Jehoram was thirty-two years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem eight years. He passed away, to no one’s regret, and was buried in the City of David, but not in the tombs of the kings. (2 Chronicles 21:20 NIV)
How would you like to have that as your epitaph: “He passed away to no one’s regret…” Pretty sad.
Jehoram was the son of Jehoshaphat, who was one of the surprisingly rare good kings of Judah. He instituted religious reforms and sought the Lord with all of his heart. He wasn’t perfect, though. He showed several errors in judgment, the biggest one being to allow Jehoram to marry the daughter of the wicked Israelite king, Ahab. And that marriage would plant the seeds of tragedy that bloomed through several generations of Judean kings, starting with Jehoram.
The first action that Jehoram took after he became king of Judah was to solidify his claim to the throne by killing off every one of his brothers, as well as some of the princes of Israel. He then proceeded to institute Baal and Asherah worship, the religion of his wife, in Judah. God, speaking through the prophet Elijah, warned Jehoram that God was displeased with him. In a letter he wrote: “This is what the Lord, the God of your father David, says: ‘You have not walked in the ways of your father Jehoshaphat or of Asa king of Judah. But you have walked in the ways of the kings of Israel, and you have led Judah and the people of Jerusalem to prostitute themselves, just as the house of Ahab did. You have also murdered your own brothers, members of your father’s house, men who were better than you. So now the Lord is about to strike your people, your sons, your wives and everything that is yours, with a heavy blow. You yourself will be very ill with a lingering disease of the bowels, until the disease causes your bowels to come out.” (2 Chronicles 21:12-15 NIV)
Many times in the Bible we are told about instances where kings, commoners, and even whole nations repented when God warned them of His displeasure, and in so doing they averted the disaster that God had prepared for them. But Elijah’s words apparently had no effect at all on the wicked Jehoram. The next thing that occurs is that the peoples who lived around the nation of Judah got together and invaded the land, plundering the kings palace, and even carrying off his wives and all but his youngest son.
But still Jehoram showed no signs of turning back to the Lord. And so God inflicted on him the promised intestinal disorder that became so intense that his intestines came out and he died.
The people of Judah seemed to understand at this stage of their history that their ruler was leading them into a way that would put them at odds with the Lord. And when the invaders came and plundered the land, they understood that this was punishment from the Lord for the king’s unfaithfulness. So when Jehoram died, it was “to no one’s regret.” They didn’t even bury him in the royal cemetery, but in some other cemetery in the city!
A simple lesson that we can glean from this is that it simply doesn’t pay to cross the Lord. But even more important, I think, is the understanding that our sins will drastically affect the lives of the people around us, in ways that we really can’t foresee (even if you aren’t a king!). In addition to bringing tragedy on himself and his immediate family, the people whom he ruled suffered not only under his rule, but the idolatry of Jehoram spread downstream to his descendants, and the people ended up suffering and begin misled under three more ungodly rulers before the half-hearted Amaziah came to the throne.
History is full of tragic “if only’s,” and this bit of history has some significant ones: If only Jehoshaphat had obeyed God’s requirements for marriage where his son was concerned. If only Jehoram had decided to follow God’s rules and draw his wife that direction instead of letting himself be drawn after her. If only he had heeded the Lord’s warnings and repented of all of his sins.
Each of us has the opportunity to follow God wholeheartedly, repenting when necessary, and seeking the Lord at every turn so that we don’t live our lives contrary to his desires and his commandments for us. If we will do that, and He will help us if we will let Him, then we won’t have to worry that the “if only’s” of our lives will contaminate the lives of those around us.