In ancient Israel, prophets were generally associated with bad news. They would speak into situations in a corrective way, calling for repentance and warning of judgment. As they brought the word of God to people, it often exposed wickedness and predicted the consequences. But Elisha highlights another side of prophetic ministry. He had shown compassion to the Shunammite widow (see chapter 4), and his kindness to her had long-lasting effects. Elisha had warned the woman of an impending famine and sent her away to safety, and because of his influence on her life (and on Gahazi and the king, too) her land and harvest yield was restored after a seven year absence. The influence of godly people will always outlive them.
The incident with Hazael (v.7-15) is sad, but it contains a valuable lesson. Hazael was not willing to admit his own potential for sin. Elisha was moved to tears as the Lord revealed to him what Hazael would do (v.11). It was an opportunity for the man to own up to his pride, his lust for power, and his hatred of King Ben-hadad — and repentantly cry out to God for mercy. But instead, he denied his inner propensity to sin, pretended humility, and went home to violently murder his king. Hazael’s story is a reminder that as a human being with a sinful nature, I am capable of any kind of evil if I turn a deaf ear to the voice of God and deny my need for the grace of God.
The remainder of this chapter recounts the disappointing story of a pair of kings of Judah (the Southern Kingdom) who reigned for a total of nine years. Jehoram was the son of a very godly king, but instead of following his father’s ways he copied the evil ways of Israel’s kings. He even married into the family of Ahab and Jezebel, the most wicked, depraved couple in Israel’s history (v.18). Jehoram’s son, Ahaziah, also imitated his maternal grandparents. The sin of this father-son duo resulted in the tragic, bloody events of the next two chapters. Mark it down: if you are bound to sin, you are bound to suffer. Judgment follows sin as surely as night follows day. The grace of God is our only hope.
Note: on Sunday (August 4th) I will be preaching about Jehoram’s godly father, Jehoshaphat. See you then!