Hope – Believing God

A sermon preached at Covenant Presbyterian Church of Fort Smith, Arkansas on December 1, 2019.

Then Elisha the prophet called one of the sons of the prophets and said to him, “Tie up your garments, and take this flask of oil in your hand, and go to Ramoth-gilead. And when you arrive, look there for Jehu the son of Jehoshaphat, son of Nimshi. And go in and have him rise from among his fellows, and lead him to an inner chamber. Then take the flask of oil and pour it on his head and say, ‘Thus says the LORD, I anoint you king over Israel.’ Then open the door and flee; do not linger.” So the young man, the servant of the prophet, went to Ramoth-gilead. And when he came, behold, the commanders of the army were in council. And he said, “I have a word for you, O commander.” And Jehu said, “To which of us all?” And he said, “To you, O commander.” So he arose and went into the house. And the young man poured the oil on his head, saying to him, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, I anoint you king over the people of the LORD, over Israel. And you shall strike down the house of Ahab your master, so that I may avenge on Jezebel the blood of my servants the prophets, and the blood of all the servants of the LORD. For the whole house of Ahab shall perish, and I will cut off from Ahab every male, bond or free, in Israel. And I will make the house of Ahab like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah. And the dogs shall eat Jezebel in the territory of Jezreel, and none shall bury her.” Then he opened the door and fled. When Jehu came out to the servants of his master, they said to him, “Is all well? Why did this mad fellow come to you?” And he said to them, “You know the fellow and his talk.”  And they said, “That is not true; tell us now.” And he said, “Thus and so he spoke to me, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD, I anoint you king over Israel.’” Then in haste every man of them took his garment and put it under him on the bare steps, and they blew the trumpet and proclaimed, “Jehu is king” (2 Kings 9:1–13).

The story is intriguing, isn’t it? A no-named, son of a prophet is sent to anoint a military officer king over Israel, and then run away as fast as he can. Fast times in the life of the crown!

Why is this here, and what does the unorthodox crowning of Jehu tell us? The answer is in the back story, a story of power, oppression, family, theft, and murder. It’s also a story that if unfinished carries a sense of hopelessness. So, to understand Jehu’s crowning, let’s go back to a little town named Jezreel.

A man named Naboth had a vineyard in Jezreel situated next to one of King Ahab’s palaces. It was not the best vineyard, but it was Naboth’s inheritance, handed down from generation to generation, and according to the law he would pass it on to his children. Unlike our country, real estate was not traded frequently if ever. Naboth would work his land until it was time to pass it on.

Any real estate professional will tell you that there are three key things that impact the value of a piece of real estate: location, location, location. And Naboth had all three. Situated next to what was likely the king’s summer home, Naboth’s vineyard had, as they say, “the right address.” In fact, the vineyard was so perfectly located that the king wanted it not as a vineyard but for his vegetable garden. (Which should be our first clue that there is something not quite right with Ahab.) The king proposed a trade or a cash purchase: “Give me your vineyard…and I will give you a better vineyard for it; or, if it seems good to you, I will give you its value in money” (1 Kings 21:2). It was a fair offer, but Naboth wasn’t interested. Compelled by the faithfulness of his fathers and perhaps by his heritage, Naboth swiftly declined the King’s offer. No negotiations. It would seem that Naboth would continue to tend his inheritance in peace.

Unbeknownst to Naboth, the declined offer sent King Ahab sulking to his bedroom, so distraught that he would not come down for dinner. Seeking to console her husband, Queen Jezebel learned of the King’s failed real estate venture and determined a solution: She would frame Naboth with a crime, a crime due the death penalty and take his land. And so she did. Innocent Naboth was set-up by the Queen and falsely accused of cursing God and the king. The result? Naboth was stoned to death immediately. The wicked queen had seemingly gotten away with murder, and the king got his vegetable garden, for free. It was a perfectly orchestrated crime, concealed and carried out in secret…supposedly.

Proverbs reveals, “The eyes of the LORD are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good” (Prov. 15:3). Nothing is really done in secret, a fact that we should remember, a fact forgotten by the king and queen of Israel. Knowing all, the Lord revealed to the Prophet Elijah the coming judgment upon the king. Elijah told Ahab, “Thus says the LORD: ‘In the place where dogs licked up the blood of Naboth shall dogs lick your own blood. …Behold, I will bring disaster upon you. I will utterly burn you up, and will cut you off from Ahab every male, bond or free, in Israel’” (1 Kings 21:19-21). Having pronounced judgment upon the king, the prophet then turned to the queen, saying, “And of Jezebel the LORD said, ‘The dogs shall eat Jezebel within the walls of Jezreel’” (1 Kings 21:23). A gruesome judgment awaited.

And then, with judgment pronounced upon the king and queen, in that very moment… nothing happened. No fire from heaven fell. No earthquake swallowed up the wicked. Nothing but the prophetic Word of God delivered was heard, and then . . . nothing.

It is a scenario like this that I think of Naboth’s family. They lost not only a father but their inheritance too.  God hears the plea of Ahab’s repentance but what about the cries of Naboth’s family. Is God’s favor upon the powerful and his curse upon the oppressed? Where is the justice? Did God not only witness the sin of Ahab and Jezebel but also pronounce judgment upon their family? Why does it seem as if God will not do anything at all? Is all hope of justice lost? Does this not lead God’s children to hopelessness? In short, no, because hope is not temporal.

Hope Is not Temporal

The problem is that our sense of hope tends to be tied to our timing rather than God’s. Ahab and Jezebel were a wicked king and queen, and their actions against innocent Naboth were despicable. Where is fire and brimstone falling from heaven for people like them? Of course, we think the same thing of the person on their phone in front of us at a green light, don’t we? When things are happening according to our plan and our timing, life is good. But the opposite leaves us frustrated, often leading to despair. As David asked rhetorically in Psalm 13, “How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?” (Ps. 13:1).

We know how he feels, because sometimes a moment of heartache feels like forever. Although it may feel that way, the reality is that the Lord has not, does not, will not forget us. What feels like forever is not. As the Prophet Jeremiah declares, “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lam. 3:22-23). Therefore, the Christian never seeks hope in the temporal nor in the circumstances of life, because hope is neither temporal nor circumstantial.                      

Hope Is not Circumstantial

Can you have a sense of hope in the worst of circumstances and feel hopeless in the best? Of course, and yet we continue to think that hope is circumstantial, don’t we? What if, however, our hope is dictated not by circumstances but according to the Word of God? What if the theft of Naboth’s land and his subsequent murder aren’t the end of the story?

But it’s not only about knowing the rest of the story. It’s even more important knowing who controls it. As the psalmist reminds us, “The LORD has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all” (Ps. 103:19). To allow the circumstances of life to make us feel hopeless is to forget or to deny God’s sovereignty and purpose. As R.C. Sproul said, “There are no maverick molecules.”

The wicked deeds of Ahab and Jezebel can lead us to obsess on their deeds and lose hope. Or, we can listen to God’s Word and learn: “The LORD has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble” (Prov. 16:4). If this is the case, and it is, then the Christian’s hope is not circumstantial. No, hope is believing God.

Hope Is Believing God

When Naboth was murdered and God pronounced judgment upon Ahab, Jezebel, and their family, the word delivered was no less the Word of God. Even though it may have seemed like God would never act, even though it may have seemed that wickedness would prevail, God did not fail to fulfill his Word. R.C. Sproul said that believing in God is easy; the hard part is believing God.

Anyone but a fool believes there is a God. But from the beginning God’s children have been tempted to doubt God’s Word. “Did God actually say…?,” hissed the serpent to the woman of Eden. Unbelief is ultimately a failure to take God at his Word and doubting God’s Word leads to hopelessness. To be clear, when God’s timing and ours do not align (and they rarely do), we may be tempted to give up hope. But hope is not temporal. When the circumstances of life seem overwhelming, we may be tempted to give up hope. Nor is hope circumstantial. When it seems that God will never act, when it seems as if he is not there, these are times that we must go to God’s Word to be reminded of his faithfulness.

It probably felt like a lifetime to the righteous in Ahab’s kingdom before the wicked king and queen were removed. The prophets hidden in the caves probably wondered if they would ever serve God freely. Perhaps even Naboth’s family wondered if justice would ever be served. But hope, neither temporal nor circumstantial, is believing God. God pronounced judgment upon King Ahab and his family, and what God promised so it was fulfilled despite Ahab’s best efforts.

Here is how it played out for Ahab: Going into battle, Ahab disguised himself so as not to be recognized as the king. Just as Adam hid in the garden, so Ahab camouflaged himself in battle. But Adam nor Ahab, nor you or I, can hide from God. It says in 1 Kings, “a certain man drew his bow at random and struck the king of Israel between the scale armor and the breastplate…And the battle continued that day, and the king was propped up in his chariot…until at evening he died. And the blood of the wound flowed into the bottom of the chariot…And they washed the chariot by the pool of Samaria and the dogs licked up his blood…according to the word of the LORD that he had spoken (1 Kings 22:34-38). “…according to the word of the LORD”!

Likewise, wicked Jezebel did not escape God’s judgment either. Shortly after Jehu was anointed king, he and his army charged into Jezreel, and there in her summer palace was Jezebel. It says in 2 Kings that “she painted her eyes and adorned her head and looked out of the window” (2 Kings 9:30). It was as if she thought her outward appearance could fool God’s justice.

The Apostle Peter says to women, “Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious” (1 Peter 3:3-4). There was nothing precious about Jezebel. Perfectly wicked, she had to dress up the outside to try to make up for the inside, but she only deceived herself.

The newly anointed King Jehu called out to the servants of the palace, “‘Who is on my side? Who?’ Two or three eunuchs looked out at him. He said, ‘Throw her down.’ So they threw her down. And some of her blood spattered on the wall and on the horses, and they trampled on her” (2 Kings 9:32-33). Justice served, King Jehu stopped for lunch and then commanded the servants to bury her: “But when they went to bury her, they found no more of her than the skull and the feet and the palms of her hands” (2 Kings 9:36). When the gruesome report was delivered to Jehu, do you know what he said? “This is the word of the LORD…” (2 Kings 9:36). Just as God promised, so it happened.

The point in this: There are some things fulfilled in Scripture to which we look, believe, and find hope. There are other things promised but not yet fulfilled to which we also look, believe, and find hope. For example, the promise of a Savior was first given in the third chapter of Genesis in God’s Covenant of Grace, which was fulfilled in our Lord’s first advent. The hope of every believer, past, present, and future, rests on the fulfillment of God’s Word in the perfect life, sacrificial death, and victorious resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Every Old Testament believer looked with hope to the fulfillment of God’s Word just as every New Testament believer looks back. Likewise, we look forward in hope to our Lord’s second advent. Just as God anointed Jehu to carry out his judgment upon Ahab and Jezebel, so the Lord Jesus Christ will return in judgment. He will judge the living and the dead, and he will establish his righteous kingdom forever. Yet, the hope of every believer has not changed, whether before our Lord’s first advent or his second. Our hope is believing God.

Yes, there may be times where we cry out with the psalmist,

            How long wilt Thou forget me?

            Shall it forever be?

            O LORD, how long neglect me,

            And hide Thy face from me

            How long my soul take counsel,

            Thus sad in heart each day?

            How long shall foes, exulting,

            Subject me to their sway? (Ps. 13:1-2).

Yes, there may be times that we feel hopeless crying out,

            O LORD, my God, consider,

            And hear my earnest cries;

            Lest I in death should slumber,

            Enlighten Thou mine eyes:

            Lest foes be heard exclaiming,

            “Against him we prevailed”;

            And they that vex my spirit

            Rejoice when I have failed (Ps. 13:3-4).

It is in these moments when we feel hopeless that we must believe God, going faithfully to his Word, reminded of his favor upon us through the gospel of Jesus Christ, and perhaps even singing:

            But on Thy tender mercy

            I ever have relied;

            With joy in Thy salvation

            My heart shall still confide.

            And I with voice of singing

            Will praise the LORD alone,

            Because to me His favor

            He has so largely shown (Ps. 13:5-6).


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