2 Kings 1:1-18
So King Ahaziah sent a captain with his fifty men to Elijah. When the captain went up to him, he was sitting on top of the hill. He announced, “Man of God, the king declares, ‘Come down!’” Elijah responded to the captain, “If I am a man of God, may fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty men.” Then fire came down from heaven and consumed him and his fifty men. So the king sent another captain with his fifty men to Elijah. He took in the situation and announced, “Man of God, this is what the king says: ‘Come down immediately!’” Elijah responded, “If I am a man of God, may fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty men.” So a divine fire came down from heaven and consumed him and his fifty men (2 Kings 1:9-12 CSB)
Ahaziah, king of the northern kingdom of Israel, had been severely injured by a fall in his house. We usually assume that our homes are places of safety, but how many have been critically injured there by falling! Ahaziah’s injuries were severe enough to make him wonder if he would survive. While naturally concerned (who wouldn’t be?), he walked further away from the Lord. How much better, to think and act like the psalmist. It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees (Psalm 119:71 NIV).
So then, let’s focus on the attitude of the transgressor. It was utter rebellion (1:9,11). Ahaziah should have cried out to the Lord for forgiveness and mercy. While the sinner lives, there is still opportunity for repentance. God delights in mercy, and when he sends a message of judgment, he is giving those who hear an occasion to turn from their evil ways. But the threat of death did not soften Ahaziah’s heart.
Instead, he became more obstinate and struck out against God’s message in the only way he could: by attacking the messenger. “When a true servant of God is sent and delivers a searching word, people seek to evade it by occupying themselves with his personality, his style of delivery, his denominational affiliation—anything secondary as long as it serves to crowd out that which is of supreme moment. Yet when the postman hands them an important business letter they are not concerned about his appearance” (Pink).
The great idols of America are money, greed, and pleasure. The burning question is “Am I having a good time right now?” People expect the same lust for pleasure to be satisfied in church on their terms. Church after church have abandoned the Lord Christ and his gospel and have prostituted themselves to attract the pleasure seeking masses (cf. Jeremiah 2:20-25). Elijah was not concerned about Ahaziah’s approval of the message or whether Ahaziah would want to join his church. Elijah was faithful to God’s word, and we must be faithful today!
How do you react when confronted by the word of God? Too many professing Christians have reacted violently in an emotional sense: “He’s preaching against me!” or “I don’t like what he said; I’m not coming back!”
The result was judgment. As we read in Isaiah 45:9, Woe to him who quarrels with his Maker, to him who is but a potsherd among the potsherds on the ground. Does the clay say to the potter, “What are you making?” Does your work say, “He has no hands”? (NIV) The basis of the judgment was written in the Torah (cf. Deuteronomy 6:13-15; 8:19-20; 13:6-11). Who were the recipients of God’s judgment? The first two groups of Ahaziah’s officers and their men (1:10,12) that were rather daring and arrogant when they approached Elijah. The third group demonstrates that death did not have to take them. Elijah’s credentials as God’s prophet had been proved many times. Ahaziah himself was judged by God, though not by fire from heaven (1:16-17). The Lord does not always act the same way, as we have observed many times. Ahaziah’s soldiers met a violent, supernatural end, while God lets the king die of natural causes. Strangely, the wicked king is not summarily executed like his soldiers, but the judge of all the earth does what is right (Genesis 18:25). Many times the underlings of wicked people die more terribly and tragically than their cruel leaders! Let us not assume that we can escape by “passing the buck” to our superiors, because “we acted on their orders”. Everyone is responsible for their own sin. There are many lessons to learn from this incident. We plan to look at them in our next post in this series.
Grace and peace, David