ISIS and Jehu – Can you kill your way to righteousness?

There is an idea alive in the world today. It’s a very old idea that has once again come full circle. The idea goes like this.

  1. God wants me to be righteous
  2. I want to be righteous
  3. You don’t agree with my path of righteousness
  4. That makes God mad at us
  5. I should kill you so that God will be happy with me.
ISIS is using God as an excuse to bring a reign of terror to people unless they agree to live under their strict interpretation of Islam. As I said, this idea is not new. Throughout history misguided people of every religion have used their faith as an excuse to kill those who disagree and the threat of death to cause people to behave. My question is, can this method ever truly make one righteous?
In ancient Israel, there was a constant battle between the followers or Yaweh and the followers of Baal. Often, when a new king  came along, they would kill the other side’s followers.  When King Ahab married the Phoenician princess Jezebel, he allowed her to go after the followers of Yahweh killing many of the prophets. If that wasn’t enough, Jezebel had Naboth killed just because he wouldn’t sell a plot of land to Ahab (1 Kings 21). This was the final straw, God had enough and sent Elijah with a message of His judgment.

But the LORD said to Elijah, “Go down to meet King Ahab of Israel, who rules in Samaria. He will be at Naboth’s vineyard in Jezreel, claiming it for himself. Give him this message: ‘This is what the LORD says: Wasn’t it enough that you killed Naboth? Must you rob him, too? Because you have done this, dogs will lick your blood at the very place where they licked the blood of Naboth!'” “So, my enemy, you have found me!” Ahab exclaimed to Elijah. “Yes,” Elijah answered, “I have come because you have sold yourself to what is evil in the LORD’s sight. So now the LORD says, ‘I will bring disaster on you and consume you. I will destroy every one of your male descendants, slave and free alike, anywhere in Israel! I am going to destroy your family as I did the family of Jeroboam son of Nebat and the family of Baasha son of Ahijah, for you have made Me very angry and have led Israel into sin.’ “And regarding Jezebel, the LORD says, ‘Dogs will eat Jezebel’s body at the plot of land in Jezreel. ‘ “The members of Ahab’s family who die in the city will be eaten by dogs, and those who die in the field will be eaten by vultures.” (No one else so completely sold himself to what was evil in the LORD’s sight as Ahab did under the influence of his wife Jezebel. His worst outrage was worshiping idols just as the Amorites had done–the people whom the LORD had driven out from the land ahead of the Israelites.) (1 Kings 21:17-26 NLT)

God had pronounced a sentence on Ahab but remarkably, even Ahab found mercy.

But when Ahab heard this message, he tore his clothing, dressed in burlap, and fasted. He even slept in burlap and went about in deep mourning. Then another message from the LORD came to Elijah: “Do you see how Ahab has humbled himself before Me? Because he has done this, I will not do what I promised during his lifetime. It will happen to his sons; I will destroy his dynasty.” (1 Kings 21:27-29 NLT)

Soon enough, the day would come. Not in Ahab’s life, but during the reign of his son Joram. Later, the prophet Elisha would dispatch a young prophet to bring a message to Jehu.

…Then the young prophet poured the oil over Jehu’s head and said, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: I anoint you king over the LORD’s people, Israel. You are to destroy the family of Ahab, your master. In this way, I will avenge the murder of My prophets and all the LORD’s servants who were killed by Jezebel. The entire family of Ahab must be wiped out. I will destroy every one of his male descendants, slave and free alike, anywhere in Israel. I will destroy the family of Ahab as I destroyed the families of Jeroboam son of Nebat and of Baasha son of Ahijah. Dogs will eat Ahab’s wife Jezebel at the plot of land in Jezreel, and no one will bury her…” (2 Kings 9:6-10 NLT)

Later, Jehu would pursue the seventy sons of Ahab in Samaria. When Jehu threatened to attack the city, the leaders of Samaria decided they would rather not fight.

When the letter arrived, the leaders killed all seventy of the king’s sons. They placed their heads in baskets and presented them to Jehu at Jezreel. (2 Kings 10:7 NLT)

Even then, the killing was not done.

As soon as Jehu had finished sacrificing the burnt offering, he commanded his guards and officers, “Go in and kill all of them. Don’t let a single one escape!” So they killed them all with their swords, and the guards and officers dragged their bodies outside. Then Jehu’s men went into the innermost fortress of the temple of Baal. They dragged out the sacred pillar used in the worship of Baal and burned it. They smashed the sacred pillar and wrecked the temple of Baal, converting it into a public toilet, as it remains to this day. In this way, Jehu destroyed every trace of Baal worship from Israel. (2 Kings 10:25-28 NLT)

Finally – Baal worship was cleansed from the land. Surely, now people will be righteous under the good king Jehu right?

But Jehu did not obey the Law of the LORD, the God of Israel, with all his heart. He refused to turn from the sins that Jeroboam had led Israel to commit. (2 Kings 10:31 NLT)

Huh? After all that killing, after the prophecy came true, even in spite of all of this, Jehu had a heart problem that no amount of killing could fix.

He did not, however, destroy the gold calves at Bethel and Dan, with which Jeroboam son of Nebat had caused Israel to sin. (2 Kings 10:29 NLT)

Those golden calves… Just like the calf that Aaron made at Mt. Sinai, the people wanted a god they could see. Jehu and the leaders of the northern kingdom of Israel wanted to keep the people worshiping in Israel rather than going to the temple in Jerusalem so they kept these idols in place at the same time as they were smashing the worship of Baal.

What do I take away from this?

No amount of killing can ever cleanse the land and make people righteous. At the same time, no politician, judge or king can make the people righteous because no law, no rule has the power of life. Every time in history where people tried to enforce righteousness on people, the experiment has often ended with much bloodshed and terror. ISIS is proving this day after day.

There is only one death that can make men righteous. It was the death of Jesus, the lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29). Not only his death, but his resurrection proves that life comes only by His name. It’s no wonder that when He was arrested in the garden that Jesus told Peter to put away his sword (John 18:11). Killing wasn’t going to save anyone then and it won’t make anyone righteous now either.

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