We come to 2 Kings 13 and the narrative moves back to focusing on the northern kingdom of Israel where a new king is on the throne, Jehoahaz, the son of Jehu. But he’s not exactly a noble leader…
2 Kings 13:2–3 (ESV) He did what was evil in the sight of the LORD and followed the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin; he did not depart from them. 3 And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he gave them continually into the hand of Hazael king of Syria and into the hand of Ben-hadad the son of Hazael.
This is a familiar refrain for Israel, their king commits idolatry and the people fall in line. God brings judgment in the manner of Hazael, king of Syria as he attacks and defeats them “continually”.
Jehoahaz gets a wake-up call during all this and turns back to God.
2 Kings 13:4 (ESV) Then Jehoahaz sought the favor of the LORD, and the LORD listened to him, for he saw the oppression of Israel, how the king of Syria oppressed them.
What a moment for the mercy of God. He is kind to the evil. Jesus told us this (Luke 6:35). He is slow to anger and abounding in love. Moses told us this (Exodus 34:6). Now let’s look at the kindness of God in action for Israel:
2 Kings 13:5 (ESV) Therefore the LORD gave Israel a savior, so that they escaped from the hand of the Syrians, and the people of Israel lived in their homes as formerly.
This is an often repeated theme in the Bible. The people sin, suffer and cry out. A savior is given and the people live in peace. Here the savior is nameless. Speculations abound as to who he was but we are asked to see WHO sent him. The Lord sends him to save his people. God works through intermediaries and deliverers.
The peace here is short-lived as Isreal apostatizes once again.
2 Kings 13:6 (ESV) Nevertheless, they did not depart from the sins of the house of Jeroboam, which he made Israel to sin, but walked in them; and the Asherah also remained in Samaria.)
The text continues by showing that after Jehoahaz another king comes to reign in his place named Jehoash. Jehoash is no much better at obeying the Lord and Israel is decimated. On top of all this - the prophet Elisha is on his death bed.
2 Kings 13:14 (ESV) Now when Elisha had fallen sick with the illness of which he was to die, Joash king of Israel went down to him and wept before him, crying, “My father, my father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!”
Now there’s a weird story in this chapter where the prophet tells the king to shoot an arrow out of a window and then strike a bundle of arrows on the ground. Step by step instructions are given leading to an even stranger moment during this event…
2 Kings 13:18–19 (ESV) And he said, “Take the arrows,” and he took them. And he said to the king of Israel, “Strike the ground with them.” And he struck three times and stopped. 19 Then the man of God was angry with him and said, “You should have struck five or six times; then you would have struck down Syria until you had made an end of it, but now you will strike down Syria only three times.”
At first glance, this moment seems so strange but it serves as a summary illustration of Israel’s history. They only followed God so far. They only listened to the Lord to a point. As a result, they only received so much promise and deliverance. Instead of being free from Assyria, they would be destroyed by them. Why? Because Israel got in the habit of only walking with God to a certain extent.
Sadly for Israel they could not obey God fully. And neither can we. The good news is there is a KING who obeyed fully and secured our freedom. Jesus Christ finished the work we could not finish. And because of Him, we have victory over every enemy.
1 Corinthians 15:57 (ESV) But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
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