Paul found himself caught up in politics: Governor Felix was an ineffective ruler who was later to be recalled to Rome to answer for his incompetence. He had recently married the 16-year-old daughter of Herod, Drusilla, who became his third wife – she herself having been induced to leave her previous husband of one year. Felix lacked sincerity, morality, and generosity and this left him vulnerable to blackmail by his subjects, including Paul’s accusers, who had some leverage therefore to getting their own way in this court case.
The Jews had engaged an expensive lawyer, Tertullus, to act on their behalf, and he was also an exceptionally smooth talker; then again, Felix was a sucker for overt flattery! Having oiled the wheels, Tertullus got to the point of his case: 1. Paul had stirred up riots all over the known world (a treasonable offence); 2. He was a leader of a forbidden sect (obviously illegal); 3. He had attempted to desecrate the Jerusalem Temple.
Paul is considerably less lavish in praise of his judge. He denies each of the charges in turn, but admits that he is a Christian, with a belief in the scriptures and in the resurrection of the dead. Again, he also attempts to stir up dissent between the Sadducees and the Pharisees. Felix had ruled Judea and Samaria for six years – rather than having spent the time on a distant planet! – so he was fully aware of the rise of the Christian faith. ‘This case will need delicate handling’, he thought, ‘so I’ll adjourn it to consider my options’.
Paul was held under nominal house arrest but given considerable freedom in practice. The words of Jesus (see Friday’s blog) were fulfilled, as Paul was able to preach the gospel unhindered and in some depth to the Governor. His young wife was listening intently too. However, as Paul discussed righteousness, self-control, and the Final Judgement, this became too much for their consciences and Felix declared that the session was now at an end. Several times afterwards, he sent for Paul, in the hope that Paul would offer a generous bribe to be set free. There was no chance of that occurring!
2 KINGS 9, 10 and 11
The final task that God had given Elijah to do had remained un-done! The anointing of Jehu as King of Israel in place of the House of Ahab – mainly as an act of judgment from the Lord for all Ahab’s and Jezebel’s sins and idolatry. Jehu, the replacement was not exactly a genteel and mild-mannered man either, but he was ideally suited to crazy acts of power-mad judgment. Elisha was the obvious person to finish what Elijah had (not) started, but the task was more complex than it appeared. For a prophet to walk openly into Israel, proclaiming that another man was now King would be rather suicidal! So, Elisha delegated the task to a lesser-known prophet than him and arranged for it to be done covertly, and to be followed by a hasty retreat! And so it occurred. The gist of the message was that the entire household of Ahab would perish and that Ahab’s widow, Jezebel, who was in every way the ringleader of the Baal cult, would not only die but serve as dog food!
Jehu was in the happy position of creating as much carnage as his pugnacious nature wanted, whilst at the same time serving the Lord with zeal. Happy is the man whose natural desires align with the will of God! First, he killed Joram, the current incumbent on the throne of Israel; then he spotted a ‘buy one, get one free’ opportunity to rid the world of that wastrel, King Ahaziah of Judah, too. Now on a roll, he also caught up with Jezebel who failed in a last-ditch attempt at flattery/seduction and had her thrown to her death from a high window. Later, after taking some refreshment, he and his men went back outside to bury her, only to discover that the local canine population had also been taking refreshment, in fulfilment of the prophetic word of Elijah in 1 Kings 21:23.
Jehu resumed his ‘mission’ with alacrity and had soon beheaded the remaining seventy of Ahab’s male descendants who were residing in the capital, Samaria. This was quickly followed by the death of forty-two of Ahaziah’s distant relatives, thus completing Elijah’s prophecy.
By some cunning subterfuge, Jehu then gathered all the priests of Baal together in the Samarian temple and massacred every one of them, after which he destroyed the shrine entirely. He still maintained an element of idolatry in the way he worshiped the Lord but was an improvement on all the other kings of Israel up to that point. After 28 years of reigning supreme, he died.
We see throughout these readings, a common thread of fulfilled prophecy occurring time and time again, generally in response to God’s judgment on the sins of the king or of the people. The judgment may have been delayed on occasion, but its eventual appearance was certain.