Have any of you ever read a story in the Old Testament, finished, and asked yourself, “What, exactly, was I supposed to learn from that?” Sometimes I kind of just laugh to myself after finishing a story. I know that God’s word has truth for me, and relevance to my life today. But sometimes I just can’t see it. At times, things will fall into place the next time I come around to it. Other times I just put it on the “waiting list.”
Today I was reading a story I’m sure I’ve read many times, but it’s never spoken to me quite like this. I was reading the story of Jehu, as he becomes annointed king of Israel. Now Jehu is no hero, so don’t get me wrong here. In the beginning of the story, God sends a prophet to annoint Jehu king of Israel while king Joram is still reigning. The kingdom was not to fall to Jehu by default; he was not the king’s successor. However, due to God’s displeasure with Joram, He decides to take the kingdom from his hands with Jehu as His tool of vengeance. When Jehu is annointed king by the prophet, he does not seem to be very awestruck. He admits to his friends what happened and proceeds on his mission: to wipe out Joram and his descendants (the line of Ahab, a very evil king whose downfall was prophesied earlier).
2 Kings 9:17-20
When the lookout standing on the tower in Jezreel saw Jehu’s troops approaching, he called out, “I see some troops coming.”
“Get a horseman,” Joram ordered. Send him to meet them and ask, ‘Do you come in peace?’
The horseman rode off to meet Jehu and said, “This is what the king says: ‘Do you come in peace?'”
“What do you have to do with peace?” Jehu replied. “Fall in behind me.”
The lookout reported, “The messenger has reached them, but he isn’t coming back.”
So the king sent out a second horseman. When he came to them he said, “This is what the king says: ‘Do you come in peace?'”
Jehu replied, “What do you have to do with peace? Fall in behind me.”
The lookout reported, “He has reached them, but he isn’t coming back either…”
Don’t you find it interesting that Jehu doesn’t have a lie readily available? He doesn’t have an excuse to seek the king’s presence. He doesn’t play nice. He doesn’t try to buy time. He doesn’t get distracted. He can see that Joram is acting in fear, and he calls it out. In truth he is asking the messengers, why are you pretending you want peace? You are here because Joram sent you. He sent you because he is fearful.
How many times in your life does enemy send out a messenger to distract or disorient you, to try and pause you in your mission to take ground for the kingdom of God? Can you tell it’s because he is afraid? Afraid that if he doesn’t send out a distraction, you will come and conquer as God has commanded you to, subduing the enemies of pride, selfishness and doubt in the power of the risen Lord Jesus Christ?
When you see that something in your life throwing you off course, and you know it is fear that sent it, make it fall in line. Ask it, “What have you to do with peace?” When you are tempted to hold a grudge, when your patience is wearing thin, when you’ve been hurt and betrayed and you know in your heart that God has called you to forgive, to love, to serve, don’t let yourself be distracted by the messenger whispering lies to your heart. Call out the fear you see and send it to the back of the line, subdued behind you as you walk in triumphal procession in Christ Jesus.
Don’t Forget the Rest of the Story
Now, as I told you before, Jehu isn’t a hero. So if you were wondering why glorious tales are rarely told of him, it’s because he is a bit bloodthirsty and goes on to anger the Lord, as his predecessors have done. He obeys the Lord’s order to annhilate Ahab’s house, but then he murders a multitude of innocent people as well. He rids the land of the Ba’al temple and it’s priests, but he worships golden calves. He does not have a glorious end. But my friends, we can still learn from him. We can still grow from his story. We can still understand that just because he messed up big time, does not mean all he ever did was mess up. At first, he obeyed the Word of the Lord. But he ended up going his own way instead of relying on the way God provided for him. In this, too, we can learn from him without having to repeat his mistakes.
I think there are some times when we forget the rest of the story in the Bible, and miss out on some important things. In church this past weekend a very talented pastor was speaking of an often-quoted Bible verse. Let’s see if you recognize it.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.
Keeping Hold of Peace
Usually, the first two verses are the ones memorized and posted on a 3×5 card, while the next verse is left out. However, choosing what to focus your mind on is key when it comes to peace, when it comes to prayer. If you want your heart to be guarded in that peace, if you want fear to stay in line and keep on marching behind you, you have to be intentional about setting your mind on what is good and true. Remember – no distractions. When you focus on the fear, it will grow in strength, until it can overpower you and start leading your procession.
Following the word of the Lord was something that was admirable and praiseworthy, and Jehu got that. Eliminating the priests of Ba’al was a decision worthy of the One True God. But something tells me that Jehu did not motivate on the God who had shown Himself to the Isrealites as “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands and forgiving wickedness, rebellion, and sin.” (Exodus 34:6-7) Jehu knew how to let himself be used as an instrument of divine retribution and punishment. But he did not consider how to let himself be used as an instrument of divine grace and forgiveness.
Keep on pursuing this God of the universe, who gives us all that we need for life and godliness, who strengthens us with power in our inner beings through His Holy Spirit, who wants us to be rooted and grounded in His love that we might be filled with all the fullness of God. Who gives us hope, and an inheritance, and a place as sons and daughters in His family. Who came that we may be healed and made whole. Lead your procession and make fear fall in line.