Monday, September 9, 2019

A New Start for Israel

"Then the prophet poured the oil on Jehu’s head and declared, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anoint you king over the LORD’S people Israel’ ” (2 Kings 9:6b).

Because of the many atrocities committed by Ahab and his house, the Lord determined to wipe out his line. On previous occasions in Israel’s history, God allowed revolutionaries to kill the man on the throne and set themselves up in power. That is how Baasha, Zimri, and Omri (Ahab’s father) came to the throne. Now, however, God takes a more active role. He sends a prophet to Jehu, the commander of the Israelite army, and anoints him as king, commanding him to wipe out Ahab’s entire line. Thus, Jehu’s accession marks a definitive new beginning in the history of Israel, comparable to the accessions of Saul, David, and Jeroboam, who had also been expressly chosen by God before becoming kings.

As military men often are, Jehu was a cultural conservative. He felt a nationalistic loyalty to Israel and her culture, and he disliked the pagan Baalism imported into Israel by Jezebel. His men felt the same way, and so rejoiced to hear that Jehu had been anointed to take power. Immediately Jehu and his army went after King Joram of Israel and King Ahaziah of Judah, both descendants of Ahab, and killed them in battle. Then Jehu had Jezebel killed. After that, Jehu sent letters to the elders of Samaria demanding that they kill the 70 sons of Ahab that lived there, which they did. Then he killed 42 of the relatives of King Ahaziah of Judah, who were also part of Ahab’s clan. In all of this, Jehu was supported by the faithful in Israel (2 Kings 9:11–10:17).

Finally, Jehu pretended to convert to Baalism and called for a big celebration. He got all the priests of Baal together in Baal’s temple, and then had them all killed (2 Kings 10:18–28). In this way, Jehu purged the land of the foreign gods that Jezebel had imported.

But sadly, Jehu was no more than a cultural conservative. Being merely a conservative, he was not interested in returning to true Yahwism. Rather, he simply wanted to turn the clock back to the syncretistic and nationalistic pseudo-Yahwism of Jeroboam. He brought no true reform, but his actions did make it possible for the remnant church to live without fear of outright persecution.

Many Christians today confuse authentic Christian reform with mere cultural, flag-waving conservatism, which we might call “nationalistic baalism.” Regarding public schools, it is not enough to turn the clock back to the 1950s. With politics, it is not enough to restore the U.S. Constitution. We need a biblical culture, not simply a traditional one. Be committed to substance, no just forms.