The depraved, self-centered nature of human beings is nowhere more evident than in the lives of the kings of Israel. What a warning they are to us not to refuse God’s gracious, patient appeals to repent and trust and follow Him.
As we sail on this wisdom journey through the Bible, there are times when it will feel like we are sailing through polluted waters. And that’s what it’s going to feel like in these chapters of 2 Kings—sailing through muddy waters stirred up by rebellious kings and a defiant nation.
You might remember that the northern kingdom, known as Israel, split from the kingdom of Judah in the south. The kingdom of Israel quickly began to serve false gods, and as a nation they never turned back to God.
Now as we begin our study of these polluted days here in chapter 13, we meet Jehoahaz, who followed his father Jehu to the throne of Israel. Here is what verse 2 says about Jehoahaz:
He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and followed the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin; he did not depart from them.
By the way, you will read almost identical words about all but one of the nine kings of Israel mentioned in these four chapters of 2 Kings.
During the seventeen-year reign of Jehoahaz, we do have one brief glimmer of hope. Verse 4 tells us that when his kingdom was harassed by the Syrians, “Jehoahaz sought the favor of the Lord, and the Lord listened to him.” The king cries out in desperation, and the Lord graciously delivers him. The tragedy is that this deliverance does not change the heart of the king, and he goes right on practicing and promoting idolatry.
Jehoahaz finally dies, and his son Jehoash (or Joash) takes the throne. Now don’t get confused by the fact that he has the same name as the king of Judah whose reign is described earlier in chapter 12. And that is easy to do since the reigns of these two men overlap.
But one thing is for sure: Joash, the king of Israel is nothing like Joash, the godly king of Judah. It’s not because he doesn’t know any better. In fact, he knows the prophet Elisha personally, and Elisha prophesies his victory over Syria when he seeks out the prophet. But Joash is not interested in the message of Elisha for very long.
Now we are told rather briefly about the death of Elisha, this faithful prophet of God. And we’re given this fascinating account about a dead man who is in the process of being buried in the same graveyard as Elisha. Verse 21 tells us:
As a man was being buried, behold, a marauding band was seen and the man was thrown into the grave of Elisha, and as soon as the man touched the bones of Elisha, he revived and stood on his feet.
He stands up in the grave. That will send people running out of the cemetery for sure!
But this is just one more testimony to all the people in the northern kingdom of Israel that God is still powerful and present and graciously available to them if they will only turn to Him in repentance. But they refuse.
As we move into chapter 14, we are introduced to the next king of Israel. Verse 23 tells us his name is Jeroboam. He’s the son of Joash, and we usually refer to him as Jeroboam II. He is going to reign forty-one years as the king of Israel, from the capital city of Samaria.
This is a very prosperous time for Israel, and we read of a prophet named Jonah who shows up here to prophesy that Jeroboam II will succeed in expanding Israel’s territory. And if you’re wondering, yes, this is the same Jonah who is going to end up soaking wet, a few years later.
In spite of Israel’s expansion and prosperity, they continue to backslide spiritually. And like all the other kings of Israel, Jeroboam, we are told, “did what was evil in the sight of the Lord” (verse 24).
Let me tell you, beloved, adversity encourages us to walk with God, but prosperity can tempt us to walk away from God. During Jeroboam’s reign, the Lord sends the prophets Amos and Hosea to warn him of coming judgment and the need to repent, which he and his nation refuse to do.
Chapter 15 then mentions in rapid fire the next five kings of Israel. They are all spiritually polluted and equally sinful. Zechariah, the son of Jeroboam II, reigns only six months before he is assassinated and replaced by Shallum. Shallum is on the throne only one month before he too is killed by Menahem.
Menahem manages to reign for ten years, during which time he begins to pay tribute to the Assyrian Empire, which is beginning to rattle its sabers throughout the region. Menahem is succeeded by his son Pekahiah, and he reigns for two years before he is murdered by one of his military leaders, Pekah, who then takes the throne.
Pekah is king for twenty years. He forms an alliance with the Syrians to oppose the Assyrians, but he is unsuccessful, and the Assyrians capture a number of cities in the land of Israel. A man by the name of Hoshea hatches a plot against Pekah, kills him, and takes the throne. Chapter 17 describes the reign of Hoshea, who becomes the final king of Israel.
Israel has rejected God and His word for two hundred years, and God’s patience with them has come to an end. They had adopted the customs of their pagan neighbors, practiced idolatry, served other gods, rejected the warnings of God’s prophets, practiced the occult arts, and offered their own children as human sacrifices to the false gods.
And chapter 17 records the tragic details of Israel’s fall to the kingdom of Assyria and their deportation to Assyrian lands in the east.
Sadly, the kingdom of Judah wasn’t any better spiritually. We read in verse 19, “Judah also did not keep the commandments of the Lord their God, but walked in the customs that Israel had introduced.” Back in chapter 16, we are given the details of the reign of Ahaz over the southern kingdom of Judah, and he was every bit as evil as Israel’s kings. Still, in spite of all this sinful pollution and spiritual defiance, God was not through with the descendants of David, as we will soon find out.
But as for the northern kingdom of Israel, verse 23 tells us:
The Lord removed Israel out of his sight, as he had spoken by all his servants the prophets. So Israel was exiled from their own land to Assyria until this day.
Now I warned you earlier that we would be sailing through some muddy water. But there are lessons to be found here in the mud.
The grace of God is not diminished against a backdrop of wickedness. No matter how wicked a nation becomes, the grace and mercy of God is available to those who will follow His word. When the water is muddy and polluted around you, God still lovingly invites undeserving people to follow Him—people like you and me.
The northern kingdom cared about God only when they were in trouble. They wanted God to make life pleasant and prosperous. He was a good God only if He gave them what they wanted and served them. Beloved, God is not here to serve us and glorify us; we are here to serve Him and glorify Him. Let’s make that our goal—and our joy—today.
 See 2 Kings 13:11; 14:24; 15:9, 18, 24, 28; 17:2.