What if you knew the person in front of you would someday slaughter innocent people? What if you were told that someday you would show no regard for anyone’s life? Are you angry or disappointed with God because He allows evil people to do vile things? Today’s passage reveals a great deal about God and humanity.
Elisha came to Damascus while Ben-hadad king of Aram was sick, and the king was told, “The man of God has come here.” So the king said to Hazael, “Take a gift with you and go meet the man of God. Inquire of the Lord through him, ‘Will I recover from this sickness?’”
Hazael went to meet Elisha, taking with him a gift: 40 camel-loads of all kinds of goods from Damascus. When he came and stood before him, he said, “Your son, Ben-hadad king of Aram, has sent me to ask you, ‘Will I recover from this sickness?’”” (2 Kings 8:7-9 HCSB)
Men can change.
When the king Aram became sick wanted Elisha to tell him if he was about to die. Ben-hadad knew that Elisha had been involved in Naaman’s healing so perhaps that motivated him to contact Elisha. Sending Hazael to Elisha rather than demanding Elisha come to him showed a submissive attitude. “Your son Ben-hadad…” was a sign of respect.
Ben-hadad is the same king that sent an army to behead Elisha (2 Kings 6:14). Perhaps that is why he sent took forty camel loads of gifts to apologize for his previous behavior. These gifts could not be viewed as an attempt to bribe God into healing someone (See “Hearts Revealed”.); therefore, Elisha accepted them.
Damascus was about a hundred miles northeast of where Elisha normally stayed. We don’t know if Elisha was in Damascus to visit with Naaman or if he was avoiding the famine, but he was obviously where God wanted him to be.
And Elisha said to him, “Go, say to him, ‘You shall certainly recover,’ but the Lord has shown me that he shall certainly die.” (2 Kings 8:10 ESV)
Knowing the future can be painful.
Elisha’s answer sounds like a lie, but it was the truth. The king’s illness would not kill him, if he was left alone he would have made a full recovery. But God revealed to Elisha that Hazael would kill Ben-hadad. What would it be like to know the future and know that you will not be allowed to change it?
And he fixed his gaze and stared at him, until he was embarrassed. And the man of God wept. And Hazael said, “Why does my lord weep?” He answered, “Because I know the evil that you will do to the people of Israel. You will set on fire their fortresses, and you will kill their young men with the sword and dash in pieces their little ones and rip open their pregnant women.” (2 Kings 8:11-12 ESV)
Although He can, God does not stop wicked people.
I have never looked into the eyes of a murder. I can’t imagine looking at someone knowing they would cause so much pain and destruction. What is surprising is that Elijah had obeyed God and anointed Hazael to be the next king of Aram (1 Kings 19:15). Does this mean God is a monster or God didn’t know Hazael would be so wicked? No neither of those statements are true. God allows suffering on occasion to teach obedience and respect. Just as a teacher does not intervene when a student refuses to study. God does not circumvent our free will. Yet He often intervenes on our behalf when we pray.Does this mean God is a monster or God didn’t know? God allows suffering. God does not circumvent our free… Click To Tweet
Hazael said, “How could your servant, a mere dog, do this monstrous thing?”
Elisha answered, “The Lord has shown me that you will be king over Aram.” (2 Kings 8:13 HCSB)
God knows our heart better than we do.
I doubt Hazael knew his heart was so wicked. I have talked to people who said, “I would never have believed those smiles would lead to an affair.” I never dreamed I would continually make so many bad choices that I would gain fifty ponds. We often fail to see how our small actions can lead to an avalanche of destruction.
Hazael left Elisha and went to his master, who asked him, “What did Elisha say to you?”
He responded, “He told me you are sure to recover.” The next day Hazael took a heavy cloth, dipped it in water, and spread it over the king’s face. Ben-hadad died, and Hazael reigned instead of him. (2 Kings 8:14-15 HCSB)
Technically Hazael didn’t lie, he just didn’t repeat all that Elisha said. He wasn’t willing to wait any longer to be king. Taking advantage of the king’s weakened state and the king not suspecting him of murderous intention, Hazael smothered Ben-hadad. By suffocating Ben-hadad while he was sick no one would suspect foul-play; they would assume the illness caused the death. Just a day earlier Hazael denied his malicious character.
God is merciful even in punishment.
Hazael king of Aram oppressed Israel throughout the reign of Jehoahaz, but the Lord was gracious to them, had compassion on them, and turned toward them because of His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He was not willing to destroy them. Even now He has not banished them from His presence. (2 Kings 13: 22-23 HCSB)
Elisha’s prophecy came true; however God limited the destruction that Hazael did. God loves people; He hurts when they suffer. Just like a parent, He endures the pain, knowing small misery now, prevents devastation in the future.
- Have you warned someone that unless they change their path they were headed for trouble? Did you helplessly watch unable to prevent their disaster?
- Have you been surprised to see someone change like Ben-hadad?
- Are you aware at how easily a few sins can cause you to spin out of control?