Biblical Interpretation from Someone with no Training in Biblical Interpretation
Who you journey through life with matters. This seems basic, as we know that by hanging out with negative influences we can be dragged down with them. However, this can apply to our spiritual life as well. While reading through 2 Kings, the Holy Spirit showed me a story that we can take home in understanding our relationship with Christ Jesus and what that can mean for us.
The story opens like most of 1 and 2 Kings, with a description of the new king taking the throne. History records,
Joram son of Ahab became king of Israel in Samaria in the eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, and he reigned twelve years. He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, but not as his father and mother had done. He got rid of the sacred stone of Baal that his father had made. Nevertheless he clung to the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, which he had caused Israel to commit; he did not turn away from them (2 Kings 3:1-3).
Joram was from a long line of evil kings in Israel. The Bible notes that he wasn’t quite as bad as his father, but that doesn’t mean much since although he opposed Baal worship, he still wasn’t promoting the worship of God. In the story, Joram represents us. He was born into evil and, not knowing any better, kept following that evil’s ways (the sin of Jeroboam). In the same way we’re born into the world already tainted by original sin and surrounded daily by other’s sins as well; which we learn without thinking. Joram ran into a spot of trouble though. 2 Kings 3:5-6 tells us, “But after Ahab died, the king of Moab rebelled against the king of Israel. So at that time King Joram set out from Samaria and mobilized all Israel.” This was a big deal, Moab was not a small nation, well, they weren’t huge, but they were strong. Joram knew he couldn’t do this himself, so he sent for help. We read,
He also sent this message to Jehoshaphat king of Judah: “The king of Moab has rebelled against me. Well you go with me to fight against Moab?”
“I will go with you,” he replied. “I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses” (2 Kings 3:7).
Let’s take a look at Jehoshaphat and what he means to us in this story. First of all, Jehoshaphat was one of the kings labeled as “good.” His introduction reads,
Jehoshaphat was thirty-five years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem twenty-five years. His mother’s name was Azubah daughter of Shilhi. In everything he walked in the ways of his father Asa and did not stray from them; he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord. The high places, however, were not removed, and the people continued to offer sacrifices and burn incense there (1 Kings 22:42-43).
Jehoshaphat worshipped God, just like most of the other kings of Judah, and he followed in the footsteps of another good king, his father Asa. For most of their history as a divided nation, Judah and Israel were constantly at war, if not in active battles then in a cold war situation. The fights were partly over land, but largely because Judah still worshipped God, whereas Israel prayed to two golden calves (and many other gods). So make no doubt about it, Jehoshaphat knew that Joram was an evil king, like his father Ahab. However, when asked to help his rival king, Jehoshaphat didn’t turn him down. In the same way, when we come to Christ, we will not be turned away, no matter how messed up our lives may be. Jesus actually said this himself, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away” (John 6:37). Jesus doesn’t reject those who come to him, much like how Jehoshaphat wouldn’t turn away the evil Joram. Therefore the Holy Spirit showed me that in this particular story we can learn about how Jesus relates to us: with Joram taking our position and Jehoshaphat stepping in for Jesus. There’s something missing though. The story continues as Joram asks Jehoshaphat about strategy,
“By what route shall we attack?” he asked.
“Through the Desert of Edom,” he answered.
So the king of Israel set out with the king of Judah and the king of Edom. After a round-about march of seven days, the army had no more water for themselves or for the animals with them (2 Kings 3:8-9).
When we come to Christ we ask him what’s wrong with our lives and how to change and how to defeat whatever troubles we’re facing. Jesus’ answer is simple, the Holy Spirit. When Joram asked Jehoshaphat how to attack Moab, the answer he received was to get help from the king of Edom. So through Jehoshaphat, Joram gained a new ally to help him on his way. This is true for us as well. Paul writes about us receiving the Holy Spirit when we allow Jesus into our lives,
And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession- to the praise of his glory (Ephesians 1:13-14).
To summarize, the king born into evil, Joram, asked the good king Jehoshaphat for help and was not denied. Not only this, but Jehoshaphat brought about an alliance with the king of Edom. We’ve already established ourselves as Joram and Christ as Jehoshaphat in the story. Since he is summoned by the presence of Jehoshaphat, the king of Edom then represents the Holy Spirit for us.
Alright, now Joram has a party of 3 where it used to be just him. When we accept Christ into our lives, we are never alone again. Jesus reminds us of this in John 14:20, “On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” When we embrace Jesus as our Lord and Savior we have all of Christ dwelling within us, and with him the power of God (and the promised Holy Spirit to boot). A Christian is never alone, for he is always with the Christ. As awesome as this party of three kings was, there was a problem. Joram was still coming out of sinful Israel, and was himself not a clean man. This lead to a snafu when the crew tried to receive help from the prophet Elisha,
Jehoshaphat said, “The word of the Lord is with him.” So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat and the king of Edom went down to him.
Elisha said to the king of Israel, “What do we have to do with each other? Go to the prophets of your father and the prophets of your mother.”
“No,” the king of Israel answered, “because it was the Lord who called us three kings together to hand us over to Moab” (2 Kings 3:12-13).
Elisha isn’t stupid. As a prophet to the northern kingdom of Israel, Elisha knew the sins of Ahab and the sins of his son Joram. As such he refused to help him. Elisha takes the role of God in this story for us. The Lord isn’t stupid. He’s seen your sins and your probably largely unrepentant heart. He knows your pride and your desires. As a perfect being, God cannot look upon imperfection. As such, his hand is against those who are in the world. Oh, but wait, there’s more to this passage, “Elisha said, ‘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’” (2 Kings 3:14). Because of the presence of Jehoshaphat, Elisha accepted Joram. This is what it’s like for us when we come to Christ. Before having Jesus with us, God takes no good interest in us. However, just the presence of Christ changes everything; for through his sacrifice on a cross in our stead, we are able to approach the living God and receive from him help, supplication, and love. Our story wraps us as Elisha gives the team what they need to fight Moab,
“But now bring me a harpist.”
While the harpist was playing, the hand of the Lord came upon Elisha and he said, “This is what the Lord says: Make this valley full of ditches. For this is what the Lord says: You will see neither wind nor rain, yet this valley will be filled with water, and you, your cattle and your other animals will drink. This is an easy thing in the eyes of the Lord; he will also hand Moab over to you. You will overthrow every fortified city and every major town. You will cut down every good tree, stop up all the springs, and ruin every good field with stones” (2 Kings 3:15-19).
Just like that, because of the presence of Jehoshaphat, Elisha and the Lord provide Joram with a plan, supplies, and the guaranteed victory. This is what it’s like when you come to Jesus in order to make him your Lord and Savior.
I want to note that Joram didn’t completely reform his life before being given victory. Rather, it was entirely because of the presence of Jehoshaphat that the Lord granted Joram what he needed. You cannot earn your salvation, nor can you earn God’s love. You will never deserve it no matter how much good you do; for you’re coming out of the world of sin which has permeated even to your core (though you may not realize it). However, through the presence of Jesus, your life changes: you receive a new ally in the form of the Holy Spirit who will fight with you the rest of your life and the Creator of the Universe will look upon you as something pure and will move heaven and earth if need be to help you. Paul reminds us about salvation, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith- and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Just like Joram, you’re totally out of luck in the eyes of God; that is, until Jesus shows up. Through faith in Christ, though undeserving, you’ll be given victory in life (and eternal life in heaven too). Now instead of having the Lord opposing you (which Joram thought as he noted God was feeding the three kings to Moab) you’ve got all of heaven on your side. So if you haven’t already, repent and turn to Jesus! You’ll find both victory through your association with Christ and a whole lifetime of exciting changes as you’re conformed to his will through the Holy Spirit!