Departed, to No One’s Sorrow
Twenty-three months in jail, millions in lost salary and endorsements, and the possible end of a gifted career for Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick, all because he chose to sponsor dogfighting. Choices. We make them every day. Hundreds of them. Big ones and little ones. What to wear. What to eat. To smile, to frown. To praise, to grumble. To love, to hate. To accept responsibility or make excuses. Life is about choices. Good choices bring joy and blessing. Poor choices bring grief.
The poor choices of Judah’s fifth king epitomize the self-destruction of Israel’s monarchy. Despite great potential and positive legacy, Jehoram’s poor choices and negative influences destined him to obscurity. Though he led his nation for eight years, he died “to no one’s sorrow” and was not even buried in the tombs of the kings (2 Chr. 21:20).
Jehoram had much potential. The eldest of King Jehoshaphat’s seven sons, he had lived through his father’s good reign. King at 32, he was old enough to remember his grandfather, good King Asa. Though not perfect in their devotion, both kings had gained Yahweh’s approval. Jehoshaphat “walked in the way of his father Asa, and did not turn aside from it, doing what was right in the sight of the Lᴏʀᴅ” (20:32). Two great examples. What more could a man ask?
The prophets had communicated the success principle clearly:
Azariah: “Hear me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin. The Lᴏʀᴅ is with you while you are with Him. If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will forsake you” (15:2).
Hanani: “For the eyes of the Lᴏʀᴅ run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him” (16:9).
Jehaziel: “Listen, all you of Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem, and you, King Jehoshaphat! Thus says the Lᴏʀᴅ to you: ‘Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God’s’” (20:15).
Their message is still true: Choosing God and His ways enables Him to protect and bless us.
Jehoram had the benefit of prophetic instruction, his father’s and grandfather’s experiences, the priests’ counsel, and his own maturity. He was not a child. The kings’ chronicles and God’s Law were available. He was abundantly blessed and perfectly positioned.
You, too, have all the potential and resources needed for what God intends you to accomplish. Why not make a list of all that God has provided? Are you choosing His way in every choice you make?
Spoiled by his father, Jehoram regarded his God-given position as his own possession. He and his brothers had all received “great gifts of silver and gold and precious things, with fortified cities in Judah” (21:3). There is nothing inherently wrong with expensive gifts (God sent Messiah Jesus to die for us so we could receive the gift of eternal life). But, accustomed to having many expensive things, the sons lived off the perks of their father’s office.
Jehoram saw himself as a king to be served rather than as a servant to lead his people in pursuit of God. He neglected Moses’ instruction:
Also it shall be, when he [the king] sits on the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write for himself a copy of this law in a book, from the one before the priests, the Levites. And it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lᴏʀᴅ his God and be careful to observe all the words of this law and these statutes, that his heart may not be lifted above his brethren, that he may not turn aside from the commandment to the right hand or to the left, and that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he and his children in the midst of Israel (Dt. 17:18–20).
The father’s poor choice to spoil his about all the choices you made today.
Unfortunately, one bad choice often leads to another. Jehoram chose the world’s wisdom rather than trusting God for his throne. Once secure, he killed all six of his brothers and any royal cousins who might have posed a threat to him.Murdering one’s family was certainly not God’s way. Unlike King Solomon’s brother Adonijah (1 Ki. 1—2), Jehoram’s brothers had done nothing to deserve such treatment. The “eyes of the Lᴏʀᴅ” did not miss his ungodly methods.
Jehoram’s wife was another bad choice. Athaliah was the sister of King Joram of Israel and the daughter of Ahab and Jezebel. Jehoshaphat’s ill-advised alliance with Ahab provided contact.
No marriage details are given, but it is easy to imagine what a spoiled young royal might have done. Like her mother, Athaliah counseled her husband into evil, idolatrous ways, clearly influencing him to reject his heritage and his God: “And he walked in the way of the kings of Israel, just as the house of Ahab had done, for he had the daughter of Ahab as a wife; and he did evil in the sight of the Lᴏʀᴅ” (2 Chr. 21:6). Athaliah was so wicked she later slaughtered her own grandchildren (except Joash, who was hidden) to usurp the throne of Judah.
So Jehoram ignored his fathers’ legacy, the prophets’ messages, and the Law of God. He chose instead the thinking and idolatry of his wife and in-laws. His ways were despicable in God’s eyes. Only God’s covenant with David prevented Jehoram from being destroyed like his father-in-law’s house.
God is not vengeful or vindictive. But bad choices nullify great potential, negate godly teaching, and neutralize good examples. Think about all the choices you made today. Were they biblical?
Again God sent adversity and prophetic warning to turn the king’s heart back to the Lord. The country of Edom revolted and established its independence. Edom was in subjection whenever Judah’s king walked with God. Jehoshaphat had experienced God’s miraculous delivery from Edom, but Jehoram seemed oblivious to what God had done. Edom continued to rebel throughout his reign because he did not return to the Lord.
Libnah also rebelled against Jehoram “because he had forsaken the Lᴏʀᴅ God of his fathers” (v. 10). This was a personal rebuke. Well-fortified but defeated by Joshua’s forces (Josh. 10:29–30), Libnah had been given to Aaron’s sons as one of their 13 Levitical cities (21:13). Rather than accept this direct reprimand by the priests, Jehoram multiplied his sin: “Moreover he made high places in the mountains of Judah, and caused the inhabitants of Jerusalem to commit harlotry, and led Judah astray” (2 Chr. 21:11).
Jehoram understood less and less about how a Davidic king should succeed. Nine hundred years later, a Pharisee who came out of the same spiritual darkness into God’s light described it this way: “Although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools” (Rom. 1:21–22).
Elijah sent a letter rebuking Jehoram for his ungodly decisions. Elijah ministered mostly in the northern kingdom, confronting Ahab and Jezebel. His letter chastised Jehoram for following their ways instead of those of his own fathers. The prophet announced God’s judgment: “Behold, the Lᴏʀᴅ will strike your people with a serious affliction—your children, your wives, and all your possessions; and you will become very sick with a disease of your intestines, until your intestines come out by reason of the sickness, day by day” (2 Chr. 21:14–15).
What horrible news! Yet there was no regret or repentance. It is never too late to repent of bad decisions. But Jehoram refused to seek the Lord.
True to His Word, God incited an invasion of Philistines from the west and Arabs from the south. Together they “carried away all the possessions that were found in the king’s house, and also his sons and his wives, so that there was not a son left to him except Jehoahaz [also called Ahaziah], the youngest of his sons” (v. 17).
Stripped of all his possessions, the unrepentant king was then stripped of his dignity. He was inflicted with a bowel disease that grew progressively more painful and disgusting until, two years later, his intestines came out of his body and he died in great pain. “For the wages of sin is death” in more ways than one (Rom. 6:23).
Sadly, Scripture says “his people made no burning for him, like the burning for his fathers” (2 Chr. 21:19). Burning great piles of spices created a sweet aroma in memory of some of the kings; the greater the king, the greater the fire (Jer. 34:5). There was no fire for Jehoram. Denied a royal funeral, he was buried in an ordinary grave, not in the tombs of the kings.
Six hundred years earlier Moses said,
I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live; that you may love the Lᴏʀᴅ your God, that you may obey His voice, and that you may cling to Him, for He is your life and the length of your days; and that you may dwell in the land which the Lᴏʀᴅ swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them (Dt. 30:19–20).
Jehoram chose poorly. Not every hardship is God’s chastening; but poor choices bring hard times, which should cause us to reflect on our ways. Rejecting spiritual light exacerbates spiritual density. Poor choices beget poor choices. Avoid that road. Jehoram departed—to no one’s sorrow.