Fire from Heaven (2 Kings 1:1-12)
I had a good friend whose wife had an affair and left him for the boyfriend. I learned about this brother’s struggles from his parents at Wednesday evening Bible study when I asked them why my friend wasn’t there. After Bible study, I went to my friend’s house, and it was absolutely one of the saddest things I have seen in my life—I sat there for about an hour, not a single word was spoken, but my friend simply stared off into space while the TV played; my friend had simply checked out.
A couple weeks later, my friend was at Bible study. He caught me in a back room and grabbed on to me sobbing. He fell to his knees; he yelled through the sobs, “Justin, what am I going to do?” over and over.
My friend was able to pick up the pieces and go on with his life. He eventually found a sweet lady who also had a right to remarry, and the two of them are happily married today. Yet, my friend’s life will never be the same because of that betrayal. He thought life was going along quite well, but his wife’s sin upset the applecart in a big way.
I have no doubt that each of you has suffered because of the sins of others. Maybe someone in your family suffered from addiction, and everyone else suffered. Maybe your spouse was unfaithful, and your heart shattered into a million pieces. Maybe you walked on eggshells because someone in the family had a horrible temper, and you never knew what would happen.
But let’s be perfectly honest—While you may have suffered because of the sins of others, it’s also true that others have suffered because of your sins. You certainly wouldn’t be the first to harm others because of your sin.
- Adam and Eve harmed all their descendants by sinning in the Garden: “Many died by the trespass of the one man” (Rom 5:15).
- Cain killed his brother because of his jealousy (Gen 4:8).
- David numbered the people, and 70,000 Israelites died (2 Sam 24:13-15).
Then, there’s the case of King Ahaziah who allowed 102 of his men to die and sent another 51 of his men to a certain death before God showed mercy. Ahaziah had fallen from “his upper room in Samaria and injured himself” (2 Ki 1:2). He then sent messengers to ask the pagan God Baal-Zebub if he would recover (1 Ki 1:2); Baal-Zebub had a reputation for divination and soothsaying. God sent Elijah to intercept the messengers and to tell them that Ahaziah would die (1 Ki 1:4). They went back to the king, and he was shocked they had returned so quickly; the men relayed to the king Elijah’s message (1 Ki 1:5-6). Ahaziah asked what kind of man had met his men and had given them this depressing message, and the men described Elijah (1 Ki 1:7-8).
King Ahaziah then got a bright idea, a bright idea that cost 102 men their lives and almost killed another 51 of his men. As Ahaziah got his men killed, he demonstrated: “Your sin destroys others.”
Scripture (2 Kings 1:9-12)
Ahaziah sent a captain and his fifty men to Elijah. Ahaziah apparently thought that if he were able to arrest the prophet, he could force Elijah to change his prophecy. There are two interesting things taking place here:
- The king knew that what the prophet said would come to pass. Ahaziah followed his parents—Ahab and Jezebel—in serving and worshiping Baal (1 Ki 22:53). But he knew Elijah spoke the truth.
- The king believed he could force the prophet to change the prophecy. Ahaziah thought by imprisoning Elijah, he could get a different outcome for his injury. Yet, it was not the word of Elijah which had been spoken against Ahaziah; it was the word of the Lord: “This is what the LORD says: ‘You will not leave the bed you are lying on. You will certainly die!’” (2 Ki 1:4). Ahaziah failed to understand that prophet could not simply change the word of the Lord.
The captain went up to Elijah “who was sitting on the top of a hill.” Maybe Elijah was sitting on Mt. Carmel. The word of the Lord was often pronounced from a mountain: Moses received the Law on a mountain, and Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount on a mountain.
The captain ordered the prophet and said, “Man of God, the king says, ‘Come down!’” Ahaziah was quite the narcissist—he was the king, and he could just order Elijah to do whatever he wanted. Ahaziah’s narcissism is also seen in the fact he sent other folks to do his dirty work. I know the king could not walk and he literally could not go to Elijah, but he sent men to sin against God. There’s no more dirty work than leading someone else to sin.
Elijah said that if he were a man of God fire would come down from heaven and consume the captain and his fifty men; Elijah was a man of God, so fire came from heaven and devoured the men. Why would fire come from heaven to devour these 51 men; were they not simply doing what they had been told to do? A third captain—after the first two and their 50 men had died—did not order Elijah to come down the mountain; instead, he asked Elijah for mercy (2 Ki 1:12-14). There is no reason at all that this captain could not have done the same thing. The captain and his men sinned against God by unquestioningly following Ahaziah’s command.
The king sent another captain and his 50 men to Elijah. Those poor men—Ahaziah knew that the first group had died, and he sent another group to their death. Then, when these 51 men die, Ahaziah sent another 51 men to Elijah. What arrogance! What disregard for people’s lives!
Ahaziah did not care about his men; he destroyed 102 men with his sin. Ahaziah’s actions here show: “Your sin destroys others.”
- Jesus taught “Your sin destroys others:” “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea” (Matt 18:6).
- Paul knew “Your sin destroys others:” “If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died” (Rom 14:15).
I don’t believe anyone here this morning would wish to destroy another through sin. However, fallen man is going to sin, and your sin will harm others. What can you do to keep from harming others through sin? What if you take Ahaziah as an example and do exactly the opposite of what the king did?
Because your sin destroys others, you need a proper view of self.
Ahaziah was in a pickle—he had injured himself badly, he was lying in bed, and he desperately wanted to get up and be back to normal. Because he desperately wanted to be well, the king four times in this short narrative led others to sin:
- He sent messengers to a pagan god (1 Ki 1:2).
- He THREE TIMES sent captains and 50 men to arrest Elijah (1 Ki 1:9, 11, 13).
Ahaziah showed no consideration for his palace lackeys. He put their souls in spiritual jeopardy by sending them to a pagan god, and he allowed them to die when he sent them to Elijah. Ahaziah was the king, and he cared about no one but himself.
You cannot care only about self. You must get out of self and care for others. “By the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you” (Rom 12:3). “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others” (Phil 2:3-4).
Think back over this past week. How did you interact with folks? Did you deal with people with great arrogance? Did you deal with people with great humility? How might you have demonstrated more of the character of Jesus? How can you deal with people in a new way this week? What do you need to do to have a proper sense of self?
Because your sin destroys others, you need a proper view of Scripture.
Ahaziah demonstrated a lack of respect for the word of God twice in the passage. First, he sent messengers to a pagan god to see if he would live or die; he wasn’t even willing to hear what God had to say. Then, when Ahaziah heard the word of God, he didn’t like what God had said, so he tried to change the word by arresting Elijah.
You know why Ahaziah made such a grave mistake by disregarding God’s word:
- Scripture is the very word of God:
- “This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit” (1 Co 2:13).
- “We also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe” (1 Thess 2:13).
- Scripture will make you complete for everything you need in life: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim 3:16-17).
Think over this past week. How might a proper knowledge of Scripture have impacted the way you dealt with others? How might a proper knowledge of Scripture have kept you from sin? How might a proper knowledge of Scripture have kept you from leading others into sin? What Scripture do you need to know in your life to keep you from sin? What Scripture do you need to know in your life to keep from leading others into sin?
If you really understood “Your sin destroys others,” how might your life be different? Would you not strive to keep others from sin? Would you not do everything in your power to keep from sinning yourself? Would you not spend serious time in Scripture so that you would know how to keep yourself from sin?
Are you struggling with sin this morning? Do you need to come and put Jesus on in baptism, or do you need to ask for our prayers for strength?