Summary: Part 2 of the Sermon Series, "God of Elisha."
One lesson Israel learned from God is that when they honor God, God honors them. God takes care of them. God works with them and for them. Nevertheless, if they dishonor God, God judges them. God deals with Israel in the context of covenant faithfulness.
That is what we learn in this story of two kings and one prophet. The writer introduces Jehoram as king over the northern kingdom of Israel. His father was the wicked Ahab, who ruled with his more wicked wife, Jezebel, for twenty-two years. When Ahab died in battle, his son, Ahaziah, took his place. Ahaziah ruled for only two years. He died in a fall from the palace balcony in Samaria (2 Ki. 1:2-18). Jehoram took over power upon his brother’s death (2 Ki. 3:1).
We learn three spiritual lessons about one’s relationship with God in the actions of these three characters. We will look into the first two kinds of hearts in this chapter, and the third kind in the next.
A Divided Heart Draws the Condemnation of God
The writer of Kings is no smooth-talking journalist or politician. He writes it like it is. He condemns Jehoram with God-breathed words. Thus, God condemns Jehoram for his evil actions (2 Ki. 3:2).
The composer appears to employ a chiasm (X-shape literary structure) in vv. 2-3. Hebrew literary works often use chiastic parallelism, wherein the second line explains or expands on the first line.
A - He did what was evil in the sight of the LORD,
B - though not like his father and mother,
B1 - for he put away the pillar of Baal that his father had made (v. 2).
A1 - Nevertheless, he clung to the sin of Jeroboam
the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin; he did not depart from it (v. 3).
Notice that the writer tells about the evil of Jehoram in A, which he repeats in a parallel line in A1. Then he writes about the good of Jehoram in B, which he explains in B1.
How does he paint Jehoram? He paints Jehoram as neither good nor bad. Jehoram was bad, but not as worse as Ahab and Jezebel. He was good in putting away the pillar of Baal. Nevertheless, he was bad in clinging to the sin of Jeroboam. Jeroboam’s sin was calf-worship.
Jehoram clung to calf-worship probably because it served his political interests well, just as it did with Jeroboam. Does this not sound familiar? Many Christian businessmen resort to sinful transactions because it serves their business well.
Political power is more important to Jehoram than obedience to Yahweh. Jehoram therefore was neither godly nor godless. His heart was neither hot nor cold for God. His heart was not whole, but divided. He had a divided heart, a divided loyalty.
He is like some pastors who do not take a stand on certain critical issues. Confronted with controversial issues, they take neither side but opt for both sides.
Russell Dilday tells the story of such a man during the civil war between the States in America. The Northern army wore blue uniforms. The Southern army wore gray. He had many friends in the North and the South. He refused to take either side.
He came out one day wearing a uniform with a blue jacket and gray pants. Eventually, he was shot on the upper blue part and the lower gray part of his uniform! The blue army shot his gray pants. The gray army shot at his blue jacket.1
The sin of King Jeroboam was the establishment of calf-worship—one calf of gold in Dan and one in Bethel. Have you heard of the expression, “holy cow!”? That is what King Jeroboam did. He set up holy cow worship in two cities in Israel.
Jeroboam was the first king of the ten tribes of Israel. He did not want the people to go to Jerusalem in the southern kingdom of Judah, to worship in the temple there. He feared that the tribes might shift their allegiance to the house of David and put him out of the picture. So he set up calf-worship in the temples of Dan and Bethel. He also installed fake priests who were not Levites. He built temples on high places (1 Ki. 12:26-33). That was the sin of Jeroboam.
So why does God condemn King Jehoram? Because even though he put away the pillar of Baal in Israel, he still “clung” to the worship of false gods. He did not totally obey God’s command against idolatry. He had a divided heart and a double mind. With a divided heart, he was half-devoted to eradicating Baal worship. But he was half-devoted also to calf-worship.
God condemns half-heartedness. The people of Israel have long worshiped Yahweh but followed Baal also. On Mt. Carmel, Elijah challenged them with these words, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him” (1 Ki. 18:21).