Fire from Heaven (Part One)

2 Kings 1:1-18

Ahaziah had fallen through the latticed window of his upstairs room in Samaria and was injured. So he sent messengers, instructing them, “Go inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron, whether I will recover from this injury” (1:2 CSB).

In order to understand this chapter, it is necessary to have a Biblical view of God. To have such a view in the culture of our time is rare, even among those who regularly attend a church that preaches God’s word. Why is this so? The Biblical view of God requires an acceptance of both the goodness and grace of God and the holiness and justice of God, even when we don’t grasp how they can be reconciled. The apostle Paul sums it up well. Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off (Romans 11:22 NIV).

The setting of the chapter is two years after the death of the wicked king Ahab. He tried to escape the doom prophesied for him by Elijah, but while in battle, someone shot an arrow at random, but God directed its flight, and it struck Ahab between the joints of his armor, and he bled to death. Then dogs licked up his blood just as Elijah had prophesied. Now Ahab’s wicked son Ahaziah ruled over the northern kingdom of Israel. He walked in the ways of his evil parents.

Think for a moment of the power of sin over the human heart. You might assume that Ahaziah would have learned from the death of his father, which happened just as God had said. But no, something more than a terrible judgment is needed to change a sinner’s heart. Ahaziah dares God to carry out judgment on him. When he falls and seriously injures himself, he brazenly sends messengers to the false god Baal-Zebub to find out if he will recover. Will Ahaziah succeed in mocking God?

All that happens in this chapter is a demonstration of the kindness and severity of God. The Lord was kind toward Elijah and protected him, but acted severely against all who provoked him to anger. In this chapter, we must not blame Elijah for what happened. He was no more able in himself to bring down fire from heaven than you and I are. Instead, let us think of something else. The living God demands that his people honor him as the only true God.

The issue at stake was the honor of the God of the covenant (1:3, 6, 16). Remember the demand of the law covenant. Moses summoned all Israel and said to them, “Israel, listen to the statutes and ordinances I am proclaiming as you hear them today. Learn and follow them carefully. The Lord our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. He did not make this covenant with our fathers, but with all of us who are alive here today. The Lord spoke to you face to face from the fire on the mountain. At that time I was standing between the Lord and you to report the word of the Lord to you, because you were afraid of the fire and did not go up the mountain. And he said: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery. Do not have other gods besides me (Deuteronomy 5:1-7 CSB). The living God spoke plainly to his people, Israel. Notice three matters about this word.

  • Human responsibility was clearly stressed.
  • The God of the covenant was clearly identified.
  • A transgression was clearly prohibited.

Though the law covenant has been fulfilled and set aside, this command is still in force today. We’ll consider this in another post.

The first commandment of the law covenant was clearly transgressed (1:1). This was not an isolated incident in Ahaziah’s life (cf. 1 Kings 22:51-53). Ahaziah did not learn from the mistakes of others. His act was similar to what Saul had done when he consulted the medium at Endor (cf. 1 Samuel 28). What happens to Ahaziah and his men is an example of the consequences of daring to challenge the true and living God.

Grace and peace, David

Where Sin Increased (Part Two)

1 Kings 18:1-15

But where sin increased, grace increased all the more… (Romans 5:20 NIV).

Sin had greatly increased in Israel, and it seemed like there was no hope. The Lord, their covenant God, had sent his prophet Elijah to announce a horrible drought, which was one of the curses, if Israel disregarded God’s covenant with him. The sky above you will be bronze, and the earth beneath you iron. The Lord will turn the rain of your land into falling dust; it will descend on you from the sky until you are destroyed (Deuteronomy 28:23-24). Yet, at this terrible time, the Lord showed his grrace. We see three evidences of his grace.

First, God preserved Elijah for further service to him. God had fed him at the brook and at Zarephath. The Lord also kept Ahab and Jezebel from killing his prophet. He also had taught Elijah valuable lessons about faith that he needed to know in service to God. Elijah was now prepared for the coming contest of God versus Baal on Carmel.

Second, the Lord placed Obadiah in Ahab’s court to protect other of his prophets. When we think all is lost, we can fail to see faithful people whom the Lord has placed near us to help us. Consider Obadiah’s character. He was a godly man (18:3). Like Joseph, Nehemiah and Daniel, Obadiah was faithful to God in a pagan palace. “There is nothing wrong in a child of God holding a position of influence if he can do so without the sacrifice of principle” (Pink). The Lord often has his saints in unlikely places, as in Caesar’s household (Philippians 4:22). We can be in the world and not of the world. Obadiah was consistent over a long period of time, for he had worshipped God since his youth (18:12). I am glad to see girls and boys in attendance, when their parents gather to worship the Lord. It is good to begin to serve God when you are young. Don’t let sin ruin you for years! Seek the Lord before the chains of sin harden around you and your mind is polluted with a great deal of sin. Think also of Obadiah’s accomplishments (8:4, 13). He hid the prophets and provided for them. He had bold faith. We thank God for those who have risked their lives to protect God’s persecuted people.

Third, God purposed to send rain again on the land. This was an act of sovereign mercy, for the people still had not called on him in repentance for their idolatry. If we need to wait for any nation to repent before God would act, there would be no hope for any people group. If we even had to wait for the professing church to return to him, we might despair. But God will have mercy on whom he will have mercy (Romans 9:15)! Our hope is in the Sovereign God, not in people! Remember this when you gather with others to pray. This was also an act of faithfulness to Elijah. The prophet had said that there would only be rain at his word (see 17:1), and so the Lord sent Elijah to announce the coming of rain. Here is a principle: God will honor those who honor him (cf. 1 Samuel 2:30).

Let us thank God for the godly who still remain in the nations of the world! Every follower of Christ is a witness to the power of God’s saving grace! If God could save you, my friends, he can save anyone. The salvation of the righteous comes from the LORD (Psalm 37:39 NIV). Let us pray fervently for God to send a new great awakening. Greed, self-love and sexual immorality bind the wills of people. They will not come to him and have life (John 5:40). But King Jesus is able to break those chains, for he is the Great God and Savior! Now is the time to seek the Lord!

Grace and peace, David