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Ablaze With Zeal

Does sin make your spiritual blood boil?
Does zeal for God consume your life?
Where are God’s zealots today?


Picture yourself beside a dusty desert road. Suddenly you see a figure racing toward you. It is the figure of Jehu, son of Jehoshaphat, driving his chariot at a furious pace. He pulls up next to you and comes to an abrupt halt. You clear your eyes from the horse-heaved dust. After exchanging cordial remarks, Jehu extends his arm and pulls you into his chariot. With his hand on your shoulder he gives you the invitation, “Come with me and see my zeal for the Lord.” You accept. Just as furiously as he arrived you both disappear into the horizon…

Cold or Hot. God does not want us to be obnoxious or to make ridiculous fools of ourselves, but God is interested in us doing zealous deeds. “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm — neither hot or cold — I am about to spit you out of my mouth” (Revelation 3:15,16). This is an awesome statement. You and I must be zealous or God will have nothing to do with us. That is all there is to it.

We must see our condition. “You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked” (Revelation 3:17). Admitting our need and failure relates to becoming hot for God. In other words, humility is directly associated with becoming a person ablaze for God. A person whose spirit is not burning for the righteousness of God is not a humble person. Such an individual is proud.

We cannot be fully ablaze with the zeal of God unless we desire God’s standard of holiness. “I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see” (Revelation 3:18). Those whom God loves He rebukes and trains in order to make them more pure and holy. In light of this we are commanded to be earnest. In verse 19 we read, “Be earnest, and repent.” The verse does not say to earnestly repent (though we should do that). The whole passage has the thought that if we have repented, there will be zeal shown by deeds. Weeping and tears may or may not be present, but true repentance will always result in a hot desire to do the deeds of God. “Be earnest” means that we are commanded to be intensely hot. We are under orders to be eagerly zealous for God’s righteousness. Our spiritual blood should constantly boil. It should be steaming hot for the vindication of God’s name.

Death Sleep. The Church of today has fallen into a deathly slumber. It has been sluggish to apply our Lord’s admonition to get hot. Though the passage of Revelation 3:20 is commonly used with unbelievers, it is primarily referring to Christians. The context implies Laodicean Christians meeting in a “home-group.” They are performing their orthodox programs. They are even having communion. Yet how ghastly is the reality that Jesus Christ is not in their midst. He is outside. They are remembering the Lord and He is not with them. He says, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with Me.” In essence Christ is saying that when they get zealous for His righteousness, He will come in and have intimate communion with them.

God Stirs. “The Lord will march out like a mighty man, like a warrior he will stir up his zeal; with a shout he will raise the battle cry and will triumph over his enemies” (Isaiah 42:13). Did you know that God stirs up His zeal? He rouses Himself to action. If God stirs Himself up, how much more must we, who have a fallen nature. Men who are zealous are not naturally that way. There is not one zealous man who does not do a lot of “stirring.”

What we need the most is not more learning. Our greatest need is not for more “Bible scholars.” What we need so desperately is a consuming zeal for God’s house. When Jesus was on earth, the zeal for God’s house consumed Him. The word “consume” has the idea of devouring. One translation says in John 2:17: “zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.” David was so zealous for the righteousness of God that he was worn out. “My zeal wears me out, for my enemies ignore your words” (Psalm 119:139). We need to have this same kind of zeal.

Holy Zeal Saves a Nation. One of the darkest periods in the history of Israel was when they gave in to sexual immorality and idolatry with the women of Moab (Numbers 25:1-4). The “Lord’s anger burned against them” and He struck them with a plague. The Lord ordered the leaders who participated in this sin to be killed. Then, before the eyes of Moses and the whole assembly while they were weeping at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting, a man brought a pagan woman to his tent. Phinehas grabbed a spear and followed them into the tent. With one thrust of the spear he simultaneously killed both. God immediately stopped the plague because Phinehas judged sin quickly and severely.

Where are the men and women of God who will eagerly stand up and execute judgment on unrighteousness? If no one stands up, God will surely judge the complacent. Of Phinehas the Lord said, “Phinchas son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron, the priest, has turned my anger away from the Israelites; for he was as zealous as I am for My honor among them, so that in My zeal I did not put an end to them. Therefore tell him I am making My covenant of peace with him. He and his descendants will have a covenant of a lasting priesthood, because he was zealous for the honor of his God and made atonement for the Israelites” (Numbers 25:10-13). Phinehas was as zealous as God was for His own honor. Because Phinehas loved God and hated sin, he salvaged the nation from almost total disaster. God greatly rewarded him for this.

Hot is not Hot. It is very possible that those who today are the hottest for God may in reality be lukewarm when compared to biblical examples. This is because our reference point is modern lukewarm Christianity. As someone has said, we are so sub-normal that when we see someone who really is normal we think they are abnormal. Perhaps one of the greatest examples of what it means to have godly zeal is found in the amazing story of Jehu.

Wicked Times. When Jehu appeared on the scene of biblical history, the nation of Israel had been divided into two kingdoms for some time. The northern kingdom had taken on the name of Israel. The southern kiigdom was called Judah. All the kings of the northern kingdom had been ungodly while in the kingdom of Judah, there had been a spattering of godly kings.

One of the ungodly kings of Israel was Ahab (I Kings 16:29,30). He did more evil than any of those before him. He married an ungodly pagan woman called Jezebel. He served and worshiped the god Baal and the goddess Asherah.

Worshiping Baal and Asherah involved religious male and female prostitution, child sacrifice, witchcraft, and the glorification of sadomasochistic violence. Ahab promoted “foundation sacrifices” (I Kings 16:34). These involved burying a child alive in the foundation of a new construction project. Jezebel killed as many of the Lord’s prophets as she could. Fifty false prophets of Baal and 400 of Asherah ate regularly at Jezebel’s royal table.

He mustered the troops and
headed for Jezreel . . .
He drove “like a madman.”

The prophet Micaiah prophesied that Ahab would die in battle (I Kings 22:19-ff). Ahab in turn had Micaiah arrested and put into prison. The arrogant king disguised himself for battle but was struck by a stray arrow and died later that day.

Ahaziah, his son, succeeded him. He was a worshiper of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron (II Kings 1). For his idolatry he died a premature death. Joram, another son of Ahab, took over the throne (II Kings 3:1). He clung to the horrible sins of his father and was not ashamed of them.

It is against such a morally dark backdrop that our story unfolds. It is at this time that once again God raised up a standard for His kingdom.

Enter a flask of Oil. The prophet Elisha called on one from the company of the prophets and told him, “Tuck your cloak into your belt, take this flask of oil with you and go to Ramoth-gilead. When you get there, look for Jehu son of Jehoshaphat, the son of Nimshi. Go to him, get him away from his companions and take him into an inner room. Then take the flask and pour the oil on his head and declare, ‘This is what the Lord says: I anoint you king over Israel.’ Then open the door and run; don’t delay!” (II Kings 19:1-3).

The anointing of the oil was symbolic of receiving the Spirit, it was the outward picture of being touched by the Spirit. Notice that before God begins to use a man greatly he gets him “away from his companions” (their influence), and he takes him “into an inner room” to be with Him. If we desire to be used by God, we must get away from the voices and influence of man and get time alone with Him. We need a fresh anointing. In the Bible there are many examples of individuals who were anointed. It did not matter who the individual was. What made him so radically different was that the Spirit came upon him. As Christians living in the New Testament age, we already have the Spirit living in us. And it really does not matter who or what we are or have been. All that matters is this; does the Spirit have control of us?

The Right Stuff. After going into the house, the prophet poured the oil on Jehu’s head and declared, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anoint you king over the Lord’s people Israel. You are to destroy the house of Ahab your master, and I will avenge the blood of my servants the prophets and the blood of all the Lord’s servants shed by Jezebel. The whole house of Ahab will perish’ ” (II Kings 9:6-8). At this point Jehu got the Spirit and he got the Word. You cannot have one without the other and be effective. Some have just the Word but they are without the power. Others have a spirit of zeal, but with no message or the wrong message. Both are necessary.

Jehu Fire. From the moment of his anointing, Jehu began scheming about how to zealously carry out his mission of destiny. He mustered the troops and headed for Jezreel where Joram, the king of Israel, was staying (II Kings 9:14-ff). He drove “like a madman.” After several futile attempts to communicate with him, Joram hitched his chariot and went to meet him with the king of Judah, Ahaziah. Upon encountering Jehu, he asked, “Have you come in peace, Jehu?” To which Jehu answered, “How can there be peace as long as all the idolatry and witchcraft of your mother Jezebel abound?” At this point Joram cried out, “Treachery!” He turned around to flee, but Jehu drew his bow and shot Joram between the shoulders. Joram was dead. At this Ahaziah fled for his life. (Keep in mind that Ahaziah’s mother was Athaliah, who in turn was Jezebel’s daughter. She had married into the kingly line of Judah. She had introduced into Judah the worship of Baal. Ahaziah did evil by serving and worshiping Baal and provoking the Lord (I Kings 22:51-53.) Jehu chased Ahaziah and shouted, “Kill him too!” Even though he escaped, he died from the wounds they inflicted on him.

Jezebel Jinxed. After chasing Ahaziah, Jehu turned around and headed for Jezreel. He was after that wicked woman Jezebel. Once in town, he found Jezebel defiantly waiting for him (II Kings 9:30-31). From her high window she made sneering remarks at the warrior of God. Jehu in turn called out, “Who is on my side? Who?” Several palace workers who were standing near her motioned. Again Jehu’s voice rang, “Throw her down!” They quickly responded and threw her down. Jehu and his troops trampled her with their horses. Jehu went into the palace. He ate and drank. He was celebrating. The wicked Jezehel was dead.

Seventy Severed Sons. Immoral Ahab left 70 sons behind. These were potential rulers and officials who would prolong the wicked dynasty. Jehu eagerly set out for their extermination as his next target (II Kings 10:1-9). He wrote letters to the officials in charge of them. He challenged them to set the best man on the throne and fight or turn in 70 royal heads. The officials promptly acted and delivered a most unique princely package. The 70 princes were dead.

Housecleaning Chores. As soon as morning had arrived, Jehu went out and addressed the people of the city. He impressed on them that “not a word the Lord has spoken against the house of Ahab will fail. The Lord has done what he promised through his servant Elijah. So Jehu killed everyone in Jezreel who remained of the house of Ahab, as well as all his chief men, his close friends and his priests, leaving him no survivor” (II Kings 9-11).

As soon as he finished the Lord’s business in Jezreel, he headed for his next stop on the agenda, Samaria (10:12). On the way he met some relatives of the recently deceased king of Judah, Ahaziah. They were on their way to see Joram and Jezebel. Apparently they had not heard the news. Jehu swiftly had them “meet their Creator.” He had them all slaughtered. He left no survivor of the party of 42. The new king again started for Samaria. En route there he came upon Jehonadab. Jehu took Jehonadab with him in order to show his friend his zeal for God. When he “came to Samaria, he killed all who were left there of Ahab’s family; he destroyed them, according to the word of the Lord spoken to Elijah” (II Kings 10:17).

Baal’s Blooper. Jehu schemed and put together a plan to trick all the priests of Baal (II Kings 10:18-ff). He got them to believe that there was going to be a big religious celebration for Baal. Baal’s temple was packed out. Every priest of Baal showed up. As soon as the coast was clear, Jehu turned more than 80 of his men loose with the mission to exterminate every priest of Baal. The mission was successful. He had the inner shrine desecrated and their sacred stone demolished. Jehu tore the place down. From then on people started using it for a latrine — a public bathroom. Jehu destroyed Baal worship in Israel.

Jehu Gets Academy Award. Some may think that Jehu was too fanatical. Others may think that he was some sort of reckless madman. What realty matters is what God said to him, “You have done well in accomplishing what is right in my eyes” (II Kings 10:30). Jehu did what was on God’s heart. He did it with everything he had. He consumed himself in executing righteousness for God.

Righteousness and Joy. “The execution of righteousness is joy for the righteous, but is terror to the workers of iniquity” (Proverbs 21:15). When Jehu executed God’s justice, all Israel benefited. Of course those who had been wicked had plenty to worry about. But what a joy and relief it must have been to see the wickedness that had enslaved the nation cleaned out.

“When the righteous prosper, the city rejoices; when the wicked perish, there are shouts of joy” (11:10). It must have been like experiencing a breath of clean, fresh air. No more children buried alive in foundation sacrifices. No more little ones offered to the fires of a man-made god. Families would not be threatened by the sins of adultery and fornication through a legalized form of religious sexual immorality. Now, to be public about the Only True God did not mean taking your life into your own hands.

Again Proverbs 28:12 says, “When the righteous triumph, there is great elation, but when the wicked rise to power, men go into hiding.” Proverbs 29:2 says “When the righteous thrive, the people rejoice; when the wicked rule, the people groan.” For Israel there was now no more hiding and no more painful groaning. Jezebel the witch could no longer kill any of the Lord’s prophets.

She could no longer mastermind evil manipulations of both kingdoms. They could now praise and sing to the Lord all they wanted. The righteous must have been ecstatic with joy; righteousness once again had triumphed! It must have been like drinking cold, crystal-clear water after being thirsty for days. Surely it was a glorious time for exulting in God.

Personal Application. If God is to use us mightily, then we must become zealous — zealous for His cause, the cause of truth, humility, and righteousness (Psalm 45:4). We must stir ourselves up like God does and become committed to the holy standard of the Holy Book. We must humbly let the Holy Spirit, the Flame of God, ignite our souls as we tell Him, “Have thine own way, Lord.”

“His word is in my heart like a burning fire,” the prophet said (Jeremiah 20:9). As we get a glimpse of God’s holiness, we must be zealous to apply God’s principles of holiness in our own lives. We must not tolerate unrighteousness, greed, selfishness, lust, slander, gossip, jealousy, anger or things like these. When we see unholiness in other believers’ lives, we must reprove them. We cannot allow sin to reign in our own lives or in the church. If we do, it will become like a cancer and destroy us.

We must carry out justice no matter what it may cost us personally. To have a holy zeal for God burning on your heart and to learn to execute justice in our own lives and with others is the way to experience true joy.

About the Son he says,… You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy. (Hebrews 1:8,9)
Will God be able to say this of you?

Sam Lopez is the Hispanic co-ordinator for Great Commission International. Sam lives in Rockville, Md., with his wife, Jane, and their three children.

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