2 Kings 10
The new king of the Northern Kingdom, Jehu, had been specifically commissioned by God for a special purpose: "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." (2 Kings 9:7) And, as we saw in the last chapter, Jehu set out to do his job with zeal.
After killing King Jehoram and Jezebel, he set off to get rid of all the crowned princes—70 of them—in Jezreel. And he did, but then he went a little off the rails: "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." (vs 11)
Hmmm, it seems Jehu took his commission a little too far. In order to end the dynasty of Ahab and Jezebel, God had commanded that all of Ahab’s heirs would die. But He never told Jehu to kill Ahab’s friends. It seems like Jehu went through Jezreel, killing anyone he didn’t like, or maybe it was just anyone he thought might threaten his position. In the same way, in 2 Kings 9, when Jehu killed King Jehoram, he also killed King Ahaziah—which wasn’t in the plan. Perhaps Jehu thought he might reunite Israel under his rule if he could take out both kings at the same time!
Subsequently, Jehu killed all the prophets of Baal—in a supposed attempt to snuff out idol worship. But then, he left the golden calves at Dan and Bethel. So, it seems that Jehu was, at times, doing the Lord’s will (when it suited his purpose), but he was also happy to do whatever he thought necessary to benefit himself—even if it wasn’t in the plan God laid out for him.
God later indicated that He was unhappy with Jehu. In Hosea chapter 1, God told Hosea to name his first child "Jezreel, because I will soon punish the house of Jehu for the massacre at Jezreel, and I will put an end to the kingdom of Israel." (vs 4)
It appears that Jehu definitely went well beyond the bounds of what God told him to do. What’s fascinating to me about this is that God will not restrict our freedom even if we have signed up to work with Him! Setting out on a mission for God doesn’t restrict our freedom, and with God, we are always free to continue on in His plan... or to go our own way.
What amazes me about this is that God seems infinitely unconcerned with His reputation at times. He uses people who do downright despicable things. He uses people who—like Jehu—start out well, but then act in ways that go against what God wants, all the while still proclaiming to be God’s representative. The fact that God doesn’t restrict the freedom of those who bear His name is somewhat mysterious, but awe-inspiring, to me.
Once again, we must conclude that any capacity in which we come to God only leaves us more free to choose, more free to leave Him, or more free to stay. He is so committed to freedom that He won’t restrict it even to protect His own name. Wow.