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THE SONS OF THE PROPHETS
‘One of the children of the prophets.’
2 Kings 9:1
I. The Jewish prophet was not primarily or characteristically a foreteller.—The sole power which the prophet possessed of declaring that which should be arose from his knowledge of that which had been and which was. He meditated in the law of the Lord, and in that law did he exercise himself day and night. The fruits of revolt his inward monitor enabled him to foresee and to predict. Everything that was sudden in his utterances bore witness to previous trains of thought and habits of reflection.
II. Supposing the habitual belief and work of the prophet to have been of this kind, it does not seem very strange that he should have been an educator of others, or that one main object of his education should have been to fit them for functions like his own. God had given His law to the whole nation. All were under it; therefore all might study it and delight themselves in it; and since light is given that it may be communicated, there was no reason why any of the Lord’s people should not be prophets.
III. The sons of the prophets were a continual witness to the Israelites against certain errors into which they were apt to fall respecting the prophetical office.—The man of God might have been looked upon as a mere separate being, cut off by the awfulness of his character and dignity from the rest of his countrymen, an object of distant admiration and dread, not an example of what they should be. These men, taken from among themselves and associated with him, declared that he was only withdrawn from their communion that he might the better claim privileges for them which they were in hazard of losing, that he was only chosen out by the Lord God of Israel that he might the more clearly understand and help them to understand their national calling.
IV. Jehu, the son of Nimshi, had been declared to Elijah as the joint successor with Elisha in the work that he had left unperformed.—No two men in Israel could have been more unlike. Yet Jehu had the kind of faith which might be expected in a soldier, somewhat reckless, but with his sense of right not quenched by religious falsehood. Esteeming himself a scourge of God and rejoicing in the office, he gave full play to all his bloody instincts. We meet such characters in the world, characters with something devilish lying close beside something which is really Divine; and though the devilish is the obtrusive, and may become the pervading, part of the man’s soul, you cannot help feeling that the other is in the very depth of it, and marks out what he is meant to be and can be.
—Rev. F. D. Maurice.
JEHU THE ADVENTURER
‘Jehu the son of Jehoshaphat.’
2 Kings 9:2
Who was this adventurer? We may be sure he was no ordinary man who could found the most powerful of all the dynasties of Israel.
I. When we first meet with Jehu he is a young guardsman, just as Napoleon is at first a young lieutenant.—And as Napoleon said that every lieutenant carries a field-marshal’s baton in his knapsack, so perhaps young Jehu, ardent and enthusiastic, was dreaming strange dreams of power from the first. There was a glow of daring on the youth that marked him out for high and desperate enterprise. And long ago (though Jehu never knew of this) God had told Elijah that this young guardsman would be king ( 1 Kings 19:16-Esther :). His father’s name was Jehoshaphat, and his grandfather’s Nimshi; but we find Jehu commonly referred to as ‘the son of Nimshi.’ I suppose there were fathers then, as there are fathers now, whom the children would willingly forget; fathers whose names recall no happy memories, but deeds and influences that were best forgotten. Jehu, then, was an aspiring soldier, and his promotion was evidently sure and rapid. It was a time when resolute enthusiasm, and when a ready and even reckless daring, were supremely necessary to distracted Israel. We find Jehu chosen from his company to ride in the royal chariot of King Ahab ( 2 Kings 9:25). It was a signal mark of the king’s confidence, and it was sure to lead to greater honours. So we are not surprised, when our chapter opens, to read that these greater honours have arrived, and that Jehu is chief captain in the army. There has been a great outcry that in our army promotion is secured in unworthy ways. It has been hinted that merit can do little, and social influence can do almost anything. But in the armies of Israel it was different. There was a great career for the born soldier. Jehu begins life as a lieutenant with a field-marshal’s baton in his knapsack.
II. When King Joram, then, was wounded at Ramoth-gilead ( 2 Kings 8:28), he was removed with all speed to the capital, just as our King hastened to London when a dangerous operation was impending.—Jehu was left in command at Ramoth-gilead. He was holding a council of war with his brother officers. Suddenly a young man burst in on their deliberations, and with a rude directness that compelled attention, and with a passion that had a note of frenzy in it, he demanded audience of the captain. Jehu retired with him into a secret chamber, wondering in his heart what this might mean. I think he was prepared for stirring tidings, but not for the swift act that followed. The young man had a vial of oil under his cloak. He unsealed it and poured the oil on Jehu. ‘In the name of the Lord God of Israel,’ he cried, ‘I anoint thee king over the Lord’s people.’ And then, having uttered a curse upon the house of Ahab, he opened the door behind him and was gone.
III. Jehu’s first thought was that this was all a plot.—It was a ruse of his fellow-captains to spur him on. The army, he knew, was seething with rebellion. The staff was sick and tired of their allegiance. It flashed on Jehu that the hour to strike had come, and that this was a veiled summons from his comrades. The hour to strike had come, it was quite true. But the call to lead came from a higher than man. Jehu was like little Samuel, who thought that the voice he heard was that of Eli, and all the time it was the voice of God. Then Jehu, like Samuel, discovered his mistake. The captains knew nothing of the matter. Jehu revealed it to them, word for word. Was not the oil still dropping from his head? It was the very tidings the captains had been longing for. Smouldering rebellion burst into a flame. They flung off their cloaks and made an impromptu throne with them. They blew the trumpets. They cried, ‘Jehu is king!’ The word of God to Elijah had come true. The sun of Nimshi had reached the throne at last ( 2 Kings 9:13).
IV. Three points sum up Jehu’s character.
( a) Zeal without obedience, love, or consistency. He was naturally thorough. He never did things by halves. He drove furiously through life, but he never kept the track of simple obedience. He was the whirlwind among the kings. Zeal alone is often terrible, but it is rarely beneficial.
( b) Occasional right acting, but always from base, and often from utterly bad motives.
( c) A destructive, but not a constructive, career. What good is it to wipe out superstition if we do not plant faith in its place?
(1) ‘In the rising and downfall of the dynasties of Israel there is much that reminds us of Scottish history. There is the same story of intrigue and bloodshed, illuminated by the truest heroism. If one were asked to name the most heroic of Scottish kings, the instant reply would be Robert Bruce. Yet in the eyes of England Bruce was a perjured traitor, and at the outset of his career, so fraught with glorious issues for Scotland, his hands were dyed with the blood of the Red Comyn. We are reminded of that story when we come to study the history of Jehu. He, too, in the eyes of his monarch was a traitor. His action was a base conspiracy. And he began the last stage of his career with deeds of bloodshed that can hardly be matched in any annals. When Bruce rushed from the altar at Dumfries crying, “I doubt I have slain the Red Comyn,” “Doubt!” answered Kirkpatrick of Closeburn; “mak’ siccar.” But no follower was needed to make the work of Jehu “siccar.” It was carried through with tremendous thoroughness, and with a fiery zeal that has passed into a proverb.’
(2) ‘You remember in Scottish history an instance of a sudden apparition before a king? It occurred in the south transept of Linlithgow Church, where King James the Fourth was praying before Flodden. A man with a great pikestaff in his hand, broke in, crying for the king, and saying he wished to speak with him. He warned the king not to go forward. Nothing but disaster would attend on him. And then, as the old Scots writer puts it (and Sir Walter has made the incident immortal in his Marmion), “he vanished away as he had been a blink of the sun, or a whip of the whirlwind, and could no more be seen.’ That sudden messenger came with a warning. The one who sought Jehu had another message. Yet in point of abruptness and lack of usual deference, and sudden departure like a whip of the whirlwind, the one scene suggests the other.’
PEACE, OR A SWORD?
‘And Jehu said, What hast thou to do with peace? turn thee behind me.’
2 Kings 9:18
I. The dispensation of judgment and the dispensation of love, so opposite in all points, did, in fact, proceed from one and the same Divine will.—The sword of Jehu and the healing voice of Christ had, in fact, this common origin; they were both part of the Divine economy for the conquest over evil. One of them flashed forth in vengeance and retribution; the other breathed love even to the most unworthy. But both were alike in this point Divine, that they marked the enormity of sin in the sight of God, albeit the one consumed the sinner and his house, and the other lifted up the sinner and let him go free, because One Who had done no sin was ready to suffer in his stead.
II. The new law of the Gospel, so full of love, so profound, so ennobling in its observance, may begin at once to do its work in the heart as soon as its Divine prescriptions are understood.—But when we look round and find a world full of resistance to that law, we understand that the very fact that it is resisted limits us in our adoption of it as a rule. When the invader, in his cruel selfishness, breaks through the silken cords of the Gospel, and seems to know no law but that of selfishness, it seems that stern language would alone be understood. ‘What hast thou to do with peace? turn thee behind me.”
III. War is a remnant of the old and harsher covenant, which must endure into the covenant of love, simply because of the evil tempers of mankind that are still unsubdued, and because the law of Christ cannot have its perfect operation except where it is leavening the whole mass. We are soldiers of Christ, and His war is ever being carried on. He will fight for us; He will ever find us service.
‘I will requite thee in this plat, saith the Lord.’
2 Kings 9:26
One object of the inspired records of events told in the Old Testament is the hidden reason of God’s dealings with people. They tell us, for instance, the true causes of things. In secular history we can only guess at the true causes. The Bible, speaking to us by the Holy Spirit of God, does reveal to us true religion. We learn how the wicked Ahab and his still more wicked wife had murdered Naboth, and taken possession of his property. He has just taken possession when the prophet Elijah comes and dashes all his hopes to the ground, and utters that terrible prophecy that in the portion of Jezreel shall dogs lick Jezebel’s blood. I don’t think after that Ahab enjoyed Naboth’s vineyard much. But he showed some signs of penitence, and the punishment was therefore postponed to his son’s days. ‘In his son’s days will I bring the evil upon his house.’ Ah! Ahab little thought when he took possession of Naboth’s vineyard how God’s words, ‘I will requite thee in this plat,’ would be fulfilled. Ahab was not only requited in his crime, but he was requited on the same spot on which the crime was committed.
I. It would have been very little to be requited, but it was to be requited ‘in the same plat.’—‘Be sure your sin will find you out’ is a very old and true saying. I want to call your attention, and especially the attention of the young, to the manner sin proves this in kind. See how sin revenges itself. ‘The child is father to the man,’ says Wordsworth. The child sows, the man reaps. We all know how two lives starting together become farther and farther apart as they grow up. In childhood there are little displays of temper, perhaps selfishness, little acts of disobedience. Oh! it is very terrible to wake up in sin; how terrible the consequences are! Yes, it is hard to get back after falling away. Don’t let us prophesy hard things. Don’t let us deceive any one by saying repentance is an easy thing. Thank God, the wanderer, be he ever so far out of the track, may turn again to the Saviour, and be led back like a little child. You see the state a man finds himself in. It is not the direct punishment, but the consequences, we have to fear. In childhood, he that was selfish, unsubmissive, is the same still. I am supposing that this is unchecked. Thank God, there are many things that can divert these and check them. But the law is requited. Now I want to speak particularly to the young men and young women. It may be too late to tell the older people; it is not too late to tell the young.
II. What, humanly speaking, has made us what we are?—First, our own natural disposition; secondly, our past life. I am not going to say anything about the first; but the second, our past life, which we have made as we are. Each deliberate choice, whether great or small. Ah! my friends, if we wander, how inconsiderate we are to our future selves. We are often unkind and inconsiderate to others, but I think more are inconsiderate to ourselves. First, there are some of you young people day by day bringing yourselves to resoluteness of will. Of course it is easy to give way to momentary impulse. Resoluteness of will makes the strong will, but that is only done by strong observance. He that yields to the momentary impulse has no resoluteness of will. He is a weak man. Then you hear people talk of great men having strong wills; depend on it they have sought hard to mould their character. He that has yielded ninety-nine times to temptation has no right to expect to resist when the hundredth time comes. Do you think so? If there is any one here who wants to carry home something, I would say, Be strong of will.
III. One word about ourselves.—With the young there is little sympathy. True it is there is in boyhood a soul of generosity, but what is thought unselfishness may be only refined selfishness. For there is a sort of inward selfishness in wishing to be generous or kind to others. It may be only to give pleasure to ourselves. To seek to do little kindnesses, though it may be to our own hindrance, this is unselfishness. I have only touched upon forms of sin to which the young, I think, are more exposed. But so it is with the graver sins. But that is a very low motive to base a lesson of unselfishness upon, you may say. I know it is. But I plead you will keep from sin. This law of requital may lead us from the power of sin. Dread the approach of sin, not on account of its penalty, but because God has sent His Son, and ‘hath raised up a mighty salvation for us, that we being delivered out of the hands of our enemies might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life.’
—Bishop Walsham How.
‘Joram ordered his own chariot to be prepared, and went forth with Ahaziah King of Judah, his nephew, to meet the captain of the host, expecting to hear some tidings of the Syrian war, and without any thought, apparently, of any design against himself. In the Providence of God it was ordered that he should meet Jehu on the fatal plot of land which had belonged to Naboth, and which had been the cause of so much evil to his family. Jehoram perhaps did not recognise it at the time; but Jehu perceived in the circumstance a confirmation of his Divine commission.’
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Nisbet, James. "Commentary on 2 Kings 9". Church Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30