The Prophet Series: Hanani and JehuPosted: Tue. Nov, 1 2016
Prophet series: Hanani and Jehu
Where we left off we concluded the reigns of Rehoboam in Judah and Jeroboam in Israel (the northern ten tribes). Jeroboam survived Rehoboam and witnessed the ascent of two kings in Judah from his line, Abijah and Asa. Abijah ("my father is Jehovah") walked in all the sins of his father - not directly abolishing Jehovah worship but allowing and encouraging idol worship by its side. This began with Solomon, continued with his son Rehoboam, and further continued with his son Abijah, getting worse from one generation to the next. Abijah had a short reign of three years of which the only significant thing he seems to have done, besides supporting the worship of Baal, was to go to war against king Jeroboam of Israel. What is interesting about this battle, which was quite large, was that king Abijah openly bragged to his foes that he indeed fought under the banner of Jehovah and that he was representing David's house whom God had blessed. They were proper words from the empty life of an idol worshipper devoid of any faith and therefore having no power, but when Israel's army approached and surrounded them, Abijah and the people (made up of many idol worshippers) called out to the Lord and the priests blew the shofar and the Lord actually came through for them and they routed an army of superior numbers. Yes, the Lord is faithful to His name, even in the midst of this rabble of ungrateful, unfaithful, flesh seeking, but elect, people.
Abijah became powerful, but soon died and his son Asa took the throne at a very young age, probably around ten years old. Being so young, he would have been under the guardianship of the high priest, which would explain his love for Jehovah, which makes you wonder why the kings didn't do this with every kid. Asa was a very good king for the majority of his reign (41 years), but in the end he resorted back to natural or earthly solutions and died in shame. Asa will reign long enough that he will see the rule of seven successive kings in Israel.
The first work that Asa will do is to begin a thorough reformation of the nation's true religion in Jehovah. He ordered the pagan altars in the land to be cut down and the pagan idols to be destroyed. He demanded that all in Israel seek the Lord and observe the law and the commandment. He also fortified the defenses of Judah since Egypt in the south, and incredibly, Israel in the north were enemies. He had all males who were capable of bearing weapons to be trained in arms. And as all good leaders that are faithful to Jehovah, he acted wisely and faithfully in his preparations, for Egypt, led by the Pharaoh Zerah, did indeed attack from the south with a very large and well trained army. Judah and Egypt met on an open plain in battle array and this would be the only time that Judah would do so and win. Outnumbered and less prepared, Judah routed Egypt and they did so because of only one reason, the same reason for all prosperities that Israel were to ever see, they trusted Jehovah. A look at Asa's prayer before the battle tells it all:
2CH 14:11-12 Then Asa called to the Lord his God, and said, "Lord, there is no one besides Thee to help in the battle between the powerful and those who have no strength; so help us, O Lord our God, for we trust in Thee, and in Thy name have come against this multitude. O Lord, Thou art our God; let not man prevail against Thee." So the Lord routed the Ethiopians before Asa and before Judah, and the Ethiopians fled.
(as a side note, the word translated "Ethiopians" is the Hebrew word for Cushite or descendents of Cush. Most theologians and biblical historians believe this is Egypt who at the time was ruled by an Ethiopian who was the second king of the 22nd dynasty)
The battle was won and the nation prospered due to Jehovah alone. This has never changed in all of history and is the same in all dispensations. Our prosperity is always in the soul and only Jehovah can give it. True prosperity of the soul may be accompanied by overt success or it may not, but the outside doesn't dictate the peace that rests within. If we ever turn back to the world, as king Asa will eventually do, then we will lose our inward prosperity rapidly, and when that happens, it won't matter if we retain our outward things for we will have no ability to enjoy them.
Upon their return from the battlefield in victory over Egypt and with much spoil, Asa and the people are met by Azariah, a man of God with a prophecy.
2CH 15:1-7 Now the Spirit of God came on Azariah the son of Oded, and he went out to meet Asa and said to him, "Listen to me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin: the Lord is with you when you are with Him. And if you seek Him, He will let you find Him; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you. And for many days Israel was without the true God and without a teaching priest and without law. But in their distress they turned to the Lord God of Israel, and they sought Him, and He let them find Him. And in those times there was no peace to him who went out or to him who came in, for many disturbances afflicted all the inhabitants of the lands. And nation was crushed by nation, and city by city, for God troubled them with every kind of distress. But you, be strong and do not lose courage, for there is reward for your work."
For so many years there was no law and no truth in Judah, but in Asa it returned. He is clearly warned that he must still be alert and careful not to reject Jehovah. As was entreated of Joshua, "Be strong and courageous." Faith from a certain perspective seems so straight forward and easy, and yet mankind mightily struggles with it. "Just keep on doing what you're doing Asa, and everything will go swimmingly."
Meanwhile, in Israel of the north, Jeroboam dies and his son Nadab takes over. He's no better than his pagan father, rules only two years and is murdered in a military coup headed by Baasha who becomes king. Baasha is from no known family, but he is a mighty warrior. In the fashion of the despots of the east he has Nadab's entire family killed so as to eliminate any other claimants to the throne. This is the fulfillment of the prophecy made by Ahijah (see last blog) but God's foresight does not acquit Baasha of his cruel and evil sin. He is confronted by the prophet Jehu.
1KI 16:1-4 Now the word of the Lord came to Jehu the son of Hanani against Baasha, saying, "Inasmuch as I exalted you from the dust and made you leader over My people Israel, and you have walked in the way of Jeroboam and have made My people Israel sin, provoking Me to anger with their sins, behold, I will consume Baasha and his house, and I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat. Anyone of Baasha who dies in the city the dogs shall eat, and anyone of his who dies in the field the birds of the heavens will eat."
That's pretty much all we know about Jehu. But we note, even from this brief encounter, that the prophets from God have guts. They know that their rebuking guys who have entire armies under them and deep prisons to fill, and yet they still approach them boldly and confidently and speak the message from God. All believers need this courage in order to be effective witnesses for Christ. It results only from faith in the Lord and trust in His way. This courage is also a result of love for the one to whom we are witnessing the message. If we love them with God's love and we know that only the truth is going to set them free, then we are going to speak the truth in love and gentleness with words soaked in grace. Their souls are more important than any reprisal that may befall us through their retaliation.
Yet before he dies, Baasha serves a purpose for God through God's permissive will. He invades Judah. His initial strike is successful and he advances about half-way to Jerusalem and sets up camp at Ramah. This sudden threat to the kingdom of Judah should not be a cause for alarm since Asa has faced a superior Egyptian army in the past and Jehovah clearly handed him the victory. Just pray to Jehovah and trust Him for the victory, but crazy enough, Asa doesn't do this. Instead, in a completely faithless move, he sends word to Syria, who is north of Israel and a current ally of Israel, and delivers a large sum of money, even gold and silver from the temple, and begs for their help. As the saying goes, there is no honor amongst thieves. Syria accepts the gold and the allegiance with Judah, tosses away their friendship with Israel, and invades them from the north taking some of the northern border towns. This of course demands Baasha's attention and he breaks camp from Ramah and leaves Judah. His plan worked. Asa averts the threat, but did he do well?
Asa's idol worshipping father Abijah had made a similar deal with Syria years before and for the same reason, to keep Israel off his back. One would expect such a treaty from a pagan worshipping monarch, since he's never going to turn to Jehovah for anything anyway. When Asa became king he broke off the agreement with Syria because he trusted in Jehovah alone. He understood that it was preposterous for a kingdom that trusted solely in Jehovah to ask for help from another nation and even pay for it. He had soundly defeated the Egyptian invasion with no help from anyone save Jehovah. But years later, when under pressure due to Baasha's invasion, he forgets the true source of power and revisits his past decision to break off their deal with Syria and comes to think that it might have been a mistake. Truly, Asa had lost his first love.
2CH 16:1-3 In the thirty-sixth year of Asa's reign Baasha king of Israel came up against Judah and fortified Ramah in order to prevent anyone from going out or coming in to Asa king of Judah. Then Asa brought out silver and gold from the treasuries of the house of the Lord and the king's house, and sent them to Ben-hadad king of Aram [Syria], who lived in Damascus, saying, "Let there be a treaty between you and me, as between my father and your father. Behold, I have sent you silver and gold; go, break your treaty with Baasha king of Israel so that he will withdraw from me."
So enters the prophet Hanani. As all the true prophets of God he is always at the ready to bring God's message to any address and to stand in front of a king that can, with a snap of his fingers, throw him in prison, which is exactly what will happen here. Years before, Azariah, the man of God, brought a message of peace and prosperity to king Asa if he would follow the Lord, and now the prophet Hanani has a message of reproof and judgment because he did not.
2CH 16:7-9 At that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah and said to him, "Because you have relied on the king of Aram [Syria] and have not relied on the Lord your God, therefore the army of the king of Aram has escaped out of your hand. Were not the Ethiopians and the Lubim an immense army with very many chariots and horsemen? Yet, because you relied on the Lord, He delivered them into your hand. For the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His. You have acted foolishly in this. Indeed, from now on you will surely have wars."
God doesn't have eyes, but you have to love the imagery it paints in your mind when picturing God's eyes moving to and fro throughout the earth. Is it so hard to give our hearts completely to Him? Is there someone or something else worthy of our devotion? Sure enough, we are always devoted to something or someone; commonly ourselves. When a believer loses their first love of God, as Asa and countless others have, they lose that first freshness of faith, and then the next sure step is to attempt to combine trust in the Lord with the most likely means of worldly success. If this happens, we have entered into an alliance with the world, the very world that we have been delivered from because our Lord has overcome it and our faith made us overcomers of it.
2CH 16:10 Then Asa was angry with the seer and put him in prison, for he was enraged at him for this. And Asa oppressed some of the people at the same time.
Asa casts Hanani in prison. In the past he would have shrunk from such a prophet of God because in his humility he understood that the prophet carries the message of God and so the power of God, but at this point in his life, he has grown callous and cares more for appearances than he cares to honor Jehovah. The public knows that the king has been rebuked by a prophet and to save face with the public the prophet is thrown in prison. When Israel and Judah have been at their lowest, prophets have been thrown in prison (Micaiah, 1KI 22:26-29; Jeremiah JER 20:2).
Two years before his death, Asa was attacked by some disease in his feet, possibly gout. In his pain and discomfort we read that he did not seek the Lord but only physicians. There was nothing wrong with seeking medical help, but why not seek the Lord as well, and indeed, first, per Hezekiah (2KI 20:1-7). What if it was divine discipline, which seems to be the case? But he did not seek the Lord. We go to the store and buy bread quite naturally, but we pray, "Give us this day our daily bread," and we thank Him for it. Asa only applied to the natural, just like he did in making an alliance with Syria.
Only about 16 prophets to go.
In the name of our faithful God and Savior,
Pastor Joe Sugrue
Grace and Truth Ministries