Partial script for the May 7th episode of the “Enjoying the Bible” podcast.
Welcome to the May 7th episode of the “Enjoying the Bible” podcast. I’m Matt Ellis and I’m the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Polk City, Florida.
Today’s reading is in 2 Kings 1-3. Hopefully, you’ve already spent time in God’s Word so let’s get started.
2 Kings 1
2 Kings 1-2 (CSB): “1 After Ahab’s death, Moab rebelled against Israel. 2 Ahaziah had fallen through the latticed window of his upstairs room in Samaria and was injured. So he sent messengers, instructing them, ‘Go inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron, whether I will recover from this injury.’”
Ahab’s son, Ahaziah, had an accident and fell through a window to the ground below. Apparently, his injuries were significant. He may have broken some bones and done some serious internal damage.
So he wanted to know if he would survive the accident. Rather than going to Micaiah or another prophet of the Lord, he sent messengers to the Philistine city of Ekron and inquired of the god Beelzebub. When we look into the New Testament, it clearly reveals that Baal-zebub (a.k.a. Beelzebul) was considered to be Satan.
Luke 11:15 (CSB): “But some of them said, ‘He drives out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons.’”
No wonder the Lord became furious. A ruler of His people was consulting a demon rather than their God who had done so much for them. So the Lord sent Elijah to intercept those messengers and tell them that Ahaziah’s death was certain because he hadn’t consulted the Lord.
2 Kings 1:4 (CSB): “‘Therefore, this is what the Lord says: You will not get up from your sickbed; you will certainly die.’ Then Elijah left.”
The messengers went back to Ahaziah and told him what Elijah had said. Apparently, Ahaziah became angry and sent one of his captains and 50 men to get Elijah and bring him to Ahaziah.
2 Kings 1:9-10 (CSB): “9 So King Ahaziah sent a captain with his fifty men to Elijah. When the captain went up to him, he was sitting on top of the hill. He announced, ‘Man of God, the king declares, “Come down!” ’ 10 Elijah responded to the captain, ‘If I am a man of God, may fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty men.’ Then fire came down from heaven and consumed him and his fifty men.”
Ahaziah sent another captain with 50 men to get Elijah. Their wives would soon become widows, too.
Then, the third captain with his 50 men fell on his knees and pleaded with Elijah to spare his life. Elijah received a word from the Lord to go with this third group to meet Ahaziah. Listen to what he told the king…
2 Kings 1:16 (CSB): “Then Elijah said to King Ahaziah, ‘This is what the Lord says: “Because you have sent messengers to inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron—is it because there is no God in Israel for you to inquire of his will?—you will not get up from your sickbed; you will certainly die.” ’ ”
OK. So far, we’ve only looked at the story. But God’s word does us very little good when we only read it as literature. We must ask the Holy Spirit to understand its meaning so that the Holy Spirit can join us in applying the truth to our lives.
So, what’s the meaning of 2 Kings 1? It would seem that it warns us of getting to a point in our life when the Lord becomes irrelevant to us. When we have a need, we go to something or someone else rather than immediately going to the Lord in dependent prayer.
So, for example, if we were to take a fall like Ahaziah, it would be reckless not to seek medical help. That’s a no-brainer. But for the Christian, as we’re waiting on help to arrive, do we cry out to the Lord in prayer? Do we realize that our lives are ultimately in His care? Do we acknowledge that even those who have trained in the medical field who are coming to help us can only do what He allows them to do? In other words, as we seek help, are we fully submitting to Jesus’ Lordship over our lives?
In Ahaziah’s experience, his heart was wicked. That’s why he went after other gods. He did not love the Lord or desire to submit to Him.
In our experience, we may simply grow indifferent to the Lord. Because of sin or spiritual apathy, our hearts are capable of growing cold toward the Lord. Then, when trouble comes, we reach out to others and fail to acknowledge Him. In those times, He seems irrelevant to us. That attitude reveals much about our hearts that is unhealthy and needs to be fixed.
So, friend, as we read about Ahaziah seeking the counsel of false gods rather than the one true God, just realize that we can be more like him than we realize. Let’s determine to recognize our utter dependence upon the Lord every moment of the day.
Well, back to 2 Kings 1, we read that Ahaziah died as the Lord had said through Elijah. Since Ahaziah didn’t have a son to rule in his place, his brother, Joram, also a son of Ahab, became king of Israel.
2 Kings 2
2 Kings 2:1-2 (CSB): “1 The time had come for the Lord to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind. Elijah and Elisha were traveling from Gilgal, 2 and Elijah said to Elisha, ‘Stay here; the Lord is sending me on to Bethel.’ But Elisha replied, ‘As the Lord lives and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.’ So they went down to Bethel.”
As we read the next few verses, it becomes clear that Elijah wants to be alone as the Lord takes him. A couple of times, he tells Elisha that the Lord is leading him somewhere and for Elisha to stay behind. But Elisha refuses to leave him. The “sons of the prophets” told Elisha a couple of times that the Lord was about to take Elijah but Elisha responded both times: “Yes, I know. Be quiet.”
Elisha has spent time with Elijah being trained to take over when Elijah was called home. But now that the time has come, Elisha seems like he’s nervous. Maybe even scared. It is hitting him that he won’t have Elijah to lean on anymore.
Honestly, this process is exactly what we observe when we listen to Jesus’ Great Commission in Matthew 28:18-20. We are to go and make disciples, which means that we are equipping others to carry on the Gospel to other areas and the next generations. It’s inevitable that, like Elijah, we aren’t going to be here forever so we’ve got to train folks so that the message carries on after we leave.
Who are you equipping? Hopefully, if you are a parent or grand-parent, you are teaching and modeling what it means to be a follower of Jesus to those who come behind you. Maybe you are also meeting with someone of the same gender as you for lunch once a week or once a month to teach them lessons you’ve learned about following the Lord in your life. Whatever you do and whoever you equip, just don’t live life for yourself. Invest in others who will carry on after you’re gone.
Let’s get back to 2 Kings 2…
2 Kings 2:7-8 (CSB): “7 Fifty men from the sons of the prophets came and stood observing them at a distance while the two of them stood by the Jordan. 8 Elijah took his mantle, rolled it up, and struck the water, which parted to the right and left. Then the two of them crossed over on dry ground.”
One of Elijah’s last words to Elisha was a question of what he could do for Elisha before he was taken. Elisha asked for “two shares of your spirit.” This seems to imply that Elisha humbly acknowledged that he would need two shares in order to be the man Elijah was.
Then we read of Elijah’s departure. We can’t quite call it “death.”
2 Kings 2:11-12a (CSB): “11 As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire with horses of fire suddenly appeared and separated the two of them. Then Elijah went up into heaven in the whirlwind. 12 As Elisha watched, he kept crying out, ‘My father, my father, the chariots and horsemen of Israel!’”
This is certainly not normative. There is no other instance in Scripture of anyone being taken to Heaven in this way. But, honestly, when we consider the fiery ministry of Elijah, it seems appropriate that he was taken to Heaven in such a loud, visually overwhelming way.
The only thing to drop to the ground when Elijah was taken was his cloak. So Elisha picked it up and headed back toward the Jordan. I suppose that Elisha wondered if the Lord had really conferred prophet power upon him as the Lord had done to Elijah.
2 Kings 22:14 (CSB): “He took the mantle Elijah had dropped, and he struck the water. ‘Where is the Lord God of Elijah?’ he asked. He struck the water himself, and it parted to the right and the left, and Elisha crossed over.”
The sons of the prophets, who had been watching, came up to Elisha and affirmed that Elijah’s spirit was resting on Elisha. But then they requested to go and look for Elijah’s body. There is a mountain range to the east of the Jordan River and they wondered if Elijah had been left there or in one of its valleys.
The sons of the prophets got back and told Elisha that they couldn’t find Elijah. Elisha already knew this.
Friend, I see a beautiful truth in this. Elijah took his body to Heaven. When we read Acts 1, we also realize that Jesus took His physical body to Heaven. Of course, we realize that 1 Corinthians tells us that our mortal bodies must be turned into immortal bodies in order to enjoy the splendors of Heaven forever. But don’t miss the point that Elijah and Jesus took bodies to Heaven.
Why am I making a point of this? Because so many Christians suspect that Heaven is just some sort of “spiritual” place that is completely foreign to our experience on earth. But it is not. Heaven is a place where there is no sin and no curse that came as a result of sin. It is also where we are made thoroughly righteous and are able to enjoy our God to our heart’s content. But it is a physical place. And when we read the last two chapters of Revelation, we realize that God is one day going to create a brand new earth that is untouched by sin and the consequences of sin. We, who are thoroughly righteous and incapable of sin, will enjoy our God on that new physical earth forever.
If you want to dive a bit deeper into what the Bible says about Heaven, then consider getting the book, “Heaven” by Randy Alcorn. It’s one of my all-time favorite books.
Back in 2 Kings 2, we read that Elisha cured the water in Jericho. But, then we read a troubling passage.
2 Kings 2:23-24 (CSB): “23 From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking up the path, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him, chanting, ‘Go up, baldy! Go up, baldy!’ 24 He turned around, looked at them, and cursed them in the name of the Lord. Then two female bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the children.”
What’s going on in this text? Well, first of all, these may not have been young boys. The Hebrew words lead us to believe that these could have been young men.
Further, these children/young men were speaking to Elisha with contempt. They were telling him to “Go up” maybe because they were telling him to leave(!) like Elijah who went up in the chariot of fire. They were also mocking him by calling him “baldy.” Since Elisha was a young man, he probably still had his hair. They may have simply used “baldy” to infer that he was as repugnant to them as a leper who didn’t have any hair.
So, these are children/young men who have gone way overboard in showing contempt for God’s prophet. I tend to believe that these children/young men may have been prophets of Baal, or children of parents who held God’s prophets in contempt, or something of the sort.
The chapter ends by telling us…
2 Kings 2:25 (CSB): “From there Elisha went to Mount Carmel, and then he returned to Samaria.”
2 Kings 3
2 Kings 3:1 (CSB): “Joram son of Ahab became king over Israel in Samaria during the eighteenth year of Judah’s King Jehoshaphat, and he reigned twelve years.”
Then, we’re told that “he did what was evil in the Lord’s sight,” he just wasn’t as bad as some of those who had gone before him. But that’s not saying much.
However, it was not just that the Lord looked down upon him. So did others. In verse 4, we get the name of a king who thought poorly of king Joram. He thought the king of Israel was a pushover.
2 Kings 3:4-5 (CSB): “4 King Mesha of Moab was a sheep breeder. He used to pay the king of Israel one hundred thousand lambs and the wool of one hundred thousand rams, 5 but when Ahab died, the king of Moab rebelled against the king of Israel.
King Joram suspected that he wasn’t powerful enough to defeat the king of Moab so he created an alliance. Since Joram knew that his father, Ahab, had previously created an alliance with King Jehoshaphat of Judah, he reached out to him.
2 Kings 3:7 (CSB): “Then he sent a message to King Jehoshaphat of Judah: ‘The king of Moab has rebelled against me. Will you go with me to fight against Moab?’” Jehoshaphat said, ‘I will go. I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses.’”
Jehoshaphat says the same thing that he had previously said to Ahab. We gather that Jehoshaphat was just an easy-going kind of guy who strived to obey the Lord but wanted to help others.
The route they decided to take to get to the king of Moab was around the southern tip of the Dead Sea. Even though they were next to a massive body of water, they realized on the journey that they may die of thirst. The Dead Sea is so saturated with salt, much more than normal seawater, that you dare not take even a sip or you’ll be hitting the restroom for the next day or two.
Wondering whether they would die of thirst in the wilderness, Joram, the king of Israel, began to panic. But Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, was close to his God. His immediate reaction was to seek the Lord in this matter.
2 Kings 3:10-11 (CSB): “10 Then the king of Israel said, ‘Oh no, the Lord has summoned these three kings, only to hand them over to Moab.’ 11 But Jehoshaphat said, ‘Isn’t there a prophet of the Lord here? Let’s inquire of the Lord through him.’ One of the servants of the king of Israel answered, ‘Elisha son of Shaphat, who used to pour water on Elijah’s hands, is here.’ 12 Jehoshaphat affirmed, ‘The word of the Lord is with him.’ So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat and the king of Edom went to him.”
When Elisha showed up, it felt like déjà vu. It reminds us of the tension in the air when king Abab met Elijah. In fact, Elisha told Joram that he wouldn’t even give him the time of day if it weren’t for his respect for King Jehoshaphat.
Elisha sought the Lord and then gave the message to the kings:
2 Kings 3:16-18 (CSB): “16 Then he said, ‘This is what the Lord says: “Dig ditch after ditch in this wadi.” 17 For the Lord says, “You will not see wind or rain, but the wadi will be filled with water, and you will drink—you and your cattle and your animals.” 18 This is easy in the Lord’s sight. He will also hand Moab over to you.”
Wouldn’t it be nice if the Lord spoke to us as clearly as He spoke to Elisha? We may find ourselves wishing we were back in that day. Yet the Lord speaks to us in ways that are just as clear and certain today. Ultimately, He speaks to us in His written Word (we call it the Bible). There is a multitude of other ways that the Lord can “speak” to us, but every single one of them needs to be measured against the written Word. Why? Because we always need to measure what we think the Lord is saying against what we know that He has already said in His Word. So, in order to hear from the Lord, we absolutely must(!) spend much time in our Bibles, getting our Bibles into our minds and hearts.
Back in 2 Kings 3, we read that the Moabite army woke up the following morning and looked toward the Israelite army. The trenches that the Israelites had dug had been filled with water overnight. So, the sun’s reflection on that water made it look like blood to the Moabites. They assumed that the armies of Israel, Judah, and Edom had fought against each other leaving blood all over the ground so they went to attack them.
2 Kings 3:24 (CSB): “However, when the Moabites came to Israel’s camp, the Israelites attacked them, and they fled from them. So Israel went into the land attacking the Moabites.”
When the king of Moab saw that all hope was lost, he offered up a sacrifice to his gods. But this wasn’t any animal sacrifice.
2 Kings 3:27 (CSB): “So he took his firstborn son, who was to become king in his place, and offered him as a burnt offering on the city wall. Great wrath was on the Israelites, and they withdrew from him and returned to their land.”
I see those things in this last verse…
First, the king of Moab sacrificed his own son! This is sick and wicked! Yet this is exactly what the people of Canaan did that made God so furious that He sent the people of Israel, under Joshua’s leadership, to wipe them out. Further, we are going to see that the people of Israel would eventually embrace this practice and sacrifice their own children to the god of Molech. In fact, they would eventually do this right outside of Jerusalem in the valley of Hinnom. It would be known as Gehenna, a place of death, a place of utter hopelessness, and unfettered wickedness. Jesus would later use the word “Gehenna” to describe Hell.
The second thing we see in 2 Kings 3:27 is that “great wrath was on the Israelites.” Why is that? They had just defeated Moab, whose king had just sacrificed his own son. Why is there wrath on the Israelites?
It seems that the “great wrath” probably came from the Moabites. The child that would eventually become their king had been sacrificed because of the Israelite invasion. It may be that the Moabites hated the Israelites all the more for being the catalyst that led to the death of their future king.
We are told at the end of 2 Kings 3:27 that the Israelites “withdrew from him and returned to their land.” Probably because of the fierceness of the Moabite army, some of the Moabit cities were spared.
I’ll end with a quote from the Bible Knowledge Commentary in regard to this battle.
“A remarkable archeological discovery, the Moabite Stone, contains Mesha’s own record of this battle and other battles with Israel. On this stone the Moabite king claimed to have been delivered from the Israelites by his god Chemosh on this day. Though it is true that he was not captured at Kir Hareseth and the Israelites withdrew, Israel and her allies were the real victors in this campaign.”
Lord Jesus, we thank You once again for the incredible stories written on the pages of Scripture. We get to observe the words and the actions of men and women as You write about them. Thank You that we get to observe the kind of things that make You smile and the kinds of things that make You angry.
But help us, Lord, to not merely read the stories but look for the adjustments we need to make in our own life in response to our exposure to Your Word. And we can only do this in the power of your Holy Spirit so we pray that He would assist us on our road to greater degrees of holiness. We pray this in Jesus’ name, amen.
I hope today’s episode has helped you to understand and enjoy God’s Word so that you can apply it in the power of the Holy Spirit.
The “Enjoying the Bible” podcast is a ministry of the First Baptist Church in Polk City, Florida. Check us out at fbcpolkcity.com. See you tomorrow!