Monday, October 29, 2012

Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?

Halloween is just around the corner.  I don't need to turn to costumed children or horror movies to feel a chill of fear.  Media doomsayers, gunmen shooting up movie theaters or fanatics causing buildings to crumble-they shake us all.  We are tempted to think that terror is a modern phenomenon.  This week we'll be covering the two most terrifying ancient women we could think of-Jezebel and Athaliah. 

Jezebel was the original Evil Queen.  Her hands were bloody, her mind malicious, and her politics twisted. Her story begins in infamy.  Introducing the reign of Ahab, 1 Kings records, "And it came to pass, as though it had been a trivial thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he took as wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal, king of the Sidonians; and he went and served Baal and worshiped him"  (1 Kings 16:31).  Do Bible characters get theme music? Her's should sound like Jaws.  Dum-dum, dum-dum, dum-dum.  The first time she is mentioned in the Bible is the time they say that marrying her is the first and worst of her husband's sins.

Jezebel was an ancient fanatic, a terrorist waging a holy war.  At some point early in her reign as queen, she decided to eliminate the worship of Yahweh and replace it entirely with the worship of Baal.  She began this quest by persuading her husband to erect a house and an altar for Baal in Samaria (1Kings 16:32). Although the details of her persecution are unknown, Obadiah, a servant in Ahab's house, casually mentions that she tried to eradicate the prophets of the Lord. Obadiah saved a hundred of them by slipping them into a pair of caves and supporting them while they lived there.  Who knows how many more she massacred (1 Kings 18). We do know that Elijah thought he was the only one left, and when God wanted to cheer him up, He told the prophet that there were 7000 faithful people left in all of Israel (1 Kings 19:18). I know that's more than one, but 7000 out of an entire nation is pitiful.  Jezebel had a pretty impressive evangelism campaign going! Although let me say I would not recommend murder and the installation of a unit of professional prostitute/priestesses(a standard element in the worship of Baal/Ashram) as a strategy.

After Elijah's well-known victory at Mount Carmel, where he calls fire down from heaven and then personally kills 450 prophets of Baal with the sword, he returns to Jezreel, the capital.  Jezebel sends a messenger to his house to let him know that she'd rather be dead than let him live another 24 hours.  So Elijah the great and powerful prophet of the Almighty God runs away like a frightened child.  Face down 450 prophet in a firefight?  No problem.  Death threat from one woman?  He is shaking in his sandals (I Kings 19: 1-13).

Although her story is long and complex, the end is not. Jehu is appointed by God to destroy the entire house of Ahab, avenging the blood of the slaughtered prophets (2 Kings 9). He cuts down Ahab's son, Joram, the current king, and then rides into Jezreel.  When he arrives, Jezebel accuses him of murder.  He calls out to the servants on the balcony that any who are with him should throw down their mistress.  With the queen's blood spattered along the side of the wall, Jehu goes in to sit down to a good meal.  Before dinner is over, there is not enough of Jezebel left to bury.  She has been eaten by the dogs, a fate decreed for her when she murdered Naboth (2 Kings 9).

Modern scientific people tend to think of idolatry as pathetic rather than frightening.  We also tend to imagine that people believe in one God, many gods, or no god at all. In Jezebel we are proved wrong on both counts.  Although Jezebel receives proof of the power and existence of the LORD several times, she continues to promote the gods of her childhood-Baal and Asherah.  It seems they had a consumer religious culture in which the least demanding, more rewarding god could be chosen and followed to your personal profit. A person could choose a god from their family, from their hometown, representing their gender (or the opposite gender) or a god that promised victory over their enemies.  Since all the choices were equally valid, no search for truth was necessary.  Does any of this sound familiar to you? Yet our God is a jealous God! (Deuteronomy 5:9)

I don't know if it's the death count or the number of people terrified that makes a person a terrorist, but I am convinced Jezebel qualifies. She cheerfully murders neighbors for their vegetable gardens.  She slaughters prophets of a God she knows is real. She says, "boo" and prophets run and hide in mountain caves.  Her death alone is enough to give me nightmares.  The terror that Jezebel spread is as fresh as today's headlines.  God's children are still martyred.  We still have a culture where people choose the "god" they like and follow him/her/it.  We still shiver in caves sometimes convinced that we are the only ones left!  God is still whispering in the mountains, calling us out, reminding us He is much greater than the terrors that haunt us.

Who or what terrifies you?  Do you see yourself or your church as isolated?  How do you reach out to a "pick-a-god" culture? 

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

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