THIS WEEK’S STUDY: 2 Kings 6-13; 2 Chronicles 21-24
MEMORY TEXT: “The path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day. The way of the wicked is as darkness: they know not at what they stumble” Prov. 4:18-19.
THE ONE WHO SERVES CONSISTENTLY, SERVES BEST. The Lord invites many kinds into His kingdom: the flamboyant, the enthusiastic, the intense. But above all, He needs the consistent witness, those on the path that shines more and more unto the perfect day.
OVERVIEW: THREE SERVED, TWO FAILED
I. CONSISTENT ELISHA: 2 Kings 6:1-8:15; 13:14-25
II. FLAMBOYANT JEHU: 2 Kings 9-10; 2 Chron. 22:7-9
III. WEAK-WILLED JOASH: 2 Kings 11-12; 2 Chron. 22:10-24:27
IN TOUGH TIMES, GOD NEEDS DEPENDABLE WITNESSES. This week’s lesson encompasses a tumultuous period of the monarchy in Israel and Judah. When the house of Ahab fell up north, the shock waves reverberated through the kingdom of Judah in the south as well.
Putting the pieces back together again demanded people with heroic qualities. But even when such people are in short supply, God still takes the best talent available and seeks to build a kingdom where righteousness and peace can reign.
From the passages in this week’s Scripture, we will look more closely at three men called to serve in a special way: the prophet Elisha, Israel’s King Jehu, and Judah’s King Joash. All three responded to God’s call; only Elisha remained faithful until the end. We can learn from all three. Some lessons are sobering, others encouraging, but all are “for our admonition upon who the ends of the world are come” (1 Cor. 10:11).
I. CONSISTENT ELISHA: 2 Kings 6:1-8:15; 13:14-25
Elisha carried forward the reformation begun by Elijah. While the worship of Baal continued to threaten the worship of the true God, Elisha’s consistent witness bore much fruit.
“While influences for good and for evil were striving for the ascendancy, and Satan was doing all in his power to complete the ruin he had wrought during the reign of Ahab and Jezebel, Elisha continued to bear his testimony. He met with opposition, yet none could gainsay his words. Throughout the kingdom he was honored and venerated. Many came to him for counsel. While Jezebel was still living, Joram, the king of Israel, sought his advice; and once, when in Damascus, he was visited by messengers from Ben-hadad, king of Syria, who desired to learn whether a sickness then upon him would result in death. To all, the prophet bore faithful witness in a time when, on every hand, truth was being perverted, and the great majority of the people were in open rebellion against Heaven” (Prophets and Kings, 255).
- What special group benefitted from Elisha’s ministry when the axe head was made to float? 2 Kings 6:1-7.
- In the story of the “capture” of the Syrians in 2 Kings 6:8-23, in what kindly manner did Elisha bring encouragement or help to the following:
Elisha’s servant (vss. 15-17)__________________________The armies of Syria and Israel (vss. 18-23)_______________
Was Elisha being consistent with the law of God when he told Syrian army, “This is not the way, and this is not the city; follow me, and I will bring you to the man whom you seek”? There may have been a sanctified twinkle in Elisha’s eye as he conceived a plan for bringing peace between the two armies.
The ninth command reads: “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor” (Ex. 20:16). Deuteronomy 19:16-21 further defines that law by describing the penalty for transgression. If a judicial inquiry confirmed that a witness had lied with the intent to hurt his brother, “Then shall ye do unto him, as he had thought to have done unto his brother” (vs. 19). The key is the intention to hurt. Thus, broadly paraphrased, the command could read, “Thou shalt not hurt thy neighbor.”
Other biblical passages which illuminate the meaning of the ninth command include the midwives’ response to Pharaoh (Ex. 1:15-21), Samuel’s escape from King Saul (1 Sam. 16:1-5), and the response of the Shunammite woman to Gehazi (2 Kings 4:25-28).
Commenting on the ninth command, Ellen White observed: “This precept forbids every effort to injure our neighbor’s reputation by misrepresentation or evil surmising, by slander or talebearing. Even the intentional suppression of truth, by which injury may result to others, is a violation of the ninth commandment” (Patriarchs and Prophets, 309).
An illustration from Ellen White’s own experience shows how the “intentional suppression of truth” may actually result in blessing to another. Once, in a successful effort to restore her husband’s health, she asked her neighbors not to volunteer to help James with the haying. The neighbors reluctantly agreed and James got the exercise he needed. See Arthur White’s Ellen G. White, vol. 2, The Progressive Years, 1862-1876, 188.
- In the siege of Samaria how was Elisha at risk even by those who came to him for advice? 2 Kings 6:32-33.
Although the king apparently was contemplating taking Elisha’s life, the prophet stood his ground and even announced a message of mercy and deliverance for the city. The consistency of his witness brought respect from friend and foe alike, by the king of Israel and by the king of Syria (see 2 Kings 8:7-15).
- After a final visit from the vacillating young king of Israel (2 Kings 13:14-19), Elisha died and was buried. But what incident shows that God was honoring his faithful servant even in death? 2 Kings 13:20-21.
Ask yourself: Am I as consistent as Elisha in seeking to bless those around me, including those who are not committed to seeking and practicing the truth?
II. FLAMBOYANT JEHU: 2 Kings 9-10; 2 Chron. 22:7-9
- What contact did Elisha have with Jehu, the man who would destroy the house of Ahab? 2 Kings 9:1-3.
Was it Jehu’s violence and brutality that kept the prophet and king apart? While it is possible that Elisha and Jehu had other contacts during Jehu’s reign, no others are mentioned in Scripture. Even the initial anointing of Jehu was not done by Elisha, but was assigned to one of the sons of the prophets.
- In connection with what kinds of events does Scripture link Jehu with Elijah the prophet?
2 Kings 9:36 ___________________________________________2 Kings 10:10-11 _______________________________________
2 Kings 10:16-17 _______________________________________
- What kind of mixed evaluation does Scripture give to the reign of Jehu? 2 Kings 10:29-36.
- What judgment against Jehu is recorded by the prophet Hosea for the violent massacre at Jezreel? Hosea 1:4.
If Jehu was fulfilling the will of the Lord when he exterminated the house of Ahab, how could the Lord condemn him? The issue is not an isolated one in Scripture. Earlier in the history of the northern kingdom, Baasha is recorded as having destroyed the house of Jeroboam “according to the word of the Lord which he spoke by his servant Ahijah the Shilonite” (1 Kings 15:29, RSV). A few verses later Scripture records a judgment against Baasha and his house “because of all the evil that he did in the sight of the Lord, provoking him to anger with the work of his hands, in being like the house of Jeroboam, and also because he destroyed it” (1 Kings 16:7, RSV).
Similarly, Babylon was God’s ordained instrument against his people. But judgment comes full circle against Babylon, too, for her brutality. See Isaiah 13 and 14.
The truth of Jesus’ words is illustrated again and again: “Temptations to sin are sure to come; but woe to him by whom they come!” (Luke 17:1, RSV). In a sense, Jehu was “obeying” the Lord when he brutally massacred the house of Ahab. But in a more important sense, it is never the Lord’s will that a person be the instrument of brutality. Thus Hosea pronounced judgment on Jehu and Jehu is not remembered as a great and righteous king.
III. WEAK-WILLED JOASH: 2 Kings 11-12; 2 Chron. 22:10-24:27.
The story of Joash begins with a close call and high hopes. Miraculously saved from destruction by Jehosheba, a member of the royal family, the tiny baby Joash was nurtured by Jehosheba and her godly husband, Jehoiada, the priest. As the only heir to escape queen Athaliah’s wrath, Joash was a miracle child with the potential for restoring the worship of the true God.
- What was Athaliah’s reaction when she discovered that the house of her father Ahab and her own son Ahaziah had been killed? 2 Kings 11:1-3.
Rather than give up in despair, Athaliah determined to kill all potential heirs to the throne of Judah. Thus for six years she continued as the sole surviving member of Ahab’s family. But it was over Judah and the house of David that she ruled, not over the northern kingdom where her father had reigned.
- How old was Joash when Jehoiada brought him to public notice and established him as king? 2 Kings 11:21.
- How were the following elements affected by the people’s decisions when the Davidic line in Judah was re-established? 2 Kings 2:17-20; 2 Chron. 23:16-21:
Covenant between Yahweh, king and people________________The worship of Baal____________________________________
The worship of Yahweh in his temple______________________
- How did the people react to Athaliah’s death? 2 Kings 11:20; 2 Chron. 23:21.
When is it proper to rejoice over the fall of one’s enemies? While Jesus’ prayer on the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:24), represents the ultimate in spiritual maturity, Scripture realistically records the natural reaction of the oppressed when the oppressor falls.
In poetic language, the impulsive response of the liberated is reflected in the “rejoicing” of creation when Babylon’s king falls: “The whole earth is at rest and quiet; they break forth into singing. The cypresses rejoice at you, the cedars of Lebanon, saying, `Since you were laid low, no hewer comes up against us'” (Is. 14:7-8, RSV).
God may grant us grace to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matt. 5:44). But we dare not forget that the whole creation is groaning to be set free (Romans 8:19-23). In a sense, every oppressor that falls foreshadows the final destruction of all those who hurt and destroy God’s creation.
- What encouraging, yet ominous, observation explains Joash’s early commitment to the worship of Yahweh? Compare 2 Chron. 24:2, 17-22 with 2 Kings 12:2-3.
While 2 Kings 12:2 states that Joash “did what was right in the eyes of the LORD all his days,” the additional comment suggests that his obedience was dependent on Jehoiada. 2 Chronicles 24 confirms the positive influence of the priest, but spells out the tragedy more clearly by indicating that Joash turned from right-doing after Jehoiada died.
Was there a fatal flaw in Joash which made his apostasy inevitable? Or was his apostasy a result of a weakness in his upbringing? Without presuming to know more than Scripture reveals about the nature of the home which Jehoiada and Jehosheba provided for young Joash, it is at least instructive to note Ellen White’s concerns that children be educated to think for themselves and not simply rely on their elders. In her very first counsel on education in 1872, she observes:
“There are many families of children who appear to be well trained while under the training discipline; but when the system which has held them to set rules is broken up, they seem to be incapable of thinking, acting, or deciding for themselves. These children have been so long under iron rule, not allowed to think and act for themselves in those things in which it was highly proper that they should, that they have no confidence in themselves to move out upon their own judgment, having an opinion of their own. And when they go out from their parents to act for themselves, they are easily led by others’ judgment in the wrong direction. They have not stability of character. They have not been thrown upon their own judgment as fast and as far as practicable, and therefore their minds have not been properly developed and strengthened. They have so long been absolutely controlled by their parents that they rely wholly upon them; their parents are mind and judgment for them” (Testimonies 1:132-33).
- If Jehoiada and Jehosheba were unable to raise their step-son, Joash, to stand firm for principle regardless of his environment, what does Scripture reveal about the integrity and character of their own son, Zechariah? 2 Chron. 24:20-22.
Zechariah and Joash quite possibly grew up in the same home together. The fact that Zechariah remained true while Joash failed, is a timely reminder that when a child goes astray, the fault may not lie in the home. Cain and Abel had the same parents. So did Jacob and Esau. Though parental upbringing is important, Ezekiel 18 reminds us that all God’s children make their own choices. Righteous parents can bring forth wicked children; violent parents can bring forth gentle offspring. History should teach us an appropriate humility lest we attempt to explain all the mysteries of human freedom and divine grace.
- What lesson does Jesus draw from the murder of Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada? Matt. 23:29-36.
The comments on Matthew 23:35 in Desire of Ages (p. 619) indicate that Ellen White understood Zechariah to be the son of Jehoiada rather than the “son of Berechiah.” See also SDABC, 5:492.
Since the book of Chronicles is the last book in the Hebrew Bible, Jesus clearly intends for his listeners to understand that He is talking about the first and the last murders recorded in the Bible. With tragic consistency, God’s people mistreated and murdered the prophets. Joash contributed to that sorry picture when he lashed out, commanding Zechariah to be stoned.
BIBLICAL AND MODERN PARALLELS: What other examples can be named from the time periods noted below that reflect the same differences found in the lives of the men studied in this lesson: consistent Elisha, flamboyant Jehu, and weak-willed Joash:
* Old Testament________________________________________
* New Testament________________________________________
* Adventist history____________________________________
FURTHER STUDY AND MEDITATION. Read Prophets and Kings, pp. 254-264, “Elisha’s Closing Ministry.”
Inspiration and the details of history. Thoughtful perusal of the material in this week’s lesson may reveal more evidence of the “humanity” of the Bible writers than we may be comfortable with. Matthew’s mention of “Zechariah the son of Berechiah” (Matt. 23:35) when the reference clearly should be “son of Jehoiada” (see 2 Chron. 24:21) is mentioned in the lesson.
Further examples could be cited involving the chronology of the monarchy. As the article on “Chronology” in the Seventh-day Adventist Bible Dictionary indicates, a number of the problems can be resolved. But in some instances, it may simply be best to admit that even the writers of the Bible were human beings and could make mistakes. In this connection, Ellen White’s comments on the nature of inspiration are most helpful. In Selected Messages, Book 1, she notes: “There is not always perfect order or apparent unity in the Scripture.” And again, “Everything that is human is imperfect” (p. 20). She goes on to say, however, that “the Bible is given for practical purposes.” The Lord has preserved the essential message for our benefit.
For significant statements on inspiration from the pen of Ellen White, see the “Introduction” to the book Great Controversy (pp. v-xii), and Selected Messages 1:15-23.
SUMMARY: Through the tangled history of God’s people, the lives of human beings stand forth as examples to us. Some, like Joash, show high promise, but their resolve falters and they fall short of the goal. Others, like Jehu, perform a certain duty in the name of the Lord with flamboyance, though never breaking through to a genuine religion of the heart. But the faithful, consistent ones, like Elisha, witness to God’s goodness and are a continuing inspiration to those who reflect on their lives.