Posted by: arieliondotcom | May 13, 2013

Dancing with the Devil (2 Kings 3)

Dancing with the Devil
(2 Kings 3)

There are times in life when the godly must work together with the ungodly. It’s a fact of life that in order to help anyone in the world and do good you must deal with those who are not good. That’s what I call dancing with the devil. And it’s what this chapter is about.

Evil King Ahab of Israel is dead. He had been ruling in Samaria in charge of most of the tribes that GOD had taken away from King David’s tribe, Judah. And in place of evil Ahab, his evil son Jehoram became king of those tribes of Israel, still ruling from Samaria.

The name Jehoram is interesting because even though his father and mother were idol worshippers, his name means “The GOD of Israel is Exalted.” And since he stopped worshipping the idol Baal, he may have renamed himself. “Baal” means “Lord” or “Master.” So by being named “The GOD of Israel is Exalted”, his name was a kind of slap at Baal and Baal worshippers, saying “Israel’s GOD is Greater than Baal.” However, despite his name, he still worshipped and encouraged the people of Israel to worship other idols on high places. This was a political decision because otherwise the people would have returned to Jerusalem to worship. As King of Israel, he couldn’t allow that because of fear the people would leave his kingdom and return to join with the tribe of Judah and their good king Jehoshaphat.

King Jehoshaphat wasn’t a jealous king like Jehoram. In fact he had helped Jehoram’s father, Ahab, fight a battle. And when Jehoram asks Jehoshaphat to help him fight a common enemy, Jehoshaphat agrees with exactly the same words he had used with Jehoram’s father when agreeing to help him.

Why? Because the Moabites were a common enemy of all 12 tribes of Israel, Jehoram’s tribes and Jehoshaphat’s tribes. The Moabites were the descendants of the incest between Lot and his oldest daughter. His daughter had thought after seeing Sodom and Gomorrah destroyed that her father was the only living male and that she had to repopulate the earth. So she got him drunk and had sex with him.

Jehoshaphat saw it was necessary to “dance with the devil” of evil Ahab in order to protect his own people of Judah from the evil Moabites.

They sneak up on the Moabites from behind, through the wilderness, and on the way pick up a third king, with his army of Edom. (These were estranged cousins, descended from Esau, the brother of their ancestor Jacob or Israel.)

But on the way to attack Moab the three armies run out of water. Jehoram immediately panics, but godly Jehoshaphat again asks as he had asked Jehoram’s father many years earlier if there were any prophets of the LORD. Notice that it isn’t Jehoram who answers but one of his servants. The servant tells them about EliSHa who had once acted as assistant to EliJah (washing his hands for ritual cleansing) and who is now a might prophet himself. There’s even a play on the theme of EliSHa having plenty of access to what they need: water. (We will see a similar situation soon when a captive girl will tell the foreign commander Naaman about EliSHah who could heal him of leprosy. And EliSHah using river water to do it.) But that is later. For now the three kings go to Elisha.

Other kings would have EliSHa brought to them. But as we will see with the three wise men who will one day search for Baby JESUS, these three are desperate. In this case for water. And in the case of JESUS for living water of salvation though they don’t know it yet. Though only Jehoshaphat could qualify as being wise because he followed the True GOD, the others were wise enough not to delay by negotiating with Elisha.

Now, we know from meeting EliSHa in earlier chapters that he has something of an attitude problem. He tells Jehoram (and Edom) to go ask their false prophets for help. But desperate Jehoram begs, saying that he recognizes it’s the LORD who is handing them over to Moab (knowing without water they’re doomed). EliSHa says if it were not for Jehoshaphat that he would not help them at all. He wouldn’t even look at them.

Why? EliSHa recognizes (from the LORD) that he must “dance with the devils” of Jehoram and Edom in order to help the godly Jehoshaphat destroy the Moabites. And here’s the key: it is for the glory of GOD.

There’s a difference between dealing with evil in order to benefit oneself and dealing with evil to benefit others and for the Glory of GOD (which is always tied to helping others for good). That’s what JESUS meant by telling us that we must be “in the world but not of the world”, and “wise as serpents but innocent as doves.” It’s the reason He tells the parable of the shrewd servant who, about to be fired, get discounts for others his current boss requires payment from to get them to hire him after he is fired. And why GOD later uses the enemies of Israel to discipline them, and then punishes those enemies for thinking they did it themselves or for their own glory.

We are to deal with the world and the evil people in it as we deal with power tools: carefully. Otherwise we will do more harm than good, including to our own souls. This is why it’s so difficult for Christians to be in politics. They must dance with the devil, being careful not to get the devil’s footprints on their shoes. Or worse, find themselves wearing his.

So Elisha agrees to help the three kings, for the glory of GOD and for Jehoshaphat’s sake. First, though, he tells them to get him a musician! What’s that about?! Do you need dance music to dance with the devil?!

In a way, yes. You might remember that when King Saul had been overcome by evil spirits, David playing music would soothe his fits. You might also know the often misquoted “Music has charms to soothe the savage breast” (not “beast”) from a poem by William Congreve. There is some truth to this, that music can calm the nerves and bring a more peaceful attitude. It’s why dentists pump in music while you’re in the dentist’s chair. EliSHa got himself so worked up with anger that, righteous though it was, he still needed to be calm to appropriately hear and relay a message from GOD.

That message was that GOD would not only fill the land with water, that was nothing. But to show His Glory, He would also hand the Moabites over to them. And they were not only to destroy the Moabites, but to decimate their land as well.

So, without using rain, the LORD had water flow. The Moabites have armed every possible male and march out to fight the three armies. They mistake the miraculous river of water reflecting the sun to be blood and rush towards the camps of the three kings, thinking they’ve destroyed each other and there’s nothing to do but take the riches off their dead enemies.

How could they think water was blood? Because there had been no rain, they knew there was no river there, and there they see this huge body of red liquid. (From the color of the sand and reflected sun.) And of course the LORD may have affected their vision.

When they reach the camps of Israel they were shocked to see Israel was not only very much alive, but in pursuit of them! The Moabites tried to break through the ranks of the armies of Edom, thinking them weaker than Israel or Judah, but they failed and were slaughtered.

As a last resort, the King of Moab thought he would do what he had heard would satisfy the gods…some say the god of Israel and Judah. Jewish scholars say he had heard the story of Abraham offering his son, Isaac on an altar. And not understanding Scripture he thought it was human sacrifice. So he kills his own son, the one who was to have taken his place as king, and offers him as a burnt sacrifice.

Whether it was to his own idols or a mistaken idea of the true GOD, the Israelites are so sickened by the action of the Moabite king they return home. Some scholars say because the Israelites felt guilty for their own idolatry.

Are we dancing with the devil? If so, are we dancing to his tune of selfishness and personal agenda? Or are we dancing circles around him, praising GOD and helping others to escape his grasp and dance into the arms of Christ?


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