Do you learn from the mistakes of others? God is gracious and slow to anger, but do not make the fatal error of disrespecting Him or His prophet. Learn from the lessons of others.
King Ahaziah, King Ahab’s son fell off the roof. He sent messengers to consult an idol as to his recovery. Elijah intercepted the messengers and told them to return to the Ahaziah with the message that he would die.
When the messengers returned to the king, he asked them, “Why have you come back?”
“A man came to meet us,” they replied. “And he said to us, ‘Go back to the king who sent you and tell him, “This is what the Lord says: Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are sending messengers to consult Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron? Therefore you will not leave the bed you are lying on. You will certainly die!”’”
The king asked them, “What kind of man was it who came to meet you and told you this?”
They replied, “He had a garment of hair[ and had a leather belt around his waist.”
The king said, “That was Elijah the Tishbite. (2 Kings 1:5-8 NIV)
These brave messengers came back to the king repeating exactly what Elijah had said. They did not sugar coat the message or leave any possibility that he would recover.
Although they didn’t say they knew the name of the man they met, Ahaziah only needed to clarify his attire to be sure it was Elijah. John the Baptist dressed similarly (Matthew 3:4). Both men boldly spoke whatever God guided them to say.
Then he sent to Elijah a captain with his company of fifty men. The captain went up to Elijah, who was sitting on the top of a hill, and said to him, “Man of God, the king says, ‘Come down!’”
Elijah answered the captain, “If I am a man of God, may fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty men!” Then fire fell from heaven and consumed the captain and his men. (2 Kings 1:9,10 NIV)
Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”
Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.
When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord—he is God! The Lord—he is God!” (1 Kings 18:27-39 NIV)
Could it be possible that the captain and his fifty men had not heard about the fire of the Lord falling? Could it be possible that the story had been suppressed? Evidently the fire falling had not changed Israel’s hearts.
We can surmise that Elijah was not afraid of the captain. We can also be sure that the captain was sarcastic when he called Elijah “man of God”.
Compare this to Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.
So Judas came to the garden, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and the Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons.
Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?”
“Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied.
“I am he,” Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. (John 18:3-6 NIV emphasis mine)
At least 200 soldiers went to arrest Jesus, not fifty as went after Elijah. When Jesus said, “I am he”. The soldiers fell back to the ground. Jesus is the Great I AM. Elijah was a representative of I AM called down the fire from heaven. It was with derision that Elijah was called man of God. It was with that same mocking attitude that Jesus was labeled the King of the Jews (John 19:19).
Moses and Elijah are believed to be the two witnesses in Revelation 11. When Elijah returns he will not call down the fire from heaven. It will come straight from his mouth.
If anyone tries to harm them, fire comes from their mouths and devours their enemies. This is how anyone who wants to harm them must die. (Revelation 11:5 NIV)
Some people don’t learn from other people’s mistakes.
At this the king sent to Elijah another captain with his fifty men. The captain said to him, “Man of God, this is what the king says, ‘Come down at once!’”
“If I am a man of God,” Elijah replied, “may fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty men!” Then the fire of God fell from heaven and consumed him and his fifty men. (2 Kings 1:11-12 NIV emphasis is mine)
The Bible doesn’t say what Ahaziah thought would happen if he had Elijah. Obviously, he thought it was worth the lives of his men. Of course if God doesn’t want Elijah to go, 50,000 soldiers would not force him to move.
Some people do learn without having to experience the consequences.
So the king sent a third captain with his fifty men. This third captain went up and fell on his knees before Elijah. “Man of God,” he begged, “please have respect for my life and the lives of these fifty men, your servants! See, fire has fallen from heaven and consumed the first two captains and all their men. But now have respect for my life!”
The angel of the Lord said to Elijah, “Go down with him; do not be afraid of him.” So Elijah got up and went down with him to the king.
He told the king, “This is what the Lord says: Is it because there is no God in Israel for you to consult that you have sent messengers to consult Baal-Zebub, the god of Ekron? Because you have done this, you will never leave the bed you are lying on. You will certainly die!” So he died, according to the word of the Lord that Elijah had spoken.
Because Ahaziah had no son, Joram succeeded him as king in the second year of Jehoram son of Jehoshaphat king of Judah. (2 Kings 1:13-17 NIV emphasis is mine)
What is the third captain’s attitude? What is God’s instruction? Elijah obeyed God without fear. He repeated the same words he said in the beginning to the messengers. Ahaziah died just has God had said, without an heir.
Another example of fire falling on those who disrespect God.
And fire came out from the Lord and consumed the 250 men who were offering the incense (Numbers 16:35 NIV)
Instead of being respectful toward God and His representatives, Israel blamed Moses and Aaron (Numbers 16:41,42 NIV).
Pray with me: God please show me when a seed of disrespect starts to grow. I want to maintain a humble heart remembering who You are.”
Other posts I wrote on respecting God are on the Ask God Today Site: Pride Leads To Humiliation While Humility Leads to Exaltation The Equation of Wisdom