Then the prophet Elisha called a member of the company of prophets and said to him, ‘Gird up your loins; take this flask of oil in your hand, and go to Ramoth-gilead. When you arrive, look there for Jehu son of Jehoshaphat, son of Nimshi; go in and get him to leave his companions, and take him into an inner chamber. Then take the flask of oil, pour it on his head, and say, “Thus says the Lord: I anoint you king over Israel.” Then open the door and flee; do not linger.’
So the young man, the young prophet, went to Ramoth-gilead. He arrived while the commanders of the army were in council, and he announced, ‘I have a message for you, commander.’ ‘For which one of us?’ asked Jehu. ‘For you, commander.’ So Jehu got up and went inside; the young man poured the oil on his head, saying to him, ‘Thus says the Lord the God of Israel: I anoint you king over the people of the Lord, over Israel. You shall strike down the house of your master Ahab, so that I may avenge on Jezebel the blood of my servants the prophets, and the blood of all the servants of the Lord. For the whole house of Ahab shall perish; I will cut off from Ahab every male, bond or free, in Israel. I will make the house of Ahab like the house of Jeroboam son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha son of Ahijah. The dogs shall eat Jezebel in the territory of Jezreel, and no one shall bury her.’ Then he opened the door and fled.
When Jehu came back to his master’s officers, they said to him, ‘Is everything all right? Why did that madman come to you?’ He answered them, ‘You know the sort and how they babble.’ They said, ‘Liar! Come on, tell us!’ So he said, ‘This is just what he said to me: “Thus says the Lord, I anoint you king over Israel.”’ Then hurriedly they all took their cloaks and spread them for him on the bare steps; and they blew the trumpet, and proclaimed, ‘Jehu is king.’ _____ When he left there, he met Jehonadab son of Rechab coming to meet him; he greeted him, and said to him, ‘Is your heart as true to mine as mine is to yours?’ Jehonadab answered, ‘It is.’ Jehu said, ‘If it is, give me your hand.’ So he gave him his hand. Jehu took him up with him into the chariot. He said, ‘Come with me, and see my zeal for the Lord.’ So he had him ride in his chariot. When he came to Samaria, he killed all who were left to Ahab in Samaria, until he had wiped them out, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke to Elijah. _____ Thus Jehu wiped out Baal from Israel.
Here we find Elisha instigating regime change in Israel. Prophets were traditionally the ones who anointed divinely chosen kings; but we note that Elisha sends a young prophet on his behalf and advises him to flee as soon as the task is accomplished. Is this to escape the bloodbath that he realises will ensue? Or to avoid being ridiculed (or worse), as a madman? This anointing will fulfil God’s commission to Elijah in 1 Kings 19:16, albeit through his prophetic successors.
The young prophet expands Elisha’s words to Jehu, spelling out that his role will be to bring Ahab’s dynasty to an end. Again this relates back to Elijah and his prophecy in 1 Kings 21:21-23, which God had deferred (v.29); and Jezebel gets special mention. Once Jehu realises that he has the support of the army he embarks on his coup. The verses at the end of our passage from chapter 10 depict Jehu carrying out his mission and bringing Baal worship in Israel to an end - the problem that Elijah began to address has now been resolved.
The message the young prophet had to convey to Jehu probably did sound ridiculous; and the responsibility conferred on Jehu was not to be taken lightly. Both men accepted the risks connected with what they were asked to do and carried out their tasks faithfully.
Are you ever reluctant to share the gospel for fear of being ridiculed for your faith? Are you ever unwilling to take on a big responsibility, before even finding out what support others would give you?
It’s also worth noting that delegating a task to someone else in the team is quite acceptable to God – none of us need do everything ourself. O, there may be a delay before all is accomplished – that’s OK too!
Holy God, Jesus proclaimed good news for the world.
Remind us of our responsibility to pass it on, even to those who think us ‘mad’. May we trust that our words will touch the hearts of others through the Spirit’s activity.
Remind us that we belong to a long line of your servants and that your purposes extend into a future we cannot see. May we trust your promised kingdom will come. Amen.
The Rev’d Dr Janet Tollington is a retired minister and member of Downing Place URC in Cambridge.