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Order Of Worship (Liturgy)
Pastor Ted Gray
02/05/2017 – p.m.
“Three Kings and God’s Prophet”
2 Kings 3:1-27
Our church magazine, The Messenger, recently had this quote on the inside front cover: “God does the most amazing things at the most unexpected times through the most unlikely people in the most unusual ways.” (Roy Lessin)
We certainly see that truth in this passage. The background to the passage is the death of the king of Israel, Ahab. During the reign of Ahab the nation of Moab had to supply the king of Israel with 100,000 lambs and with the wool of 100,000 rams. That was part of the tribute – somewhat like a tax or levy – that King Ahab had levied against the Moabites when Israel conquered them.
But after Ahab died his son, Joram, became king of Israel. With Ahab out of the picture, the king of Moab, Mesha, seized the opportunity to rebel against the levy that had been set against him. He refused to pay up.
Consequently, Joram set out for Moab to demand that they pay the levy, and supply the 100,000 lambs and the wool of 100,000 rams. But he realized that he would need help to take on the Moabites. Recognizing this need for help, he sent a message to Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, asking for help in going after the Moabite king to make him pay the tribute that was required from him. In the process, the king of Edom became involved because Edom was also under the control of Israel, and the decision was made to attack Moab by coming up through the desert of Edom.
So these three kings, the king of Israel, the king of Judah and the king of Edom, set out through the desert. But in the desert they became lost; they made a circuitous route, which is what happens when you are lost. After seven days they had no more water for themselves or for their animals. They realized they were in over their heads, and at that point it finally dawned on them – and should be evident to us as we look at this slice of biblical history – that it is a serious thing to make plans without consulting the Lord; it is a serious sin to make plans without prayer.
Plans Without Prayer
We can understand why Joram, the King of Israel, would not seek the Lord’s will in prayer before going after the king of Moab. He is described in verse 2 as doing evil in the eyes of the Lord. Although he was not as wicked as is father Ahab, he did not walk according to the word of God, and did not seek out the Lord’s will in prayer.
Jehoshaphat, on the other hand, was godly. Because of that it may be surprising that he went so willingly with evil king Joram into battle. It is somewhat surprising that when he was asked to fight against Moab he said, in verse 7 “I will go with you, I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses.”
And as he joined forces with Jehoshaphat, he neglected to seek the Lord’s wisdom and direction in prayer. But he is not the only person who was made that mistake, is he? Unfortunately, his error of inquiring after they were in the desert has been repeated by every one of us, by some of us on many occasions.
When we pray for God’s blessing after we have already determined what we will do, we are not seeking the Lord’s will for our lives. At that point we are not asking that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Rather, we are asking God to give us success in the direction that we have already chosen without first seeking his will.
That happened to one of the most faithful and godly leaders recorded in the Bible, Joshua. You recall that when the Israelites came into Canaan the Lord gave them several mighty victories which put fear deep into the heart of the Canaanite people. They knew that God was giving the land of Canaan to His people, the Israelites, and that their demise was imminent.
So because of that, the Gibeonites approached Joshua portraying themselves as sojourners from a distant land. They showed Joshua their moldy bread and their worn sandals and clothes. They said, “Your servants have come from a very distant country because of the fame of the Lord your God. For we have heard reports of him: all that he did in Egypt, and all that he did to the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan… Our elders and all those living in our country said to us, ‘Take provisions for your journey; go and meet them and say to them, “We are your servants; make a treaty with us.” ’ This bread of ours was warm when we packed it at home on the day we left to come to you. But now see how dry and moldy it is. And these wineskins that we filled were new, but see how cracked they are. And our clothes and sandals are worn out by the very long journey.” (Joshua 9:9-13)
Then Joshua 9:14 describes how the Israelites sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the Lord. Then Joshua made a treaty of peace with them to let them live, and the leaders of the assembly ratified it by oath. Three days after they made the treaty with the Gibeonites, the Israelites heard that they were neighbors, living near them (14-16). Even someone as godly as Joshua sampled the provisions without inquiring of the Lord, and suffered the consequences of doing so.
The first point of many lessons in this chapter is that we are to seek the Lord’s will for our lives, and seek his direction before we make our plans. We are to seek his plans rather than embarking on our own plans, and then asking for his blessing upon them after we have already made those plans.
Blaming the God Who Blesses
A second truth that jumps off the pages is that the wicked seldom see God’s hand unless disaster strikes. The king of Israel decided to go after the king of Moab without consulting the Lord. He enlisted the help of Jehoshaphat of Judah, and they also had the king of Edom with him since they were traveling through the desert of Edom. Up until this point we have read nothing about the Lord whatsoever. Instead we have read about the sinfulness and foolishness of people seeking to accomplish things without the direction, guidance, power and presence of the Lord.
But when they ran out of water, when they realized that they were lost in the desert, who received the blame? It was the Lord! Did you notice in verse 10 how Joram blamed God for their situation? Verse 10: “What!” exclaimed the king of Israel. “Has the Lord called us three kings together only to deliver us into the hands of Moab?”
When the Lord’s name is finally brought up in this passage, it is brought up by way of accusation. The Lord is blamed for the situation that Joram brought upon himself. And that is invariably the case with unbelievers. We all know what a hurricane, earthquake, tornado or other great natural disaster is called. It is called “an act of God.”
The view of Joram, that God is to be blamed for our hardships, is hardly a unique view. It is the view held by every insurance company in North America, as well as the media and the general public. Proverbs 19:3 serves as an incisive commentary on the wicked blaming the Lord, when it declares, A man's own folly ruins his life, yet his heart rages against the Lord.
But as we read this exclamation of Joram’s, “What! Has the Lord called us three kings together only to deliver us into the hands of Moab?” we are also reminded that the wicked have no right to expect God to deliver them from their troubles, unless they seek him through saving faith in his Son, Jesus Christ. In our responsive reading we read those straightforward words from Psalm 50:16, But to the wicked God says: “What right have you to recite my statutes or take my covenant on your lips? For you hate discipline and you cast my words behind you…”
Because Joram was blaming God for the situation he was in, he was in no position to receive deliverance from God. And we see that in verse 14. The kings seek out Elisha, Joram is still blaming the Lord for their situation, and Elisha says to him in verse 14, “As surely as the Lord Almighty lives, whom I serve, if I did not have respect for the presence of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, I would not look at you or even notice you.
In that statement – and in the deliverance that unfolds – we also see that unrighteous people are often blessed because of righteous people. That is part of what we call “common” grace. Joram and his troops were delivered from death in the desert and were given victory in the end over the Moabites, not because of any military wisdom or strength on Joram’s part, but because God blessed Israel for the sake of Judah. He allowed his blessing to come to Joram, because Jehoshaphat was godly, despite his failure to seek the Lord in prayer initially.
The wicked rail against God, and blame him for anything that goes wrong in life, using his name in vain with great disdain and anger, and yet they are blessed by the very God that they curse. That principle is still in effect today, in the nations of the world, and certainly in the United States. We have seen our nation decline into great wickedness, and at the present time we see where those who despise God, and despise the principles of his word, lash out at those who would govern us according to biblical principles.
Why hasn’t God wiped us off the face of the earth for our evil? Why has he been so incredibly patient with our land? One reason is that he is by his very nature, slow to anger, abounding in love. But it is also because of his blessing upon those who are righteous in this land, that the wicked are also blessed. That principle was stated by Jesus this way in Matthew 5:44-45, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”
For the sake of the righteous the wicked are often blessed, even though they fail to see and acknowledge God’s blessings to them.
God’s Use of the Insignificant and Unusual
A third truth that leaps off the pages of this chapter is that the Lord often uses the insignificant and the unusual to accomplish His purposes, for nothing is too hard for Him.
When the three kings realized how perilous their predicament was, Jehoshaphat asked, “Is there no prophet of the Lord here, through whom we may inquire of the Lord?” And who pointed the way to Elisha? It was an unnamed officer of the king. It was just a common everyday person who was an officer in the army of Israel who answered, “Elisha son of Shaphat is here. He used to pour water on the hands of Elijah.”
The pouring of water on the hands refers to a menial task that Elisha had in his service with Elijah. We have seen before in our study of Elisha’s life that he left a wealthy position working on his family’s farm to become a humble servant of Elijah’s.
And we saw that for a period of ten years or so he served as a servant. During that time nothing is written about Elisha service, but we gather from verse 11 that he served willingly in whatever job was put before him, even the more menial work of providing water for Elijah.
God uses insignificant people to accomplish his purposes and fulfill his plans. As 1 Corinthians 1 points out not many of (us) were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast before Him. (1 Corinthians 1:26-29)
And not only does God at times use insignificant people for his great plans, but also unusual means to accomplish his purposes. In verse 15 and 16 we read how Elisha, before giving guidance and advice to these three kings, called for a harp. And verse 15 describes how as the harpist was playing, the hand of the Lord came upon Elisha.
The harp is instrumental throughout Scripture to calm the hearts of God's people as they approach him. David was often called upon to play the harp for Saul. Although Saul’s heart was not right with God, the soothing sound of the harp often brought him calmness. Since the harp can soothe a hardened heart, such as Saul’s, how much more does it soothe the heart of the righteous?
Music is given by the Lord to be a great blessing in our worship and praise of his name. It is also used to soothe our anxious hearts, and to prepare us to seek him in prayer and in his word. That is why our worship services are put in the order that we find them. The hymns, Psalter selections, and songs of praise are used to put us in the right frame of mind and heart to worship the Lord and discern his will through his word. That is also why we have a “hymn of preparation” to prepare us for the Lord’s word, much as Elisha sought the harpist to prepare himself to understand God’s will for their situation.
In verse 16 Elisha tells the three kings what the Lord’s will is. I’m sure it sounded unusual to them as he said, “This is what the Lord says: Make this valley full of ditches.” The valley was, of course, in the desert. To the human mind it would be the most unusual thing to do, to dig irrigation ditches in a parched desert! But the kings responded and the ditches were dug.
The next morning, about the time for offering the sacrifice, there was water flowing from the direction of Edom! And the land was filled with water. Which brings us to a further application: God uses the same means to be a blessing to some and to bring judgment upon others.
The pools of water flowing in the desert were the source of life for the kings and their armies. Without the water they and their animals would perish. But the same water that brought life to Israel, led the Moabites to defeat. As the early morning sun shone on the water it looked like blood to the Moabites. They said, “Those kings must have fought and slaughtered each other. Now to the plunder Moab!”
The result was that the Moabites were slaughtered by the Israelites. At the very end, in brutal desperation, the king of Moab, Mesha, offered his firstborn son as a sacrifice on the city wall. The chapter concludes by saying that then the fury against Israel was great; they withdrew and returned to their own land. The anger was not a divine anger. It was human anger in all of its intense evil stirred up against the Israelites who had already succeeded in defeating the Moabites.
This chapter is one of those unique and fascinating chapters in the Old Testament that teaches us far more than what we have seen this evening. For instance, it teaches the danger of being “unequally yoked” (2 Corinthians 6:14). We most often associate that concept in regard to marriage, but it applies to business relationships and even to whole nations. Jehoshaphat, although godly, put the nation of Judah in jeopardy when he quickly, without prayer, joined forces with Joram.
This chapter also teaches that what is impossible for us is easy for God. As Elisha explained to the three kings in verse 18, “This is an easy thing in the eyes of the Lord; he will also hand Moab over to you.” The chapter also drives home the biblical truth that God truly is sovereign over the kingdoms and nations of this earth. The heart of king is in the hand of the Lord, and that is true for politicians today just as it was so long ago in Elisha’s time.
Blessings and Judgment Brought by Christ
But as we see that God uses the same means to be a blessing to some and to bring judgment upon others, we are reminded that it is especially true in the response of all humanity to the person of Jesus Christ. Every person in the world will either be eternally blessed by their relationship to Jesus Christ, or they will suffer eternal judgment because of their rejection of Jesus Christ.
Consider the cast of the biblical characters of the first Christmas; Simeon and Anna are among my favorites. They are prime examples of seemingly insignificant people who lived lives of faith in anticipation of the coming of the Messiah. And you may recall that Simeon made this prediction concerning Jesus: In Luke 2:34 Simeon blessed Joseph and Mary and said to Mary, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”
And isn’t that exactly what has happened? Throughout the history of the world all humanity has either risen or fallen because of Christ. Every individual has either risen in faith, by God’s grace, to believe in the Son of God and to be saved from their sin. Or they have fallen, stumbling over the stumbling stone of Christ to their eternal judgment.
Seeing that your relationship and my relationship to Jesus Christ will either be the greatest blessing of our lives or lead us to the greatest judgment that could ever be imagined, how crucial to the trust in the Son of God!
He is revealed throughout history, even in this unique and fascinating third chapter of 2 Kings. May your faith and mine always be upon him alone, for his glory and for our eternal good! Amen.
- sermon outline -
“What!” exclaimed the king of Israel. “Has the Lord called us three kings together only to deliver us into the hands of Moab?”
But Jehoshaphat asked, “Is there no prophet of the Lord here, through whom we may inquire of the Lord?”
An officer of the king of Israel answered, “Elisha son of Shaphat is here. He used to pour water on the hands of Elijah.” – 2 Kings 3:10-11
“Three Kings and God’s Prophet”
2 Kings 3:1-27
I. This slice of biblical history teaches us:
1) The error of making plans without prayer (4-12; Joshua 9:14-16)
2) The wicked seldom see God’s hand unless disaster strikes (10), even though they are recipients of common grace (14; Matthew 5:45)
3) The Lord often uses the insignificant (11b), and the unusual (16-19), to accomplish His purposes, for nothing is too hard for Him (18; Matthew 19:26)
II. Further application: God uses the same means to be a blessing to some (17) and to bring judgment upon others (22-23). This is especially true in the response
of humanity to Christ (Luke 2:34-35; 1 Peter 2:4-8)
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service. Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 02/0, Rev. Ted Gray
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