's pray...
Mighty God, thank you that you are just, thank you that you will punish wickedness. God we recognise that we are wicked; that we have ignored you that we have not given you your due or followed you with all of our hearts. We are sorry, we recognise that we to deserve punishment. But Father you have sent Jesus and allowed him to take the punishment we deserve, we trust in him and ask that you would forgive us because of his death on the cross. Help us to live as followers of you in all of our lives, in Jesus' name we ask. Amen.