Games of Thrones
The narrative of 2 Kings 9-10 is unmatched in our mob and “palace intrigue” movies. The writers of “The Godfather” and “Game of Thrones” needed only to read the succession stories of the kings of Israel for good material (and they probably did). So if it’s been a while since you’ve read about Jehu’s exploits, go read it now, and then come back to what I have to say.
Good work! Exciting, bloody, strange, isn’t it? It would be profitable to go back and see what Jezebel and Ahab and others had done to merit such ends. But my point here goes in a different direction – the ending comments about Jehu.
Two Out of Three
Jehu follows through on God’s command to him to take up the bloody business of purging Israel and Judah of those who were leading the people into sin. He also follows through on purging the land of Baal worship. For this, God commends him, and rewards him, saying that his sons would remain on the throne for four generations (2 Kings 10:30). So far, so bloody good.
But then the text says,
31 But Jehu was not careful to walk in the law of the LORD, the God of Israel, with all his heart. He did not turn from the sins of Jeroboam, which he made Israel to sin . . . 29 that is, the golden calves that were in Bethel and in Dan.
Then we read that God causes portions of Israel to be lopped off, under his reign. There were consequences.
Jehu’s fault seems to be that he only followed the Lord in those matters that
- Coincided with his existing skills and experience, as a commander of the army – see 2 Kings 9:5; he was the commander of the commanders of the army. He was good at killing. He seemed to take some enjoyment in getting to let loose his skills in war.
- Coincided with what would secure his newfound position as king. The killing of those who led the people to sin lined up nicely with what benefited Jehu’s throne.
And yet it still says, these things coincided with what was in the Lord’s heart. But Jehu did not do that which only coincided with what was in the Lord’s heart – the taking down of the golden calfs, those ancient idols. That would have proven no more difficult than taking down the Baal idols. But that action would have been purely religious – purely something that only benefited God.
Thus, “Jehu was not careful to walk in the law of the LORD, the God of Israel, with all his heart” (10:31). His heart aligned with God’s heart, when God’s heart aligned with his heart. Jehu’s heart occupied the center, not God’s.
The question for us then is, Where are we like Jehu? Zealous for that which aligns with our strengths, experience and obvious benefit? And where are we cold and non-responsive to God’s other priorities?
Longing for a Better King
The way forward will arrive to us as we conclude the passage as we are meant to: longing for a better king. Every story of every human king is like this one – it leaves us satisfied in some way, but longing for king that is entirely after God’s own heart. But only God can be that King – thus he sent His Son, to be that better King.
Thus the way forward is to watch and listen to King Jesus, intently, like a child, in His Word.
Which first shows us that there is grace and mercy, for all the ways we’ve lived out of two-out-of-three hearts. The gospel is true, full and real.
Secondly, as we approach the end of the year, I would recommend not waiting until January to embark on a Bible reading plan, but to start now.
The discipline of Bible reading is meant to place us, every day, under the shaping power of the Word. To shape us into people who are more childlike in our walk – who follow our Father regardless, even when it does not coincide with our skills, or what benefits us. Whose philosophy of discipleship can be expressed in just two words: “Whatever, Father!”. That is, to walk the path of the one who has already walked it for us, in our place – King Jesus:
Luke 22:40 And when he came to the place, he said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” 41 And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, 42 saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”
And lastly, the power to walk this path comes from worship. The golden calfs were a problem because they obscured the power of God to change us: worship. In worship we are shaped by joy. And that worshipful joy is THE power that shapes our hearts to follow God especially when it is beyond our strength or our wisdom or logic. Worship is the engine; we don’t move without it.