Is There No God?
Small Group Leader Study Guide
- Date: September 23, 2018
- Series: The kings and the King: Season 4 (2 Kings)
- Bible Text: 2 Kings 1-2 (focus on chapter 1)
- This Week’s Leader Guide (pdf)
There are two parts to the video: the first 5 minutes provide weekly announcements for all groups, and the overview of this week’s lesson begins at the 5 minute mark.
The focus of this week’s lesson is on the open, in-your-face opposition of Ahaziah, King of Israel, to God’s man and to the Lord Himself. The problem confronted in 1 Kings 1 is the same problem many in our country face today: they believe in God, but they don’t worship Him as God. Even so-called “Christians” walk a delicate dance between open, unashamed faith in God and friendship with the world and allegiance to the world’s politically correct gods.
We also look at the Cycle of History that nations, including the United States, have followed throughout time. It is a pattern that we can identify in nations like Israel during the times of the kings as well as the empires that followed, from Babylon to Persia to Greece to Rome up and to modern times with nations like Great Britain, France, Germany, the Soviet Union, and the United States.
Is the Cycle of History inevitable? Where is the United States in the Cycle of History? How should the church respond as we live in a nation that is experiencing moral and spiritual decline? Those are some of the questions we will look at this week as we study “Is There Not God?” from 2 Kings 1-2.
Memory Verse for This Week
2 Chronicles 16:9 — For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him.
Core Belief: The Bible
The Bible (2 Timothy 3:16–17): We believe the Bible is the inspired, infallible Word of God, and the final authority in all matters of faith and conduct.
Take Home Truth
“Though the nation continued to spiral, God continued to speak. And he ultimately did this in his Son, Jesus!”
Can you think of a time when you have been personally uncomfortable because of you felt so out of place. What made you feel out of place?
What is the greatest challenge you face today as a Christian trying to live in obedience to the teaching of the Bible?
Looking back at your notes from this week’s sermon, was there anything that particularly caught your attention, challenged or confused you?
Make sure you ask this question this week. It gives people the opportunity to discuss questions or issues that come up beyond the written questions. People’s responses can often lead to one of the questions in the “Digging Deeper” section. Also, some weeks this question will result in a lot of discussion, other weeks, not so much.
Read the Text: 2 Kings 1:1-18
Elijah Confronts Ahaziah. The Death of Ahaziah.
1 After the death of Ahab, Moab rebelled against Israel. 2 Now Ahaziah fell through the lattice in his upper chamber in Samaria, and lay sick; so he sent messengers, telling them, “Go, inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron, whether I shall recover from this sickness.” 3 But the angel of the Lord said to Elijah the Tishbite, “Arise, go up to meet the messengers of the king of Samaria, and say to them, ‘Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are going to inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron? 4 Now therefore thus says the Lord, You shall not come down from the bed to which you have gone up, but you shall surely die.’ ” So Elijah went.
5 The messengers returned to the king, and he said to them, “Why have you returned?” 6 And they said to him, “There came a man to meet us, and said to us, ‘Go back to the king who sent you, and say to him, Thus says the Lord, Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are sending to inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron? Therefore you shall not come down from the bed to which you have gone up, but you shall surely die.’ ” 7 He said to them, “What kind of man was he who came to meet you and told you these things?” 8 They answered him, “He wore a garment of hair, with a belt of leather about his waist.” And he said, “It is Elijah the Tishbite.”
9 Then the king sent to him a captain of fifty men with his fifty. He went up to Elijah, who was sitting on the top of a hill, and said to him, “O man of God, the king says, ‘Come down.’ ” 10 But Elijah answered the captain of fifty, “If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty.” Then fire came down from heaven and consumed him and his fifty.
11 Again the king sent to him another captain of fifty men with his fifty. And he answered and said to him, “O man of God, this is the king’s order, ‘Come down quickly!’ ” 12 But Elijah answered them, “If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty.” Then the fire of God came down from heaven and consumed him and his fifty.
13 Again the king sent the captain of a third fifty with his fifty. And the third captain of fifty went up and came and fell on his knees before Elijah and entreated him, “O man of God, please let my life, and the life of these fifty servants of yours, be precious in your sight. 14 Behold, fire came down from heaven and consumed the two former captains of fifty men with their fifties, but now let my life be precious in your sight.” 15 Then the angel of the Lord said to Elijah, “Go down with him; do not be afraid of him.” So he arose and went down with him to the king 16 and said to him, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Because you have sent messengers to inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron—is it because there is no God in Israel to inquire of his word?—therefore you shall not come down from the bed to which you have gone up, but you shall surely die.’ ”
17 So he died according to the word of the Lord that Elijah had spoken. Jehoram became king in his place in the second year of Jehoram the son of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, because Ahaziah had no son. 18 Now the rest of the acts of Ahaziah that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel?
In this section, feel free to develop your own questions to help guide your group’s discussion. Below are some suggestions. Remember, if you are hearing from everyone in your group, chances are you won’t have time to discuss every question. You may start with one that catches your attention so you don’t run out of time. For example, it’s not odd to start with Question #6, then go to Question #5 and if you have time come back to Question #4.
How is 1 Kings connected to 2 Kings?
In 1 Kings we see the record of the division of the kingdom and 2 Kings records the collapse of the kingdom. Considering the two books as a unit, they open with King David, and they close with the king of Babylon. They are the book of man’s rule over God’s kingdom—and the results were not good, of course.
The moral teaching of these books is to show man his inability to rule himself and the world. In these four historical books (1 & 2 Samuel and 1 & 2 Kings) we get a very graphic view of the rise and fall of the kingdom of Israel. The king and the prophet take the place of the priest as God’s instruments of communication. [Missler]
1 Kings 22:51 told us that “Ahaziah the son of Ahab began to reign over Israel in Samaria….” We pick up the story in 2 Kings at this point. (The division seems to derive from the length of the scrolls, not a break in subject matter. Ahaziah’s reign in Israel is begun in 1 Kings and concluded in 2 Kings.)
Briefly summarize what is happening in 2 Kings 1 & 2.
2 Kings 1-2 serve as the final chapter in Elijah’s ministry. He is sent by the Angel of the Lord to confront King Ahaziah, the son of King Ahab and Jezebel. Like his parents, King Ahaziah is an evil, wicked king.
2 Kings 1 tells us of King Ahaziah’s ultimate demise as a result of an injury he sustains in a fall. Rather than seek counsel from the Lord God of Israel, he sends messengers to (supposedly) seek counsel from Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron. This draws the Lord’s anger and he dispatches Elijah to confront Ahaziah. This chapter ends with Ahaziah’s death.
2 Kings 2 describes the transfer of authority from Elijah to Elisha and Elijah’s departure. The first part of the chapter tells of Elisha receiving a double portion of Elijah’s spirit (v. 9), and then the magnificent scene where Elijah is taken to heaven by chariots of fire. NOTE: Elijah is one of only two men in the Bible who did not die, the other being Enoch (Genesis 5:21-24).
Elijah taken up to heaven.
The last part of 2 Kings 2 (vs 15ff) shows the Lord affirming Elisha as a prophet by working a miracle to purify bitter water, and then the unfortunate demise of some boys who mocked Elisha because of his bald head. So, the application this week is plain to see: don’t make fun of bald men.
What did Ahaziah do that displeased the Lord?
We are not told a lot about Ahaziah, but he seems to be representative of the spiritual condition in Israel at the time. The Jews believed in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but they also relied upon foreign idols, or false gods. This is what we see happening in 2 Kings 1.
When Ahaziah sent his messengers to inquire of Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron, he demonstrated both his disdain for the God of Israel and his trust in the false god of Ekron. He enjoyed the benefit of knowing he was a “son of a king,” but failed to see his true place as a “son of the King.”
How does the Bible demonstrate to us Ahaziah’s stubbornness and the extent of his pride?
We see the stubbornness of Ahaziah and his complete disdain for God in the scene that follows. Three different times he sent a company of 50 soldiers to confront Elijah, who is identified as the “man of God.” In two of those occasions, Elijah calls fire from heaven and 100 men are instantly consumed by the fire. The captain of the third company, recognizing how foolish it is to challenge Elijah and his God, pleads for mercy and Elijah listens to his request and goes with the captain to have a little chat with Ahaziah.
It is clear that Ahaziah’s intent was to take Elijah into custody and show him who was the true authority in Israel. He was sorely mistaken, and his arrogance cost the lives of 100 men.
What is the significance of the challenge the Lord says through Elijah: “Is there no God in Israel that you must inquire of Baalzebub, the god of Ekron?” (vs. 3, 6 & 16).
The Lord rightly identified Ahaziah’s problem as a heart problem. Like his parents, Ahaziah knew God and his prophet (he identifies Elijah by a brief description in v. 8), but he rejects Elijah’s prophetic authority and the God he represents. This is the problem many of us face today: we know God, but in the matters of obedience and faithfulness, we reject His authority in our life.
One Commentator observed:
Ahaziah’s rejection of Yahweh in his time of deep distress results in an irrevocable judgment. His fate is stated unequivocally three times: “You will not leave the bed you are lying on. You will certainly die” (2 Kings 1:4, 6, 16). Ahaziah knows well the experiences of his father with this prophet. He has chosen to continue the policies of his father, also under the pressure of his mother, who continues to take royal matters into her own hands as she did in the case of Naboth (cf. 1 Kings 22:53; 2 Kings 9:36–37). Seeking a prophet outside of Israel is necessitated by his allegiance to his mother and his unwillingness to abdicate her religion.1
Application for Christians Today
During our study of 2 Kings this fall, we will rely on a new book by Erwin Lutzer–The Church in Babylon. There is much we can learn from the example of Israel & Judah concerning our experience today in an increasingly pagan world that knows who God is, but not only rejects Him as God, but is increasingly hostile to God and the Bible.
What caution must we use when applying the Old Testament to today’s Church?
The Apostle Paul leaned heavily upon the Old Testament in applying New Testament principles to his readers. Referring to the Old Testament, he states in 1 Corinthians 10:11, “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.”
There is much we can learn from the Old Testament, which serves to illustrate many timeless lessons and principles, but we must be careful when applying Old Testament principles and laws to the church today. Erwin Lutzer shares this example:
When Elijah won the contest with the prophets of Baal on the top of Mount Carmel, he summarily took 450 false prophets and had them killed at the river Kishon. As we shall see later in this book, the New Testament warns against false prophets and teachers, but we certainly are not expected to have them slaughtered! They are free to buy time on television, build their churches, and promote their heresies. The best we can do is expose them and help our flocks realize their danger. We no longer stone people for adultery, homosexuality, or disobeying one’s parents. We are in a different age with different relationships and expectations.2
The key is to look for the timeless principles that are true about God and His interactions with mankind regardless of the where we stand in the historical timeline.
What can we learn from the example of Israel & Judah in the books of the kings?
What we see demonstrated clearly in the books of the kings is the cycle of history that impacts nations, from Israel in the Old Testament to Rome in the New Testament to the United States today.
We this illustrated perfectly in the book of Judges:
Judges 2:11-16 …
Then the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served the Baals; and they forsook the Lord God of their fathers, who had brought them out of the land of Egypt; and they followed other gods from among the gods of the people who were all around them, and they bowed down to them; and they provoked the Lord to anger. They forsook the Lord and served Baal and the Ashtoreths. And the anger of the Lord was hot against Israel. So He delivered them into the hands of plunderers who despoiled them; and He sold them into the hands of their enemies all around, so that they could no longer stand before their enemies. Wherever they went out, the hand of the Lord was against them for calamity, as the Lord had said, and as the Lord had sworn to them. And they were greatly distressed. Nevertheless, the Lord raised up judges who delivered them out of the hand of those who plundered them.
Historians have recorded this cyclical nature of nations for centuries. It shows a steady progression from abundance to apathy to rebellion to destruction. Rinse and repeat.
Concerning Israel, Irving L. Jensen demonstrates this downward movement with the following chart:
We see Israel reach its zenith under Solomon with the dedication of the temple and the devotion of the people to God. From this place of abundance, Israel slid from Glory to Captivity.
To see this in a more cyclical pattern, we view the Cycle of History this way:
Question: where is America in this cycle of history? What do you think? What does your group think?
Is the Cycle of History inevitable for nations?
If there is a lesson to learn from Israel’s experience, it is that from generation-to-generation, man believes he can rule himself apart from God. As the preacher in Ecclesiastes says, is vanity. Moreover, because man rejects God and chooses to go his own way, God allows him to do so. Consider what Paul says in Act 14:15-16:
Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men with the same nature as you, and preach to you that you should turn from these useless things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them, who in bygone generations allowed all nations to walk in their own ways.
God allows all nations to walk in their own ways, including America. God will not fight against the stubbornness of man. Instead, He abandons nations to their own desires and wishes. Consider Paul’s statement in Romans 1:21-25,
For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
Paul continues by describing the moral condition of a nation when they remove God from their cultural consciousness and seek to live life according to their own values, morals, and laws:
For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. –Romans 1:26-32
It is difficult not to read that graphic description of a people God has abandoned and not see America today.
Does America need to be concerned about God’s Judgement?
If we return to our Bible text from 2 Kings 1, we see King Ahaziah defiant against God and his prophet. If Ahaziah could have killed Elijah, he would have. He did not fear God or concern himself with the possibility of God’s judgment upon him.
This was Israel’s corporate attitude. They were the people of God. That’s all that matter. God would never destroy His own people. They did not fear nor concern themselves with the prospect of God’s judgment upon them. They rested in his mercy.
An excellent parallel book to read as we study 2 Kings is the book of Jeremiah. God called Jeremiah to prophesy during the last years of Judah’s existence as a nation. As you read Jeremiah, you sense his desperation in trying to reach the people and warn them of their sin and God’s impending judgment. But they would not listen. They refused to turn from their wicked ways. God grew so weary of their stubbornness that He instructed Jeremiah to stop praying for the nation (Jeremiah 7:16)!
Erwin Lutzer sees a parallel between Israel & Judah in those last days before their destruction and America today. Our idols are not false gods like Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron; our idols are money, possessions, and sex. These idols feed our hedonistic yearnings and fleshly desires. They could not turn from their idols, and, Lutzer argues, neither can America. He states,
Why were pagan idols so attractive to the people of Israel and Judah? Why did the people continuously flirt with other gods?
Study history and you will discover that idolatry justified and encouraged sexual permissiveness of every sort. Shrines were built on every high hill, and God said, “Under every green tree you bowed down like a whore” (Jer. 2:20). Prostitution, homosexuality, and every form of perversion was practiced, and the people loved it. Orgies were common, and the false gods stood by in silent approval.
God was displeased. “Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the LORD, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water” (Jer. 2:12–13). The water they thirsted for proved to be bitter, guilt-inducing, and destructively addictive. It promised freedom but brought bondage, broken relationships, and endless pain.
People were gagging on the guilt, shame, and brokenness that their idols brought. But they refused to turn away from what was destroying them. The nature of evil is to plunge ahead, deliberately closing one’s eyes to the consequences. Or even worse, seeing the consequences but being so addicted to behavioral patterns that change seems impossible.
Our nation is drinking from similar poisoned wells. Like salt water that promises to satisfy but only increases a deadly thirst, so our nation plunges into a sexual wasteland that drives people to emptiness and despair. All of this has to be mentally justified no matter what our consciences tell us. The bumper stickers used to say, “If it feels good, do it.” Now the bumper sticker should say, “If it feels good, believe it.”3
What about the people who say, “God will not judge America; He is a merciful God …”?
Israel & Judah suffered from the same message delivered by false prophets in their time. No one wanted to hear Jeremiah’s message. The false prophets were there to assure the people that they had a better message, a positive message, not the depressing negativity that Jeremiah was preaching.
Lutzer states, “The false prophets did what false prophets almost always do: they appealed to the ego of their listeners by telling them that God owes them special blessings because they are the people of God. They preached blessings without repentance, prosperity without piety. They had a theology of success, but not a theology of suffering. They preached about the good life in this present world and gave no thought to the world to come.”
God was not pleased. “They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace. Were they ashamed when they committed abomination? No, they were not at all ashamed; they did not know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; at the time that I punish them, they shall be overthrown” (Jer. 6:14–15). Yes, these false prophets healed the wounds of the people far too lightly! It was all about how to live your best life right then!4
We have the same problem today. Too many pastors are assuring their churches that God is all mercy and that He wants His people to be prosperous, safe, and secure. Judgment is not coming, don’t listen to those negative, faithless preachers. Just like the people of Israel at the time of the kings, we rest in being the people of God without owning the responsibility of representing God to the world. We want His blessing apart from obedience. We lean into His mercy apart from His justice. Do you know what the Lord said concerning such prophets? “Thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD'” — Jeremiah 23:16.
What about the church? How should the church respond as part of a nation sliding towards destruction?
While nations rise and nations fall, God always maintains a witness, even within the darkest of times. This is the mission of the true church in America today. As the darkness increase, so much greater does the light of the gospel shine. Praise the Lord. Spiritual and moral darkness are not obstacles to the church. Rather, apathy and disobedience are the obstacles we face.
As a church, we need to be ready for the challenges ahead of us. I have stated before that I do not believe we will see physical persecution of Christians in America. I could be wrong, but this is not common among western nations. What we will see, and are seeing, is the marginalization of Christians in America. This is going to be our challenge. American culture wants to silence Christians, push them into the uninhabited regions of our national consciousness and dialog.
But even now, there are Christians who are speaking with the voice of Jeremiah calling America to repentance, to turn from our idols and humble ourselves before God.
Here are four anchors we need to hold on to as we live in a nation that is morally and spiritually adrift:
We need to be ready for the battle in front of us. The church needs men and women of courage who are clear about God’s calling on their life. Listen to the instructions God gave Jeremiah and see if these do not apply to Christians today: “But you, dress yourself for work; arise, and say to them everything that I command you. Do not be dismayed by them, lest I dismay you before them. And I, behold, I make you this day a fortified city, an iron pillar, and bronze walls, against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, its officials, its priests, and the people of the land. They will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you, for I am with you, declares the Lord, to deliver you” (Jeremiah 1:17-19). Does this not echo the words of Jesus when he said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18–20).
We must be faithful to the commands God has given us. In Matthew 5:14, Jesus said, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.” The light we possess is the gospel light as proclaimed by true Christians throughout the centuries. Even though we are living among an increasingly faithless people, we are called to stand strong as a faithful witness. The time to determine in your own heart that you will be faithful is now, not when the waves of conflict are crashing all about you. Lutzer states, “I believe that the time is coming, and is already here, when the church will not be able to depend on the media, the courts, our universities, or even some so-called evangelical churches to stand with us as the onslaught against Christianity comes to us from every direction. We have to learn how to conduct ourselves as a minority in a majority post-Christian world. We have to know how to engage the culture without becoming contaminated by it.5
We need to remember America is our country, but not our home. The Apostle Peter, writing to a people experiencing difficult times, stated, “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation”–1 Peter 2:11–12. We are citizens of the Kingdom of God, a part of His royal priesthood here for a time to accomplish His will. When Augustine was told about the fall of Rome to the Vandals, he felt deep sadness because he loved that city. He also believed its demise was a judgment for its sins, lamenting, “Whatever men build, men will destroy. Let’s go on with building the kingdom of God.”
We must remember Who is building His church. Jesus Christ stated to Simon Peter, “…on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). As times become more difficult, the foundation of God’s word becomes more essential. The Church is not an instrument of man seeking to save a lost world, but a congregation of faithful witnesses to the power and hope found in Jesus Christ as He builds His church across the street (in Central Iowa!) and around the world.
At the Diet of Worms, Martin Luther was asked two questions: Were these his books? And was he ready to revoke the heresies they contained? The second question required time to consider.
Martin Luther before the Diet of Worms, April 1521.
At 6:00 p.m. the following day Luther was led into a larger, torchlit room packed to suffocation with the empire’s notables. To disown some of his books would be to condemn simple Christian morality.… Dark eyes flashing, voice clear and strong, he ended with ringing defiance: “Unless proved wrong by Scripture and plain reason … my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and will not recant.… God help me. Amen.” Here he stood. Being Luther, he could do no other. 6
The church today can do no other. The spirit of Elijah is no less necessary for the church today, than it was in the times when a king of Israel sought Baal-Zebub for an oracle.
Where do you see the greatest challenge to your Christian faith within your circle of influence?
Becoming A House of Prayer
“Even them I will bring to My holy mountain, And make them joyful in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices; Will be accepted on My altar; For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.” – Isaiah 56:7.
Prayer Focus for the Week of September 23 …
Our memory verse this week, 2 Chronicles 16:9a says this, the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the earth looking for a man looking for a woman who’s heart is fully His, is fully God’s, that He [God] might show Himself strong on his behalf. God’s looking for you who will believe Him, who will listen to the words of His book and who will act accordingly.
As you close in prayer this week, dedicate yourself to the Lord God. He is looking for you, are you seeking Him, are you hiding from Him, are you running from Him?
Questions to consider as you continue to reflect on what you learned this week:
Take Action: Which of the three American idols, money, possessions, or sex, do you find yourself struggling with at this stage in your life? Repent of this idolatry and seek the Lord’s forgiveness and His shelter.
Take Courage: God does not leave us in the wilderness alone. He is searching for you. Run to Him and take refuge in the Rock of Ages.
Work to memorize this week’s memory verse: 2 Chronicles 16:9 — For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him.
Our Core Belief this week is The Bible (2 Timothy 3:16–17): We believe the Bible is the inspired, infallible Word of God, and the final authority in all matters of faith and conduct.
Remember to use the Daily Bible Reading plan as part of your walk with Christ, taking the time to reflect on each passage and what it means for your lives.
2 Kings 1
Fire from Heaven Protects Elijah from Ahaziah
Ahaziah’s reign (853–852 B.C.), despite its brevity, was characterized by extreme iniquity. In 2 Kings, the first chapter, Ahaziah, king of Israel and son of Ahab and Jezebel, fell down through a lattice and seriously injured himself.
1] Moab rebelled against Israel after the death of Ahab.
Moab, under Mesha its king, rebelled against Israel after Ahab died. The death of the Israelite king encouraged Mesha to throw off the burden of taxation that Omri (Ahaziah’s grandfather) had imposed when he had brought Moab under Israel’s control (cf. comments on 1 Kgs 16:21-24). This rebellion was not effective at first but the fact that it began in Ahaziah’s reign may suggest that Mesha considered Ahaziah a weaker king than Ahab.
2] Now Ahaziah fell through the lattice of his upper room in Samaria, and was injured; so he sent messengers and said to them, “Go, inquire of Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron, whether I shall recover from this injury.”
This verse begins a new incident in Ahaziah’s life which occupies the remainder of chapter 1. The king had suffered an injury from falling through the lattice covering of a window in his upper story room, probably to the ground below. His serious injury later proved fatal. The king’s veneration of Baal can be seen in his sending messengers to Ekron, a Philistine city about 40 miles away, to inquire of a pagan idol whether he would recover.
Baal-Zebub: Baal-Zebub was one of the many local male fertility gods which bore some form of the name Baal (meaning “lord”). According to the Ugaritic alphabetic cuneiform tablets, this name is to be spelled Baalzebul. Possibly the spelling was changed by some copyist to make the name ridiculous. The former means Baal of the fly. The latter means Baal of the dwelling, i.e., the Canaanite life-god, the chief Canaanite deity. Ahaziah had tried to syncretize Baal worship with the worship of Jehovah. Elijah here proves Baal to be powerless. Ahab on his part had broken the covenant by introducing Baal worship, substituting idolatry for the worship of the Lord. Ahaziah’s request for an oracle was a challenge to the God of Israel.
Ahaziah sought some prophetic word of encouragement from the oracle of Baal-Zebub. His failure to inquire of Yahweh, the God of Israel, reveals the depth of his apostasy. Ahaziah’s request for an oracle was a direct challenge to the Lord God of Israel. He wanted to know if he would recover from the effects of the accident.
3] But the angel of the Lord said to Elijah the Tishbite, “Arise, go up to meet the messengers of the king of Samaria, and say to them, ‘Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are going to inquire of Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron?’
The Angel of the LORD: generally viewed as the preincarnate Christ; (Gen 22:15, 16 makes the “angel of the Lord” and the Lord the same.). He appeared to Elijah as He had appeared to many other Old Testament leaders in the past. His appearances always identified an important revelation. The angel gave Elijah a prophecy to pass on to the king through the royal messengers whom Elijah intercepted as they traveled south from Samaria to Ekron. Though Ahaziah sought a message from Baal-Zebub, he got an answer from the true and living God. Perhaps Ahaziah, like his father Ahab, did not want to inquire of a faithful prophet of the Lord since those prophets were consistently opposing rather than supporting the king because of his wickedness. God’s punishment for consulting a pagan idol rather than Himself was that Ahaziah would fail to recover from his injuries.
4] Now therefore, thus says the Lord: ‘You shall not come down from the bed to which you have gone up, but you shall surely die.’ ” So Elijah departed.
This was one of Elijah’s last missions. He went to meet the messengers and gave them this challenge: “Is it not because there is not a God in Israel, that ye go to inquire of Baal-zebub the God of Ekron?” Then he gave them God’s unwelcome prognosis: Ahaziah would not recover; he would die. An adverse oracle indicated that open sin and deliberate defection from God must end in death. The messengers went back and reported to the king what Elijah had said.
5] And when the messengers returned to him, he said to them, “Why have you come back?”
6] So they said to him, “A man came up to meet us, and said to us, ‘Go, return to the king who sent you, and say to him, “Thus says the Lord: ‘Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are sending to inquire of Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron? Therefore you shall not come down from the bed to which you have gone up, but you shall surely die.’ ” ’ ”
7] Then he said to them, “What kind of man was it who came up to meet you and told you these words?”
8] So they answered him, “A hairy man wearing a leather belt around his waist.” And he said, “It is Elijah the Tishbite.”
The hairy garment (probably made from goats’ dark hair) and large leather belt were part of the dress of prophets at that time. Cloth woven from hair, as rough as burlap, was sometimes called sackcloth. Since sackcloth symbolized distress or self-affliction (cf. 6:30; Gen 37:34; 2 Sam 3:31), Elijah’s garb probably visualized the repentance to which the prophets called the people (cf. penitence and sackcloth in Neh 9:1; Jer 6:26). Ahaziah knew who Elijah was, of course, since Elijah had consistently opposed his parents, Ahab and Jezebel, for their Baal worship.
9] Then the king sent to him a captain of fifty with his fifty men. So he went up to him; and there he was, sitting on the top of a hill. And he spoke to him: “Man of God, the king has said, ‘Come down!’ ”
To many this story seems like an unnecessarily cruel demonstration of God’s power; However, the issues at stake justified severe action. Ahaziah showed complete contempt for Elijah and the God he represented by sending a band of soldiers to arrest the prophet like an outlaw and drag him before the throne. [Perhaps Elijah’s position on the top of a hill should have reminded the captain of Elijah’s victory over the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel (1 Kgs 18:20-40) and of his great God-given power. Either the captain did not make this connection or decided to disregard it.]
He acknowledged that Elijah was a man of God (cf. 2 Kgs 1:11), but ordered him to come down to him in Ahaziah’s name. In 1 and 2 Kings the term “man of God” is a synonym for a prophet. It is used of Shemaiah (1 Kgs 12:22), of Elijah seven times (1 Kgs 17:18, 24; 2 Kgs 1:9, 10-13), of Elisha more than two dozen times in 2 Kings (the first occurrence is in 4:7 and the last is in 13:19), and of two other anonymous prophets (one is mentioned frequently in 1 Kgs 13 and in 2 Kgs 23:16-17; the other is referred to in 1 Kgs 20:28).
10] So Elijah answered and said to the captain of fifty, “If I am a man of God, then let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty men.” And fire came down from heaven and consumed him and his fifty.
Remember: Ahaziah the king was the son of Jezebel, the woman who had tried to kill Elijah; Apparently there was still a price on his head. Elijah managed to communicate rather than compromise. The king sent another captain with fifty men, and he also ordered Elijah to come down from the top of the hill. What came down was fire from heaven which consumed the captain and his men.
Elijah’s repetition of the fact that he was indeed a man of God (cf. v. 12) shows that this was an important issue; God’s reputation was at stake. Was Ahaziah in charge, able to command God’s servants to obey him? Or was God in charge, able to command Ahaziah’s servants to obey Him? By sending fire from heaven (cf. v. 12) to consume the soldiers of the king, God was reminding Ahaziah that He was Israel’s Ruler and that the king should submit to His sovereignty.
11] Then he sent to him another captain of fifty with his fifty men. And he answered and said to him: “Man of God, thus has the king said, ‘Come down quickly!’ ”
12] So Elijah answered and said to them, “If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty men.” And the fire of God came down from heaven and consumed him and his fifty.
Ahaziah disregarded this tragedy and tried again to force Elijah to submit to him. This time the captain ordered the prophet, Come down (cf. v. 9) at once! Again Elijah reminded the captain, undoubtedly for the benefit of those looking on who would report the incident as well as for the officer, that he was indeed God’s man. The fire of judgment fell again (cf. v. 10), proving that the first miracle was not just an accident but was the hand of God at work in judgment.
13] Again, he sent a third captain of fifty with his fifty men. And the third captain of fifty went up, and came and fell on his knees before Elijah, and pleaded with him, and said to him: “Man of God, please let my life and the life of these fifty servants of yours be precious in your sight.
14] Look, fire has come down from heaven and burned up the first two captains of fifties with their fifties. But let my life now be precious in your sight.”
Still Ahaziah hardened his heart. The third captain he sent had more respect for Yahweh and His representative than Ahaziah did. Rather than demanding surrender from a position of assumed superiority this man submitted to Elijah’s authority, falling to his knees before him. He too recognized Elijah as a man of God, but unlike the first two captains (cf. vv. 9, 11) he pleaded for mercy.
15] And the angel of the Lord said to Elijah, “Go down with him; do not be afraid of him.” So he arose and went down with him to the king.
16] Then he said to him, “Thus says the Lord: ‘Because you have sent messengers to inquire of Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron, is it because there is no God in Israel to inquire of His word? Therefore you shall not come down from the bed to which you have gone up, but you shall surely die.’ ”
This whole incident was designed to demonstrate God’s sovereignty to the king and the people of Israel. Standing before the king, Elijah fearlessly delivered the message God had given him. Because of Ahaziah’s failure to consult Israel’s God (cf. v. 2) and his determination to lead independently, God would depose him. This is the same message Elijah had given earlier to the king’s messengers on their way to Ekron (vv. 3-4).
17] So Ahaziah died according to the word of the Lord which Elijah had spoken. Because he had no son, Jehoram became king in his place, in the second year of Jehoram the son of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah.
Just as Elijah had announced (vv. 4, 16), Ahaziah never recovered from his injuries and died shortly thereafter. Since Ahaziah had no son his brother Jehoram succeeded him as king of Israel. This accession took place in the second year of Jehoram king of Judah (i.e., the second year of his coregency with his father Jehoshaphat, viz., 852 B.C.). The kings of Israel and Judah at this time had the same name. (The NIV keeps the two kings distinct by spelling the king of Israel’s name “Joram” and the king of Judah’s “Jehoram.”)
18] Now the rest of the acts of Ahaziah which he did, are they not written in the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel?
This ends the line of Omri and Ahab.