The fate of the three commanders

After Ahab died, his son Ahaziah became ruler of Israel. Unfortunately, he was as wicked as his father and mother, serving Baal, worshiping him, and angered the Lord God of Israel.

One day he had an accident: he fell out of the window of his palace because the lattice against which he was leaning broke. We don’t know how badly he crashed, but severe enough to worry about whether he could recover.

Wanting to know his fate, he sent ambassadors to ask this of Baal-Zebub, the deity of Ekron, as if the wooden idol could understand what would happen to him.

On their way, the ambassadors met Elijah, though they did not recognize him. He sternly asked them why they wanted to seek help from Baal-Zebub and not the Lord God. Then he ordered them to go back and tell Ahaziah that he was going to die. The ambassadors were so afraid of the prophet that they obeyed him.

Ahaziah was surprised at their quick return. When they told him what had happened, he asked for a description of the man. They said, “That man is covered with hair and with a leather belt around his loins. They didn’t have to go any further. ‘This is Elijah the Tishbite’,” Ahaziah said.

The king sent one of his commanders with fifty soldiers to capture Elijah and bring him to Samaria.

He found the prophet sitting on top of a mountain and ordered him to come down. “Man of God,” he said, “the king says to come down. Elijah refused because the prophet of God was not afraid of the godless soldiers of the godless king. “If I am a man of God,” he replied, “let fire come down from heaven and smite you and your fifties. A bright fire came down from heaven in the next instant, and the people disappeared in it.

When the king found out what had happened, he became angry and sent a second commander with fifty soldiers.

Elijah was still sitting quietly on top of the mountain. “Come down quickly,” the commander ordered, “the king said so”. Again Elijah replied, “If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and smite you and your fifty men.” Again, fire came down from heaven and consumed the commander and his men.

When this news reached Ahaziah, he sent a third commander with fifty soldiers. This commander, however, learned a lesson from the sad fate of his predecessors. When he came to the mountain on which Elijah was sitting, he “fell on his knees before Elijah, and besought him, and said unto him, Man of God, that my soul and the soul of thy servants, the forces of fifty, should not be despised before thy eyes”.

God was pleased with this man’s obedience and wisdom and with respect shown to His prophet. He said to Elijah, “Go with him; do not be afraid of him.”

Elijah went with this commander and his men and came to the palace where Ahaziah lay in bed. Elijah showed no fear of the king, even though he was now in his power, and he could have been thrown into prison at any minute. Neither did he retract his words. God’s prophets must warn the wicked, and as His messengers carry them His words of warning and judgment, so that the evil may not be guilty of ruin because of their sins.

He told the king directly, as he had already told his ambassadors, that since he had sought help from Baal-Zebub, the evil deity of Ekron, and not the Lord God, he would not recover from his sickness and would die.

That’s precisely what happened. Not only because he turned to Baal-Zebub for help, but because all his life – like his parents – he hated the Lord and served the pagan gods.

How different from Elijah, who faithfully and courageously served the Lord as a prophet, proclaiming the Truth and rebuking the “spirits of evil under the heaven”. (Ephesians 6:12), and was soon miraculously taken up into heaven.

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