URC Daily Devotion 30th November 2019

Saturday 30th November

2 Kings 1:9-17

Then the king sent to him a captain of fifty with his fifty men. He went up to Elijah, who was sitting on the top of a hill, and said to him,

‘O man of God, the king says, “Come down.”’ 

But Elijah answered 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. Again the king sent to him another captain of fifty with his fifty. He went up  and said to him, 

‘O man of God, this is the king’s order: Come down quickly!’

But Elijah answered 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. Again the king sent the captain of a third fifty with his fifty. So the third captain of fifty went up, and came and fell on his knees before Elijah, and entreated him, 

‘O man of God, please let my life, and the life of these fifty servants of yours, be precious in your sight. Look, fire came down from heaven and consumed the two former captains of fifty men with their fifties; but now let my life be precious in your sight.’ 

Then the angel of the Lord said to Elijah, 

‘Go down with him; do not be afraid of him.’ 

So he set out and went down with him to the king, and 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 leave the bed to which you have gone, but you shall surely die.’

So he died according to the word of the Lord that Elijah had spoken. His brother Jehoram succeeded him as king in the second year of King Jehoram son of Jehoshaphat of Judah, because Ahaziah had no son.

Reflection

The king wasn’t satisfied and instructed the prophet to be summoned.  

This story reminds us of the confrontation between Elijah and the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18 with divine fire coming down from heaven; but there are some significant differences.  Here, the issue of authority is to the forefront: should Elijah obey the king, or be answerable only to God?  

The first two emissaries from the king assume the former and discover, to their cost, that they are wrong.  The third adopts a different approach and goes up the hill to Elijah, in humility, appealing on behalf of himself and his attendants.  He doesn’t actually ask the prophet to accompany him but the text suggests that all the parties understood this as his mission.

Elijah receives assurance from the ‘angel of the Lord’ that he need not fear; God has authority over life and death issues.  In response to God’s word, he goes to deliver his uncompromising message of judgment on the king again, this time personally.  The prophecy is fulfilled; Ahaziah doesn’t recover from his accident.

Stories like this do not imply that God goes around killing people who set themselves above divine authority.  Rather, they serve as warnings against treating God as a power to be evoked at our behest; all authority is God’s.  They also remind us that no-one is immune from accidents; and a misplaced sense of our own importance may simply add to the negativity of a situation when our expectation of favourable treatment is not met.

God is able to take a longer view, of a bigger picture, in which we play a tiny part.  We are called to trust God’s eternal purposes and like Jesus in Gethsemane to say to God, ‘not what I want, but what you want’.

Prayer

Sovereign God, in Jesus you have revealed yourself as a God of love and mercy who desires that all your children might have life in all its fullness.  

Help me to believe your promises and to entrust all my days into your hands, without fear, ready to embrace all the uncertainties that may confront me.

For the kingdom, the power and the glory are yours, now and for ever.  Amen.

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