Ignoring God Doesn’t Make Him Go Away

1 After the death of Ahab, Moab rebelled against Israel.

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.” 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? 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.

The messengers returned to the king, and he said to them, “Why have you returned?” 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.’” He said to them, “What kind of man was he who came to meet you and told you these things?” 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.”

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? 2 Kings 1:1-18 ESV

The book of 2 Kings continues the chronicle of the kings of Judah and Israel. With Ahab’s death, his son Ahaziah ascended to the throne, and he proved to be cut from the same cloth. “He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and walked in the way of his father and in the way of his mother…” (1 Kings 22:52 ESV). In other words, he was just as immoral and spiritually bankrupt as every other king who had ruled over the northern kingdom. He not only inherited his father’s kingdom but also his predilection for false gods.  “He served Baal and worshiped him and provoked the Lord, the God of Israel, to anger in every way that his father had done” (1 Kings22:53 ESV). And, as the opening chapter of 2 Kings reveals, his penchant for idolatry would prove to be his undoing.

But before the author reveals the fate of Ahaziah, he opens the second half of his history of the kings of Israel and Judah with a somewhat parenthetical statement: “After the death of Ahab, Moab rebelled against Israel” (2 Kings 1:1 ESV). It seems that Ahab had been extracting a sizeable annual tribute from the Moabites, literally fleecing his smaller neighbor to the east. But upon Ahab’s death, King Mesha put an end to these debilitating payments. 

Now Mesha king of Moab was a sheep breeder, and he had to deliver to the king of Israel 100,000 lambs and the wool of 100,000 rams. But when Ahab died, the king of Moab rebelled against the king of Israel. – 2 Kings 3:4-5 ESV

Before the very outset of his reign, Ahaziah would find himself having to deal with the sins of his father. Ahab had been a harsh and uncaring king who made a lot of enemies along the way. And Ahaziah was going to have his hands full trying to manage the royal mess his father had left him.

But before Ahaziah had a chance to deal with the rebellious Moabites, he suffered a life-threatening fall that left him confined to bed in Samaria’s royal palace. His injuries were severe enough that he was concerned whether he would fully recover. So, he sent messengers to the temple of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron, seeking a divine prediction concerning his fate. It had been Ahaziah’s parents who had introduced Baal worship to Israel, and he proved to be a faithful adherent to their false religion. In his time of suffering, he sought the counsel of Baal rather than Yahweh, the covenant God of Israel.

But Ahaziah’s messengers never made it to Ekron. They were met along the way by Elijah, the prophet of Yahweh. Ahab’s old nemesis appears on the scene once again, but this time, he has bad news for Ahab’s son. Elijah had received instructions from God, commanding him to intercept the king’s messengers and inform them of the king’s fate. Ahaziah was hoping to hear a positive word from Baal, but instead, he would receive  bad news from the God of Israel.

“Is there no God in Israel? Why are you going to Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron, to ask whether the king will recover? Now, therefore, this is what the Lord says: You will never leave the bed you are lying on; you will surely die.” – 2 Kings 1:3-4 NLT

There is a hint of sarcasm in this message. Yahweh is chiding Ahaziah for sending his messengers all the way to Ekron to seek a word from his false god. Baal worship was rampant within the nation of Israel. There were shrines and high places dedicated to Baal and Asherah all over the northern kingdom. In fact, Ahaziah had access to a Baal temple that his father had built in the capital city of Samaria.

He [Ahab] erected an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he built in Samaria. – 1 Kings 15:32 ESV

And there were literally hundreds of priests and prophets who served on behalf of Baal. Yet, Ahaziah had sent his messengers on a field trip all the way to Ekron in hopes of hearing something from his god. Perhaps he had started his search for an answer at the local temple but had come up empty-handed. This could have led him to his “long-distance-call” to Ekron.

When Ahaziah heard the less-than-positive pronouncement his messengers delivered, he grew suspicious. This was not the news he had been expecting. So, he asked for a description of the man who had predicted his pending death. And as soon as he heard what the man looked like, his suspicions were confirmed. It was Elijah the Tishbite. As the son of Ahab and Jezebel, Ahaziah would have grown up hearing the stories of Elijah and his defeat of the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. He would have been very familiar with his mother’s intense hatred for this prophet of Yahweh. And the ongoing battle of words and will between his father and Elijah would have taken place right in front of him. So, when he discovered that Elijah had interjected himself into Israel’s affairs yet again, he sent guards to arrest him. But, just like the messengers he had sent to Ekron, the guards never made it to their destination.

As visible proof of his role as a spokesman for Yahweh, Elijah called down fire from heaven that wiped out all 50 men. But this display of power made no impression on the stubborn and unrepentant Ahaziah. He simply sent another 50 guards who suffered the very same fate. The third commander recognized the divine nature of Elijah’s role and wisely chose to beg for mercy.

“O man of God, please spare my life and the lives of these, your fifty servants. See how the fire from heaven came down and destroyed the first two groups. But now please spare my life!” – 2 Kings 1:13-14 NLT

The angel of God intervened, instructing Elijah to spare these men’s lives and accompany them back to Samaria. When he arrived in the capital city, Elijah reiterated his earlier message, but this time, directly to Ahaziah. He confirmed that the king would not recover from his injuries. Ahaziah’s stubborn refusal to seek God even in his time of greatest need would be the death of him. His unjustified yet unwavering allegiance to Baal would end up killing him. And, as always, the words of Elijah proved to be true.

So Ahaziah died, just as the Lord had promised through Elijah. – 2 Kings 1:17 NLT

Yet another king of Israel met an untimely but well-deserved end. The legacy of unfaithfulness, begun by Jeroboam, had been passed down from generation to generation, infecting each successive king and bringing the just and righteous judgment of God. And because Ahaziah had no male heir to whom he could leave the throne, his brother Jehoram became king of Israel.

Ahaziah, like his predecessors, had failed to recognize Yahweh as the one true God. He acted as if Yahweh no longer existed in Israel. But he had been proven wrong. Yahweh was still alive and well. His power was undiminished. And, while Ahaziah had refused to seek Yahweh’s face, he could not escape Yahweh’s sovereign will. The God of Israel could be ignored, but He would not go away.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson