In this scripture, the King, Ahaziah, son of the former King Ahab, takes Elijah for granted thinking he can push Elijah around. More significantly he takes God for granted. The penetrating question Elijah asks is in 2 Kings 1:3, 6 and 16: “Is it because there is no God in Israel for you to consult that you have sent messengers to consult Baal-Zebub.” Our society takes God for granted, looking everywhere for solutions to the world’s problems// but God.
I liked the little meme I saw on FB this morning. It was a message on the front of the Bible: “Believe it or not, this book is being played out right before our eyes, and the world doesn’t even see it.”
It is as if God is saying through Elijah, “What am I? Chopped Liver?” The answer to Elijah’s question is obvious: of course there is a God in Israel, the one true living God….but the King takes God for granted.
In our busy world we become consumed by our needs. We slip into taking God for granted ~~ we want answers according to our desires rather than conform our lives to the will of God. By next Sunday I should be able to see again after cataract surgery (get used to me without glasses) but if God should choose for me to be blind, so be it. I don’t expect that. I am not trying to be dramatic… just sayin… God has already given me more to see in this world than I deserve.
Is there no God in Israel? Elijah asks Ahaziah. Ahaziah wants health, but he had given up on God a long time before and goes to the wrong place. He takes God for granted. Have you ever been taken for granted? We all know what it is like.
I like this story that took place in England not too long ago. A couple wrote to an advice column asking what to do. They were stunned because they had gone to a wedding. The couple asked for cash, so they wrote a check for 100 pounds. The bride and groom e-mailed them with a shocking note: “we were surprised that your contribution didn’t seem to match the warmth of your good wishes on our big day. In view of your own position, if you wanted to send any adjustment it would be thankfully received.”
That is too funny, too insensitive, too ungrateful…rather than being appreciative it is taking the generosity for granted. The world owes us far less than what we often think. You do understand God owes you nothing, right! Whatever he gives is grace. Whatever measure of health, wealth, a roof over our head, an advantage here or there, a pleasure, none of it is deserved. We easily take God for granted…
Let’s walk through this scripture and see the consequences of Ahaziah’s attitude and learn why God is a King to be honored and worshipped because of his unfailing love, his abounding grace and infinite mercy.
Back a page in the Bible, 1 Kings 22:51-53, Ahaziah’s life is summarized. READ. In 2 Kings 1:1 the nation of Moab challenges the new King of Israel. At this time in history, for over a hundred years, Moab was subject to Israel. Moab saw weakness. This is not a good time for the new King to have an accident and fall through the lattice work of his upper room. That is what happens in 2 Kings 1:2. Ahaziah’s reaction is to snub God and send his servants to consult with the god of the flies.
God gets Elijah in on the action: READ 2 Kings 1:3. This is an indictment of Ahaziah. “Is it because there is no God in Israel?” Ahaziah chose to snub God. It’s like God saying, “Hey Ahaziah, am I chopped liver?” Did Ahaziah not hear about the fire from heaven that burned the offering at the showdown in Mt. Carmel? Did Ahaziah not hear about how God had given his father victories over Ben-Hadad, saving Israel from utter destruction when their army was outnumbered 7,000 to 127,000, twice? (stories we did not go over) Why would Ahaziah go a false and powerless god when you have access to the God of Israel? Ahaziah rejected the God of Israel. This is the verdict. READ 2 Kings 1:4.
Ekron was about 40-50 miles southeast of Samaria. Elijah met the messengers along the way. He gave the message from the angel of the Lord to them, and they turned back to tell Ahaziah. They did not continue to Ekron because Elijah had given them the answer they were seeking. READ 2 Kings 1:5-6.
Ahaziah asks about the man who gave this message. I imagine a lump is forming in the Kings throat because he has a suspicion about who it is… READ 2 Kings 1:7-8.
Isn’t it amazing. Ahaziah knew it was the old nemesis of his father. The unbelieving world is watching us who are Christians. Ahaziah, the king on his deathbed, flexes his muscles and sends two military units of 50 men to intimidate Elijah. 50 men strong. You’d think a couple of soldiers would be enough. Elijah is on top of a hill. “Man of God” they say mockingly, “Come down” (2 Kings 1:9, 11). Ahaziah’s me think they are stronger than God by intimidating and threatening God’s prophet. Ahaziah’s men are doubling down. Confronted by Elijah this is an opportunity to repent, but instead Ahaziah and his men dig the hole deeper. Our nation/world is digging the whole deeper and deeper and deeper. As a nation, this would be such a good time to go back to God but there is more ugliness than ever, our country/world is spiraling downward. Twice, Elijah watches as God destroys the military might of Ahaziah (2 Kings 1:10, 12). The third time another military regiment is sent, only this time the captain is humble. Here is the key to the story: What’s the person look like that is NOT taking God for granted? A Servant…
The third captain is my favorite character in this story. If I were to turn this story into a move script, I’d call it “The Third Captain.” This captain is similar to the soldier who was guarding Jesus on the cross and recognized Jesus as the Son of God. The Third Captain is amazing: READ 2 Kings 1:13-14. In response to a measure of humility, God instructs Elijah to go with the men to see the King. READ 2 Kings 1:15. The third captain respected Elijah, recognized and respected the God of Israel, and his life was spared. Notice the captain only asked that Elijah would spare their lives. God shows mercy to those who humble themselves and come to him as servants. God sent Elijah to see the king with them. He enabled the soldiers to finish their mission with success, going above and beyond their simple request for mercy.
The angel tells Elijah to not be afraid. Elijah had good reason to fear all of the soldiers who came. He had good reason to fear Ahaziah. He probably had reason to be afraid of the Queen mother Jezebel, who is still alive. But the angel reassured Elijah.
Often in these wonderful stories there is an immediate response of God’s judgment or mercy, but other times the verdict is handed down over time. For the soldiers the first two were immediately destroyed while the Third Captain and his men were given mercy, but often times we see people get away with flaunting God for years and decades. God’s justice is assured in time. He knows. It’s His timing. His decision.
Elijah personally delivers God’s message to the king and with little fanfare, what Elijah prophecies comes to pass. READ 2 Kings 1:16-17.
Three times in this scripture the question is asked, “Is there no God in Israel?” Woe to those who take God for granted, who reject the living God because they do not like His answers, because He is too slow, because his commands are too hard.
There is a God in Israel and His name is Jesus Christ. He is the King of kings. He is the same God that rules over every nation, the God of the United States, the God of Sumas, the God of this Church, the God of my marriage, the God of my family. Is there no God in Israel? To reject God is to reject his mercy. Abraham Lincoln said, “I have been driven many times to my knees by the overwhelming thought that I had nowhere else to go.” Ahaziah is the King of fools for going to the god of the flies instead of the King of Kings.
When Jesus Christ, the Son of God, paid our debt for all our sins, he rose again from the dead and ascended to the right hand of God. His resurrection is the assurance that in him, we will also rise from the dead and live forever. Because of his great sacrifice, God has exalted him to the highest place, and Jesus Christ is our king. One day he will come again as the judge. Those who receive his mercy, by believing in him, will enter into his kingdom and receive everlasting life. Those who have rejected his mercy will receive eternal death. Then all of creation will be restored where Christ will rule as the perfect king in a perfect universe. Because He’s our king, we ought to live our lives to serve him. What is the opposite of taking God for granted? Serve the King of Kings.
God spared the life of the third Captain. The third captain called himself Elijah’s servant. The Third Captain respected Elijah as the prophet of God Amighty, more powerful than Ahaziah, greater than the god of the flies. To see God is to commit to serving God.
How can we serve? By worshipping him. By being amazed. By recognizing we are nothing without Him. By telling others about Christ. As one of the great hymns says, “we’ve a story to tell to the nations, that will turn their hearts to the right, a story of truth and mercy, a story of peace and light.” The God of Israel is the God of all the earth, and one day, “Christ’s great kingdom shall come to earth”, and the hymn finishes, “it’s a kingdom of love and light.”
Tell the story of Christ to all the world! Do not take God for granted, but live in the knowledge that there is a God in Israel, a God over all the world, a God in the United States, a God in Sumas, a God in your family, who lives today. Like the Third Captain, seek to serve him who loves the world so much he gave his one and only son. Amen.