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Sun, Nov 08, 2009

80 - The God of Integrity [b]

2 Kings 3:11-27 by Robert Dean
Series:Kings (2007)
Duration:48 mins 8 secs

The God of Integrity. 2 Kings 3:11-27

 

God doesn't give us the answers all the time. He gives us the framework for the answers and we have to dig deeply in order to really come to understand what is going on. We have to think about them. He doesn't just hand us the answers on a silver platter so that we can sort of satisfy our easy curiosity, but the revelation of Himself and His Word is given in such a way that it constantly pushes us to read and study and to think more deeply and more profoundly about what is said in Scripture. God does not let us off the hook with a simple on-the-surface meaning. Having said that, we are not talking about some kind of mystical hermeneutic, some kind of secondary spiritual or allegorical meaning; it is simply that we need to study all of God's Word, comparing Scripture with Scripture and our understanding of God in other passages, in such a way that we can truly come to answer the text and come to understand who God is.

 

In 2 Kings chapter three we are faced with a battle where three kings come together. The king of the northern kingdom, Jehoram, calls upon Jehoshaphat the king of the southern kingdom of Judah, as well as the king of Edom, to join together in an alliance to conquer (as a form of discipline) the king of Moab. The king of Moab has exercised his independence and had revolted against the authority of the northern kingdom of Israel which has held the kingdom of Moab under their thumb since the time of Omri.

 

What we see in the early verses of the chapter is that the core of evil is idolatry. When one rejects the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and substitutes something else for the worship of God they have committed this root sin of idolatry, this arrogance against God, and that is the core of all evil. We fall prey to that—lest we think that we have somehow avoided that because we don't bow down to statues of wood or gold or silver—by constructing mental idols. We construct in our minds ideas of who God is, what He looks like, that doesn't really conform to what Scripture says. This is a mental form of idolatry. We see it in various ways in people's lives. They have limited views of God, wrong views of God, views of Jesus that are not formed from the Scripture but are formed by some kind of independent religious view, as some weak, pasty, wimpy figure who went to cross and died, as is portrayed in many different pictures of an effeminate figure that couldn't quite deal with the issues of life at the time.

 

Because of idolatry in the northern kingdom God is not really going to bless the northern kingdom. There will be times when it appears that he is because He is simply extending grace to them to give them time to repent or change and to turn back to Him. Sometimes in our lives God's grace is extended to us and we mistake that blessing as approbation from God rather than that God is really giving us the opportunity to change and to turn back to Him. Jehoram, even though he wasn't as bad as his parents, is still considered evil.

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.' [12] Jehoshaphat said, 'The word of the LORD is with him.' So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat and the king of Edom went down to him…. [14] Elisha said, 'As the LORD of hosts lives, before whom I stand, were it not that I regard the presence of Jehoshaphat the king of Judah, I would not look at you nor see you.'" To "regard the presence' means to look at someone, to be aware of the presence of someone. It is the same word as used in Psalm 66:18 NASB "If I regard wickedness in my heart, The Lord will not hear." God sees that Jehoshaphat is there and so there is going to be a blessing by association. He is not blessing them because this is a God-ordained mission, His blessing is there simply because of His plans and purposes for Jehoshaphat, and because Jehoshaphat is there God is going to provide for their needs. If he were not there He would ignore them.

2 Kings 3:15 NASB "'But now bring me a minstrel.' And it came about, when the minstrel played, that the hand of the LORD came upon him." What in the world is going on in this verse? We are often surprised by things in the Scripture; we are surprised by God; God doesn't fit in our little box that we have developed in our categories. It's not that we can't know Him truly but that we cannot know Him exhaustively. The role of the prophet was one who represented God and would bring the Word of God to the people, or would confront or indict the people because of their disobedience to God. So he is a representative of God. But we also see the Hebrew word for "prophet" used in some interesting contexts related to usage. For example, in Exodus 15:20 we read, "Miriam the prophetess, Aaron's sister, took the timbrel in her hand, and all the women went out after her with timbrels and with dancing." Then we have the song of victory that they sang reflecting upon how God gave the Jews victory in the battle over their enemies in the exodus. In Judges 4:4 we are told that Deborah was a prophetess who judged Israel at the time. This is not focusing on prophesy as preaching; that is not what this means at all. Deborah composed a hymn of victory. Again we have this relationship of the gift of prophecy with music. 1 Chronicles 25:3 NASB "Of Jeduthun, the sons of Jeduthun: Gedaliah, Zeri, Jeshaiah, Shimei, Hashabiah and Mattithiah, six, under the direction of their father Jeduthun with the harp, who prophesied in giving thanks and praising the LORD." So we see that part of the role of being a prophet had to do with giving thanks and praise to God and the writing of psalms, and that this was set to music so that it would be remembered by the people. This helps us to understand what is going on here when we are told that Elisha called for someone to come and to play music.

2 Kings 3:16, 17 NASB "He said, "Thus says the LORD, 'Make this valley full of trenches.' For thus says the LORD, 'You shall not see wind nor shall you see rain; yet that valley shall be filled with water, so that you shall drink, both you and your cattle and your beasts." The only imperative, the only command in this whole section is that they are to dig ditches. Then the prophet under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is going to tell them what God will do as a result of that. But the only thing they are commanded to do is to dig ditches. [18] "This is but a slight thing in the sight of the LORD; He will also give the Moabites into your hand. [19] Then you shall strike every fortified city and every choice city, and fell every good tree and stop all springs of water, and mar every good piece of land with stones." This is really a key passage in this who section because we have to ask the question: is Elisha telling them what to do or is he telling them what is going to happen? Most people will take it that what happens in verse 19 is a command to go and do these things. But it is very interesting to deal with the Hebrew verbs here because oftentimes in Hebrew when there are certain tense shifts, and certain things are going on here and there are imperfect tenses initially and then there are perfect tenses. What we believe this indicates grammatically is that there is a shit from the initial command to dog ditches to a description of what will happen afterwards. A description is not a command. This view is backed up by the fact that in Deuteronomy 20:19, 20 when God instructed the Israelites when they were going to engage in holy war as they entered into Canaan, He said: "When you besiege a city a long time, to make war against it in order to capture it, you shall not destroy its trees by swinging an axe against them; for you may eat from them, and you shall not cut them down. For is the tree of the field a man, that it should be besieged by you? Only the trees which you know are not fruit trees you shall destroy and cut down, that you may construct siegeworks against the city that is making war with you until it falls." So there are two commands that are important in Deuteronomy. One is that the Israelites were not to oppress or take possession of Moab, and the second direct command was that they were not supposed to wipe out the fruit trees, destroy the land, stop up the wells, etc. So if verse 19 is a command from God then it is in contradiction to what was stated in Deuteronomy. Then, if they are being commanded to attack Moab and take control of it, this also is in violation to Deuteronomy. So we believe that what is being described in verse 19 is what the army is going to do, not what God is telling them to do. They are only told to dog these ditches.

What will happen overnight is that there will be a rain storm so far away that they don't even hear the thunder or see the flashes of lightning, and there will be flash floods and water will come down and fill up the ditches in the early morning. Then something remarkable will take place. 2 Kings 3:20 NASB "It happened in the morning about the time of offering the sacrifice, that behold, water came by the way of Edom, and the country was filled with water…. [22] "They rose early in the morning, and the sun shone on the water, and the Moabites saw the water opposite {them} as red as blood." God used the sun and the water to create an optical illusion so that when the Moabites looked at the water it looked as if it was all blood. They jumped to the conclusion that there had been a fight, a falling out amongst the Israelites, the Judahites and the Edomites, and that this was the time to attack. [23] "Then they said, 'This is blood; the kings have surely fought together, and they have slain one another. Now therefore, Moab, to the spoil!' [24] But when they came to the camp of Israel, the Israelites arose and struck the Moabites, so that they fled before them; and they went forward into the land, slaughtering the Moabites." Then verse 25 is the fulfillment of what Elisha said they would do back in verse 19: "they destroyed the cities; and each one threw a stone on every piece of good land and filled it. So they stopped all the springs of water and felled all the good trees, until in Kir-hareseth {only} they left its stones; however, the slingers went about {it} and struck it." Remember, they were prohibited from doing that.

They were on the verge of having victory when we read, verse 27: "Then he [the king of Moab] took his oldest son who was to reign in his place, and offered him as a burnt offering on the wall. And there came great wrath against Israel, and they departed from him and returned to their own land." This display of paganism appalls the Israelites but it is the turning point in the battle. How are we to understand this. It is really a perplexing verse because if this offering to the god of Moab seems to give victory and seems to have inspired the people one view is that the great indignation is on the part of the Moabites, that they are just roused to anger because the king has had to sacrifice his own son and are inspired to go out and fight harder. There is another view that this is Israel's indignation and that that become so incensed that they leave, but the text says that there was great indignation against Israel. The third view is that this is God's wrath. It doesn't say it is God's wrath but there are seven time in the Old Testament where there is the phrase "great indignation/wrath" and every time it is a distinct word for "great" and for "wrath" and it is only used of God, except for one passage where it is used of man. When it is combined with this word for "great" in those seven instances, including this one, it always refers to the wrath of God. So God's wrath is brought against Israel because they are still out of His will. He hasn't ordered them to defeat the Moabites; He hasn't ordered them to go into battle. God is going to bless them to a point and give them a certain measure of victory but He is not going to give them a total victory because that would be a blessing to the house of Ahab that He is about to judge. So this is just one of those really strange episodes where God just doesn't act like we think He is going to act.

The same thing happens in our life. We think God is doing one thing and then something else happens. When that happens in many people's lives they react against God instead of trusting in God. There are other things that happen in our lives that are unexpected. Sometimes we have unexpected blessings, sometimes unexpected adversities, and the issue is: are we going to handle those circumstances on the basis of God's Word. What we see in the Old Testament as well as the New Testament is that in order to face and surmount adversities we have to be oriented to God's Word. That is primary. We really have to understand who God is and what His plan is. This was a failure in this instance. They did not understand, were not applying Deuteronomy, and so they were engaged in a wrong activity. They did attempt (and Jehoshaphat sincerely) to seek the Lord but because of a lack of knowledge of God's Word they seek the Lord but still engage in a wrong activity.

The point of this passage is that we dare not fall into the trap of putting God in a box. We dare not be presumptuous but we must be oriented to His Word. The only way we can know these things is to truly study the Word and really know it. The Israelites were doing a wrong thing a wrong way and then were trying to cover it up and camouflage it with the justification of, Well, we sought the will of God through the prophet. But the prophet wasn't telling them what to do, other than digging of ditches, he was simply describing what they would do.