TODAY’S READING: 2 Kings 9–11
The similarities between Jezebel and Babylon are striking. Both encapsulate the timeless idolatries of money, sex, and power. Ideologies come and go, and kingdoms wax and wane, but all earthly systems (despite appearances initially and ongoing protests apologetically) center on the acquisition, retention, and abuse of money, sex, and power. Strip away the beguiling deceptions of any world religion, and you will find abuses of sex, money, and power at its idolatrous and demonic core. False religions (that is, any faith system, including secular humanism, not based on the character of Jehovah, the God of Israel, as described in the Bible) are demonic—with no exceptions. Uptown Jezebel from Phoenicia married simpleton Ahab, and the door of Israel was flung open to demonic vices. Ahab and Jezebel’s daughter Athaliah was given as a wife to Jehoram, the king of Judah, and she brought her mother’s wickedness as part of the dowry. Jezebel’s charismatic and commanding personality thus introduced and enforced the worship of Baal in two kingdoms. A temple to Baal was set up in Samaria (2 Kings 10:21), and even though there were still national temples to Jehovah in Bethel and Dan, the faith of the royal family, the elite, and thus the nation was then placed in Baal. A temple to Baal was likewise set up in Jerusalem as Athaliah gained control in the southern kingdom and introduced idolatry to the Judean elite.
The oft-repeated, definitive description of Jehovah in the Old Testament is the affirmation of a God who is gracious, good, kind, slow to anger, and abounding in love. Jehovah is slow to anger, long overlooking rebellion and wickedness. Jehovah is more loving, patient, and gracious than any human. He is also holier and purer than any human, so there must come a time when His slow-to-anger nature of love must be complemented by His holy wrath. God is zealous for His own name and fame among all peoples—especially His own people—and God still considered the northern kingdom of Israel as His (9:6–7). A tipping point was reached: God’s holy anger demanded the destruction of those responsible for dishonoring Him by elevating the false god, Baal. Jehu was chosen as the instrument of God’s terrible and comprehensive judgment, and all the sons of Ahab and Jezebel had to go, including those in Judah who married into the idolatrous line. The story of missions is the story of this same Jehovah: good, kind, merciful, compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in love. The story of the nations is the same as Ahab and Jezebel: Every nation has worshiped the idols of sex, money, and power, rather than glorifying Jehovah, and at some point, judgment will fall. These terrible judgments of Jehovah on Old Testament nations are but a shadow of the terror that will descend with finality on all nations at the last day. The missionary message is indeed part warning: Escape the wrath to come.
Most alarming about the vessel of Jehovah’s judgment was his motivation. Lauded for the right action, Jehu would be undone for his wrong heart. Yes, Baal worship was evil, but Jehu destroyed it more for his own ends than for God’s glory. Jehu knew that Baal worship was the cult of the elite and powerful. The destruction of Ahab’s line and Jezebel’s priests conveniently coincided with the destruction of any who would challenge his power. Jehu destroyed Baal from Israel but did not destroy Jeroboam’s idols, the golden calves (10:28–29). To remove all Israel’s idolatry would necessitate allowing his people to worship Jehovah in Jerusalem only, and Jehu (like Jeroboam) feared that would dilute his power base. So, Jehu fell into the same trap of all men and all nations, and he bowed at the altar of power, sex, and money, and ultimately paid the price. Jehu cleansed the land of one demonic manifestation but clung to another. The result? His own and the nation’s demise.
A simple missionary warning extends from the lives of Jezebel and Jehu: God’s means can easily be carried out with man’s motives. We can do great things for God from idolatrous hearts. We can zealously pursue God’s global glory with wicked motivations. And wicked motivations tend to center around the timeless lust for the idols of power, money, and sex. We may not be crass enough to start with sexual immorality, but we are stupid enough to open the door to its twin: power. Power brings money, and the combination of power and money are demonically linked to sensuality. We are ashamed, Gordon Anderson says, of the fruit (sexual sin), but addicted to the root (power and money).
Let every missionary and Christian be warned: If we pursue God’s glory among the nations for the wrong reasons, we marry into Jezebel’s sensual family and the eschatological fate of Babylon will certainly be ours.
 Babylon is called the “Mother of Harlots” in Revelation 17:1–6.