God’s plans seldom follow what we might expect or certainly how we would do things. But biblical history gives us a wonderful picture of God’s providential workings so that even in the sad proceedings of the wicked kings of Israel and Judah, His glory and grace shine through.
We never want to forget that God is at work in the movement of history. History is His-story, and God is directing world powers and individual nations in His own mysterious way to accomplish His purpose for the human race—and Planet Earth. But listen, God is not interested only in the high and mighty; He’s just as interested in ordinary people like you and me.
Here in the eighth chapter of the book of 2 Kings, we are given three different scenes in the history of God’s chosen people.
Verse 1 begins by recounting a message Elisha had given to the woman whose son he had miraculously raised from the dead—there is no mention of her husband here, which implies he may have died by that time. Elisha had said to her:
“Arise, and depart with your household, and sojourn wherever you can, for the Lord has called for a famine, and it will come upon the land for seven years.”
She immediately obeyed the prophet of God.
But now, seven years later, the famine has ended, and the woman has returned to her homestead, only to discover that someone else has moved in and taken over. So, she appeals to King Jehoram, who ultimately responds in verse 6:
The king appointed an official for her, saying, “Restore all that was hers, together with all the produce of the fields from the day that she left the land until now.”
What would move a wicked king—the son of Ahab—to be compassionate toward a widow who really cannot do anything for his kingdom? Well, we are told here in verses 4 and 5 that when she shows up at the palace, Elisha’s former servant, Gehazi, is telling the king “all the great things that Elisha has done.”
Note the timing of this conversation in relation to the woman’s arrival:
And while he was telling the king how Elisha had restored the dead to life, behold, the woman whose son he had restored to life appealed to the king for her house and her land. (verse 5)
A coincidence? Some kind of lucky timing? Far from it. God is at work on behalf of just one ordinary woman in the kingdom.
You might wonder how Gehazi was allowed to speak to the king. The last time we saw him, he was covered with leprosy. Well, we simply are not told.
Now here in verse 7, we are given another scene involving the prophet Elisha. He arrives in Damascus, the Syrian capital, when Ben-hadad the king is sick. The king sends his servant Hazael to Elisha to find out if he is going to recover from his illness.
Elisha’s response is fascinating. He tells Hazael in verse 10, “Go, say to him, ‘You shall certainly recover.’” But then he adds, “The Lord has shown me that he shall certainly die.” In other words, the sickness will not be what kills him, but he will die nonetheless.
Now to make this encounter even stranger, Elisha just stands here and stares at Hazael and then begins to weep. Why? When questioned, Elisha explains that he knows the great evil Hazael will inflict upon Israel. God is going to use Hazael as His instrument to bring judgment upon Elisha’s nation. Elisha then tells him here in verse 13, “The Lord has shown me that you are to be king over Syria.”
Well, Hazael doesn’t just wait around to become king. He suffocates King Ben-hadad right there in his sickbed and takes the throne of Syria. As sad as this is, it’s a reminder, beloved, that God is not surprised. He even uses evil mankind to move the nations of the world along His divine path. That is what we mean when we talk about a sovereign, all-powerful, always-in-control God. There are no accidents in the universe. God is in control of the chaos that might be surrounding you today.
The third scene here in 2 Kings chapter 8 takes us over to the southern kingdom of Judah. Remember, Elisha is ministering in the northern kingdom of Israel. But here we are going to see how these two kingdoms are still tied together in the plan of God.
Now it’s easy to get confused here, but the chart of the kings of Israel and Judah, which you will find at the end of this study guide for Crew members, is a very helpful tool for keeping track of these various rulers as you follow along.
Verse 16 tells us that the godly King Jehoshaphat of Judah was succeeded by his son Jehoram (see 1 Kings 22:50). Jehoram became king in the fifth year of King Joram in Israel. These two men have the same name. Joram is a shortened form of Jehoram; in fact, the king of Judah will be called Joram just a few verses later.
So, we have Jehoram (Joram), the son of Ahab, in the north, and Jehoram (Joram), the son of Jehoshaphat, in the south. It is the southern king of Judah who is the subject of this next scene.
You may remember that Jehoram’s father foolishly allied with Ahab. In fact, Jehoram married King Ahab’s daughter, Athaliah. And she was just like her mother, Jezebel. Due to her influence, no doubt, we are told in verse 18 that Jehoram walked “in the way of the kings of Israel, as the house of Ahab had done.”
The parallel account over in 2 Chronicles 21 tells us Jehoram killed his own brothers in order to eliminate any rival to his throne. And 2 Chronicles 21:11 records that Jehoram also “made high places in the hill country of Judah and led the inhabitants of Jerusalem into whoredom and made Judah go astray.” Elijah, whose ministry overlapped Jehoram’s reign, was so disgusted and provoked that he wrote the king a letter warning him that God would send a plague and he would die a horrible death. His only hope at this point is to repent.
Well, he refuses to repent, and even though the people in his southern kingdom are spared total extinction at the hands of enemy nations, Jehoram will die with this terrible disease. In fact, 2 Chronicles 21:19 states that he “died in great agony.”
Following his death, Ahaziah, his son, comes to the throne and reigns for one year. And he is just as wicked as his father was.
King Ahaziah also joins with King Joram—the king of the northern kingdom of Israel—and together they fight against King Hazael and the Syrian nation. King Joram is wounded in battle and retreats to Jezreel to recuperate. King Ahaziah travels there to visit him.
And at this point, the stage is set for a dramatic work of divine judgment against both kingdoms—the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. And in His sovereign providence, God will once again use an evil man to bring about His divine purposes.
Second Kings chapter 8 reveals more than just historical events; it reveals the God who orchestrates the events of history. God isn’t surprised here, and He isn’t worried about what might take place. As I have said before, I am going to say again: there has never been an emergency meeting of the Trinity.
And next time, beloved, we will see what God is orchestrating—what He is about to bring to pass.