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Is There No God in Israel?

Date: Apr. 12, 2015

Author: Michael Mark

2 Kings 1:1-18

Key Verse: 2 Kings 1:16

“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!’”

Who here has heard the expression, “What am I, chopped liver?”  I used to say that a lot when I was a kid, and I think I picked it up from some cartoons.  The expression is something you would say if you were ignored, overlooked or disregarded.  For example, say me and my best friend were talking, and he says, “Man, I don’t have any friends who are interesting at all.”  Then I would say, “Hey, what am I, chopped liver?”  It’s actually a Jewish expression.  It’s a dish in Jewish cuisine that’s quite healthy.  Liver is rich in many nutrients, but it is a dish that many people skip or do not like.  Hence the phrase, “What am I, chopped liver?”  The saying is usually used when we know someone didn’t mean to disrespect us, and it is often meant to be humorous.  But the situation is different when someone is directly disrespectful, condescending, or showing contempt, especially toward somebody who deserves respect.  As an example, it would be severely offensive, if you had a boss that took you off of the street and gave you a job, and you said to him, “I don’t need any direction from you.”  That is what Ahaziah does in today’s passage.  God has given him the position as king of Israel, but he pays no respect to the Lord, so the Lord asks, “Is it because there is no God in Israel that you consult another?”  We will see the consequences of those actions, and learn why God is not only a King to be recognized and feared, but also a King to be honored and worshipped because of his unfailing love, his abounding grace and infinite mercy.

Before the Easter break, we finished the book of 1st Kings and are now starting 2nd Kings.  Many people consider these books to be one, and 2 Kings picks up right where the previous book left off. They may have been separated due to the limitations of the sizes of the scrolls they were written on.  As we are starting this book, I wanted to take a step back briefly and talk our overarching theme for the series, “God’s Great Kingdom.”  Through this series we will learn more and more about how God is the King of heaven and earth, he is the King of kings, and the perfect king.  The first part of the series is called “Kingdom,” consisting of the books of 1 and 2 Kings.  This series began with the height of the glory of Israel under King Solomon.  However, there is no perfect earthly king, and Solomon led the initial descent into idolatry. From there, God had split the kingdom into 2, choosing to allow Solomon’s descendants to reign over one tenth of the kingdom solely because of a promise to King David, his father. God’s promise was to bring an everlasting king through David’s ancestry.  Both kingdoms still belonged to God, but we see how God bore patiently with the kings in each nation.  The next series under “God’s Great Kingdom” will be “Kingdom Come,” where we will go into the book of Matthew, and see how God has fulfilled his promise to David and established his everlasting kingdom through Jesus Christ, the great and eternal king.  But now let’s return to 2nd Kings, picking up right after the death of Ahab, who was considered to be one of the most wicked kings of Israel.

Look at v.1, “After Ahab’s death, Moab rebelled against Israel.”  Moab was an enemy nation of Israel subdued by King David, and since his reign they had paid tribute and brought gifts to Israel.  During the reign of Ahab, Moab paid Israel a tribute of 100,000 lambs and the wool of 100,000 rams.  For over a hundred years they had been subject to Israel, but now, after learning of the defeat of Ahab by Ben-Hadad, Moab decided it was a good time to rebel against Israel.  Here we are seeing the continuing decline of the power and glory of the kingdom of Israel.

Ahab’s son Ahaziah became king of Israel.  He did evil in the eyes of the Lord, because he continued to serve and worship the idols that his mother and father worshipped, and also the idols Jeroboam had created.  He only reigned in Israel a brief two years.  In today’s passage we come near the end of his reign.  Verse 2 says, “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.’” The homes in ancient Israel had flat rooftops, and the lattice may have been like a wooden fence around the roof with a crisscross pattern. If you’ve ever been to or seen the rooftops around Wrigley field, one of the best ways to enjoy the view is to lean against the fence and look over. Perhaps Ahaziah was leaning against the lattice fence over his house, and somehow it broke and he fell off of the roof and injured himself.

Ahaziah’s injuries were so bad that he could not get out of bed, so he wanted to know: “Will I recover from this injury?” If you want to know if you will recover, who you gonna call? Well, Ahaziah wanted to call Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron. This god was different from Baal, the weather god of the Canaanites. The name of this god means “The Lord of the Flies,” and supposedly this god was able to remove flies from the land that caused diseases and sicknesses among the people. Part of the reason Ahaziah was bed-ridden was due to an illness he had contracted after his fall (the ESV and the KJV versions of this chapter translate “injuries” as “sickness” or “disease”). Ahaziah wanted to ask Baal-Zebub if he would recover. He did not ask Baal-Zebub for healing, he was more interested in knowing if he would be healed. He should be more concerned about how he can get well, or what he needs to do in this time of sickness – but instead he wants to know the end result. It’s like a basketball player going to a fortune teller to find out if he will win the game or not. That knowledge only the God of Israel alone knows and can determine the outcome, and can change things at the last minute if he wants to. God is the king of kings, even over NBA star Lebron James, also known as “king James.” God may choose to make that knowledge available if he wants, for example, he has told kings that he will win battles for them. But if not, the basketball player should not focus on the outcome of the game, but on playing his best. Ahaziah was going to the wrong place, looking for the wrong information.

God then intervened. Look at v.3, “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?’”   This was a severe rebuke and indictment toward Ahaziah. “Is it because there is no God in Israel?” Let those words ring in your mind. “Is it because there is no God in Israel?” Of course, the answer is that there is a God in Israel, but this tells us that Ahaziah acted as if there was no God in Israel by going to consult Baal-Zebub. Ahaziah, the king of Israel, chose not to seek God, but ran after Baal-Zebub. It’s like God saying to Ahaziah, “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? If it were not for the God of Israel, Ahaziah would have no kingdom to rule over. Did Ahaziah not hear about the prophet Micaiah who prophesied his father would lose in another battle against Ben-Hadad? Why Ahaziah, why would you go a false, dumb, mute and powerless god when you have access to the God of Israel? Is there no God in Israel? Of course there is, but Ahaziah blatantly rejected God by seeking the counsel of Baal-Zebub. Ahaziah was the king of Israel, but he spurned the God of Israel, who, as I mentioned earlier, saved his kingdom. Therefore, this was the verdict, in v.4, “You will not leave the bed you are lying on. You will certainly die!” Elijah went to deliver this message to the messengers Ahaziah had sent.

Ekron was about 40-50 miles to the southeast of Samaria, and Elijah had met the messengers somewhere 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 all the way to Ekron – Elijah had given them the answer they were going to go seek. His message was powerful enough, that the messengers accepted it and went back King Ahaziah. The king asked them, “Why have you come back?” They replied that a man came to meet them, and passed the message to Ahaziah. The king then asked them, “What kind of man was it who came to you to meet you and told you this?” They replied, “He had a garment of hair and a leather belt around his waist.” The king said, “That was Elijah the Tishbite.” Ahaziah knew who that was. Elijah was the enemy of his father Ahab. He may have seen Elijah while his father was still king, or he may have heard about the way he dressed, but Ahaziah was sure that the man who gave this message was Elijah the Tishbite.

Look at Ahaziah’s response in v.9, “Then he sent to Elijah a captain with his company of fifty men. The captain went up to Elijah, who was sitting on top of a hill, and said to him, ‘Man of God, the king says, ‘Come down!’” Ahaziah wanted to “chat” with Elijah, so he sent a friendly delegation of fifty soldiers to “strongly persuade” Elijah to come with. Seriously though, Ahaziah wanted to capture him, and not under peaceful terms and conditions. The soldiers were a show of force and aggression – he may have wanted to have Elijah locked up, punished somehow, or maybe even forced to make false prophecies, as his father did with the prophet Micaiah. Instead of repenting, or humbling himself after hearing the message, he rebelled against the word of God. Instead of turning to seek God’s word, he rejected it. The captain of the soldiers expressed the same attitude. He wasn’t honoring Elijah when he said “man of God.” He was mocking Elijah – he did not believe Elijah was a man of God, and he did not believe Elijah’s message had any authority. He did not even bother to go up to Elijah, but called out to him, “Come down!” And if Elijah didn’t come down, there were 50 men who were ready to make him come down.

Against such strong opposition, what was Elijah to do? Last time he fled over 300 miles when Jezebel had threatened his life, but this time he stayed put, and sat down on top of a hill. So what did he do now? Look at v.10, “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.” Elijah had answered, “If I am a man of God,” directly responding to the mockery of the captain. He had called fire down from heaven, and fire fell. Elijah did not do this to try to save himself. He did not do this because he was mocked. Elijah called fire down from heaven to prove that the message he gave was from God. He called fire down from heaven to show that the king of Israel must submit to the God of Israel, and to not reject his word. He also called down fire from heaven to show the wrath of God against godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness (Rom 1:18). Elijah’s main concern was not for himself, but for the glory of God.

A second company of soldiers came, and this time the captain was more bold than the last one. He said to Elijah, “Man of God, this is what the king says, ‘Come down at once!’” The first captain just said, “Come down.” This captain says, “Come down, at once!” He was saying, “Man of God, listen to me, I ain’t playin around.” If he really believed Elijah was a man of God, he would have much more fear and trembling before him, but his brazen and bold demeanor shows that he had no respect for this man of God. So Elijah as the exact same words as he did to the first company, “If I am a man of God, 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. God can do this all day.

So the king sent a third captain with his fifty men. I’m not sure if Ahaziah knows what’s going on. He keeps sending these soldiers. Maybe he got impatient that the others have not come back, so he keeps sending more and more soldiers. Or, in a worse situation, he might have received reports that the companies were being burned up, and yet he is still sending them to try to capture Elijah. This third captain did something different than the previous two, very different, probably against the orders of King Ahaziah. Look at v.13-14, “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 from heaven and consumed the first two captains and all their men. But now have respect for my life!’” The other two captains shouted at Elijah “Come down,” but this captain approached Elijah, and fell on his knees before him. He begged, “Man of God.” He truly believed Elijah was a man of God, and showed him fear and respect. He probably saw all of those bodies of the 102 men, burned to a crisp, as he made his way to Elijah. Imagine hearing the report that two companies of soldiers were burned by the fire from heaven, then going there on assignment, and seeing that for yourself. Walking up the hill, burned bodies, all dead, to the left and to the right, and knowing you are sent to do the same as all they that are on the ground. Fear and trembling, and the terror of the Lord struck this captain’s heart.

The captain does not command Elijah, but begs him, “please have respect for my life, and the life of these fifty men, your servants!” In another translation (ESV), the captain says, “Please let my life, and the life of these fifty servants of yours, be precious in your sight.” He is begging Elijah to consider their lives precious in his sight. He has put him and his men at the disposal of Elijah, in submission and service. Again he does not command Elijah, “Come with me,” but he says, “Spare our lives, and we will serve you instead.” It is also very beautiful that he not only pleads for his own life, but for the life of his soldiers as well.

Look at what happens in v.15, “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.” I wonder if Elijah was sitting the whole time, when all these soldiers came. But see what happened – their lives were spared! They were shown mercy. The angel also commanded Elijah to go down with him. He said, “Do not be afraid of him.” Elijah had good reason to fear all of the soldiers who came for him. He had good reason to fear Ahaziah. He also may have had good reason to be afraid of Jezebel, who is still alive even though her husband had died. But the angel reassured Elijah, and just as God had protected Elijah on the hill, he would protect Elijah before the king. Notice too that the captain did not even ask for Elijah to go. He only asked that Elijah would spare their lives. God shows mercy to those who humble themselves and come to him, and he also pours out his grace to those who receive mercy. God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine (Eph 3:20). God did more than just spare the lives of the captain and his men, but he also allowed Elijah to go see the king with them. He enabled the soldiers to finish their mission with success, going above and beyond their simple request for mercy.

Elijah now personally delivers God’s message to the king, which hasn’t changed. Can we all please read v.16, “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!” From what we will read in the later chapters, Elijah is allowed to go free after giving this message. He was not detained, or punished. God continued to protect him as he shared the hard message. So King Ahaziah died, according to the word of the Lord that Elijah had spoken, and since he had no son, his brother Joram succeeded him as king over Israel.

Think about those words again, “Is there no God in Israel?” Do you believe there is a God in Israel? Do you live daily, conscious of a God in Israel? As you think about that, I’d like to give some reasons to believe that indeed, there is a God in Israel, by asking the question, and giving some answers.

Is there no God in Israel? There is a God in Israel, he is the only God, and there is no other God. Why was God so angry when Ahaziah sent messengers to consult with Baal-Zebub? It is because Baal-Zebub was a false god, a myth, like the Greek gods Zeus, Poseidon and Hades. They offer no real answers, and no real help. Worst of all they rob God of the glory and worship he deserves. God is our provider and our protector. He is our portion, meaning, he is our inheritance, and our very great reward. Idols rob God of his glory by pretending to provide for us what God really provides. Baal was the storm god who brought the rain, but really it’s God who sends rain on the land. Idols rob God of his worship by stealing people’s hearts, souls and minds. People turn to idols and love them, and they make offerings to idols to get what they want. Idols are really just reflections of the sinful desires of men. They are celebrated by binge feasts, drunken orgies and human sacrifices – these are not from God but from the sinful hearts of men and demons. Os Guiness, a modern Christian author, writes that anything less than God, when we rely upon it too much, can become an idol. He says there is no rest for those who rely on anything god less than God. It is true, that worshipping idols creates stress and insecurity, because ultimately they cannot provide or satisfy our deepest needs. Do we live as if there is no God in Israel? Who do you run to when you are burdened or distressed? Do you consult God, or run to your idols? Jesus calls out to us, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest (Matt 11:28).”

Is there no God in Israel? There is a God in Israel, and our lives are precious in his sight. The wrath of God has been revealed from heaven against all godlessness and wickedness of people. The fire of God came from heaven against those soldiers, but we too, like them, are prone to godlessness and idolatry, we have pride, lust, greed and envy in our hearts. Jesus Christ came to extinguish the fire of the wrath of God. When the fire of heaven came down, he stood in our place and bore the punishment for our sins. Because of his death on the cross, there is no more fire for those who believe in him. There was an instance where Jesus and his disciples went to a Samaritan village, but he was not welcomed there. His disciples James and John wanted to call fire down on heaven to destroy them, but Jesus turned and rebuked them (Luke 9:51-56). Jesus came, so that the fire would come down on him, so that our lives may be spared by believing in him. Because he loved us so, the God of Israel sent his one and only Son Jesus Christ to save the world, and to reconcile the world to himself. Psalm 49: 7-9, 15 says, “No one can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for them – the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough – so that they should live on forever and not see decay … But God will redeem me from the realm of the dead; he will surely take me to himself.”   In Christ we find the mercy and grace of God.

Is there no God in Israel? There is a God in Israel, and He is the King of kings. When Jesus Christ, the Son of God, had completed paying all of our debt for all of 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 on forever, never to see decay. 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 have received his mercy by believing in him will enter into his kingdom and receive everlasting life. Those who have rejected his mercy will be cast forever into the lake of fire. 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. Just like the third captain – his life was spared, and he called himself Elijah’s servant. How can we serve? By telling others about Christ. As the hymn goes, 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 the all the earth, he is the king of all the earth, and one day, Christ’s great kingdom shall come to earth, and as the hymn finishes, it’s a kingdom of love and light. Tell the story of Christ to all the world! Live in the knowledge that yes, indeed, there is a God in Israel who lives today, who loves the world so much he gave his one and only son, and you go to him, consult with him, and take to him your every need and care.

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Genesis 14:1-24

Key Verse: 14:20

  and blessed be God Most High,
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