The writer begins by orienting us to the fact that Israel is in serious decline. We read of the death of a King, the rebellion of Moab and to add injury to insult (pun intended), the new King of Israel falls off a roof!
So in light of this political and personal turmoil what does King Ahaziah do? He asks his messengers to “Go and consult Baal-Zebub, the God of Ekron, to see if I will recover from this injury”. Even though his Kingdom is in clear political decline and he himself is apparently unsure of whether he will live, Ahaziah refuses to turn God.
In light of this, God goes to drastic lengths to try and help Ahaziah understand who he is rejecting.
If I’m honest, not 100% sure what to do with the fire falling from Heaven. I’m sure there’s hundreds of debates about it. I think though, it seems to have at least two purposes.
- Reminder – When was the last time fire come down from heaven? When God undeniably confirmed on Mt Carmel that he was the true God of Israel and that the Baals were nothing (1 Kings 18). I think this is a timely reminder for a King who tried consulting them.
- Protection – Ahaziah sends 51 armed soldiers to Elijah… It’s not exactly how you would invite someone around for tea. Ahaziah tried to silence, potentially harm and maybe even kill Elijah. God would not allow this.
For me though, hundreds of questions still come to mind when I consider events like these (such as Achan’s sin in Josh 7 or the death of the boys calling Elijah “bald head” 2 Kings 2:23). I feel like they are just such minor sins, did they really deserve such immediate and horrible death? While this question really betrays how little I understand of the seriousness of sin I think there is a more helpful question to ask: “why don’t I feel like this when I consider the cross?
This question helps me acknowledge my double standards. Why is the cross so different? Surely Christ was even more innocent than these 102 men who came to harm a prophet of God? Yet when I come across passages such as these I am so quick to point the finger at God. “How could you kill these seemingly “innocent” (humanly speaking) men?” “Aren’t you a God of love and Grace?” The answer to that second question is undeniably yes. The answer to the first is undeniably complicated but ultimately I think it must be due to humanity’s rejection of him. The blame lies with us, not God.
When I consider the cross, I am ashamed that I would jump to the defense of those who would sin against God before I am outraged and horrified at the death of his perfectly innocent son. I am ashamed that the outrage that I feel when I read of God killing sinful people, is less than the outrage I feel towards sinful people killing God. Go and read Mark 15 and see if you feel the same way towards those people who kill Christ as you may feel towards God killing these men. Maybe I’m only be speaking for myself.
Despite this, I don’t think it is wrong for us to have questions for God about this passage. In light of this, I pray God helps us work through these difficult passages, but also enlarges our understanding of his holiness, the seriousness of sin and the beautiful tragedy of the cross.