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The Spirit of Obedience

Seldom has God had a more zealous servant than Jehu. Anointed as king and commissioned by a prophet to “strike the house of Ahab” (2 Kings 9:7), he immediately and thoroughly undertook his assignment.

Jehu began by slaying Israel’s King Jehoram, Ahab’s son. His body was appropriately dumped in the field of Naboth. Next he slew Ahaziah, king of Judah, Ahab’s grandson through Athaliah. Then came Jezebel, Ahab’s abominable widow. Jehu ordered her thrown from an upper story window. When she hit the ground, he trampled her under foot.

Jehu was just getting started. Ahab had seventy “sons” or descendants living in Samaria. Jehu ordered their guardians to send their heads to him at Jezreel. He piled them up in two heaps at the gate of the city, then slaughtered anyone left in Jezreel who had a connection to Ahab, including his family, his mighty men, his friends, and his priests. Jehu then departed for Samaria. On the way he encountered forty of Ahaziah’s relatives and killed them. At Samaria, he killed all who remained of Ahab’s line.

Jehu still was not finished. He proclaimed a solemn assembly in honor of Baal, summoning Baal worshipers from all over Israel. When they came for the sacrifice, Jehu’s men killed every one of them. They then burnt the sacred pillars, broke down the statue of Baal, and razed his temple. 2 Kings 9 and 10 are surely among the bloodiest chapters in all the Bible!

God commended Jehu for his effort, promising to extend his dynasty to the fourth generation (2 Kings 10:30). That fourth king was Jeroboam II, whose reign was likely the northern kingdom’s most prosperous. However, in Jeroboam’s day the prophet Hosea warned, “For yet a little while, and I will punish the house of Jehu for the bloodshed of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of the house of Israel” (Hosea 1:4).

Why was God planning to punish Jehu’s house for conduct He had ordered and earlier praised? The answer lies in what Jehu did not do. He did not walk in the law of God with all his heart. He did not put away the golden calves at Dan and Bethel (2 Kings 10:31). He did not remove the Asherah that Ahab had erected (1 Kings 16:33; 2 Kings 13:6). All these things point to self-will in Jehu. He did what he did, not out of love or respect for God, but because it suited his own purpose: it made him the king. “By his disobedience to the one command of God, he shewed that he would have equally disobeyed the other, had it been contrary to his own will of interest.” (E. B. Pusey).

This is the great, tragic lesson of Jehu’s life. If we happen to do something God says, not because He said it but because it is what we want to do and it is only coincidentally what God requires, that is doing our will, not God’s. Regardless of how zealously or enthusiastically we may act, there is no spirit of obedience in us. And there is no favor with God.

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