2 Kings 1:1-18 (Part 1) – Things Haven’t Changed A Whole Lot in 3,000 Years

Posted: April 1, 2019 in 12-2 Kings

2 Kings 1:1-18 (Part 1 of 2)

Elijah Confronts King Ahaziah

How times have changed…little! What we see in this passage at the beginning of 2 Kings (1:1-18) is the world in which we live today. The clothing styles have changed. The technology has changed. But people are the same. In almost three thousand years, man himself has changed little. And that should bring profound sadness to Christ followers everywhere not anger. We should be crying and hurting over the blindness that has settled upon our modern day culture.

Just as back then in the post-Davidic world of Israel and Judah, the people acknowledged some aspects of God but he was just one of many options. As Christ followers, we just want to reach into the pages of biblical history and just shake the Israelites and Judeans and say “Duuuuude! Have you not heard the stories of the Exodus and God’s great faithfulness to Israel!” We cannot fathom why they have strayed so far from God that they began worshiping idols of pagan peoples among which they lived. But yet at the same time, we live in the same era and are repeating the history of the Israelites and Judeans. Have we not seen the great faithfulness of God to our nation? Now, in our country, God has been reduced to one of many options. In this age of anything goes, Jesus Christ and Christianity are one of many ways to get to heaven. All are seen as equal. In our world today, whatever you believe in the spiritual realm leads to a nirvana-like after life and there is no need for you to tell how or what to believe. If you believe at all! It is also OK to believe in nothing. Whatever floats your boat, as the old saying goes, is the idea of the day when it comes to spiritual matters in our era. We are no different from the Israelites and Judeans of 3,000 years ago.

They had the same attitude. They acknowledged the existence of the God of Israel but they also hedged their bets by also believing in local idols. It was and still is like those Coke machines at fast food restaurants where you can customize your soft drink selections. And people foundationally believe this way in today’s world just as the Israelites and Judeans had become by this time in the Bible’s historical sequence. Those who believe that Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven, as devout Christians believe, are seen as arrogant, intolerant, and just plain-out wrong. How do we change that world in which we live to convince them that Jesus is INDEED the only way to the Father?

That was the question that plagued me this morning as I read this passage. In seeing how little difference there is in how the people of ancient Israel and Judah believed and how we believe as a nation today, it plagued me as to how we change the mindset. The culture in which we live is so firmly entrenched in the belief that all roads lead to heaven and that anything else is wrong, how do we change that? That’s the question that faces us as Christians today and it is this very same question that plagued true believers in God in ancient, post-Davidic Israel and Judah. With that question in mind, let’s read the passage now:

1 After King Ahab’s death, the land of Moab rebelled against Israel.

2 One day Israel’s new king, Ahaziah, fell through the latticework of an upper room at his palace in Samaria and was seriously injured. So he sent messengers to the temple of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron, to ask whether he would recover.

3 But the angel of the Lord told Elijah, who was from Tishbe, “Go and confront the messengers of the king of Samaria and ask them, ‘Is there no God in Israel? Why are you going to Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron, to ask whether the king will recover? 4 Now, therefore, this is what the Lord says: You will never leave the bed you are lying on; you will surely die.’” So Elijah went to deliver the message.

5 When the messengers returned to the king, he asked them, “Why have you returned so soon?”

6 They replied, “A man came up to us and told us to go back to the king and give him this message. ‘This is what the Lord says: Is there no God in Israel? Why are you sending men to Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron, to ask whether you will recover? Therefore, because you have done this, you will never leave the bed you are lying on; you will surely die.’”

7 “What sort of man was he?” the king demanded. “What did he look like?”

8 They replied, “He was a hairy man,[a] and he wore a leather belt around his waist.”

“Elijah from Tishbe!” the king exclaimed.

9 Then he sent an army captain with fifty soldiers to arrest him. They found him sitting on top of a hill. The captain said to him, “Man of God, the king has commanded you to come down with us.”

10 But Elijah replied to the captain, “If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and destroy you and your fifty men!” Then fire fell from heaven and killed them all.

11 So the king sent another captain with fifty men. The captain said to him, “Man of God, the king demands that you come down at once.”

12 Elijah replied, “If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and destroy you and your fifty men!” And again the fire of God fell from heaven and killed them all.

13 Once more the king sent a third captain with fifty men. But this time the captain went up the hill and fell to his knees before Elijah. He pleaded with him, “O man of God, please spare my life and the lives of these, your fifty servants. 14 See how the fire from heaven came down and destroyed the first two groups. But now please spare my life!”

15 Then the angel of the Lord said to Elijah, “Go down with him, and don’t be afraid of him.” So Elijah got up and went with him to the king.

16 And Elijah said to the king, “This is what the Lord says: Why did you send messengers to Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron, to ask whether you will recover? Is there no God in Israel to answer your question? Therefore, because you have done this, you will never leave the bed you are lying on; you will surely die.”

17 So Ahaziah died, just as the Lord had promised through Elijah. Since Ahaziah did not have a son to succeed him, his brother Joram[b] became the next king. This took place in the second year of the reign of Jehoram son of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah.

18 The rest of the events in Ahaziah’s reign and everything he did are recorded in The Book of the History of the Kings of Israel.

Here in this passage, we see the king of the northern kingdom come up to the Coke Freestyle machine and select the gods that he needed help from based on the situation he was in. Have grown up as an Israelite, he knew of the one true God but having lived for generations in the northern kingdom, he had mashed all the man-made gods and the one true God together into a menu similar to the Coke Freestyle machines. Pick and choose what you want, what you need and what you desire. We have a god with this set of requirements and this set of attributes and then you have these others for this and for that and oh yeah there is the God of Israel. Sound familiar? It is the world in which we live today.

In His words, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). That one verse sets Christianity on a collision course with the rest of the religions of the world in the age of tolerance of all things in which we now live. When speaking to non-believers in our age of tolerance of all belief systems, many will say to you, “I was with you until you got to the stuff about Jesus. God is not the Christian God!”

This attitude is pervasive in Western culture today. Most people are happy to agree that God exists; but in our pluralistic society it has become politically incorrect to claim that God has revealed Himself decisively in Jesus.

And yet this is exactly what the New Testament clearly teaches. Take the letters of the apostle Paul, for example. He invites his Gentile converts to recall their pre-Christian days: “Remember that at that time you were separated from Christ, aliens to the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Eph 2.12). It is the burden of the opening chapters of his letter to the Romans to show that this desolate condition is the general situation of mankind. Paul explains that God’s power and deity are made known through the created order around us, so that men are without excuse (1.20), and that God has written His moral law upon all men’s hearts, so that they are morally responsible before Him (2.15). Although God offers eternal life to all who will respond in an appropriate way to God’s general revelation in nature and conscience (2.7), the sad fact is that rather than worship and serve their Creator, people ignore God and flout His moral law (1.21-32). The conclusion: All men are under the power of sin (3.9-12). Worse, Paul goes on to explain that no one can redeem himself by means of righteous living (3.19-20). Fortunately, however, God has provided a means of escape: Jesus Christ has died for the sins of mankind, thereby satisfying the demands of God’s justice and enabling reconciliation with God (3.21-6). By means of his atoning death salvation is made available as a gift to be received by faith.

The logic of the New Testament is clear: The universality of sin and uniqueness of Christ’s atoning death entail that there is no salvation apart from Christ. As the apostles proclaimed, “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4.12).

This particularistic doctrine was just as scandalous in the polytheistic world of the Roman Empire as in contemporary Western culture. Early Christians were therefore often subjected to severe persecution, torture, and death because of their refusal to embrace a pluralistic approach to religions. In time, however, as Christianity grew to supplant the religions of Greece and Rome and became the official religion of the Roman Empire, the scandal receded. Indeed, for medieval thinkers like Augustine and Aquinas, one of the marks of the true Church was its universality.

The demise of this doctrine came with the so-called “Expansion of Europe,” which refers to the three centuries of exploration and discovery from about 1450 until 1750. Through the travels and voyages of men like Marco Polo, Christopher Columbus, and Ferdinand Magellan, new civilizations and whole new worlds were discovered which knew nothing of the Christian faith. The realization that much of the world lay outside the bounds of Christianity had a two-fold impact upon people’s religious thinking. First, it tended to relativize religious beliefs. It was seen that far from being the universal religion of mankind, Christianity was largely confined to Western Europe, a corner of the globe. No particular religion, it seemed, could make a claim to universal validity; each society seemed to have its own religion suited to its peculiar needs. Second, it made Christianity’s claim to be the only way of salvation seem narrow and cruel. Enlightenment rationalists like Voltaire taunted the Christians of his day with the prospect of millions in Asia doomed to hell for not having believed in Christ, when they had not so much as even heard of Christ. In our own day, the influx into Western nations of immigrants from former colonies and the advances in telecommunications which have served to shrink the world to a global village have heightened our awareness of the religious diversity of mankind. On the beneficial side, it did lead to an explosion of foreign missions by the church in the 18th and 19th centuries. However, after two world wars in the 20th century, all institutions of Western civilization came into question, including Christianity, and the age of tolerance began. As a result of all these factors, religious pluralism has today become the conventional wisdom.

How do we convince the world when the world and even our nation seems comfortable with letting everyone believe what they want to believe? That’s a hard assignment. And it truly is! But it is the assignment that we have just as it was Elijah’s mission. The dominant worldview in secular and academic circles today is called postmodernism. To the postmodernist, reality is whatever the individual imagines it to be. That means what is “true” is determined subjectively by each person, and there is no such thing as objective, authoritative truth that governs or applies to humanity universally. The postmodernist naturally believes it is pointless to argue whether opinion A is superior to opinion B. After all, if reality is merely a construct of the human mind, one person’s perspective of truth is ultimately just as good as another’s. “Truth” becomes nothing more than a personal opinion, usually best kept to oneself.

That is the one essential, non-negotiable demand postmodernism makes of everyone: We are not supposed to think we know any objective truth. Postmodernists often suggest that every opinion should be shown equal respect. And therefore, on the surface, postmodernism seems driven by a broad-minded concern for harmony and tolerance. It all sounds very charitable and altruistic. But what really underlies the postmodernist belief system is an utter intolerance for every worldview that makes any universal truth-claims, particularly biblical Christianity.

Elijah stood against popular cultural opinions of his day. He did not do it in anger but rather a profound God-directed desire to see Israel and Judah turn away from merging their God with the gods of the other civilizations in the region. He was profoundly saddened to the point of becoming a prophet. He was profoundly saddened to the point that he gave it everything he had to urge repentance in a culture that had strayed far from God. That is our charge too. From what Scripture tells us, there is only one way to eternal life in heaven with the Father and it is through Jesus. That fact just by its nature puts us on a collision course with the culture in which we live. The message of the gospel is clear. We cannot present Jesus as one of many options. And we should be profoundly saddened by the deceptions of Satan in our culture that leads to the same thinking as the Israelites had – its all good, whatever you want to believe is OK, in the end we all go to heaven.

We should be willing to do whatever it takes like Elijah to make sure people know the truth of Jesus Christ. We should be so profoundly worried about the eternal destinations of friends, neighbors, families and even our enemies that we are moved to share the gospel with them. We should not be angry at the world but rather profoundly saddened to the point of tears and to the point of loving them to life in Jesus Christ.

Let us not withdraw from our culture and protest what is happening to it but rather let’s get out there (driven by our sadness and concern) and make connections with people that are far from God. Let’s get out there and get to know them. Let’s get our there like Jesus did. Let’s love them to life so that the scales are removed from their eyes and they can see Jesus Christ as the one and only way to eternity in heaven with the Father.

Amen and Amen.

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