One of the greatest tragedies in this world is when an individual leads another into disaster. One off-course trajectory, one misaligned life, and one wayward disposition can bring an individual and multitudes into ruin. It’s no mistake that the great American novelist Herman Melville named the protagonist of Moby Dick Captain Ahab. His desire for revenge against the great white whale led an entire crew into disaster.
Judah’s king Jehoram was a tragic leader in the same vein as Melville’s Captain Ahab. Influenced by the daughter of the first and real Ahab of Israel, Jehoram “walked in the ways of the kings of Israel….He did what was evil in the LORD’s sight” (2Chronicles 21:6). His life’s trajectory was a run into disaster and disobedience to the Lord. But it wasn’t merely a disaster for himself. What once was a stable, faithful dynasty coming from King David turned quickly into a literal cut-throat nest of violence, and immorality. Rebellion broke out in the kingdom (vv.8–10), idol worship flourished, and God’s heavy hand was moved against Jehoram and the people of Judah. The gruesome depiction of his death—fulfilling God’s prophecy through Elijah—would churn the stomach of any reader. Then there’s the sober epitaph, “He died to no one’s regret” (v.20).
Jehoram’s life is a tragedy of the highest magnitude. Yet the tragedy did not conclude with his death. The downward spiral of generations in rebellion against God was unleashed in Judah. Jehoram’s life led multitudes into disaster, including his grandchildren. Young men that should have lived long lives had their days cut short before they even hit their thirties because of the culture of violence that surrounded the throne.
Reflecting on the account of Jehoram’s life and reign brings me deep sadness. How far away from his own father’s legacy did he live? The numerous lives cut short and destroyed out of one man’s rebellion against God causes me to soberly think about my life.
The Lord calls us to walk “in all his ways, to love him, and to worship the LORD your God with all your heart and all your soul” (Deuteronomy 10:12). Let’s face it, we recognize more of ourselves in Jehoram than we’d like to admit when we fail to obey God’s commands. Yet our disobedience has been answered by the righteous obedience of our great king, Jesus. It’s in His obedience that we find rescue and redemption.
For just as through one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so also through the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. —Romans 5:19
Written by Jeremy Writebol