We met king Ahaziah in the end of 1 Kings. Now we take a closer look at his death. His biggest sin was seeking the WRONG god for deliverance.
When we looked at Ahaziah as we ended 1 Kings I stated that he was the one that God carried out his judgment on Ahab but I was mistaken. Ahab has another son who will reign after Ahaziah and it is that son who God finally says “Enough!” with. Ahaziah earns his own judgment in our text today, apart from his father.
I’m glad we get a better look at this king. I was wondering how he died and how God carried out His judgment. Now we know. And we get to watch Ahaziah ‘spit in God’s face.’ Let’s join the story today and see where the Spirit takes us.
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Ahaziah is a proud king. He is the son of the great Ahab and Jezebel. Their fame is known throughout the land. Moab has been his only real political problem since taking the throne. After his father’s death there has been no reasoning with them. They are a thorn in his side. But he leaves all that to his captains. He is content to remain in the magnificent palace his father made.
It is a glorious spring morning and Ahaziah is enjoying the same view his father used to savor. It is the view across the valley that also takes in the vineyard his father acquired from Naboth. It is one of his favorite spots. The blossoms on the grapes just below are intoxicating and Ahaziah leans out from his terrace to catch the scent on the breeze. He inhales deeply and the sweet aroma pulls him onto the tips of his toes and stretches his lungs to their fullest.
Ahaziah is enraptured with the scent when his ears register an unexpected sound. It is the sound of wood breaking. Before he can even contemplate where the sound might be coming from he feels the lattice that surrounds his terrace give way. He is unbalanced and cannot regain his footing on the terrace. Both he and the lattice pitch forward and Ahaziah’s body is propelled over the edge of the terrace toward the ground below.
There is no time to think or call out for help. Ahaziah watches in horror as the ground rises up to meet him. Mere seconds later he impacts it. Ahaziah lies still as his senses struggle to make sense of all that has transpired. His first thought is to breathe. The wind was knocked from him with the force of the impact and it is taking all his strength to remain calm and let his lungs re-expand.
After a moment Ahaziah’s lungs regain their rhythm. He is breathing but it is painful. He begins to take stock of his body, to gently search out all the areas of pain in his body by just ‘listening’ with his mind. He is not ready to move yet.
While Ahaziah is taking stock of his injuries another is rushing to his aid. It is Ahaziah’s own servant, Azriel. He was just entering the room when he saw his master’s feet leave the terrace. He had called out in horror but his cry would do nothing to prevent Ahaziah’s fall. The servant rushed from the room and made his way to the ground floor. He hurried into the garden to find Ahaziah lying on the ground in an unnatural position. His lower body was at a strange angle to his torso. This alone scared the servant more than he thought possible. At least Ahaziah was breathing when he arrived. For this he would be eternally grateful.
“Master, how can I help?”
Although Ahaziah is breathing, talking is still difficult. His chest hurts and he is afraid of doing more damage by moving about. “I need… help. Bring a physician.”
Instead of leaving his master Azriel calls to another who was nearby. “Go into the village and bring back a physician and several men to help me move the king.”
The fellow servant sets out immediately to do his comrade’s bidding. Little time passes before he returns with four more servants and the town’s physician.
The physician quickly approaches the king and begins his examination. “What happened” he asked.
Azriel supplies the answer. Pointing upwards he states, “The king fell through the lattice up there.”
The physician pauses briefly to look where Azriel is pointing. His eyes grow round with surprise. “It is a miracle that you are still breathing my king. Such a fall would likely have killed a lesser man.”
Ahaziah gives one word responses and cries out in pain as the physician probes his injuries and immobilizes as many of them as possible. When he has done all he can he calls the men to carry the king into his chambers and place him on his bed.
Azriel had retrieved a bed sheet and two long poles to use to transport the king while the physician was ministering to him. The four men carefully lift the king while Azriel and the physician slip the makeshift litter beneath him. Ahaziah cries out in pain at this but there is no easy way to accomplish their task.
Ahaziah is carried to his room and placed on his bed. He is grateful that the journey is over. It’s time to learn of the extent of his injuries. “Tell me how bad it is” he commands between gritted teeth.
“You have severe damage to your back. I have no way of healing it beyond realigning your legs with your shoulders. There is no movement in your lower body. Your left arm appears broken also. Beyond this, I have no way of knowing. As I said earlier, it is a miracle that you survived. The rest is in the hands of the gods. I will leave you with this though. It will help with the pain.” The physician hands Azriel a pouch containing a powder. “Mix this with wine and give it to the king whenever he feels the pain is too great for him.”
Ahaziah nods slightly. “Thank you for your honesty and for attending me. My servant will see that you are compensated.”
Azriel bows by his master’s bed then motions for the men to follow him. He will see to their payments. After dispatching all the help Azriel returns to his master’s side with a flask of wine and the pouch of potion. Ahaziah asks for the medication and Azriel mixes it and assists him in raising his head for a few swallows. Ahaziah falls into a much needed sleep shortly after.
A week goes by with Ahaziah confined to his bed by his injuries. Azriel has recruited three female servants to see to the king’s personal needs for bathing and toileting as it is not permissible for a male to assist another in these tasks and the king can do neither on his own. Azriel feeds the king and keeps him comfortable with the potion as much as possible. Ahaziah is still unable to take deep breaths or to speak with much volume. He has also developed a cough that is robbing him of what breath he does have.
On the eighth day Ahaziah is in very poor spirits. He has had little relief and decides it is time to call on the gods for answers. Ahaziah summons Azriel to his side.
“Call… my messengers… I have… a task for… him” he says in broken breaths.
Azriel hurries and brings back two of Ahaziah’s swiftest messengers. They come to Ahaziah’s bedside to hear his instructions.
“Go, inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron, whether I shall recover from this sickness” (verse 2b).
The messengers bow then quickly leaves on their errand.
As the words are leaving Ahaziah’s mouth God is sending word of it to Elijah. Elijah and Elisha are near Damascus. They have been living there since the calling of Elisha. At the pool in Damascus Elijah is met by and angel of the Lord. He speaks directly to Elijah.
“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’” (verses 3-4).
Elijah has no need to ask who the angel of the Lord is speaking of nor where to go to meet the messengers. The Spirit of the Lord leads him, just as He has done many times before. He simply put one foot in front of the other in the direction his heart led him. And, as happened many times before, Elijah found himself approaching Ahaziah’s messengers within two hours of their departure. Elijah stood squarely in the road, blocking their progress. The sight of him was enough to stop them in their tracks even if his words had not arrested 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.’”
There is no arguing with Elijah. No questioning his pronouncement. No thought of ignoring him and continuing on with their mission. The messengers turn around and make their way back to Ahaziah as fast as they can. They are terrified to do otherwise.
Azriel is summoned by the guard who sees the approaching messengers. Azriel is puzzled by their hasty return but he leads them to Ahaziah without delay.
“My lord, your messengers have returned.”
Ahaziah turns his head to see them standing near Azriel.
“Why have you returned?” (verse 5b).
Hands clenched to keep them from trembling, the oldest messenger answers the king.
“There came a man to meet us, and said to us, ‘Go back to 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’” (verse 6).
Ahasiah’s eyes grew hard as he inquired of the messengers.
“What kind of man was he who came to meet you and told you these things?” (verse 7).
The messengers looked at one another before answering. The eldest spoke again.
“He wore a garment of hair, with a belt of leather about his waist” (verse 8a).
Ahaziah’s face darkened with anger as he spat out the answer.
“It is Elijah the Tishbite” (verse 8b). “Send for my captain” demanded Ahaziah.
The messengers were happy to comply and quickly left their king and his servant. Shortly after their departure Ahaziah’s chief captain of fifty stood by his bedside.
“Go and bring to me Elijah the Tishbite. Take your 50 to ensure he comes.”
The captain bows and leaves. He quickly assembles his troops and they set out on their mission. They easily found Elijah as he was sitting atop a nearby hill just outside the city. The captain calls his men to a halt, steps forward, thumps his chest and calls out to Elijah.
“O man of God, the king says, ‘Come down’” (verse 9b).
Elijah doesn’t even bother to stand up. He is not the least bit intimidated by the captain nor his troops. From his position on the hill he calls back down to them.
“If I am a man of God, let fire come down from Heaven and consume you and your fifty” (verse 10).
As soon as the words left Elijah’s mouth fire descended on the group and burned them to ashes. There wasn’t even time to scream before their numbers stood no more. The flames were seen by the guards of the city and a report of what had happened brought to Ahaziah.
“Send for my second in command captain of 50” demands Ahaziah.
His anger is apparent to all as his command is carried out. Within moments the second captain stands before Ahaziah.
“You WILL bring Elijah to me. Take your men and ensure he recognizes and respects my authority.”
The captain snaps to a salute and hurries off to assemble his troops. They set out within the hour and approach the same hill as their comrades. Elijah still sits on the ground as though he hasn’t a care in the world.
The captain spreads his troops into flanking formations. He is going to ensure Elijah has no escape routes open to him. He then steps to the foot of the hill and calls out to Elijah in a commanding voice.
“O man of God, this is the king’s order, ‘Come down quickly!’” (verse 11b).
Elijah looks down on him from where he sits and shakes his head. “Will they never learn” he thinks to himself. He meets the captain’s eyes and speaks directly to him.
“If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty” (verse 12a).
Fire immediately fell and consumed all the fifty where they stood in their positions. Not even the heat from their bodies touched Elijah who sat in the middle on his hill. This was also observed from the city and quickly reported to Ahaziah.
Ahaziah is shaking with rage as he sends for his third captain of 50. The man appears before him. He has heard the reports of the two previous captains and their men. He will obey his king but he is NOT looking forward to what he knows is about to be demanded of him.
“Bring me Elijah the Tishbite NOW!”
The force of Ahaziah’s words leave him breathless and seized by a fit of coughing. The captain quietly exits and assembles his men. He knows where to find Elijah. He is certain the man of God has not stirred even once from his confrontations with the captains. He is also certain that if he takes the same attitude with Elijah he will not be returning to the city again either.
He is in no hurry to encounter Elijah so he takes his time going to the hill. On the way he realizes what he must do is respect the man of God and the God he serves above even his king.
The captain and his men approach the hill where Elijah sits. The captain halts him men and tells them NOT to draw or even touch their weapons. He walks towards Elijah and climbs the hill where he sits. Elijah watches him approach with curiosity. Just before reaching Elijah the captain falls on his knees before him and addresses him.
“O man of God, please let my life, and the life of these fifty servants of yours, be precious in your sight. 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” (verses 13b-14).
Elijah is surprised at the man’s words and his honest humility. Before he has a chance to respond an angel of the Lord speaks to Elijah.
“Go down with him; do not be afraid of him” (verse 15b).
Elijah smiled then raised himself from the ground. He looked at the captain who still knelt before him and spoke the words the captain never thought he would hear.
“I will go down with you.”
The captain quickly got to his feet and the two men walked down the hill. The fifty fell in behind the captain and Elijah as they made their way back to the city. The fifty departed to their quarters as Elijah and the captain continued on until they reached Ahaziah’s chambers.
Azriel’s mouth dropped open as he watched Elijah enter the room. There was a palpable presence about him. Elijah nodded to the captain who backed out of the room and Elijah went to stand beside the bed of Ahaziah. Without waiting for permission from the king to speak, Elijah delivered the words the Lord had given him.
“Thus says the Lord, ‘Because you have sent messengers to inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron – is it because there is on God in Israel to inquire of His word? – therefore you shall hot come down from the bed to which you have gone up, but you shall surely die” (verse 16).
Ahaziah’s face fell. This was the same message Elijah had sent with his messengers. He had not softened his response in the least. It would do no good to plead with him. It had already cost him more than 100 men to bring him to stand in his presence. Ahaziah had hoped that Elijah might feel pity for him upon seeing him or might even be persuaded to heal him but these hopes were gone.
Elijah turned and left without another word. He was gone from the city before anyone even realized he had left the palace. He was back home with Elisha in no time.
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Can you imagine the arrogance of the second captain? He must have heard what happened to the first captain but he figured he could do better. He thought he could order Elijah to obey. The third man had it right. God was in charge of this mission, not the king.
I wonder why Ahaziah wanted to ask the god of Ekron his question, even above his own false gods. Was this his favorite Baal? When I see the name Baal-zebub I can’t help thinking of one of Satan’s names. Definitely the same spirit behind them both. God certainly confirmed His superiority each time he was challenged. He left NOT DOUBT as to who is God.
Father God, there is NO other God like You! Nothing man can come up with can compare. You are the Creator of the universe. Let my eyes NEVER look for a replacement! Help me show You the honor and respect You so richly deserve. There is NONE like You!