I wish sometimes that the Israelites had been a bit more creative in naming their children. It gets a little confusing to keep track of sometimes. First you have Ahaziah, king of Israel, and Joram (short for Jehoram) his brother taking over for him when he died. Then in Judah, you have another man named Jehoram/Joram who becomes king, and when he dies, his son, another man named Ahaziah, takes over as king. So in two nations, at just about the same time, you have two kings named Jehoram/Joram and two kings named Ahaziah.
Anyway, enough of that rant. To be clear, these passages talk not of Jehoram/Joram, king of Israel with whom Elisha had much contact with, but of Jehoram/Joram of Judah, with whom Elisha had little, if any contact with.
This Jehoram was the son of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah. But unlike his father, he did not follow after God with his whole heart. The trouble probably started with who he married, a woman named Athaliah, who was the daughter of Ahab. I mentioned in an earlier blog the problem with allying yourself with ungodly people, and it finds its culmination here.
When Jehoshaphat died, Jehoram immediately decided to kill all his brothers to make sure they wouldn’t try to take his throne. One wonders if he wasn’t prompted in this by Athaliah, who showed a similar ruthlessness after Jehoram’s son Ahaziah died.
She apparently was also the one who led Jehoram into idol worship (II Chronicles 21:6; II Kings 8:18).
For the sake of David, God wasn’t willing to destroy the dynastic line, but he did bring discipline into Jehoram’s life, trying to get him to see the error of his ways. Edom and Libnah both revolted against the Israelites, because, “Jehoram had forsaken the Lord.” (II Chronicles 21:10).
In fact, Jehoram came perilously close to dying, and had to be broken out of a situation where he was surrounded by the Edomites. Despite this near-death situation, he still didn’t repent.
And God played his final card in order to get Jehoram to repent: a letter from Elijah the prophet.
While the book of Kings writes extensively about Elijah and Elisha, you only see Elijah’s name once in Chronicles, and Elisha is never mentioned at all. But this one time has stirred up all kinds of controversy. It seems from the chronology set up by Kings that Elijah had already been taken to heaven by this time. How is it then that Jehoram received this letter from Elijah?
As is often the case, nobody really knows, but there are a lot of theories. I’ve read one theory that Elijah wasn’t really whisked away to heaven, but was taken somewhere quiet to live in retirement, but sent this last letter out to Jehoram at God’s prompting. I don’t think I buy this, but it’s an interesting theory. Another theory is that these things weren’t written chronologically, so Elijah still had not ascended into heaven when Jehoram took sole possession of the throne.
Still another theory is that God told Elijah what would happen, and so before he was taken away, he wrote a letter and gave it to one of his disciples to deliver to Jehoram at the proper time.
Considering that Elisha was able in great detail to see what Hazael would do in the future, I see no reason why Elijah wouldn’t be able to do the same for Jehoram. For that matter, both Cyrus (Isaiah 44:28-45:1) and Josiah (I Kings 13:2) were specifically mentioned by name and their actions written about years before they were born. If we truly believe these were prophesies (and I do), what Elijah did would’ve been a piece of cake.
At any rate, whatever the case may be, Jehoram received this warning, apparently from the grave. It should’ve been enough to shock anyone into repentance. But Jehoram didn’t, and God passed judgment on him. He died a terrible, painful death, and when he died, it was “to no one’s regret.” (II Chronicles 21:20).
What can we get from this? God because of his promises often shows patience and mercy to us when we sin and turn from him. He will give us warnings, and allow difficult circumstances in our lives to try to get us to turn back to him. But if we refuse to listen, judgment will come. I’m not saying you will lose your salvation. But you will not simply get away with your actions. God will not allow it. And judgment can be a most painful thing.
Let us not ignore the warnings and discipline of God in our lives. Rather, as the writer of Hebrews puts it, let us “submit to the Father of our spirits and live.” For “God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness.” (Hebrews 12:9, 10)
Lord, may I never ignore your discipline in my life. Give me ears to hear and a heart to obey you. I thank you that you love me and care for me as a father loves and cares for his own child. Help me to live a life that would be honoring and pleasing to you. In Jesus name, amen.