It seems as if some people who start out well in serving the Lord continue in their zeal for Him, whereas others fall away. How and why they turn is certainly a complicated dynamic. We see this in the account of Jehu. Back when Elijah was prophet over Israel, Yahweh had given him Word that Jehu the son of Nimshi would someday be king over Israel and bring the Lord’s vengeance upon those who had forsaken Him (1 Kings 19:16-17). Up until then, Scripture doesn’t mention Jehu the son of Nimshi, so it was one of those prophecies seemingly out of the blue. Yet, God’s Word never returns void.
In the proper time, God instructed Elisha to have one of the young prophets who followed him go to anoint Jehu, who was a known and feared army commander. The prophet did so, and in the aftermath, Jehu was quite nonchalant about it. The men around him asked what the prophet wanted – “this mad fellow” – and Jehu simply said, “You know the fellow and his talk” (2 Kings 9:11). It seems as if the prophets were looked upon by some as simply mad and “out there.”
There were those around Jehu, however, who took the prophet seriously, and they announced Jehu as their king. Despite Jehu’s casual acceptance of his role at first, he took it seriously from that point onward. The prophet had told him that he was to strike down the house of Ahab and avenge the Lord on Jezebel who had acted so wickedly against Him, so he plotted to do that very thing.
The king of Israel was Joram (a.k.a. Jehoram), the son of Ahab. He had been wounded in a battle with the Syrians and went to Jezreel to recover. Because King Ahaziah of Judah wasn’t a godly man either, he was hanging out with Joram while he recuperated.
Jehu knew this and came to fulfill his destiny. His approach to Jezreel got the attention of King Joram. Apparently Jehu’s reputation preceded him, and the watchman reporting to Joram told him in 2 Kings 9:20:
“And the driving is like the driving of Jehu the son of Nimshi, for he drives furiously.”
This concerned Joram, so he and Ahaziah went out to meet Jehu, asking if he came in peace. Jehu quickly declared that he didn’t, and the kings fled from him. But Jehu was on a mission. He personally killed Joram, and had his men dispatch Ahaziah. From there he went into Jezreel and assured that Jezebel met her just end.
Jehu didn’t stop there. Yahweh had instructed him to destroy the entire family of Ahab, which he did, speaking these words in 2 Kings 10:10:
“Know then that there shall fall to the earth nothing of the word of the Lord, which the Lord spoke concerning the house of Ahab, for the Lord has done what he said by his servant Elijah.”
Still, there was more. He enlisted the help of a friend, and they went to annihilate the prophets of Baal in Israel. On the way, he uttered in 2 Kings 10:16 these inspiring words:
“Come with me, and see my zeal for the Lord.”
With that, he turned the temple of Baal into a latrine.
Now, you’d think after all this that Jehu would be a Godly man in his reign as king. He was actually the instrument of the Lord’s vengeance, so he saw firsthand how important it was to follow and obey God. Sadly, he apparently lost his zeal for Yahweh, as we see in 2 Kings 10:29:
But Jehu did not turn aside from the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel to sin—that is, the golden calves that were in Bethel and in Dan.
Likewise in 2 Kings 10:31 we see the reason:
But Jehu was not careful to walk in the law of the Lord, the God of Israel, with all his heart. He did not turn from the sins of Jeroboam, which he made Israel to sin.
He didn’t pay attention to God’s Law. He turned from Him and worshiped the golden calves that Jeroboam had previously set up for Israel to bow down to rather than to honor Yahweh in Jerusalem.
It saddened God and caused Him to bring judgment on the descendants of Jehu through Syria once more.
So, the question becomes: What went wrong? Jehu was doing so well, but then went off the rails. Why would he do such a thing knowing what he knew?
That last verse tells us. Jehu was not careful to walk in the law of the Lord, the God of Israel, with all his heart.
From this, he ended up doing essentially what the king that God had instructed him to kill had done. He followed other gods than the God of Israel. Rather than becoming the one, single king of Israel who was righteous, he simply became one of the bunch. Starting out so well, he fell away.
How sad, and how typical of many in the church today. It seems that Jesus’ Parable of the Sower applied in OT times as well as for us in this NT era. People hear the Word of God; they become excited, even zealous for Him. But, something happens. Perhaps it’s the cares of the world, or the Word doesn’t take root as it must. They end up turning to other gods; in the case of present day to ones such as money, fame, power, sex, drugs, or simply worshiping a celebrity idol.
Jehu presents to us a cautionary morality tale. Someone can be on fire for the Lord, but unless he has truly repented, truly become born-again through God’s mercy, the danger of falling away is ever-present.
Repentance is the key. There is no salvation without it. Let us examine ourselves. Let us ask the Lord to reveal anything in our lives that keeps us from Him. We’ll never regret strengthening our faith in this way.