The Beginning of the End
2 Kings 8:19 NIV
19 Nevertheless, for the sake of his servant David, the LORD was not willing to destroy Judah. He had promised to maintain a lamp for David and his descendants forever.
1-6 The Temperance for Judgment
7-15 The Tool of Judgment
16-29 The Time of Judgment
This chapter marks the beginning of a section that deals with a prediction given to Elijah back in 1 Kings. Before I read these verses of prediction let me give some context.
If you remember, after Elijah humiliated the prophets of Baal, he was forced into hiding because of the anger of Jezebel, wife of king Ahab. Elijah had just proven on Mt Carmel her whole system of religion was phony and to add extra emphasis he killed all the prophets of her god, Baal. She swore she would end his life with the warning “I will hunt you down”. To make a long story short, Elijah runs, he ends up at the mountain Horeb believing he was the last remaining faithful prophet in the whole wide world and all humanity as he knew it was lost. As far as Elijah was concerned he had finished his ministry and he was ready to die. That’s when the Lord meets him in a gentle whisper and tells him these words of prediction.
NIV 1 Kings 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.”
Just when he thought he could retire, Elijah is recommissioned and given new purpose in life. This time his ministry is not recall and a calling to defeat the prophets of Baal. Now his emphasis is to hold in judgment the dynasty of Ahab and his descendants for their continued immorality and obstinacies. Because of Ahab and the sin Ahab taught to Israel, the ministry of recall becomes the ministry of reckoning. God sets in motion, starting here with Elijah, the eventual destruction of all the wickedness of Ahab and his progenies. Hazael, Jehu and Elisha will become the 3 key tools God uses to accomplish the end of a wicked dynasty. Elijah is the tip of the spear. So, when the prophet is ready to “hang-up” his prophetic shoes, God says, not so fast, you’ve still got a few good years left in you – go teach and train Elisha to take your place.
What is of note is that we never read of Elijah returning to the Desert of Damascus to anoint Hazael, or meet Jehu to anoint him for that matter. Most likely, at this time, these two were still young men growing up. These tasks of anointing are going to be fulfilled by Elisha. He will take the mantle of Elijah and finish this ministry. In fact, after Elisha gives direction for anointing of Jehu he is not heard from again until the day of his death. This is what Elisha’s ministry was geared toward, finishing up the judgment pronounced by God upon the house of Ahab, Elijah being at the forefront. Elisha’s ministry is climaxing in these final activities. Now, there is one other task Elijah does, but I’m not going to mention it until I can put it in context.
What we have in chapter 8 is what I called the “Beginning of the End”, the end being the completion of Elijah’s recommissioning ministry of reckoning. This “End” is the conclusion of the prediction found in 1 Kings 19 and that’s finalized in chapter 13 with event of Elisha’s death.
The key I take from this passage is verse 19.
NIV 19 Nevertheless, for the sake of his servant David, the LORD was not willing to destroy Judah. He had promised to maintain a lamp for David and his descendants forever.
Though terrible judgments are about to take place, when we come to the end we find that God was not willing to terminate His relationship with the house of David. And though this incredible purging of Ahab’s linage takes place, God still leaves one lamp for David shinning in the Southern Kingdom: the hidden Joash. The Northern Kingdom has opportunities, but not from this legacy.
The judgments are going to come fast and severe. And so I think it’s very fitting that the chapter starts with a contrast of judgment in a picture of mercy. We pick that up in Part 2.
J. Robert Hanson