Daily Family Worship

2 Kings 1: The Prophet of Fire

by | Oct 20, 2022

2 kings 1

The events in this chapter show us how the prophet Elijah ended his ministry in the same way in which he began it – as the rebuker of iniquity and “the Prophet of Fire.” About four years have elapsed since we last followed his lightning-track – when we traced his fiery footsteps in Naboth’s vineyard, fearlessly speaking God’s Word before a wicked king. And now we find him standing by a kingly bed – bold as a lion – discharging the last arrows in his quiver at the same idolatries against which he had uttered a life-long testimony.

Ahaziah, the son and successor of King Ahab of Israel, followed the heathen vices and the idolatrous practices of his parents. Troubled was the two years’ reign (898-897 BC) of this unworthy king of Israel, and unhappy and inglorious was his sudden and early death. He was laid low by an accidental fall through the rail or lattice-work on the flat roof of his palace in Samaria, and he was carried to a bed from which he never rose again. It does not seem that there were any life-threatening dangers in his condition at first. It was sent from the Lord as a timely warning. If he had prayed to the Lord and humbled himself, he might have still been raised up to become a blessing to his people and a monument of saving mercy, for years to come.

But alas! Immersed in the abominable idolatries of his mother Jezebel, Ahaziah clung to the lies of heathenism. Messengers were summoned to his bed-side and given instructions to hurry to a well-known temple of the idol Baal-zebub, to ascertain the outcome of his trouble – whether or not he would recover. The messengers were speeding on their way to relieve the feverish anxieties of their king. But who is this – when the king’s message requires such haste – that dares to stop the band of royal delegates and send them back to the bedside of their dying king?

The monarch interrogated his men concerning the cause of their strange and speedy return, and the reason was soon told. A wild, strange man – with a hairy cloak and a leather girdle – had intercepted them; and with a voice of thunder, in the name of Jehovah, he had given them a message to carry back to their king! It is noteworthy to observe that the august Messenger Who sent Elijah to meet the servants of the king of Samaria is called “the Angel of the Lord” – that is, the Lord Jesus Himself! The idolatrous king of Israel was soliciting the intercessions of the idol Baal; but the Great Intercessor of His Church stopped the men on their insulting errand and made it clear that if He is rejected as strong to save, He will manifest – in righteous severity – that He is strong to smite!

Apparently, the king’s men did not recognize the man whom they were talking with. But the king did not hesitate for a moment in identifying him as Elijah – the bold and brave prophet of Jehovah. But instead of causing him to shed tears of repentance, the Lord’s message only aroused Ahaziah to wild and frenzied exasperation. He immediately dispatched a troop of soldiers to drag the prophet – dead or alive – to his presence. Their leader ordered him to come down at once from the hilltop where he was situated. But these delegates of an earthly sovereign had dared to defy and outbrave the warning of the King of kings – “Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm.” As the Prophet of Fire, Elijah gave the word. In one flash, the captain and his fifty men lay scattered on the ground – a mass of smoldering ashes, and a silent but terrible testimony to the truth that Jehovah lives. The king, meanwhile, was impatiently waiting for the return of his soldiers with the captured prophet. Another captain with fifty men was commissioned on the same errand – bearing an even more urgent and imperious message. But they also shared the terrible fate of the first group.

Ahaziah could not fail to know that the hand of the Lord was behind these appalling judgments, but he still refused to desist from his impotent rage. A third troop of fifty was sent forth on the same mission. But this time, at least their leader was a wise man. He saw the awful blackened skeletons of his comrades, and he fell on his knees at the Prophet’s feet and begged for his own life and for that of his soldiers. May we imitate the example of this wise man, and take timely warning from the fearful fate of the despisers of Divine vengeance!

The supplication of this third captain was graciously heard. The “Angel of the Lord” again addressed Elijah and bade him to join the soldiers and go and personally confront the dying king. The roughly-clad man came to the bedside of the monarch; and as the minister of the Most High, he simply uttered his message of doom and then ended the interview. The next thing we read concerning the king is the solemn statement: “So he died according to the word of the Lord which Elijah had spoken.”

This was the Tishbite’s last meeting with a member of the family of Ahab. This was his last message of wrath, and his last protest against Baal. The hours of his own earthly existence were now nearly spent. It is pleasing to think of him in this closing public act – true as ever to his great lifework and calling, as the unflinching Reformer of his day, denouncing the degradations of Baal-worship, quenching the strange fires on the defiled altars of his country, and rekindling the sacred flames! This is the same heroic spirit with we found in the “Prophet of Fire” when he was first presented to us on the pages of Scripture.

Lord Jesus, help us to humbly plead for mercy at Your feet, so that we may not become the recipients of fiery vengeance. We thank You for making peace between us and God, by the blood of Your cross. And we beseech You to raise up courageous reformers in our own day to fearlessly and faithfully preach Your Word! Amen.

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illustration from The Prophet of Fire, by John Ross MacDuff, 1864