Bible Readings for October 22nd
In 2 Kings 3, Elisha gets his first opportunity to prophesy to the kings of Israel and Judah, who are united in battle. The last time King Jehoshaphat of Judah joined forces with the king of Israel was against Syria back in 1 Kings 22, when King Ahab ignored the faithful prophecy of Micaiah and eventually died in battle. Just as in 1 Kings 22, Jehoshaphat has to slow down the new king of Israel, Ahab’s son Jehoram, by asking, “Is there no prophet of the LORD here, through whom we may inquire of the LORD?” (2 Kgs. 3:11). Rather than summoning the prophet Micaiah, Jehoshaphat and Jehoram go down to seek the word of Yahweh through Elisha.
When the kings reach Elisha, the prophet foretells that Yahweh would fill up a dry streambed in the area with water, and that Yahweh would give Moab into the hands of Israel and Judah (2 Kgs. 3:16, 18). The two prophecies are connected, since when the Moabites see the morning sun reflecting off the water, they imagine that the kings of Israel and Judah had fought against one another and that they are seeing pools of their blood (2 Kgs. 3:23). When Moab rushes in after the spoils of war unprepared, God’s people rout them—but only up to the point when Moab’s king offers his son as a sacrifice, bringing “great wrath against Israel” (2 Kgs. 3:27). What exactly does this narration describe?
It seems, in fact, that the Moabites actually summon some kind of demonic wrath through this wicked human sacrifice. What this suggests is that Yahweh’s people, by their persistent disobedience, leave themselves vulnerable to the possibility that Yahweh, at some point, will withdraw his protection from them as they continue to spurn his commandments. This event functions as a warning: if the people of Israel do not repent from their idolatries completely, Yahweh would hand his people over to the wrath of the demons whom the other nations worshiped to an even greater degree. And eventually, this is exactly what happens—Yahweh sends the pagan, bloodthirsty nation of Assyria to carry the northern kingdom into exile in 2 Kings 17.
But this story also stands as an inverse shadow of the way that Yahweh’s own Son would willingly offer himself as a human sacrifice—not to seek vile, demonic power, but to offer himself up as a self-sacrificial substitute for sinners. On that day, Yahweh’s own wrath fell upon his Son to absorb the full extent of the curse for our sin, but his wrath also darkened the skies, tore the curtain of the temple, shook the earth, split rocks, and even caused the dead to come out of their tombs (Matt. 27:45, 51, 52–53). And all of that story stands as a warning to us: repent, for God’s patience will not last forever.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.