Introduction: The book of 2 Kings continues with wicked sins of the kings of Northern Israel and Judah. Ahaziah was the successor to the most wicked king who had ever ruled in Northern Israel, Ahab. Ahaziah failed to learn from his father’s mistakes. Thus, God judged Ahaziah with a mere two-year reign and ultimately his death. By studying what Ahaziah failed to do, God reveals seven lessons on His plan for the salvation of mankind. These include: (1) faith, (2) confession of sin, (3) repentance, (4) obedience, (5) humility, (6) fearing God, and (7) gratitude.
First, God tested Ahaziah with a foreign rebellion and poor health. Ahaziah failed these tests of faith by turning to Baal. From Ahaziah’s mistakes, God reveals that He wants you to have faith in Him alone. Second, because Ahaziah turned to the devil for his deliverance, God sent Elijah to cast judgment upon him. Like Ahaziah, all have sinned and fallen short. God therefore wants you to acknowledge your sin and your need for salvation. Third, through Elijah, God gave Ahaziah three chances to repent. Yet, when first hearing of God’s judgment through Elijah, Ahaziah did not repent. Through Ahaziah’s mistake, God reveals that He wants you to repent without delay when He exposes your sin. Fourth, instead of repenting, Ahaziah sent 50 men to seize Elijah. From Ahaziah’s mistake, God warns you to not rebel against His Word and His correction. Fifth, because his heart was wicked, Ahaziah sent a second captain with 50 more men in a failed effort to seize Elijah. From Ahaziah’s mistakes, God wants you to be humble and not stiff-necked when He disciplines you. Sixth, Ahaziah again rejected God’s warning and sent a third captain with 50 additional men to seize Elijah. From Ahaziah’s mistake, God warns not to misuse His mercy and grace to continue in sin. Finally, because he refused to repent, God fulfilled His judgment against Ahaziah. If it weren’t for Jesus’ sacrifice at the cross, all would suffer the same fate. God therefore wants you to be thankful to Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice for you.
God tests Ahaziah’s faith, and Ahaziah turns to Baal for guidance. Following Ahab’s evil reign, God tested his successor Ahaziah with two tests to see if Ahaziah would turn to God. Ahaziah failed these tests of faith by turning to Baal: “1 Now Moab rebelled against Israel after the death of Ahab. 2 And Ahaziah fell through the lattice in his upper chamber which was in Samaria, and became ill. So he sent messengers and said to them, ‘Go, inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron, whether I will recover from this sickness.’” (2 Kgs. 1:1-2). During the 17th year of Jehoshaphat’s reign in Judah and following Ahab’s death, Ahab’s son Ahaziah became king over Northern Israel. Yet, as a sign of his judgment, he only reigned two years, 853-852 B.C. (2 Kgs. 22:51). Like Ahab, he did evil in God’s eyes by leading his people astray through the worship of the pagan god Baal (1 Kgs. 22:52-53). Jezebel, Ahaziah’s mother, survived Ahab’s death and continued her wicked influence through her son. Ahaziah’s short reign was also a fulfillment of God’s judgment upon Ahab’s household (1 Kgs. 21:29). God tested the new king with two tests to see if he would turn back to him. The first test happened in Moab, in modern day Jordan. David originally subdued the proud and mighty kingdom of Moab (2 Sam. 8:2, 11-12). Yet, when Israel and Judah became weakened through their divisions, war and apostacy, Moab rebelled. Ahaziah’s second test came in 852 B.C. when he fell inside his capital home in Samaria and became bedridden. Ahaziah failed these tests of faith by turning to “Baal-Zebub,” which translates as “lord of the flies.” (2 Kgs. 1:2; Matt. 10:25). This was a fertility god who allegedly controlled diseases brought by flies. This was an author’s change to the name “Baal-zebul,” which means “Baal Is Prince.” Ahaziah sent his messengers to the Philistine city of Ekron where this idol was located, 22 miles west of Jerusalem. By his actions, he showed that he had no faith in God.
Ahaziah sends messengers to Baal, not God, regarding his illness1
God prepared Ahaziah for repentance with poor health. Just as He did with Ahaziah, God softened David’s heart for repentance by plaguing him with poor health: “When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer. Selah.” (Ps. 32:3-4). Poor health can have many causes. Sometimes, people who are mostly blameless in their walk can suffer terrible afflictions. Yet, if you have hidden sins and your health is suffering from the weight of your sins, repent, and Jesus can heal you. (Is. 53:5). Don’t let unrepentant sin destroy your health.
By turning to Baal-Zebub, Ahaziah put his faith in the devil. Jesus later revealed that Ahaziah’s real god was the devil: “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a slave above his master. It is enough for the disciple that he become like his teacher, and the slave like his master. If they have called the head of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign the members of his household!” (Matt. 10:24-25). Isaiah later condemned similar rulers who also turned to pagan idols: “For You have abandoned Your people, the house of Jacob, because they are filled with influences from the east, and they are soothsayers like the Philistines, and they strike bargains with the children of foreigners.” (Is. 2:6). If you turn to the things of this world to solve your problems, you are asking the ruler of this world to solve them for you (Jo. 12:31). The result will be a disaster.
Without faith, it is impossible to please God. In this account, Ahaziah committed many sins. Yet, the sin that made him irredeemable was his inability to have faith in God: “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” (Heb. 11:6). Thus, faith is a condition precedent to any other steps in realizing God’s plan for mankind’s salvation.
A person without faith leans on their own worldly understanding. Ahaziah showed that he had no faith because he followed his own worldly understanding: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.” (Prov. 3:5). For people like Ahab, consulting God will appear to be foolishness. “For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Cor. 1:18; 2:14). If you are facing a dilemma, turn to God.
God speaks to those who diligently seek His truth. If you diligently seek Jesus, He promises that you will also find Him, and His truth will guide you and set you free: ‘“and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free. . . So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.”’ (Jo. 8:32, 36). “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” (Jer. 29:13). “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” (Matt. 7:7-8). “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.” (Ro. 8:2). Are you diligently seeking Jesus to guide you?
If you seek God, He will also add everything else you need. If you diligently seek God, He also promises to provide for your needs: “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matt. 6:33). “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” (Jo. 15:7). “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” (Matt. 5:6). “Delight yourself in the LORD; and He will give you the desires of your heart.” (Ps. 37:4). If you diligently seek Him, you will also find Him: “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” (Jer. 29:13). If Ahaziah had pursued after God, he would not feel the need to pursue pagan gods to restore his health and fight off a foreign rebellion.
Ahaziah carried a death sentence for his sins. Because Ahaziah turned to idols for his deliverance, God sent Elijah to judge him: “3 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?’ 4 Now therefore thus says the Lord, ‘You shall not come down from the bed where you have gone up, but you shall surely die.’” Then Elijah departed.” (2 Kgs. 1:3-4). “The angel of the Lord,” who spoke to Elijah, may have been a pre-incarnate appearance of Jesus Christ (Gen. 16:7-14; Ex. 3:2; Jdgs. 2:1-4). Or, this may have been a mere angel (1 Kgs. 19:17). As he had done before, God sent His servant Elijah to deliver His message of judgment to the powerful. As before, Elijah risked his own death in speaking truth to power. Also as before, Elijah showed his faith by agreeing without question to deliver God’s message. He is a role model in his faith for all to follow.
The angel of the Lord summoned Elijah to pass God’s judgment on Ahaziah2
God judged Ahaziah for violating His laws against idolatry. By turning to idols, Ahaziah’s actions carried a death penalty: “He who sacrifices to any god, other than to the LORD alone, shall be utterly destroyed.” (Ex. 22:20). “and whoever would not seek the LORD God of Israel should be put to death, whether small or great, man or woman.” (2 Chr. 15:13). “Therefore speak to them and tell them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, ‘Any man of the house of Israel who sets up his idols in his heart, puts right before his face the stumbling block of his iniquity, and then comes to the prophet, I the LORD will be brought to give him an answer in the matter in view of the multitude of his idols,”’’ (Ezek. 14:4). Moreover, as Israel’s leader, Ahaziah caused others to commit idolatry.
Ahaziah also ignored God’s many warnings to his father Ahab. It might seem unfair for God to judge Ahaziah without prior warnings. Yet, God previously sent Elijah to warn his father Ahab not to turn to idolatry. Through Elijah, God further demonstrated Baal to be a false god at Mount Carmel (1 Kgs. 18:20-40). God had also demonstrated that He was the Jews’ true God through His two victories over Ben-hadad, the king of the Arameans in Syria (1 Kgs. 20:1-30). God also demonstrated His sovereignty over Ahab by bringing him to repentance for killing his neighbor, stealing his lands, and for his idolatry (1 Kgs. 21:29). Yet, Ahab squandered God’s mercy and grace with his disobedience. Thus, he died without honor, just as Elijah previously foretold (1 Kgs. 21:19). Thus, Ahaziah had multiple warnings regarding his need to repent of his idolatry and trust solely in Yahweh. Despite his disobedience, God did not immediately strike Ahaziah down. Even with his death sentence, God gave Ahaziah multiple chances to repent. Yet, Ahaziah steadfastly refused to repent.
Know your need for God’s mercy. Like Ahaziah, all have sinned: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Ro. 3:23; Ecc. 7:20). Also like Ahaziah, all carry a death sentence for their sins: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Ro. 6:23). “These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matt. 25:46). “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” (Jo. 3:36). “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.” (Mk. 16:16). If you claim to know the value of God’s mercy, show it through your faith and your obedience to Jesus.
Ahaziah’s first chance to repent. Through Elijah, God gave Ahaziah three chances to repent. Yet, Ahaziah refused: “5 When the messengers returned to him he said to them, ‘Why have you returned?’ 6 They said to him, ‘A man came up to meet us and said to us, ‘Go, return 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 where you have gone up, but shall surely die.’’’’ 7 He said to them, ‘What kind of man was he who came up to meet you and spoke these words to you?’ 8 They answered him, ‘He was a hairy man with a leather girdle bound about his loins.’ And he said, “It is Elijah the Tishbite.” (2 Kgs. 1:5-8). Ahaziah realized that his messengers had returned too soon to have reached the city of Ekron. The messengers turned back because they knew that Elijah was God’s prophet. Yet, Ahaziah was not convicted upon hearing God’s Word. Even upon hearing that the Word came through Elijah, Ahaziah again did not repent of his idolatry. Elijah dressed in humble attire. The prophet Zechariah later predicted the arrival of a prophet who would dress like Elijah: “Also it will come about in that day that the prophets will each be ashamed of his vision when he prophesies, and they will not put on a hairy robe in order to deceive;” (Zech. 13:4). John the Baptist later fulfilled this prophecy (Matt. 3:4).
Repent of your sins. In preparation for Jesus, John the Baptist called all sinners to repent. ‘“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”’ (Matt. 3:2). Jesus also began His ministry with a call to repentance: “From that time Jesus began to preach and say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”’ (Matt. 4:17). “But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!”’ (Lk. 18:13). “Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; according to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against You, You only, I have sinned and done what is evil in Your sight, so that You are justified when You speak and blameless when You judge. . .” (Ps. 51:1-4). If you say that you are without sin the truth is not in you (1 Jo. 1:8). Yet, if you confess your sins, Jesus will forgive you: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 Jo. 1:9). Have you repented of your sins? If you have not repented, you are forcing God to discipline you.
If you don’t submit to God’s Word, you are spiritually blind. God warned that those who reject His Word are spiritually blind: “Be delayed and wait, blind yourselves and be blind; they become drunk, but not with wine, they stagger, but not with strong drink. For the LORD has poured over you a spirit of deep sleep, He has shut your eyes, the prophets; and He has covered your heads, the seers.” (Is. 29:9-10; 42:16). “And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper,” (Ro. 1:28). “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Cor. 4:3-4; Matt. 13:22). As an example of this, Paul was spiritually blind to his persecution of Jesus’ followers until Jesus removed the scales from his eyes (Acts 9:8-9, 18). If you are pressured to follow what is politically popular, will you resist and follow God’s Word?
Ahaziah’s second chance to repent. Rather than repenting, Ahaziah sent 50 men to seize God’s prophet. Yet, 50 men stood no chance against God’s power: “9 Then the king sent to him a captain of fifty with his fifty. And he went up to him, and behold, he was sitting on the top of the hill. And he said to him, ‘O man of God, the king says, ‘Come down.’’ 10 Elijah replied to 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.” (2 Kgs. 1:9-10). The men clearly recognized that Elijah was God’s prophet when they called him a “man of God” (2 Kgs. 1:9), a title given to prophets (1 Kgs. 12:22; 17:18; 33:1). Yet, rather than submitting to God, the soldiers submitted to the evil orders of their king. Elijah did not claim that he was a prophet. Instead, he repeated the captain’s words and stated that God would strike them down if his words were true. By sending fire from heaven as he had done at Mount Carmel, Elijah again demonstrated God’s power and that he was God’s representative (Nu. 16:35; 1 Kgs. 18:36-38). Jesus later explained that the fire was also a sign of God’s judgment: “When His disciples James and John saw this, they said, ‘Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?”’ (Lk. 9:54).
Elijah calls upon God, and God sends fire down from heaven to kill 50 men3
Jesus is not your Lord if you reject His Word. Ahaziah should have immediately repented upon hearing of God’s judgment upon his men. Instead, he would send two more batches of 50 men. By refusing to follow God’s Word, Ahaziah demonstrated that Yahweh was not his God. If you reject Jesus’ Word, He warns that He is not the Lord over your life: “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Lk. 6:46). “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.” (Matt. 7:21; Jam. 1:22; Ro. 2:13). Are you obediently following His Word?
Don’t follow authority if you are asked to violate God’s Word. Believers normally should obey authority (Ro. 13:1-2). Yet, believers are also required to submit to Jesus as their King of Kings (1 Tim. 6:15). If there is a conflict between Jesus and your government, you must always submit to Him (Acts 5:29). Because the soldiers knew that they were attempting to seize God’s prophet, they shared in Ahaziah’s death sentence.
Ahaziah’s third chance to repent. Because his heart was wicked, Ahaziah sent a second captain with 50 men in a failed effort to seize Elijah: “11 So he again sent to him another captain of fifty with his fifty. And he said to him, ‘O man of God, thus says the king, ‘Come down quickly.’’ 12 Elijah replied to 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.” (2 Kgs. 1:11-12). Ahaziah demonstrated that he did not fear God. Despite knowing what God had just done, the second captain also showed no fear of God. Indeed, he told Elijah to come down “quickly” (2 Kgs. 1:11), something that went beyond the first captain’s command. This indicated a bold contempt for God. Thus, God confirmed His judgment with a second fireball. As one commentator observes: “The people and leaders of Israel had gone after pagan gods so long that they could not distinguish between the imaginary, impotent gods of the pagan world and Yahweh, the LORD God of Israel. They thought that Yahweh was just as powerless as their own useless gods.” (David Gizuk on 2 Kgs. 1).
Elijah calls upon God, and sends fire from heaven a second time4
Don’t be stiff-necked when God disciplines you. God called His people obstinate in the face of discipline: “The LORD said to Moses, ‘I have seen this people, and behold, they are an obstinate people.”’ (Ex. 32:9; 33:3). Jeremiah later also lamented God’s people who refused to accept His discipline: “O LORD, do not Your eyes look for truth? You have smitten them, but they did not weaken; You have consumed them, but they refused to take correction. They have made their faces harder than rock; they have refused to repent.” (Jer. 5:3). Are you stiff-necked and obstinate in the face of discipline?
Ahaziah’s death sentence is confirmed. Ahaziah again rejected God’s warning. Yet, his third commander came humbly before Elijah: “13 So he again sent the captain of a third fifty with his fifty. When the third captain of fifty went up, he came and bowed down on his knees before Elijah, and begged him and said to him, ‘O man of God, please let my life and the lives of these fifty servants of yours be precious in your sight. 14 Behold fire came down from heaven and consumed the first two captains of fifty with their fifties; but now let my life be precious in your sight.’ 15 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 Then he 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 where you have gone up, but shall surely die.’’ (2 Kgs. 1:13-16). The third captain feared God. Thus, he pleaded for mercy as he was asked to carry out an unjust and evil order. Because he showed a humble heart, God spared the third commander. Yet, because Ahaziah did not repent, Elijah told the commander that Ahaziah would suffer the judgment that God previously proclaimed. This also showed that God does not change His mind like a person does.
The third captain feared God and asked for God’s mercy5
God is slow to judge and quick to forgive. This account shows that God is slow to judge and quick to forgive: ‘“For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies,’ declares the Lord GOD. ‘Therefore, repent and live.’” (Ezek. 18:32). “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” (2 Pet. 3:9). “Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, ‘The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth;”’ (Ex. 34:6).
Fear God by hating evil. Like the third captain, God wants you to fear Him: “So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling;” (Phil. 2:2). You fear by hating evil: “The fear of the LORD is to hate evil; . . .” (Prov. 8:13). If you are tolerating evil things in your life, the fear of God is missing in your life as well.
Ahaziah’s death prophecy is fulfilled. Because he refused to repent, Ahaziah died. As part of his punishment, he further died without an heir: “17 So Ahaziah died according to the word of the Lord which Elijah had spoken. And because he had no son, Jehoram became king in his place in the second year of Jehoram the son of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah. 18 Now the rest of the acts of Ahaziah which he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel?” (2 Kgs. 1:17-18). After a two-year reign, God caused Ahaziah to die from the injuries in 850 B.C. Jehoram, the next king, was Ahab’s son (2 Kgs. 3:1) and Ahaziah’s brother. He ruled Northern Israel from 852 through 841 B.C. He was also an evil ruler and the last member of Ahab’s family to rule over God’s peoples. He ruled at the same time a ruler with the same name ruled in Judah.
Those who reject God’s mercy and grace will be judged. Like Ahaziah, some will sadly mistake God’s slowness to anger as an excuse not to repent: “Because the sentence against an evil deed is not executed quickly, therefore the hearts of the sons of men among them are given fully to do evil.” (Ecc. 8:11). “For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Pet. 4:7). Don’t make the same mistake.
Praise for God’s forgiveness and His mercy and grace. If you know what you have been spared from, God wants you to thank Him for His forgiveness and His mercy and grace: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Pet. 1:3-5). “The LORD lives, and blessed be my rock; and exalted be God, the rock of my salvation,” (2 Sam. 22:47). Will you sing God’s praises for His forgiveness and His mercy and grace?