Jehu has one more group to attend to on behalf of the Lord. That group is those who worship Baal. He is hosting a Baal fire for them.
This time Jehu is selective in who receives punishment. He takes great care in ensuring that only those who serve Baal come under attack. Let’s join in our story today and see the price they pay for abandoning the truth.
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Jehu was zealous for the Lord. He completed all of the prophecy of the Lord. Ahab’s house was no more. Even those who were Ahab’s friends were no more. But there was one more group he longed to rid Israel of; those who worshiped Baal. He knew the Lord would not bless His people again as long as they were turning to other gods. Ahab had made Baal welcome in Israel. Jehu was determined to remedy that great sin.
Jehu spent last evening and long into the night preparing exactly what to say and how to execute his plan. He needed to pretend he was a devout worshiper of Baal for this to work. He took Jehonadab into his confidence. He would need his help in pulling this off.
The morning after Jehu completed cleansing Samaria of the stain of Ahab he called all the people of Samaria together. After seeing Jehu’s might the previous day, NONE refused to attend. Jehu stands on the steps of the temple of Baal and addresses the crowd.
“Ahab served Baal a little, but Jehu will serve him much. Now therefore call to me all the prophets of Baal, all his worshipers and all his priests. Let none be missing, for I have a great sacrifice to offer Baal. Whoever is missing shall not live” (verses 18b-19a).
A rousing cheer sprang up from the crowd. They were excited to hear Jehu’s intentions. This made Jehu’s next task even easier.
“Sanctify a solemn assembly for Baal” (verse 20b) called Jehu.
The people were all too happy to comply. A date was chosen seven days from this. This would allow all in Israel to attend. In the hearing of the people Jehu dictated a message to be carried to every city, town and village throughout all of Israel.
“Seven days from this date there is to be a solemn assembly for Baal. ALL those who worship or put their trust in Baal are commanded to attend. Any of his worshipers who do not attend will be put to death.”
The messengers rode out carrying Jehu’s words by midday. The farthest corners of the nation of Israel would be reached within two days’ time.
Jehu watched as preparations were made in the city for the coming celebration. The temple of Baal was thoroughly cleaned. The streets were swept. Stores were imported to make special delicacies for the attendees. Inns were prepared for the expected crowds.
Worshipers of Baal began arriving three days before the planned sacrifice. Everyone knew that accommodations would be limited so many chose to be early to secure them first. The inns were filled long before the day arrived. Tents were erected in nearby fields for the overflow.
The morning of the assembly arrived. Jehu was ready. He dressed in his best military outfit for the occasion. He planned to make sure there was a difference between his men and the worshipers. Once he was ready he made his way to garrison headquarters. He called together eighty of his most trusted soldiers. Ones he was sure that their allegiance was with the Lord as well as himself. He could afford no surprises.
“You are to stand guard around the temple of Baal. When I and Jehonadab leave the temple, seal it behind me. No one else is to leave the temple alive. ‘The man who allows any of those whom I give into your hands to escape shall forfeit his life’ (verse 24b). This will be a momentous day. If anyone asks you are there to keep the peace should any problems arise.”
The assembly was scheduled to coincide with the morning sacrifice in Jerusalem. Jezebel had trained her prophets to coopt as many rituals from worship in the Temple of the Lord as possible. This appeased the people and made it easier for them to embrace Baal worship as it was close to that of the Lord.
Jehu appeared on the steps of the temple at the appointed time. People were assembled in mass. Thousands stood before him awaiting his command. The priests of Baal occupied the bottom steps. They were dressed in their finest ceremonial robes and their faces were painted with grotesque symbols intended to honor their god.
“It is time” announced Jehu.
At his words the gates of the temple of Baal swung wide and people began to pour in. Jehu and Jehonadab led the way followed closely by the priests of Baal. Jehu sought out the keeper of the wardrobe.
“Bring out vestments for ALL the worshipers of Baal” (verse 22b, emphasis added by me).
The keeper of the wardrobe tasked six other men to assist him. They removed every last article of clothing contained within and began distributing it among the worshipers. The only ones not in attire connected with Baal were Jehu and Jehonadab as they were in military vestments.
After all the vestments were distributed and donned Jehu called for attention. His voice carried over the heads of the people. He looked out from where he stood and surveyed the whole assembly. There was not a single space in the entire temple that was not crowded with worshipers of Baal.
“Search, and see that there is no servant of the Lord here among you, but only the worshipers of Baal” (verse 23b) instructed Jehu.
The people looked around at one another, scrutinizing faces before returning their attention back to Jehu. No one was identified among the crowd as being a worshiper of the Lord. After sufficient time had passed for any followers of the Lord to be identified, Jehu was ready to proceed. He sent a prayer heavenward for mercy for the sacrifice he was about to offer. He had to keep up the pretense a little longer.
Jehu and Jehonadab went into the inner sanctuary of the temple of Baal and laid a burnt offering on the altar. Jehu had to choke down his gorge repeatedly as he performed this task. Offering gifts to Baal made his stomach turn. The priests chanted outside the door as Jehu worked.
Jehu and Jehonadab returned from the inner sanctuary and the people took up the chant of the priests. The house was filled with a near deafening noise. Jehu bowed to the people then motioned for one of the priests to take over the ceremony. Jehu and Jehonadab carefully made their way around the crow and out the door. As soon as they were clear of the door Jehu spoke to his soldiers stationed there.
“Go in and strike them down; let not a man escape” (verse 25b).
The signal was passed quickly through the ranks. Within a minute soldiers were rushing through the doors with their swords already in motion. Because of Jehu’s foresight in dressing the worshipers it was easy for the soldiers to identify their targets.
Screams erupted as people were felled by the soldiers. Worshipers scrambled over one another trying to reach the exits. Those who reached the doors were met by the forces protecting the exits. It took less than an hour for the whole assembly to lay dead at the feet of the soldiers. The screams would live on in their minds for years to come. But with those screams came the knowledge of the necessity of cleansing Israel from the stain of Ahab. This too lay at his feet.
Once the last body fell it was time to finish the task. Jehu and his guards went into the inner room, stepping on and over bodies on their way. They threw ropes around the pillar of Baal and pulled it to the ground. They then brought the pillar out of the temple. Once outside they demolished the pillar, grinding it to dust with hammer, chisel, stones and axes. With that task complete they tore down the doors, beat holes into the walls, ripped down hangings, and set fire to the building. The stench of burning flesh filled the city.
Those zealous for the Lord cheered at the site. Grief for the loss of life was present even among those cheering. It was necessary to cleanse Israel of this sin. It was not her first time to suffer enormous loss over such as this. They prayed it would be the last.
(to be continued)
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The people who attended Jehu’s Baal fire got just a taste of what they will receive in eternity. God says that those who reject Him will be thrown into an everlasting fire where they never die. They will long for death and its relief but it will never come.
This wouldn’t be the last time Israel was corrected and disciplined for her sin. Those who worshiped Baal were gone but the golden calves of Jeroboam still stood in the place of the Lord. Even Jehu, who was zealous for the Lord at this time, would continue on in this sin. “Thou shalt have NO other gods before Me.” No room for liberal interpretation here.
As much as I hate violence, I too see the reason behind this act. I would not want to be the one who had to carry it out. But those in attendance that day self-identified their allegiance to Baal. There was no need for Jehu or any other to judge their hearts. They judged themselves. These are not people we will meet in Heaven to ask for a firsthand account of that day.
Father God, I understand Your need to keep a remnant to work with to complete Your plan. I feel for those charged with the tasks of that day. I don’t know if it is because I live in a different time, come from a different society, or have a better promise, but I don’t think I could handle doing the work that needed done that day. There are people today that try to use these ideologies and cleansing tactics. I weep for those lives taken in such events.
Because of Your promise of Jesus and His sacrifice this is no longer to be the role of a believer in Him. You don’t call us to war but to service. We are no longer to be judge of our brothers. Our battles are to be spiritual instead of physical. There will come a day of battle but for now that battle in fought on my knees. Sharpen my sword Lord so I can be effective in Your army while also softening my heart towards those in need.