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Minor Men With a Major Message: The Man Who Died With No One’s Regrets

II Chronicles 21:16-20

The twenty-first chapter of the book of II Chronicles contains the story of King Jehoram. Today, I want to lift up just the concluding portion of that chapter. II Chronicles 21, beginning to read at the sixteenth verse. This is the Word of God. “And the Lord stirred up against Jehoram the anger of the Philistines and of the Arabs who are near the Ethiopians; and they came up against Judah and invaded it and carried away all the possessions they found that belonged to the king’s house and also his sons and his wives, so that no son was left to him except Jehoahaz his youngest son. After all this, the Lord smote him in his bowels with an incurable disease. In the course of time, at the end of two years, his bowels came out because of the disease and he died in great agony. His people made no fire in his honor, like the fires made for his fathers. He was thirty-two years old when he began to reign and he reigned eight years in Jerusalem and he departed with no one’s regret. They buried him in the city of David, but not in the tombs of the kings.” Soli Deo Gloria. To God alone be the glory.

Let us pray. Now may the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in Your sight, oh God, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.

During these last several weeks, we have been wandering in the Old Testament graveyard, recalling some of those individuals whose names and lives managed to be recorded on the pages of Scripture. Some of them are well-known, some not so well known, but I believe that in looking at these lives lived so long ago, we can find the kind of guidance we need for living the Christian life in our own time. And so today, I want us to go together to a remote, rarely visited corner of the Old Testament graveyard. There we shall push aside the weeds which have covered an old and neglected tombstone. It is the grave of King Jehoram, the king of Judah. His story is told in II Chronicles 21. What I want you to notice is that on the tombstone, there is written the epitaph for King Jehoram. It is the last word the Bible has to say about him. It is this, “He departed with no one’s regret.” Surely you would agree with me that that is as bleak an epitaph as could ever mark the end of a human life.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “All the world loves a lover.” Now, if you read the story of King Jehoram in the Bible, you rapidly come to the conclusion that Jehoram was a lover. And if that is true, and if what Ralph Waldo Emerson said is true, then surely all the world ought to love King Jehoram. And yet the Bible says quite specifically, “He departed with no one’s regret.” Why? Well, I believe that Jehoram was a lover, all right, but the problem was Jehoram loved all the wrong things.

Would you like to come along with me for a few minutes and let me try to explain? Nope. Don’t answer that. Because if you knew the story of King Jehoram, you would not want to come along, but I think it might be good for us to take a look. Join me.

First, Jehoram loved the wrong man.

Now by that, I mean, Jehoram loved himself; and he loved himself more than he loved anything or anyone else. Jehoram was the eldest of the seven sons of King Jehoshaphat. Now, Jehoshaphat was one of the finest kings Judah ever had. And Jehoshaphat, before his death, made a decree; in that decree, he stated that his eldest son, Jehoram, would ascend to the throne after his death. Well, that was the normal custom in that day and time. But then Jehoshaphat went on to make another decree, one that was most unusual in that day in time. It just simply wasn’t done. He decreed that after his death, the other six sons would receive large gifts of gold and silver. And not only that, but they would then be given jurisdiction over certain cities in the kingdom. Now, that just simply wasn’t done, but Jehoshaphat did that. So that after his death, everything was set to go into place. And Jehoram, the eldest of the seven sons, ascended to the throne; and immediately, deliberately, savagely proceeded to murder all six of his brothers. Now, why did he do that? The Bible does not specifically tell us, but I think there are only three possible reasons from which to choose.

It could have been that Jehoram was jealous of his brothers’ popularity. It’s quite obvious, when you read the Scriptures, that those six brothers of his were outstanding people. That’s confirmed by the fact that Jehoshaphat went to such great lengths against all of the customs and traditions of the day to grant to them these large and significant bequests. But not only that, the twenty-first chapter of II Chronicles, contains the text of a letter which was written by the prophet Elijah to Jehoram after Jehoram became king. And in that letter, Elijah, who was never known to be one to mince any words; in the course of that letter, Elijah said to Jehoram, “All of your brothers were better than you are.” So maybe that was the reason. Maybe Jehoram resented the popularity of his brothers, maybe that’s why he had them killed.

Or it could have been that Jehoram was jealous of his brothers’ power. Remember, they had been given jurisdiction over certain cities in the kingdom. Of course, the real power in the kingdom belonged to Jehoram and only limited power belonged to the other six brothers. But maybe, Jehoram just couldn’t stand the thought of tolerating any power other than his own. That happens, you know. Lord Acton’s dictum. Do you know that? It’s quite true. Lord Acton said, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Maybe that’s what happened to Jehoram. Maybe he just couldn’t stand the thought of anyone else having any power at all. And so maybe that’s why he had his six brothers killed.

Or maybe it was because Jehoram was jealous of his brother’s possessions. Remember it says in the Bible that they were given large treasures of gold and silver. Of course, Jehoram had more than all of them, perhaps even more than all of them put together; but still, maybe he didn’t want just a part of it. He wanted it all. It’s the old story, you know, greed. There are people like that. There may be even people like that within the sound of my voice today; people who are never satisfied in life, people who the more they get, the more they want, and they don’t really care how they get it. Yes, maybe that was Jehoram’s problem. He was jealous of his brothers’ possessions. Maybe that’s why he had them killed.

I don’t know for sure. I don’t know why. Was he jealous of their popularity or their power or their possessions? You can judge for yourself. What I do know is this, I do know that Jehoram killed his six brothers simply because he loved himself more than he loved anyone else. And that kind of egocentric thinking will inevitably lead to disaster. That’s why Jesus found it so necessary to teach us in a variety of different ways at a variety of different times that we are to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Jesus knew that if we love ourselves more than we love anyone else that we are ultimately going to come to grief. He knew that. And that’s precisely what happened to King Jehoram; so that after his death, they wrote upon the tombstone, “He departed with no one’s regret.” He died and no one even cared.

Now, secondly, Jehoram loved the wrong woman.

In II Chronicles 21:6, we read that Jehoram walked in the ways of the king of Israel as the house of Ahab had done. Because, it says, the daughter of Ahab was his wife, and he did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. That’s what the Bible says. You remember Ahab don’t you, that weak and spineless king who chose as his wife, a woman named Jezebel; by all accounts and by anyone’s estimation, the wickedest woman in all of the Old Testament. Well, here comes Jehoram and he chooses as his wife, his life’s partner, the daughter of the insipid Ahab and the wicked Jezebel. And it proved to be a disastrous choice.

You see, if a marriage is going to be successful, that marriage must have a husband and a wife who are constantly engaged in giving themselves to one another in love, in support, in service, and in encouragement. That’s one of the great truths of scripture. They must be giving themselves to one another. Always, never holding back, giving themselves to each other. Jehoram didn’t understand that at all. He and his wife never had that kind of relationship. It’s such a shame.

Not very long ago now, I was talking with a woman, a grand Christian lady; she is a member of this congregation. It was just moments after her husband had lost a long lingering battle with cancer and she was crying in heartbreak. And as I tried to comfort her, suddenly she looked up at me and through a river of tears, she said, “At least over these last three weeks, whenever he regained consciousness, I was there.” Oh, you know, that’s a beautiful thing to be able to say, and a beautiful thing to be able to remember. Every time he regained consciousness, every time he was aware again of his own need and who was around him, every time she was there, ready to help, ready to touch, ready to speak, ready to do whatever it was in her power to do every time she was there. That’s the kind of relationship that makes marriage what God intends for it to be in this world. And I guess that’s why I get so troubled when I see people who are hurrying into marriage without ever having any idea of what marriage is all about. Sometimes it’s because a child is already on the way, but I have to tell you something having a child out of wedlock, is never justification for an abortion, and it is never justification for getting married either. There are hundreds of adoption agencies and thousands upon thousands of couples longing to adopt a child, couples who will provide for that child, a loving home, a much better home than two people who don’t even know and love one another well enough to begin a marriage, let alone parenthood. Sometimes it’s because of the physical attraction between them; and yet you and I know, do we not, that physical attraction may not turn out to be a lifetime proposition, but marriage is. Or sometimes it’s because they want out of loneliness or out of some other problem in their experience. But there was one writer who said, rightly I think, that marriage is not two trees; one of them growing straight and tall and the other leaning against it. No, marriage is two trees; both of them growing side by side, both of them growing straight and tall, and what they do is they tangle their branches in mutual love and support and insistence and encouragement to one another. That’s the kind of marriage that becomes the marriage that God intends for his world.

Jehoram and his wife never had that kind of marriage, because Jehoram never grasped that at the center of every marriage must be the God who invented marriage in the first place. You see the problem. If you put the wife at the center of the marriage, then when the wife makes mistakes and fails, the marriage fails. If you put the husband at the center of the marriage, when his clay feet begin to crumble and he falls, the whole marriage falls with him. If you put children at the center of the marriage, when the children grow up and leave, the marriage goes with them. If you put a job at the center of a marriage, so that home is nothing more than a rest stop on the way to work, then ultimately that marriage will shrivel and die. No, the only one who can stand at the center of a marriage, the only one who has the warmth and the light and the power to wield, to melt, to fuse, to create such an adhesion between two personalities, that the two become one so that each is incomplete without the other. The only one who can do that, the only one who can stand at the center of a marriage is the God who has given us the gift of marriage in the first place.

Jehoram and his wife didn’t put God at the center of their marriage. The Bible says they did what was evil in the sight of the Lord. And as a result, they wrote on his tombstone these words, “He departed with no one’s regret.” He died and no one even cared.

But then thirdly, Jehoram loved the wrong god.

He didn’t start out that way. He was the son of Jehoshaphat and Jehoshaphat was a man of God, a man who understood the ways of the faith. And he brought up those children in an atmosphere of love for God. And he taught them the ways of faith. But later on, Jehoram departed from his teachings. He married the daughter of Ahab and it isn’t long before we read – it’s in the eleventh verse of the twenty-first chapter of II Chronicles – we read that “Jehoram led all the inhabitants of Jerusalem into unfaithfulness and he made Judah go astray.” Do you hear that? One man, and he led a whole city and a whole nation into unfaithfulness, one man.

You see Jehoram believed that you could worship God, all right, but you could also worship Baal at the same time. You could have a relationship with the Almighty, yes, but then you could also pursue your own little selfish desires as you wished. It just won’t work. Loyalty cannot be divided. Allegiance cannot be fragmented. You cannot run two flags to the very top of the same mast, it just won’t work.

And yet I look at our world today and I see us trying to do just that. I see us running pell-mell after gods who are not God. I look at our world and the war that is there, and I see that on the altar of battle, we are placing the dead bodies of young soldier boys sometimes for reasons, which neither we, nor they completely understand. I look at our cities and I see where on the altar of greed, some landlords are offering little children whose legs have been chewed by rats. And I see the poor dancing about with a demonic philosophy that says, get whatever you can, however you can, whenever you can. I see the racial turmoil that exists as before the god of prejudice, some people go about glorying in the fact that their skin just happens to be white. And there are other people who are snarling all the while, “The only good white man is a dead one.” I see the perverse evil in our society where before the altar of human desire, prostitution is allowed to go unrestrained and pornography is clearly displayed like staple goods in the grocery store. And we try to dignify it by calling it social commentary. And we try to justify it by saying that with consenting adults, anything is permissible. I see the crime that exists and I hear our president say that 2%, just 2%, of our nuclear arsenal is sufficient to obliterate the Soviet Union from the face of this earth. And yet we are pouring money into defense and we don’t have enough money to improve our prisons and our police protection and our programs of rehabilitation and our criminal justice system. And the ironic result is that we do not fear invasion from the outside, and we have to lock ourselves into our homes at night for fear of the lonely criminal who stalks the city streets.

I ask you, is there not some better way; some better way to bring peace in this world than to build more and more destructive weapons or pursue the Star Wars technology if we must? But don’t say we ultimately will offer it to the Soviets. No, for the sake of peace and the Prince of Peace let’s jointly develop it. Let’s do it together. Is there not some better way to satisfy our natural God-given human desires than to permit the publishers and the peddlers of filth to pollute our society and poison our young? Is there not some better way to handle overpopulation and unwanted people than the hideous morality of abortion and passive euthanasia which sometimes is just a euphemism for neglect and carelessness. I see the terrible tragedy that comes when science and medicine lose their moral base and children unborn most often for no good medical reason, just that they are not wanted, are never permitted to breathe the fresh air or to bask in the warmth of the sun, or to share the joy of human love or to live the life that God has vested in them. And older people are shunted off into the darkest corners of our forgetfulness. And then they’re left to waste away into nothingness in nursing homes, which God forbid sometimes are nothing more than just human warehouses. Is there not some better way?

I say, “Yes, there is.” It is the way of Jesus Christ; and you and I know that that is true. So why is it then that the apostles of atheism cry long and loud and publicly in our society and we as Christians don’t do anything but murmur softly inside our stained-glass sanctuaries? Why is it that our television screens are filled with the proponents of violence and discord while we never hear the voices of those who preach the Gospel of peace? Why is it that those who are bent on destruction are shouting it from the housetops, while we who are Christians are simply stumbling our way through life without energy, without enthusiasm, without zeal? It says here that one man, with maybe a little help from his wife, managed to lead a whole city and a whole nation into unrighteousness. Why in the name of all that is good and holy? Why is it not possible that there could be one man or one woman or a group of men and women or a church or a congregation of God’s people so on fire with a gospel of Jesus Christ, so immersed in the things of God, so consumed with a desire to bring peace and purity to the human experience that they could lead a whole city into righteousness? Why can’t it happen here?

I believe it can. If you and I will give our hearts and our minds and our love and our lives to Jesus Christ with a renewed sense of dedication; if you and I, by the way we live, will begin to demonstrate to the world around us, that life in Jesus Christ is not some tame, humdrum, sheltered monotony, but rather it is nothing less than the greatest adventure that the human spirit can ever know; if we would begin to live like that, then I promise you that the world that stands outside looking askance at Jesus Christ, will suddenly come crowding in to pay Him ultimate allegiance. Why can’t it happen here? I believe it can. More than that, I believe it will.

I’ve said enough. Yeah. Maybe I’ve even said too much. Just one last look at Jehoram. He loved the wrong man, and he loved the wrong woman, and he loved the wrong God, and he departed with no one’s regret. It’d be a terrible thing, wouldn’t it? To die and to have no one else to care because, in the living of your life, you never stopped to care about anyone else.

What did Ralph Waldo Emerson say? “All the world loves a lover.” No, I changed that. Not nearly so poetic, but it’s true. Whether or not all the world loves a lover, depends upon whom the lover loves. My beloved people, love Jesus Christ. Love Him in your life. Love Him with all of your life. Love Him for all of your life.

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