Sunday, January 15, 2017

[Matt's Messages] “God Is Good Even When the King Is Bad”

“God Is Good Even When the King Is Bad”
The King of Kings in the Books of Kings
January 15, 2017 :: 2 Kings 13:1-25  

Last week, we returned to our series that we call, “The King of Kings in the Books of Kings,” and our attention was focused on King Joash the boy king of the Southern Kingdom of Judah. He was rescued by the brave Jehosheba and crowned and mentored by the brave Jehoiada to make a good start as a thumbs-up king, but ultimately turned out to be a thumbs-down king who failed to restore Judah to faithfulness.

In today’s chapter, our attention turns again to the northern kingdom of Israel. This kingdom has been ruled by King Jehu who was anointed by the prophet Elisha back in chapter 9 to kill and overthrow wicked King Joram and all of the house of wicked king Ahab including his wicked wife Jezebel to avenge the blood of the LORD’s prophets whom they had wickedly slain.

And the LORD promised the new King Jehu in chapter 10, verse 30, that at least four generations of his family would sit on the throne of the northern kingdom of Israel.

King Jehu has died, and now his son (second generation) King Jehoahaz is going to take the throne. And then his son (the third generation) is going to take the throne next (in this chapter as well).

And the big questions is, as it always is, will these kings be thumbs-up or thumbs-down?

And the answer is, unfortunately, thumbs-down.

They are kings of the north, after all. And every single king in the northern kingdom of Israel has been and will be thumbs-down.

Not every king is as bad as they could be, but they are all bad.
In the eyes of the LORD.

Now, we’ve reached the last leg of our journey through these Books of Kings. There are still 13 chapters left to go, but they are all pretty much a straight march to the bottom, to the unhappy ending of the exile.

Most of you know, I assume, that there is no happy ending to these books.

2 Kings is not going to have a happy satisfying ending.

Both kingdoms are headed to disaster.

The northern kingdom is rushing headlong and will get there first.

But the second kingdom is not that far behind.

Things are gonna fall apart. These thumbs-down kings represent thumbs-down kingdoms, and the LORD has promised thumbs-down consequences for their choices.

Exile is on the way.

And yet even in the midst of thumbs-down kings and thumbs-down kingdoms, God is still at work. God hasn’t changed. God is still merciful, just, gracious, and faithful.

God is still God.

So, today, as we read 2 Kings 13, I want to point out who God is no matter who the king is and think together about how we should relate to that unchanging God.

Here’s the title of this message:

“God is Good Even When the King Is Bad.”

There’s a popular saying that Christians use. I don’t know who started it. I learned it at Promise Keepers. It was featured in the movie God’s Not Dead. You’ve probably heard, and used it. It’s really good.

It goes like this:

God Is Good. All The Time.
All the Time? God is Good.

And that’s right. That’s true.

It doesn’t always feel like it. In fact, it often doesn’t feel like it.

That’s why we have to remind ourselves of it.

God is Good. All the Time.
All the Time? God is Good.

Even when the king is bad.

I almost titled this message, “Thumbs Down-Kings but Thumbs-Up God.”

But I thought that kind of sounded dumb to say that God was “thumbs-up.”

That’s not good enough. God is good. Even if the king is bad.

I think we’ve seen this again and again as we’ve trekked through the books of Kings. Some kings are faithful and some are faithless, but God stays the same. He’s always faithful. No matter what.

And that’s going to be increasingly important to remember as these two kingdoms continue their downward slides.

Things are going to get bad. They’re going to go from bad to worse. But God is not going to change.

Now, I’ve read your posts on social media. Some of you believe that this week we are leaving the worst American presidential administration ever. And some of you believe that this week we are entering the worst American presidential administration ever.

The point of this message is that regardless of whether either of you are right or either of you are wrong, God is still good. The LORD is still merciful, just, gracious, and faithful. He has been good, He is good, and He will be good forever. And we should respond to Him accordingly.

Let’s look at the details. 2 Kings chapter 13, verse 1.

“In the twenty-third year of Joash son of Ahaziah king of Judah [whom we learned about last week], Jehoahaz son of Jehu became king of Israel in Samaria, and he reigned seventeen years. He did evil in the eyes of the LORD by following the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit, and he did not turn away from them. So the LORD's anger burned against Israel, and for a long time he kept them under the power of Hazael king of Aram and Ben-Hadad his son.”

Is Jehoahaz thumbs-up or thumbs-down? He’s thumbs down.

God promised that Jehu’s kid would sit on the throne, so there he is.

But he’s not leading Israel back to YHWH.  He’s following the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat. That means golden calves at Bethel and Dan. That means unauthorized, unorthodox, ungodly worship.

And it makes God mad.

Did you see that in verse 3? “The LORD’s anger burned against Israel.”

That’s a scary sentence.

God doesn’t change, and that’s a good thing.

But it also means that His holiness leads to wrath.

He hates idolatry, and He hates injustice.

So He raises up the power of Aram to bring judgment on Israel.

Elisha said that that would happen. The prophet told Hazael that he would be perpetual thorn in the side of Israel all the days he lived.

And that lived on into his son's reign.

By the way, Hazael named his son after the king that he had murdered and deposed. That’s bad dude who would name his son Ben Hadad when he himself had killed a Ben Hadad!

Life was tough under this thumbs-down king Jehoahaz.

And wasn’t.  V.4

“Then Jehoahaz sought the LORD's favor, and the LORD listened to him, for he saw how severely the king of Aram was oppressing Israel. The LORD provided a deliverer for Israel, and they escaped from the power of Aram. So the Israelites lived in their own homes as they had before.”

Huh. Didn’t see that coming.

Jehoahaz humbles himself and asks Yahweh for grace.

And the LORD, out of His great mercy, answers His prayer.

Why? V.4 says that “he saw how severe the king of Aram was oppressing Israel.”

In other words, He had compassion. He was moved by the plight of His people. Even though they deserved it and He had been the one moving the pieces to bring that oppression.

Here’s application point #1.


Jehoahaz called out to the LORD for help, and he received it.

Even though he didn’t deserve it. Even though he was a bad-old, thumbs-down king!

Why? Because God is merciful.

The LORD is compassionate.

It’s a big part of Who He is. Right?

Remember what He told Moses when He passed by?

“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 34:6-7a).

The Hebrew in verse 4 when it says, “he saw how severely Israel was oppressed” is the exact same wording as back in Exodus when God saw how Israel was oppressed  by Egypt.

He cared then. He cares now.

Call for help.

So often we wait and wait thinking that we’ve got to get cleaned up enough to deserve the help before we ask God for it.

But we never will.

And God loves to answer our cries for aid.

He is compassionate.

Do you believe that?

If you don’t think that God is compassionate, you don’t know the God of the Bible.

The prophet Jonah hated how compassionate he knew God to be.

He didn’t want to go to Nineveh because he was sure that God was going to forgive those people and show them grace and mercy.

That’s how compassionate God is.

If you need help, don’t hesitate to call on Him.

Just humble yourself and do it.

This thumbs-down king of Israel humbled himself and pleaded with God for mercy, and he received it.

God provided a deliverer. It doesn’t tell us who that was.

It might have been the prophet Elisha. We’ll see in a second that he’s still alive.

But it doesn’t say. The point is not who the deliverer is here but that God sends deliverance.

Sadly, Jehoahaz’s humility did not last. And he did not repent. V.6

“But they did not turn away from the sins of the house of Jeroboam, which he had caused Israel to commit; they continued in them. Also, the Asherah pole remained standing in Samaria. Nothing had been left of the army of Jehoahaz except fifty horsemen, ten chariots and ten thousand foot soldiers, for the king of Aram had destroyed the rest and made them like the dust at threshing time.”

That’s really sad. Because it didn’t have to be that way.

Here’s application point number two.


They didn’t turn away, but they should have.

This is a cautionary tale. This is a warning for us.

Turn away from sin. Turn away from idolatry. There is nothing good that comes from going in that direction.

Last week, I asked the question, “What is the biggest threat to your walk with God in 2017?”

Another way of saying that is “What are your potential idols?”

What is the “Asherah pole” in your life?

It’s still standing there. Jehu was king. He took out all of the priests of Baal.

But here’s still an Asherah pole standing in the middle of the square in Samaria.

And look how decimated they were because of it!

The army was made “like dust at threshing time.”

How would you like to have your army turned to dust?

Now, we look at that say, “Why didn’t Jehoahaz turn? Why didn’t he cut that pole down and burn it for firewood? Why didn’t he return the country to Yahweh? I don’t understand.”

But Jehoahaz might look at your life or mine and say, “Why do they hold on to those idols? Why don’t they turn away from those habits, those temptations, those relationships, those choices? I don’t understand. Don’t they see where that will lead?”

It doesn’t matter if the king is good or bad, what matters is if God has the hearts of His people.

Repentance is not something you do once and then you’re done.

Martin Luther used to say that life is a race of repentance.

Repentance is a daily, regular choice we make to turn away from sin and pursue righteousness. To walk with God.

So let me ask you again. What is the biggest threat to your walk with God in 2017?

God is calling for you to do something about it. Take whatever drastic measures you have to, but turn away from it.

Because that way leads to danger.

Call for help.
And turn from sin.


More grace that is. I’ll show you what I mean. V.8

“As for the other events of the reign of Jehoahaz, all he did and his achievements, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Israel? [The old familiar story.] Jehoahaz rested with his fathers and was buried in Samaria. And Jehoash his son succeeded him as king. In the thirty-seventh year of Joash king of Judah, Jehoash son of Jehoahaz became king of Israel in Samaria, and he reigned sixteen years. [He was also two thumbs-down.]

He did evil in the eyes of the LORD and did not turn away from any of the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit; he continued in them [He didn’t learn anything from what I just said.]. As for the other events of the reign of Jehoash, all he did and his achievements, including his war against Amaziah king of Judah [which we’ll learn about next week], are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Israel?  Jehoash rested with his fathers, and Jeroboam succeeded him on the throne. Jehoash was buried in Samaria with the kings of Israel.”

Not very encouraging, huh?

Not much good to say about this guy, was there?

It’s interesting that he has the same basic name as the king of Judah, and that they end up about the same, too.

But there was one important moment in this king’s life. It was the time he interacted with the prophet Elisha.

Verse 14 takes us into a flashback to tell us about that time.

Old Elisha was about to die. V.14

“Now Elisha was suffering from the illness from which he died. Jehoash king of Israel went down to see him and wept over him. ‘My father! My father!’ he cried. ‘The chariots and horsemen of Israel!’”

Does that sound familiar?

That’s what Elisha said on the last day he was with his mentor Elijah.

It’s a compliment. It means, “You are the true army of Israel. You’re worth more than an armored tank division. You are the true chariots and horsemen of Israel.”

Of course, verse 7 tells us that his father hadn’t left much of an army for poor Jehoash. But Elisha was the best defense the nation ever had. And now he was dying.

And old “chariots and horsemen” Elisha has one more victory to give to Israel. V.15

“Elisha said, ‘Get a bow and some arrows,’ and he did so. ‘Take the bow in your hands,’ he said to the king of Israel. When he had taken it, Elisha put his hands on the king's hands. ‘Open the east window,’ he said, and he opened it [towards Syria, towards Aram]. ‘Shoot!’ Elisha said, and he shot. ‘The LORD's arrow of victory, the arrow of victory over Aram!’ Elisha declared. ‘You will completely destroy the Arameans at Aphek.’

Then he said, ‘Take the arrows,’ and the king took them. Elisha told him, ‘Strike the ground.’ He struck it three times and stopped.

The man of God was angry with him and said, ‘You should have struck the ground five or six times; then you would have defeated Aram and completely destroyed it. But now you will defeat it only three times.’”

That’s why I say, “Ask for more.”

Because God is still gracious. Still generous. No matter who the king is.

And this king should have known it.

He should have asked for more.

I don’t know why he stopped. But it’s clear that he shouldn’t have.

And he should have known better.

It was clear to Elisha that Jehoash was not asking for enough.

He wasn’t seeing God as generous and overflowing with grace.

I don’t think that he just wasn’t paying attention. He was half-hearted. He wasn’t believing. He wasn’t trusting.

Elisha wouldn’t have gotten mad if it was just slip up.

Jehoash should have asked for more.

Here’s why: Because God loves to do more.

Remember Ephesians 3:20-21. I think that might have been our first hide-the-word verse.

“To him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

God gets the most glory when we ask Him to do more.

This is the point that I needed to hear this week as I prepared.

I think, too often, I settle for too little of God’s grace.

I know that I don’t deserve any of it.  So I don’t ask.

But I should know that God gets more glory when He gives more grace.

So I ought to be asking Him for more.

Now, I’m not talking about dollars. Not primarily, at least. More dollars, I suppose, if they are needed.

But I am talking about blessings. I am talking about grace. I am talking about souls.

As the 2017 gets underway, I need to be praying that God would give us more blessings as a church.

And not just pound the arrows three half-hearted times and walk away.

But to ask God to give us more.

More of Him.
More knowledge of Him.
More disciples for Him.
More glory to go to Him as He gives more grace to us.

Do you need to hear that this morning?

Ask for more.

James says, “You do not have, because you do not ask God” (4:2).

Pound that arrow. Because no matter how bad the king is, God is good.

All the time? God is good.

God is gracious.

Here’s how gracious and powerful He is. He gives resurrection life.  V.20

“Elisha died and was buried [probably in a cave]. Now Moabite raiders used to enter the country every spring. Once while some Israelites were burying a man, suddenly they saw a band of raiders; so they threw the man's body into Elisha's tomb. When the body touched Elisha's bones, the man came to life and stood up on his feet.”

Can you imagine?

I don’t know who was the most surprised. The men doing the burying or the man being buried!

Elisha might have been dead, but the LORD was not. He is life.

And that’s just a foretaste of the glory to come.

Why wouldn’t we ask for more, if God can raise the dead?

That’s power.

Elisha may be dead (the last of the great prophets of the books of kings, he may be dead) but the LORD is not. And neither are His promises.


“Hazael king of Aram oppressed Israel throughout the reign of Jehoahaz. But the LORD was gracious to them and had compassion and showed concern for them [WHY?] because of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. To this day he has been unwilling to destroy them or banish them from his presence.”

Why weren’t they completely destroyed?

Because they didn’t deserve it?

No, because God had made some promises, a covenant.

And as we saw last week, God always keeps His promises.

No matter who is king.

Even if they are the absolute worst.

Hazael and his son Ben-Hadad should have finished Israel off.

But somehow they always managed to survive. And that’s because God was faithful.

Not because Jehoahaz or Jehoash were faithful. They weren’t.

But God was.

And still is.

And always will be.

So we can trust Him. V.24

“Hazael king of Aram died, and Ben-Hadad his son succeeded him as king. Then Jehoash son of Jehoahaz recaptured from Ben-Hadad son of Hazael the towns he had taken in battle from his father Jehoahaz. Three times Jehoash defeated him, and so he recovered the Israelite towns.”

Why three times?

Because that’s how many times God said (through Elisha) that they would defeat them!

God always keeps His promises.

Last week I asked you what promise(s) from God you were going to begin to cling to in a greater way in 2017.

What was your answer?

What did you do about that this week?

What promise are you making your own?

Maybe writing, “Long live the King!” at the bottom of a 3x5 card with that promise on it.

The promises we need are right here.

All of them. The apostle Peter said, “[God’s] divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises...”
Trust them. Learn them then trust them.

This story is going to get worse.

Elisha is now dead. It’s the end of an era. They’ve lost the “chariots and horsemen of Israel.”

And each king of Israel will continue to be two thumbs down until Assyria swoops in and takes them away.

But even if the king is bad, God is still good.

He is still merciful, so call for help.
He is still holy, so turn from sin.
He is still gracious, so ask for more.
He is still faithful, so trust the promises.

God is good–all the time.
All the time? God is good.


Messages in this Series:

01. Who Will Be King?
02. The Wisdom of the King
03. The Temple of the King
04. The Incomparable King of the Temple
05. A Breathtaking King
06. The Turned King and the Torn Kingdom
07. The Two Kings and the Tearing of the Kingdom
08. The Word of the LORD
09. In the Eyes of the LORD
10. The LORD Lives
11. The LORD Is God!
12. The LORD Is Still God.
13. “You Will Know that I am the LORD”
14. "Thus Saith the LORD!"
15. What the LORD Says
16. Is There No God in Israel?
17. Where Is the God of Elijah?
18. How NOT To Relate to God
19. God of Wonders
20. No God in the All the World Except in Israel
21. LORD, Open Our Eyes!
22. "If the LORD Should Open the Floodgates of Heaven"
23. "I Will Avenge the Blood of My Servants"
24. "Long Live the King!"