When Paint Won’t Help

2 Kings 3:1-3, “Now Jehoram the son of Ahab became king over Israel at Samaria in the eighteenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, and reigned twelve years. He did evil in the sight of the Lord, though not like his father and his mother; for he put away the sacred pillar of Baal which his father had made. Nevertheless, he clung to the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, which he made Israel sin; he did not depart from them.”

Appearances can be so deceiving. For example…take an old jalopy, invest a few hundred dollars on a new coat of paint, and what do you have? A shiny piece of junk. Sure, the car will look nice. But it’s not going to get you anywhere. You are still going to be walking. Fixing the exterior accomplished nothing because the real issue was ignored. The paint job was a nice touch but what the car needed was an engine overhaul. Looks great. But it has no real value.

That was Jehoram’s problem. He was big on paint. But really lax when it came to the need for overhauls. Jehoram spent his life focusing on the external but he never invested in the internal. Now I don’t want to bog us down with a major history lesson but a little explanation will help clarify this whole point. Jehoram’s father, Ahab, married a wicked woman by the name of Jezebel. Together these two filled the nation of Israel with the worship of a false god by the name of Baal. In fact, it was such a bad move that God Himself declared that Ahab did more evil than any other king before him. God would go to great lengths to bring this evil to an end. He withheld rain from Israel for three and a half years. He sent down fire from heaven on Mount Carmel. And finally, He had his man, Elijah, kill some 450 prophets of Baal. All of this in an effort to convince His people to forsake Baal and return to Him.

Years later, when Jehoram finally became king he made a very wise decision. The Bible says that he put away the the sacred pillar of Baal which his father had made. At some point along the way he got a clue. After years of watching the conflict between Elijah and his father, Jehoram figured out that the whole Baal thing was wrong. It wasn’t working. All it was doing was bringing the nation pain and suffering. And so, in a moment of clarity he removed the idolatrous worship that his father had instituted. But this is where it gets kind of tricky. If Jehoram removed the pillar to Baal (obviously a good thing), then why is the Biblical declaration over his life still one of doing “evil in the sight of the Lord“?

Jehoram made a common error. He turned away from blatant, obvious sin but he never actually turned toward God. He removed Baal. But he never embraced God. How do we know that? Because the Bible tells us that he clung to the sin of Jeroboam (for homework read his story in 1 Kings 11:26-13:34). Out of fear Jeroboam led the nation of Israel away from the worship of the one true God by creating his own places of worship, ordaining his own priests, and establishing his own festivals. He set up a form of religion that was void of any true relationship with God. The people went through the motions of Yahweh worship but God’s presence was absent from their gatherings. They had a car but the engine wasn’t working.

Jehoram thought that he could fix the problem with a new paint job. Cover up the stain and rust spots of Baal worship. Polish over a few rough patches of idolatrous worship. Wash it. Wax it. Looks great! But the engine was still broke. Jehoram had a lifeless religion that was void of a real relationship with God. He led the nation through the motions of worship. But their hearts remained far from God. I guess it isn’t really that surprising that God would declare his actions”evil.” What could be more evil than a form of religion that keeps people from God?

In closing, we need to take a moment to focus on personal application. Like Jehoram we can all be guilty of trying to fix the problems in our life with a fresh coat of paint. We deal with the blatant, obvious sins but we never fully embrace the life that God intends for us. We go through the religious motions but in so many areas our hearts still cling to things that are void of life. Tired of never getting anywhere in life? Maybe it’s time to forget the paint and focus on an overhaul. Yes, it will be costly. Time consuming as well. But in the end the life that is fully yielded to God is the life of value. Get rid of the paint. Let God fix the problem.