From a sermon series on 2 Kings by See Huang Lim, a missionary at IBF.
Have you ever gotten a phone call or email from someone saying, “Hey, it’s me. Can you give me money?” We all know instinctively that sounds suspicious and have learned to not trust such people.
Today, our topic will be on the theme of trust. Unlike our previous messages where I usually go through a chapter of 2 Kings, today, I will be doing an overview of 2 Kings 3-9, focusing on the life of Joram son of King Ahab. For the sake of time, we will not be reading those chapters, so please read it yourself at home.
Instead, I will be summarizing the story and from there ask 3 questions:
1) what does it mean to trust God?
2) what can we trust God for?
3) who do we trust if not in God?
Summary of 2 Kings 3-9
In 2 Kings 3-9, the main character is Joram son of Ahab, king of Israel. Chapter 3 tells us his problems. First, the nation of Moab has rebelled against Israel (3:5). Second, when he had assembled Jehoshaphat king of Judah and the king of Edom to attack Moab, these three kings journeyed into the wilderness of Edom and found that there wasn’t any water for the army or their animals (3:9). How does he respond to this setback? He blames Yahweh, God of Israel, for the problem (3:10).
But his friend king Jehoshaphat asks him a really important question in chapter 3 verse 11, “Is there no prophet of the Lord here, through whom we may inquire of the Lord?” Sheepishly, Joram names Elisha. We don’t know if Joram knew Elisha personally, but he does seem to know of his reputation as Yahweh’s prophet. When they approach Elisha, the prophet rebukes the king in verse 13, “What have I to do with you? Go to the prophets of your father and to the prophets of your mother.” Elisha knows the king’s bigger problem, and it’s neither Moab nor the lack of water. It was his lack of trust in Yahweh. This was a chance for Joram to admit his problem, but he ends up again blaming Yahweh for the crisis in verse 13, “it is the Lord who has called these three kings to give them into the hand of Moab.”
In spite of Joram’s lack of trust, God intervenes. Not only does God provide water, but he also drives the Moabites away.
Fast forward to 2 Kings chapter 5. The king of Syria sends Joram a letter, telling him that Naaman will be coming to him to be healed of his leprosy (5:6). Naaman is a respected commander in the Syrian army. Joram, upon reading the letter, tears his clothes, saying, “Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy?” (5:7). He thinks Syria is trying to pick a fight by asking him to perform an impossible favor. He rightly recognizes that only God has the power to heal Naaman, but has he totally forgotten that this God is present in Israel? Elisha has to remind him in chapter 5 verse 8, “Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come now to me, that he may know that there is a prophet in Israel.”
In the next chapter, chapter 6, Israel again faces another crisis in which Syria besieges the capital city of Samaria which is ruled by Joram (6:24). The situation causes a famine in the land to the point that people resort to cannibalism (6:28-29). Hearing about this problem, king Joram tears his clothes and blames Elisha. He is so angry to the point of wanting to kill the prophet (6:31). But as in the crisis with Moab, God delivers Israel from the Syrian army in chapter 7.
Unfortunately, we don’t see much change in Joram. Like his father and brother before him, his life ends sadly when Jehu, his own commander, kills him in chapter 9. Now, if that’s all to the story, it would be a very bleak story.
But the story of Joram is interspersed with very positive, hopeful stories of other characters. Perhaps the author of 2 Kings wanted to contrast Joram’s attitude with these other characters. Let me just summarize what happened to these characters, who appear in chapters 4 and 5.
First, there is a widow with a debt she cannot pay (4:1-7). Second, a woman who childless for many years gives birth but later the child dies (v8-37). Third, there is a famine and a group of prophets discover that their food is poisonous (38-41). Fourth, a man with little food has to feed over 100 men (42-44). Finally, there is Naaman the Syrian commander whom I mentioned earlier, and he suffers from leprosy (chapter 5).
In each of these five cases, they trust God to help them in their time of need and God delivered them from their crises. Naaman the Syrian commander, after he is healed of leprosy, even goes as far as to make a confession of faith, saying, “Behold, I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel” (5:15). Their response of faith in God to help them resolve their problems is so different from Joram’s response of blame and unbelief towards Yahweh in a midst of a crisis.
What does it mean to trust in God?
To sum up: trust in God is a key theme in 2 Kings 3-9. That leads me to my first question: what does it mean to trust in God?
To trust someone is to believe in what a person says about himself. Of course, there must be a basis for our trust. We know our doctor can be trusted when we experienced speedy recovery thanks to his medical expertise. We know someone cannot be trusted when they don’t keep our secrets.
To trust in God, we believe who he says he is, and that trust must have a secure basis. But we can’t begin to trust in God if we don’t know who he is. But where do we start if we want to know God? There are many religions out there. Their founders claim that they have information about God. Some even claimed to be a god but did not leave a lasting legacy.
How about Jesus, who claimed he was God in the flesh? The gospels invite us to investigate the basis of his claims. For example, he performed miracles like healing the sick and raising the dead. He had power over nature by stilling the storm. We are told that he could forgive sins, which only God could do in the Jewish religion. The Jewish religious leaders were aware of his claims to divinity, and that is why they had arrested Jesus and trialed for blasphemy. Eventually, he was crucified because he claimed to be God.
According to the Bible, the greatest evidence for his claim to be God is when he returned from the dead after 3 days. You may not personally believe it happened, but clearly his disciples did.
If Jesus indeed is God, then what does it mean to trust in him? First, it means that he is Lord of our lives, which also means that we are not the lords of our lives. It means to submit your life to him, to obey him, and to be transformed by him. Some of his commandments may sound unreasonable to you. For example, the command to rest. We often ignore the command to rest because we think that it’s a waste of time if we aren’t more productive. Yet, Jesus has our best interests in mind, and when we choose to obey him by resting, we find ourselves able to function better in so many ways.
What can we trust God for?
To trust in Jesus also means that we have hope even when the future looks hopeless. This brings me to my 2nd question: what can we trust God for?
As mentioned earlier, the characters in 2 Kings 4-5 trusted God to deliver them and He did. Sometimes, however, God doesn’t respond to our cry for help the way we want him to. Trusting in God doesn’t work like Amazon Prime where we click on an item and expect it to be delivered the next day.
Last month, I read about a 32-year-old Christian man from Singapore named Andrew who was diagnosed with cancer. He found out he had only months to live. Getting cancer made him realize that, up till then, he had just been focusing on his career and his hobbies. But in the face of impending death, he wondered if his achievements really mattered at all.
Andrew battled with depression and asked God, “Why me?” Yet, in the midst of this tragedy, God was working in Andrew’s heart. Could he trust God when life didn’t go as planned? Eventually Andrew could say, “I have zero fear of death now. When I close my eyes for the last time, I am more certain about being with Him than in boarding a plane and being assured of reaching my destination. That is the certainty I cling on to. Without that, if God or Jesus didn’t exist, I would have committed suicide because then all my hope is gone and there is no point or meaning to life.”
As Andrew’s story illustrates, trusting in God can give you the courage and hope to go through the unexpected trials in life. Crises in our lives shows that self-sufficiency is an illusion. We need to depend on others and ultimately on God for help.
Our lives may be short, and death can come knocking unexpectedly. When it does, are we ready to face it? The Bible tells us that this life is not the only one. Furthermore, God is the judge of our lives on earth and he decides our destination for the next life. We may get by in this life or even do very well, but are we prepared for the next life?
Andrew faced death confidently because he had the assurance of being with God in a good place after death. All world religions, except Christianity, say that the path to heaven is by being good enough and doing good works. But no world religion except Christianity can truly assure their followers that they will be in heaven.
Andrew believed in Jesus’ promise recorded in John 11:25, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he dies, yet shall he live.” Do you have this kind of hope and courage?
Who do we trust if not in God?
Perhaps you want to trust in God, but somehow you just can’t. This leads me to my final question: who do you trust if not in God?
If our trust isn’t in God, it will be in other things. Some people say that they trust in science. They believe that science is a reliable way of knowing what is true; science is based on observable, verifiable facts. They think science is objective and not subjective like a person’s feelings or opinions including religious experience.
However, while science can help us understand the physical world, can it help us determine morality? For example: Through science, we may observe that Nature is based on the survival of the fittest. But if that is the case, then why do we think it’s wrong to terminate the lives of the handicapped and disabled? Here, you see that science alone cannot tell us that every human life is valuable.
Besides science, what else do people trust in? Others trust in their achievements to provide them with lasting significance. A friend told me that, as a kid, he was very skinny and was bullied in school. Because of that, he has dedicated his life to being strong. He has a black belt in judo and is now learning a new martial art. I can’t help but wonder if becoming strong will be good enough for him. What if he gets into a serious accident one day? What if he can’t do martial arts anymore, or loses his ability to see or hear? If that happens, where will his purpose in life and strength come from?
Only in God can we find true significance, true security, and a lasting basis for loving others. Jesus’ death demonstrates that we are worth so much to God that he was willing to give his life for us. Can you think of greater proof of your significance? Can you find greater security outside an all-powerful God who loves you? This love that we didn’t earn becomes the basis for us to love others who are undeserving, because God first loved us.
To end, trusting in God is, first, to know him through the person of Jesus Christ. Through Christ we can find the courage to face our toughest struggles. However, throughout life we are often tempted to find our significance and solutions in things that will not last. May we discover afresh how Jesus truly satisfies our heart’s inner emptiness and that there is so much more to life.