Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Prophets And Kings, Day 58. Ahaziah King Of Israel

Prophets And Kings
Day 58
Ahaziah King Of Israel

This mornin we meets the son of Ahab and him is a wicked man.

1 KINGS 22:51-53, 2 KINGS 1:1-18
We learned earlier in Chapter 22 that King Ahab of Israel died when an arrow struck him in the battle against King Ben-Hadad of Aram. His son, Ahaziah, will not be a good king and will only reign for two years. "Ahaziah son of Ahab became king of Israel in Samaria in the seventeenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, and he reigned over Israel two years. He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, because he followed the ways of his father and mother and of Jeroboam son of Nebat, who caused Israel to sin. He served and worshiped Baal and aroused the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel, just as his father had done." (1 Kings 22:51-53) 

"After Ahab's death, Moab rebelled against Israel." (2 Kings 1:1) During Ahab's reign the Moabites were subject to Israel and due to his great power they dared not rebel while he still lived. But now that a new, younger, and inexperienced king sits on the throne, they see their opportunity to throw off the shackles of Israel.

"Now Ahaziah had fallen through the lattice of his upper room in Samaria and injured himself. So he sent messengers, saying to them, 'Go and consult Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron, to see if I will recover from this injury.'" (2 Kings 1:2) Some commentators think the lattice he fell through was a screen or short wall surrounding an upper floor balcony and that perhaps he leaned against it and it gave way, sending him plunging down to the floor level of the palace. Rather than seeking help from the Lord, Ahaziah consults a foreign god, a god of the Philistine town of Ekron. 

Baal-Zebub's name is usually translated Beelzebub in the New Testament. The name is a combination of the fertility/storm god Baal and a word which means "exalted dwelling". In the New Testament we find Jesus' enemies accusing Him of casting demons out through the power of Beelzebub. In Jesus' time the name of this god had become synonymous with Satan himself, a symbol of all that is wicked and abominable, a title for the one who said, "I will ascend to the heavens, I will raise my throne above the stars of God." (Isaiah 14:13a) It's also a title for the man of sin who will come at the end times, the antichrist, who will, "oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God's temple, proclaiming himself to be God." (2 Thessalonians 2:4) In all of Israel and Judah, there was no name more detestable than that of Beelzebub and this is the god Ahaziah consults in his troubles.

"But the angel of the Lord said to Elijah the Tishbite, 'Go up and meet the messengers of the king of Samaria and ask them, 'Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are going off to consult Baal-Zebub, the God of Ekron?' Therefore this is what the Lord says: 'You will not leave the bed you are lying on. You will certainly die!' So Elijah went." (2 Kings 1:3-4) Ahaziah knows he is seriously injured, probably internally, but instead of seeking help from the God who led Israel out of Egypt into the promised land, he seeks help from a god who is not real, a god incapable of saving or delivering, a god who has done nothing for Israel and never will. Elijah is to ask the messengers why the king feels the need to send them all the way to Ekron when the mighty God of Israel is at hand.

"When the messengers came back to the king, he asked them, 'Why have you come back?' 'A man came to meet us,' they replied. 'And he said to us, 'Go back to the king who sent you and tell him, 'This is what the Lord says: Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are sending messengers to consult Baal-Zebub, the God of Ekron? Therefore you will not leave the bed you are lying on. You will certainly die!'" (2 Kings 1:5-6) I think if Ahaziah had taken this to heart and repented of idolatry, the Lord might have let him live. We have seen the Lord relent before when men in the Bible have repented. God is giving the king a priceless opportunity to get his heart right before it's too late. Even if Ahaziah had repented and the Lord had still allowed him to perish from his injuries, this would still be merciful. Better to die in the Lord than to die without Him.

The fear of God must have come on the messengers who met Elijah because they didn't continue their journey to Ekron but instead came back to the king with this dire warning. But no fear of God seems to come on Ahaziah. He is concerned only with the identity of the prophet. "The king asked them, 'What kind of man was it who came to meet you and told you this?' They replied, 'He had a garment of hair and had a leather belt around his waist.' The king said, 'That was Elijah the Tishbite.'" (2 Kings 1:7-8) The garments the man wore tell Ahaziah who sent him this bad news. The author of Hebrews, in the chapter known as the Hebrews Hall Of Faith, describes the clothing of the prophets of old, "They went about in sheepskins and goatskins." (Hebrews 11:37b)

"Then he sent to Elijah a captain with his company of fifty men. The captain went up to Elijah, who was sitting on the top of a hill, and said to him, 'Man of God, the king says, 'Come down!'" (2 Kings 1:9) These men are on a fool's mission. The king wants to take Elijah's life for telling him the truth. The Lord will protect His prophet for telling the truth.

"Elijah answered the captain, 'If I am a man of God, may fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty men!' Then fire fell from heaven and consumed the captain and his men." (2 Kings 1:10) The men addressed Elijah by the proper title of a prophet but they didn't really mean any respect. They call him by a title they don't really believe and so Elijah proves to them that he is who he says he is and that God's word is true and is going to stand.

Ahaziah is determined to put an end to this prophet and sends another company of men for him. "At this the king sent to Elijah another captain with his fifty men. The captain said to him, 'Man of God, this is what the king says, 'Come down at once!' 'If I am a man of God,' Elijah replied, 'may fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty men!' Then the fire of God fell from heaven and consumed him and his fifty men." (2 Kings 1:11-12) Ahaziah has now lost two captains and a total of one hundred soldiers but he's a slow learner because of his wickedness. He's consumed by hatred for Elijah and cares nothing for the lives of his own men.

"So the king sent a third captain with his fifty men. This third captain went up and fell on his knees before Elijah. 'Man of God,' he begged, 'please have respect for my life and the lives of these fifty men, your servants! See, fire has fallen down from heaven and consumed the first two captains and all their men. But now have respect for my life!'" (2 Kings 1:13-14) This captain's mama didn't raise any fools. He knows exactly what happened to the first two captains and their soldiers and is trembling in fear as he kneels before Elijah. He knows the power of God is in Elijah, even if the king doesn't know it. The first two captains came boldly in disrespect and ordered Elijah to come down. The third captain doesn't even repeat the king's words about coming down off the hill. He simply asks for mercy.

"The angel of the Lord said to Elijah, 'Go down with him; do not be afraid of him.' So Elijah got up and went down with him to the king." (2 Kings 1:15) Because the captain recognizes the power of the God of Israel and that Elijah is His prophet, the Lord tells Elijah to go with him. This captain and the men with him receive mercy because of humility of spirit.

Now Elijah stands in the presence of the king. "He told the king, 'This is what the Lord says: Is it because there is no God in Israel for you to consult that you have sent messengers to consult Baal-Zebub, the God of Ekron? Because you have done this, you will never leave the bed you are lying on. You will certainly die!' So he died, according to the word of the Lord that Elijah had spoken." (2 Kings 1:16-17a) Even with the prophet standing before him, Ahaziah doesn't repent. He knows Elijah is a prophet of God because of the proof of the fire from heaven, yet he doesn't feel inclined to make this God his own God. As a result, he dies of his injuries. He dies in sin. 

The words prophesied to King Ahab are coming true. Because he had a somewhat shallow change of heart in his later years, the Lord gave him a reprieve. God didn't wrest the kingdom from Ahab during his lifetime but instead said He would take it from Ahab's chosen successor."Because Ahaziah had no son, Joram succeeded him as king in the second year of Jehoram son of Jehoshaphat king of Judah. As for all the other events of Ahaziah's reign, and what he did, are they not written in the book of the annals of the kings of Israel?" (2 Kings 1:17b-18) In Chapter 3 we find that Joram was also a son of Ahab, though not the son Ahab wanted to rule in his place. He will be a slightly better king than Ahaziah, removing the sacred stone of Baal from the nation, but will still be an idolater. 

In today's passage Ahaziah reaps what he has sown. His late father set terrible things in motion when he married a pagan woman and allowed her to set up a state religion of Baal worship, funding it with the tax money of the citizens, putting God's prophets to death because they spoke the truth. Personally, I hold Ahab more accountable than Ahaziah, because Ahaziah was raised in a sinful household and bombarded by pagan images his whole life. Yet at the same time, Ahaziah knew Elijah was a prophet of God and had called fire down from heaven in Ahab's sight during the showdown on Mount Carmel. On Mount Carmel that day, the God of Israel proved He is the only God capable of answering because He is the only God. It's not as if Ahaziah didn't know the truth. He knew the truth and rejected it and so suffers the consequences of his hard and evil heart.

There is a law of reaping what we sow and it goes both ways. "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows." (Galatians 6:7) If we sow to the flesh we reap corruption. But if we sow to the Spirit we reap eternal life, plus the blessings and comfort of God in this life on earth. (Galatians 6:8) Ahaziah lay on his sickbed in a spirit of rebellion, refusing to acknowledge God as the Lord, and so he dies young and without a son to take his place. Elijah, however, is protected in today's passage because he obeys the Lord, saying what the Lord tells him to say and going where the Lord tells him to go. Elijah's life isn't easy, just as our lives in this world aren't necessarily easy, but he has the power and comfort of the Lord with him at all times, just as we who are in Christ have the power and the comfort of the Lord with us at all times.

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