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2 Kings 3 by Robert Dean
Series:Kings (2007)
Duration:59 mins 40 secs

The Case of the Three Kings; Making a Bad Decision Worse. 2 Kings ch. 3


The Scripture is designed to cause us to reflect upon it. God doesn't give us easy answers; He is not just going to pay things out in a basic fist grade primer so that when we read it we immediately say we understand God and have a firm grasp upon Scripture, and move on down the road. By revealing the Scripture the way He has it forces us to constantly go back again and again and again to probe it, question it and reflect upon it; and each time we do we see different things, we are amazed by what we read that in what we thought we were familiar with now we see something new in the story that we never saw before, and we can never just really plumb the depths of Scripture because of its complexity. There are all of these things going on in the Scripture that we don't pick up on in the first, second, third or even the twentieth time that we read through the text.


One of the things that we see that dominates this section of Scripture is the theme of the power and immensity of God. God is a true and righteous God, he is true to His covenant with Israel, and so He is going to behave toward Israel in a manner that is totally consistent and faithful with what he has said in His covenant. In the same way God is just as true to His Word for each one of us so that we can always count on Him to do that which is right, that which is just, and that which conforms to His Word. But it is not always what we expect. In fact, God often surprises us. Just as we think we have a handle on God's plan and purposes and what He is doing in our life, suddenly everything turns topsy-turvy and we get surprises. God is the God of surprises, and that is what happens in many of these episodes in Kings and it certainly happens in this episode.


What we have is a situation in Israel where the northern kingdom has gone through a power change. First Ahab dies in 1 Kings 22, then his son his son Ahaziah comes to the throne not even two years and then he dies under divine discipline. Then his brother Jehoram comes to the throne. Remember all these are part of the Omri dynasty. With all of the turmoil in the leadership of the northern kingdom Moab decides to revolt. Moab is a vassal kingdom to the south east of Judah across the Dead Sea. They have been held in a position of oppression by the northern kingdom of Israel since the time of Omri. They have been paying this oppressive tribute every year and now they want to get out from under the thumb of the king of the northern kingdom. So they revolt. Jehoram (in other passages he is known as Joram) decides to put together an alliance of kings. He talks to Jehoshaphat who throws in with him, then they get the king of Edom who i9s another vassal of Judah at this time, and they are going to raise an army and attack the king of Moab. As they do this they come upon the strategy to head around the southern tip of the Dead Sea through the Negev. After seven days of no water they are all about to die, their animals are about to die of thirst, and somebody gets the great idea: Let's see what God has to say!


Initially Jehoram just says, we God just wants to kill us all—typical carnal believer or unbeliever mentality, it's all God's fault! Elisha is among those who are following with the army and they ask him for the Word of God and he gives a pronouncement. It is an interesting pronouncement because we have to decide if Elisha is telling them what to do or if he is simply stating what they will do even though it is not the right thing to do. We have that episode, then God miraculously provides water for them. Then as the king of Moab comes against them and sees this water on the ground that God has provided it looks to him as though it is blood, and jumps to the conclusion that these three kings have fallen out amongst themselves and massacred one another, and so this is a great opportunity to take advantage of the turmoil in their camp, to attack and defeat them. As they charge into the camp they charge into an ambush. Then there is just the slaughter as the troops of Judah and Israel pursue them back north through Moab.


Then we come into a very interesting scenario because the king of Moab is about to face defeat and so he is going to pull out his last possible maneuver to manipulate their god into giving them victory. He brings his son up on to the ramparts of the wall of the city and sacrifices him as an burnt offering. This is the height of paganism and is described in 2 Kings 3:27. A most unusual thing happens, and this is what surprises us because we are led to believe up to this point that God is with the armies of Israel and Judah and is going to give them victory. Then there is this sacrifices of the eldest son on the wall of the city: "And there came great wrath against Israel, and they departed from him and returned to their own land." It sounds as if Israel has been defeated and it is because the king of Moab has sacrificed his son on the wall and Yahweh is now in defeat. There are a lot of problems in that verse; it is a surprise ending, and that ought to catch our attention. It seems after the sacrifice of the eldest son that the god of the pagans is motivated to give them victory and they defeat Israel. So what is going on here?


At the very root of this is a perverted and limited view of God that not only plagued Jehoram in the north but also a problem that Jehoshaphat faces, and a problem that many of us face, i.e. the problem, to borrow the title of a J. B. Philips book, Your God is Too Small. It is a problem that many people have, that we have our God somewhat restricted. We have read the Scriptures, we think that because list ten attributes of God, we can articulate a definition of the Trinity, we understand a lot of the patterns and trends that we see in Scripture and that somehow we really have a handle on God and how He works in history and in our lives. Then things happen in our lives that don't fit that pattern and we are either humbled by that so that we go back to the Scriptures and seek wisdom and guidance from the Word or we become arrogant and say, why has God caused all this to happen to me, why does God hate me, and why is God bringing this about in my life? The reason is that we have a too shallow, too limited image in our heads of who God is. We have finite imaginations that create a finite, limited view of God that actually becomes a mental idol. We all have certain conceptions and images of God in our heads and the more we study the Scriptures, the more we read things, the more this image that we have ought to be exploded. God doesn't necessarily fit a paradigm, He doesn't necessarily operate to a formula; Gods is above that. That doesn't mean that we can't know God truly and certainly to a certain level. As He has revealed Himself in the Word we can know that to be true; He doesn't contradict what He has revealed about Himself. He is a God who is faithful and true, but there is so much more to God than we can possibly understand and comprehend, and there is so much more to His plan that we can comprehend or understand.


As we get into 2 Kings chapter three, in the first three verses is a summary evaluation of the reign of the not-quite-so-evil Jehoram. 2 Kings 3:1 NASB "Now Jehoram the son of Ahab [the paradigm of evil in the northern kingdom] became king over Israel at Samaria in the eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, and reigned twelve years." Jehoshaphat is a good king in the southern kingdom, a king who instituted various reforms and who is walking with God, except that he makes mistakes, like we all do, like getting aligned with pagan unbelievers. Jehoram reigned for twelve years. [2] "He did evil in the sight of the LORD, though not like his father and his mother [Jezebel]; for he put away the {sacred} pillar of Baal which his father had made." He was not going to continue in the fertility cult like his mother because that was pretty well disproven by Elijah both on Mount Carmel and in the episode we have covered in the first chapter. [3] "Nevertheless, he clung to the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel sin; he did not depart from them."


From the outset here we see that the tone for Jehoram is negative. God never blesses the house of Omri. They are under a judgment announced by God already, that this Jehoram would be the end of the line. God is not going to bless them and they are not going to prosper. That gives us an idea of what will happen at the end of the chapter, that no matter what else takes place God can't bless Jehoram because he is evil. That is our first clue in trying to understand what happens at the end of the chapter. What happened with Jeroboam is the same thing that happens with so many people, he created his own image of God. Jeroboam I was the one who led the revolt against Rehoboam's taxation he realized that if he didn't do something he was going to have a problem because everybody in the north was going the be trotting down to Jerusalem to worship in the temples during the year and this would create a problem of loyalty between the northern kingdom and the southern kingdom when he really wanted to establish his own identity. So what he did was have two golden calves constructed and set one at Bethel and the other at Dan, and he said, "This is the God who took you out of Egypt." He constructed his own view of God, his own idol, and said this is Yahweh. So when the text says that Jehoram persisted in the sin of Jeroboam the son of Nebat who made Israel sin, what that tells us is that he continued in this limited view of God and in idolatry. So the sin in the north continues.


The next set of verses, 3-7, identify for us the problem. Every good story has conflict, every good narrative has tension in it and we have to figure out who is the hero and who is the bad guy. In the Scriptures the hero is always God. When we look at the conflict that is there we ought to think of it in terms of the fact that we, too, have conflicts in our life. There are problems that we face and they are facing a problem related t0o the nation itself.


2 Kings 3:4 NASB "Now Mesha king of Moab was a sheep breeder, and used to pay the king of Israel 100,000 lambs and the wool of 100,000 rams." That is an enormous amount of their production, so this was an oppressive tribute upon the nation. [5] "But when Ahab died, the king of Moab rebelled against the king of Israel." So this has been going on for a little while. It began under Ahaziah and it is continuing under Jehoram. [6] "And King Jehoram went out of Samaria at that time and mustered all Israel." He is going to invoke the military solution but he knows that he can't do it on his own. [7] "Then he went and sent {word} to Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, saying, 'The king of Moab has rebelled against me. Will you go with me to fight against Moab?' And he said, 'I will go up; I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses.'" Jehoram isn't king very long before he realizes he has to do something about this crisis of foreign policy in the north. He can't allow the king of Moab to continue to tweak his nose at Israel by not paying the tribute and is going to send the troops to try to straighten things out.


Moab exists on the south-eastern flank of Israel, just on the east side of the Dead Sea. The Moabits have a checkered history in relation to Israel. In Genesis 19:37, 38 there is the record of the incest that was committed by Lot's two daughters. The eldest daughter gave birth to a daughter that she named Moab and the other daughter gave birth to a sin she called Ben-Ammi. The descendants of Moab and Ammon became the Moabites and the Ammonites. They are cousins to the Israelites. This is why God prohibited Moses in Deuteronomy 2:9ff that they were not to attack the Moabites or the Ammonites when they went through their territory. So the first important fact that we recognize about Moab is that Moab is guaranteed by God their own inheritance, their own land, and Israel has no right to it. That tells us that the northern kingdom is out of fellowship and are sinning in their oppression of Moab. Since the time of Omri they don't care anything about what God had said and so they enter into military conflict with the Moabites, defeat and oppress them as if they had a right to their production. They have no right to their production and so we see right off the bat that this whole adventure to continue the oppression of Moab is in violation of the will of God. This is not going to be a God-honoring endeavor. 


We see that Jehoram is faced with a problem. We get faced with many different problems, whether we call them problems or adversity or challenges or suffering, however we address them. We have to ask the question: how are we to address challenges, how are we to solve problems biblically speaking? Jehoram is the picture of either the unbeliever or the rebellious believer who is not going to solve his problems they way God says but is going to try to solve his problems from his own energy, his own resources, from out of his own efforts. He tries to solve the problem by the military solution and the first thing he realizes is that he can't do it alone, so he calls on Jehoshaphat in the same way his father had called upon Jehoshaphat in an earlier endeavor. There are many parallels in this chapter to what happened in 1 Kings 22.


There was a time when there was a lot of war between Ahab and Syria earlier fighting over the territory known now as the Golan Heights and in that area of the Trans-Jordan. 1 Kings 22:2 NASB "In the third year Jehoshaphat the king of Judah came down to the king of Israel. [3] Now the king of Israel said to his servants, 'Do you know that Ramoth-gilead belongs to us, and we are still doing nothing to take it out of the hand of the king of Aram?'" Notice that the objective in this war is to recover territory that has been given legitimately to Israel by God. So what they want to do is something clearly stated to be God's will. In contrast, in 2 Kings 3, what they want to do is oppress territory that God has prohibited them from oppressing. [4] "And he said to Jehoshaphat, "Will you go with me to battle at Ramoth-gilead?" And Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, "I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses." But notice what Jehoshaphat says next. [5] "Moreover, Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, 'Please inquire first for the word of the LORD.'" We have a problem, we have an objective that God has promised us, and therefore before we engage in solving the problem we have to initially address the Lord.


But in 2 Kings chapter 3:7 NASB "Then he [Jehoram] went and sent {word} to Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, saying, 'The king of Moab has rebelled against me. Will you go with me to fight against Moab?' And he said, 'I will go up; I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses.'" Notice Jehoshaphat's response. 2 Kings 3:11 NASB "But Jehoshaphat said, 'Is there not a prophet of the LORD here, that we may inquire of the LORD by him?' And one of the king of Israel's servants answered and said, 'Elisha the son of Shaphat is here, who used to pour water on the hands of Elijah.'" He begins by saying the first thing they have to do before they solve a problem is take it to the Lord; they have to seek divine guidance to find out what God's will is on this, and the only way they can do this is go to a prophet and see what God is going to say to them through that prophet. They did not have a completed canon of Scripture at that time and the only way they could know God's specific will for them was to go to the prophet. But in 2 Kings 3 Jehoshaphat does not say that; it is not his priority anymore. He is falling into the agenda of Jehoram thinking that, well God blessed us the last time and he will do it again. This is a trap people often fall into. We become too familiar in our relation ship with God and we just sort of assume that God is going to be with us in the same way that He has in the past when the decisions we made were good, and we don't take time to pray about it and to seek the Lord's guidance in His Word.


2 Kings 3:8 NASB "He said, 'Which way shall we go up?' And he [Jehoram] answered, 'The way of the wilderness of Edom.'" When we are out of fellowship and operating in human viewpoint we often compound bad decisions with more bad decisions. That is exactly what happens here. He is in disobedience to God, is in idolatry, and he wants to do something God has expressly prohibited. Thirdly, he is going to make a decision on how to accomplish the goal of solving the problem by choosing bad methodology. He is going to take them through some of the most barren, dry wilderness that we could ever imagine. They are going to get trapped out there after seven days with no water and on the verge of a major catastrophe. So one bad decision often compounds into more bad decisions and the reason we often get involved in a lot of adversity is simply because we are compounding bad decisions with more bad decisions and are failing to go to the Lord to seek His guidance and direction.                     

So what do we learn at this point in terms of how we ought to face challenges and how they failed to face this challenge. They failed to enquire of the Lord; they failed to seek His guidance. That involves prayer and the study of His Word. In prayer God is not just going to "poof" tell us something, because special revelation has ended; God is going to direct us through His Word. But Scriptures says, Psalm 66:18 NASB "If I regard wickedness in my heart, The Lord will not hear." The Hebrew word for "regard" means to perceive, evaluate, examine. So if we are involved in self-examination and we see sin in our life and we don't confess it then God is not going to listen to our prayer. So this is their failure. They are out of fellowship and in carnality and are seeking to do something that God has not authorized; in fact they are seeking to do something that God has prohibited and ultimately He will not allow them to being that to fruition. However, when they finally do enquire of the Lord they are going to receive some grace, not because of Jehoram but because of Jehoshaphat—grace by association—and because Jehoshaphat is a believer who walks with the Lord God is going to bless them with a certain level of victory.

There are basic ways we need to solve problems. First we need to confess our sins. If we are out of fellowship then before we can get in fellowship, walk by the Spirit, and start truly solving problems in our life by way of the Word of God and His will, we must confess our sins. Second, we need to walk by the Spirit but for them it was the faith-rest drill. They needed to trust God to give them the victory in the situation. More than that, they needed to be oriented to God's Word and understand what God's will was. All they had to do was be familiar with Deuteronomy chapter two and they would know that what they were attempting to do was wrong.