“So after all this the Lord smote him in his bowels with an incurable sickness. Now it came about in the course of time, at the end of two years, that his bowels came out because of his sickness and he died in great pain. And his people made no fire for him like the fire for his fathers. He was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eight years; and he departed with no one’s regret, and they buried him in the city of David, but not in the tombs of the kings.” II Chronicles 21:18-20
I read the passage above and I just cringe at the thought of what King Jehoram went through. When Elijah is pronouncing God’s judgment he says in verse 15 “you will suffer severe sickness, a disease of your bowels, until your bowels come out because of the sickness, day by day.” So day by day for two years Jehoram suffered until he died in “great pain.” In my opinion, this might be the worst recorded death in the bible. But notice that the passage said “So after all this”. The Lord started by invading Judah and carrying away all the king’s possessions together with his sons and his wives, leaving only his youngest son. The youngest son was only spared for the sake of David.
But even after all this, I think the saddest part of the story might be the people’s reaction. They built no fire for him, they did not bury him in the tombs of the kings and “he departed with no one’s regret”. “No one’s” would even imply his own son showed no regret.
What could this man have done to deserve such a fate? How could a king of Judah fall so low that his own people wanted nothing to do with his funeral? You can read the details earlier in the chapter but in verses 12 and 13 we are told that he walked in the ways of the kings of Israel and caused Judah to play the harlot like the house of Ahab did and he killed his own brothers to secure his kingdom. He killed his brothers “who were better than you”. Verse 6 highlights that he walked in the way of Ahab “for Ahab’s daughter was his wife.”
The easy response for me would be to say “well I’d never do those things” or “what a terrible person…glad I’m not like him”, but I think there is something I can learn.
1. Walked in the ways of the kings of Israel, just like Ahab – Who influences me? What company do I keep? Do my friends and close associates draw me closer to God or pull me farther away? Young man, that special lady you’re dating, does she encourage a life of faith or of idolatry?
2. Caused Israel to play the harlot – What is the result of my influence on others? Are people encouraged when they are around me? Do I stimulate love and obedience to God in the lives of others? Or do I teach people how to chase false gods like wealth and entertainment and pleasure? Does my example show discontent and complaining?
3. He killed his brothers to secure his kingdom – “Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?” (I John 3:15-17). I can honestly say that I’ve never, ever considered murdering anyone. But I have closed my heart to a brother. I have ignored the needs of my brother when I could have helped. I’ve chosen to keep a safe distance so I wouldn’t be aware of their pain and their struggle so that my comfortable, tidy life wouldn’t be disrupted.
I can read passages such as this one in II Chronicles 21 and walk away feeling superior or I can take it as a warning, evaluate my life, and strive to me more like Jesus.