The Suicide of the Soul; Rejecting the Grace of God
October 11, 1998 2Kings 8-9
Scripture Reading: 2Kings 8:7-11; 9:1-10
We have been studying the miracles of the prophet Elisha over the last several weeks. It is my intention to complete this series from 2Kings today. We have learned much about God and the lessons of life and faith in the way he works with mankind. The overwhelming message of God to us all is his grace. His grace is a profound miracle that allows for, and even provides for, repentance leading to obedience. It enables us to know the heart of God - that we should respond to his offer of grace in becoming holy as he is.
We saw this offer of grace in the picture of sin and cleansing through Naaman’s leprosy. This was also a message to both the king of Aram (Ben-Hadad) and the king of Israel (Joram) since Naaman was commander of the Aramean army sent by the king of Aram to the king of Israel for healing. Naaman responded to the Lord’s direction through Elisha and went home healed. This was witnessed by both kings, and at least a temporary respect of the God of Israel was affirmed which probably averted war for awhile.
We also saw this offer of grace to both kings in a later time of renewed intentions of war when God continually thwarted the designs of Ben-Hadad to catch Joram off guard. God was giving Elisha inside information for King Joram to prevent a surprise confrontation and possible defeat in war. Ultimately, God enabled Elisha to smite the Aramean troops with blindness, take them captive to Joram inside the city of Samaria, and release them unharmed as a witness to his grace that God is always one step ahead of evil and has power to save both Jew and Gentile. The Arameans stopped raiding Israel for awhile. Both kings witnessed this message of grace.
Then for the third time we saw a full resurgence of war as the previous lessons were forgotten or ignored, and idolatrous Samaria, in a time of God’s disciplinary famine, was beseiged by the Arameans. Once again, God’s grace came into play in a miraculous intervention of deliverance. King Joram had his fill of Elisha’s prolonged message of famine from the Lord and sought to kill him. But Elisha foretold of a great abundance the next day and grace triumphed once again as war and famine were both averted. We saw how God used three leprous beggars who responded to his leading in bringing the good news of the abandoned Aramean camp to the beseiged city. God caused the sound of the heavenly horses and chariots of Israel to frighten them away, leaving a wealth of food and plunder. Certainly by this time the two kings, and the people, should have gotten the message of God’s grace which demands a response of repentance and obedience and praise.
But, sadly, this is not the case. These two kings, Joram and Ben-Hadad, have hardened their hearts beyond repair, beyond their ability or willingness to respond. This is what happens when we continue to reject God and his message of grace to us. The longer we choose not to hear, the less we are able to hear. We pronounce our own sentence by our actions and choices. So we come to the untimely end of these two kings which is the fulfillment of prophecy. It was a prophecy given by God to Elijah long before in his time of cave deep depression over the sins of the people of God who rejected their God in favor of idolatry. In that prophecy (1Kings 19:15-18) God promises ultimate action against those who would persist in idolatry and disobedience while still maintaining his covenant with a righteous remnant. And he promises Elijah a successor by the name of Elisha to carry it out.
1Ki. 19:15 The LORD said to him, "Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram.
16 Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet.
17 Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu.
18 Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel-- all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and all whose mouths have not kissed him."
What we need to notice here is the long interval of time and events that God allows for man to process the fact that God is in control. That is perhaps one definition of grace. God is patient beyond a fault, but he also will not overlook a fault and ultimately calls it to account unless we judge ourselves and repent in order to avert judgment. These two kings, Joram and Ben-Hadad, Jew and Gentile, were ultimately judged by this prophecy and met untimely deaths. And this was not the only prophecy that God brought to pass. God often brings many diverse events together in a divine culmination to further reveal to us that he is altogether in control.
1Ki. 21:17 ¶ Then the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite:
18 "Go down to meet Ahab king of Israel, who rules in Samaria. He is now in Naboth's vineyard, where he has gone to take possession of it.
19 Say to him, 'This is what the LORD says: Have you not murdered a man and seized his property?' Then say to him, 'This is what the LORD says: In the place where dogs licked up Naboth's blood, dogs will lick up your blood-- yes, yours!'"
20 Ahab said to Elijah, "So you have found me, my enemy!" "I have found you," he answered, "because you have sold yourself to do evil in the eyes of the LORD.
21 'I am going to bring disaster on you. I will consume your descendants and cut off from Ahab every last male in Israel-- slave or free.
22 I will make your house like that of Jeroboam son of Nebat and that of Baasha son of Ahijah, because you have provoked me to anger and have caused Israel to sin.'
23 "And also concerning Jezebel the LORD says: 'Dogs will devour Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel.'
24 "Dogs will eat those belonging to Ahab who die in the city, and the birds of the air will feed on those who die in the country."
25 (There was never a man like Ahab, who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the LORD, urged on by Jezebel his wife.
26 He behaved in the vilest manner by going after idols, like the Amorites the LORD drove out before Israel.)
27 When Ahab heard these words, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and fasted. He lay in sackcloth and went around meekly.
28 Then the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite:
29 "Have you noticed how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself, I will not bring this disaster in his day, but I will bring it on his house in the days of his son."
You see, Joram was Ahab’s son. The fate that befell Joram was prophecied to Ahab. But see how God’s grace forestalls judgment even to this vilest of sinners? It was to come in the time of his son. But another lesson we see here is that the sin of the father is visited upon the son. We must be so careful how we walk in this life lest we contaminate beyond recall those who follow us. Even though they make their own choices, we can make those choices more difficult for them. The son’s heart ultimately hardened worse than that of the father. At least the father repented. We are not told that Joram did so.
We might also note that Ben-Hadad, this recurring arch enemy of King Joram and all Israel, was foolishly let go by Ahab against the command of God when God gave Ahab the victory at Aphek. What we are too weak-willed to destroy in obedience to God will almost always turn to destroy us.
1Ki. 20:31 ¶ His officials said to him, "Look, we have heard that the kings of the house of Israel are merciful. Let us go to the king of Israel with sackcloth around our waists and ropes around our heads. Perhaps he will spare your life."
32 Wearing sackcloth around their waists and ropes around their heads, they went to the king of Israel and said, "Your servant Ben-Hadad says: 'Please let me live.'" The king answered, "Is he still alive? He is my brother."
33 The men took this as a good sign and were quick to pick up his word. "Yes, your brother Ben-Hadad!" they said. "Go and get him," the king said. When Ben-Hadad came out, Ahab had him come up into his chariot.
34 "I will return the cities my father took from your father," Ben-Hadad offered. "You may set up your own market areas in Damascus, as my father did in Samaria." Ahab said, "On the basis of a treaty I will set you free." So he made a treaty with him, and let him go.
1Ki. 20:41 Then the prophet quickly removed the headband from his eyes, and the king of Israel recognized him as one of the prophets.
42 He said to the king, "This is what the LORD says: 'You have set free a man I had determined should die. Therefore it is your life for his life, your people for his people.'"
43 Sullen and angry, the king of Israel went to his palace in Samaria.
I. The Ultimate End of Ben-Hadad
Ben-Hadad did not ask to recover - he asked if he would recover.
II. The Ultimate End of King Joram
2Pet. 3:9 ¶ The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.
Every sermon should at least attempt a positive ending. We have left the best for last. Recall the Shunammite woman whose faith God perfected with the trial of allowing her son, born by miraculous birth at the prophecy of Elisha, to die and then be brought back to life again? She was told by Elisha to escape the famine that he would be bringing upon the land, but she now reappears at a God ordained time at the beginning of 2Kings 8 to receive back everything she lost while being gone. Certainly even this should have been another message of grace to King Joram as he is used by God in her behalf. She was living proof of God’s grace - a grace that could have been his. It was even the king who asked about all the miracles Elisha performed. (We might also note that Joram witnessed the death of Ben-Hadad to the extent that he did war with his successor, Hazael, in 2Kings 9:14-15.)
The Shunammite woman appears here to reveal to us the care, the justice, and the possessions God lavishes on those who have not received his grace in vain. Her heart was single toward God, revealed by the fact that she did not stay in the land of the Philistines - she was not content there - and returned, trusting God, to be among his people, whatever befall. The righteous must often endure the calamity of the wicked. But here she is fully restored of all things at the hand of God.
Now surely we understand the message here that those who reject God’s gracious offer of salvation are committing a form of knowledgeable suicide - a suicide of the soul. It is a soul death that rejects God. Its end is in hell. Hell is where God is not - at least not consciously - because God created all things, even hell. It is the place God has assigned to the wicked - those that reject God’s overt acts of grace that call the discerning unto him for eternal life. King Joram and Ben-Hadad are in this category. I think most of us understand this.
But there is another type of rejection of God. Many will receive the offer of the free gift of eternal life for the hope of heaven. But sadly, many of those who accept God’s gift of grace for the hereafter reject it as a way of living in the present world. That too is a form of rejection that simulates a type of suicide - but not the Shunammite woman. The famine came into her life like it does most of us at one time or another in the Christian life, yet she did not succumb to it. She did not grow embittered against God or give up on him because she faced hardship and alienation and the loss of her property. God had a larger purpose for the nation of Israel. Yet God did not forget his servant, the Shunammite woman. The gift of grace is for the present as well as for eternity.
Have you received the gift of God’s grace for eternal life yet seem to have been wounded by that same grace? Never fear - even rejoice. God will make all things right with you as your heart is right with him. Remember, the Shunammite woman came and asked. And God prepared for her asking with an advance conversation between Gehazi, the previous servant of Elisha, and King Joram. All that was missing was returned - everything. Set your heart on God, trust his grace initially, trust his grace continually. He will see you through. You are his child. There are some that commit the suicide of ultimate rejection. Let you not be one that carries an attitude of suicide in doubting even the present grace of God in your life. Look up! The time is near!
Whether in judgment of the wicked or the redemption of the righteous, God’s will shall prevail.