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1 Kings 22:4-220:53 & 2 Kings 1:1-18 by Robert Dean
Series:Kings (2007)
Duration:58 mins 40 secs

The Uncontrollable God; Arrogance, self-destruction and humility. - 1 Kings 22:4; 1:18

1 Kings 22:21, 22 NASB "Then a spirit came forward and stood before the LORD and said, 'I will entice him.' The LORD said to him, 'How?' And he said, 'I will go out and be a deceiving spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.' Then He said, 'You are to entice {him} and also prevail. Go and do so.'" How do we really understand this? Isn't God supposed to be a God of truth, a God of righteousness? Yet we have God sending forth this deceiving spirit. It relates to the doctrine of the incomprehensibility of God. We often think that because we spend a lot of time studying the Bible, that because we can think it terms of sophisticated theological terminology, and that we have read the Bible several times, that we have been in a teaching church, that we have a pretty good handle on God and we get deceived into thinking that we have control of God—we know what He is like, what He is going to do—and we think that we more of a comprehensive understanding of God than we do. The Scripture says that we can know God, we can know God truly, we can know things about God, but we certainly don't have a comprehensive or exhaustible knowledge of God. We can know Him through the Bible as he has revealed Himself to us, and in the Scriptures we see that He is the God of truth and the God of righteousness. But He is not a God who is at our beck and call who is going to perform as we think He is going to perform. We are going to run into circumstances in life that are somehow going to take us by surprise and they don't fit into that little box, that little formula we have constructed in our minds to try to get some kind of handle or control on God.

Ultimately there is no deception by God in chapter twenty-two. Ahab is already self-deceived. God sends this deceiving spirit to Ahab in order to lure him to his death in the battle, but even after He does that God sends His prophet Macaiah to tell Ahab that he is being deceived. God baits the trap for Ahab but then He shows him to the trap before He even springs it. Nevertheless Ahab in self-deception goes into the battle and attempts to deceive the enemy by dressing as a common soldier so that he can somehow cheat God and avoid the death that God has told him would take place. So in self-deception Ahab thinks that he can control God and that he can run his life in pure autonomy. So Ahab in self-deception is asserting his autonomy and he is really hostile to God.

What we see in the Scripture is that God is a commanding general; He is engaged in this cosmic warfare. God is in charge of an army that involves both the holy angels in heaven as well as believers on earth. God is going to win the conflict and He is going to use every stratagem available to Him to defeat the enemy. We think back to how God conducted warfare in Joshua. Joshua tells how God as the commander of the armies, the Lord of hosts, led them and directed Joshua to attack Jericho, latter to attack Ai and various other attacks. As part of those attacks God used deception in order to confuse and to rout the enemy.  God used deception again and again in His military tactics to win, and in 1 Kings 22 God is using deception to defeat the enemy; but He does it in a way that He uses their own self-deception against them. Ps 18:25, 26 NASB "With the kind [merciful] You show Yourself kind [merciful]; With the blameless You show Yourself blameless; With the pure You show Yourself pure, And with the crooked [devious or cunning] You show Yourself astute [shrewd or cunning]." He will use various stratagems in order to outsmart and to defeat the enemy. He is very clever and crafty in the way He is going to deal with the enemy and outsmart the enemy. [27] "For You save an afflicted [humble] people, But haughty eyes You abase [bring down]."

What we see in this section of 1 Kings and the beginning of 2 Kings is how God in an extremely cunning and sophisticated manner uses the arrogance and self-deception of Ahab and his son Ahaziah against them in order to defeat them, in order to continue to be victorious in this cosmic spiritual conflict. In Scripture God is depicted as this general of all generals. He is out to win and He is out to win big. He uses the same kinds of traps the enemy uses; He uses deceptive tactics and strategies, and He wins. As a result we see God depicted as this kind of leader that is not the lovable, soft teddy-bearish, grandfatherly image we often construct of God, but God is a strong powerful, victorious leader.

We learn from these chapters that we should not be aligned with those who oppose God in arrogance. Hebrews 10:31 NASB "It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God." This is why the Scriptures emphasize the fear of the Lord as the beginning of knowledge. Proverbs 1:7 NASB "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; Fools despise wisdom and instruction." 1 Peter 5:5 "…GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE." God sets Himself as a warrior against the arrogant, and that is what we see in 1 Kings 22 and on into 2 Kings 1.

There are two elements to 1 Kings chapter twenty-two. The first has to do with a summary account of Jehoshaphat's reign in the southern kingdom of Judah, vv. 41-50. Then we have three verses that summarize Ahaziah's reign in Israel. The problem her is that in our English Bibles there is a book break to the next chapter. We go from 1 Kings 22:53 to 2 Kings 1, but in the original 2 Kings 1 came immediately after the statement in 1 Kings 22:53. The reason it was broken at that point was because they couldn't get the whole thing on one scroll. They must be understood as one book in the original. In 1 Kings 22:41-50 we learn that Jehoshaphat was a good king. The bottom line is that did right in the sight of the Lord. That doesn't mean he did everything right but that he generally did. Kings doesn't tell us that in his early years when he came to the throne there was a tremendous general revival and reform in the land of Judah as the people turned back to God. He reorganized the kingdom and sent out Levites throughout the kingdom to teach the Word and there was a tremendous response from the people. He tore down the idols and cleaned up the land. Late in his ministry the people rebuilt some of the high places and he doesn't tear them down, which is what is referred to in 22:43. His major failure comes later in life. We know this because of the notation that occurs in v. 51 regarding Ahaziah. Jehoshaphat reigned 25 years The battle of Ramoth-Gilead occurred some eight years before he dies, and that is in the latter part of his rule. That is when he succumbed to various temptations, one of which was to ally himself to Ahab in the northern kingdom; and he did it in a horrendous way. He entered into a treaty with Ahab whereby he married his son Jehoram to Ahab and Jezebel's daughter, Athaliah. The consequences of this are going to be horrendous. Athaliah will be used by Satan to kill all of the Davidic descendants, except one. It was one of the greatest attacks on the Davidic covenant and on the promised seed that occurred in the Old Testament. Athaliah was arguably worse than Jezebel because Jezebel didn't engage in such a horrific massacre. So Jehoshaphat by that decision unwittingly brings the evil of Baalism into the palace of Judah and into the southern kingdom. Nevertheless Jehoshaphat's obedience is so great and his heart is for the Lord that the divine assessment is that he did right in the eyes of the Lord.     

Ahaziah is the son of Ahab and Jezebel and is the one who takes the throne of the northern kingdom when Ahab dies after the battle of Ramoth-Gilead. 1 Kings 22:51 NASB "Ahaziah the son of Ahab became king over Israel in Samaria in the seventeenth year of Jehoshaphat king of Judah, and he reigned two years over Israel. [52] He did evil in the sight of the LORD and walked in the way of his father and in the way of his mother and in the way of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who caused Israel to sin." This emphasizes the idolatry, both systems are supported by him as he leads them into the false idolatry established by Jeroboam as well as the even worse idolatry of the fertility-prosperity cult of the Baalim and the Asherah. [53] "So he served Baal and worshiped him and provoked the LORD God of Israel to anger, according to all that his father had done." Because of his sin God must operate in terms of His justice and bring discipline and judgment on the house of Ahab.

This was already promised by God. He had announced judgment on the house of Ahab, that He would destroy his house. But there Ahab showed humility. He humbled himself under God and God said that it would not take place in his time but that the kingdom would be taken from the house of Ahab in his son's time. So we expect that to happen in the time of Ahaziah. When we read that Ahaziah reigned for only two years our expectation should be that when he is killed this is the fulfillment of the prophecy of God that house of Ahab will be destroyed. And we are going to be surprised! God is not going to do it like He did it the last time. Ahaziah's brother will take the throne and God is going to give the house of Ahab a little longer time for their evil to come to fulfillment. It is not until God brings that judgment finally upon Athaliah, the daughter, that he will then cleanse both the northern and southern kingdoms of this horrendous worship of Baal. So we have to recognize that God does things in His timing. So Ahaziah will walk in the path of Ahab and Jezebel, he serves and worships the Baalim and the Asherah, and this will bring down judgment upon himself and eventually upon his house.

2 Kings chapter one summary: Israel is in a foreign affairs crisis and it is because there is a rebellion by Moab. Moab has been a vassal state under the house of Omri. 2 Kings 1:1 NASB "Now Moab rebelled against Israel after the death of Ahab." Ahaziah has a foreign affairs crisis to deal with. He has a hostile enemy on his flank that is asserting its independence, and this is going to affect them militarily, economically and politically. But that is not the focus of this chapter. He has a major crisis to deal with and one night he is up walking on the roof of the palace and he takes a misstep and falls into the upper room, injuring himself severely. It will be a fatal injury. But the point of the story is how he is going to solve this problem.

The question at hand is: how do we try to solve our problems? Do we try to do it, like Ahaziah, by going to the typical problem solutions that are available or going through some sort of psychotherapeutic counselling, by drugs or alcohol, or social life, or any of the other details of life. These are the typical problem-solving devices that the world offers. Ahaziah has a major problem and wants to know the solution, so he send his messengers to enquire of "Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron, whether I will recover from this sickness." As they leave to go down to find out the answer to this question they run into a messenger who is sent to them—Elijah the prophet. 2 Kings 1:3 NASB "But the angel of the LORD said to Elijah the Tishbite, 'Arise, go up to meet the messengers of the king of Samaria and say to them, 'Is it because there is no God in Israel {that} you are going to inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron?' [4] Now therefore thus says the LORD, 'You shall not come down from the bed where you have gone up, but you shall surely die.' Then Elijah departed."

The first part of this is a rhetorical question to bring out the real issue that is the point of this passage. In other words, has God so departed Israel that you are not going to find your solution from the God of Israel, so that you are going to go off somewhere else in order to solve the problems in your life? You don't trust God to solve them so you are going to go outside of Israel to a Philistine city in order to find a solution to your problem. You are not going to trust the sufficiency of God's power, God's grace, you are going to trust in the sufficiency of some human viewpoint technique in order to solve a problem. The reason we know that this is the centerpiece of this passage is that the statement is repeated three times in the chapter. Out of eighteen verses there are five verses that repeat this, just to make sure we get the point that God and God alone is the solution to our problems, not these other techniques that are popular in the world around us.

These messengers then go back to Ahaziah to inform him that they saw this strange man on the road who gave them this message for him. Ahaziah enquires the identity of the prophet. When the description is given, that he is this hairy man with a belt around his waist and looks like a wild man out of the wilderness, he realizes that it was Elijah, the nemesis of his father. So he sends a contingent down to get Elijah. Elijah calls down fire from heaven that incinerates all the troops. Word gets back to Ahaziah but he doesn't learn because arrogance is tenacious and self-deception blinds to reality, so he sends another group of fifty down to retrieve Elijah, as if Ahaziah controls a prophet of God. The emphasis here is to show us that Ahaziah is trying to control God; he is placing Elijah under his authority. The second group gets vaporized as well! So a third group is sent down and this time the captain of the guard demonstrates humility. In contrast to the arrogance of the previous two captains and the arrogance of Ahaziah, he comes up and bows down before Elijah and politely asks Elijah to preserve his life and that of his men. Because he has shown humility the angel of the Lord, the pre-incarnate Lord Jesus Christ, directs Elijah to go with him back to Ahaziah. Elijah goes back to the king and makes the same announcement. This is the third time this announcement will have been mentioned. 2 Kings 1:16 NASB "Then he 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 come down from the bed where you have gone up, but shall surely die.'"

How is this profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness? We have to remember that the writer's purpose in writing 1 & 2 Kings, and in describing what happens in the life of the united kingdom and then in the northern kingdom and the southern kingdom, is to show that God is faithful to His promises made back in Deuteronomy 28-30 and Leviticus 26, that if the nation is obedient God will bless them and if the nation is disobedient God will curse them. The idea of cursing is the idea of judgment. We see that the nation is united and in prosperity at the beginning of 1 Kings but when we get to the end of 2 Kings we see that the northern kingdom and the southern kingdom have been disciplined and judged by God and they are both out of the land under the fifth cycle of discipline. So the pattern we see throughout these books is the historical record of how God is faithful to His Word to bless those who walk with Him and to judge those who are in rebellion against Him. The lessons that we see in these two books relate either to God, to man in terms of man's failure and sin, or what happens when man humbles himself under God and is obedient. We see lessons related to divine discipline and divine blessing, and above all we see lessons related to learning to trust God, to walk with Him and to obey His Word.

These lessons for this episode come out and are exposed to us as we pay careful attention to the clues that the writer gives us. We have to be good readers. We have to remember the backdrop here that the conflict that is going on in the northern kingdom is between Baal and Yahweh. This is representative of the cosmic conflict, the angelic conflict, because Baal is an idol and idols are just various manifestations of the various demons. Baal is the god of prosperity—the god of lightning, the god of thunder, the god of rain, the god who can give life, to god who will bring fertility to the fields, to the womb and to the nation. He is the god of the ancient world's prosperity theology. Modern prosperity theology came out of the charismatic movement. It is also called the health and wealth gospel, the name it claim it gospel, the word of faith movement, and it really puts God is a box. One of the problems of prosperity theology is that God is reduced to a formula and a mechanic: God is there to serve man rather than the other way around. But it is not just the prosperity gospel people who have this problem, we all fall into this same trap to lesser degrees. We think we have a handle on God and can somehow predict what God is going to do. If I just go to Bible class, listen to enough doctrine, read my Bible, witness to people, God will prosper me, heal me, take care of me, solve my problems. Christians also fall into that trap of think that somehow God's blessing is somehow related to what they do. God is not going to follow our preconceived notions. We can know God. We can know Him truly but not exhaustively. We can't control Him; He is the one in control, the general in charge, and He is going to do what is necessary because He is the only one who is omniscient and has all of the facts, the information. God is not going to perform as we expect.    

In this confrontation this is not Elijah's first "rodeo." He has already shown to the people that only in trust in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob can people have real fertility. He demonstrated that on Mount Carmel. On the other hand Ahaziah epitomizes the problem of fallen man. He rejects the divine solution and seeks the human solution. He rejects the sufficiency of God and looks for happiness, health and prosperity from another source. But what we have to remember are two things. First, when we seek happiness and prosperity anywhere other than God we will always lose. We will always end up miserable and unhappy. When we seek the solution to our problems anywhere else other than God we may have a temporary alleviation of problems but in the end we will fail; it will never work out.

This conflict with Baal is brought out in the text in various literary devices. We know that Ahaziah sends to Baal-zebub but Ahaziah asks who was that they met, vv. 6, 7. In verse 8: "They answered him, '{He was} a hairy man with a leather girdle bound about his loins.' And he said, 'It is Elijah the Tishbite.'" The word for "man" there in the Hebrew is unusual. Usually it is ish, but here he is called esh, so there is this play on words, this pun that the Holy Spirit uses to get our attention here, and to draw our attention to this issue that the are looking for help from Baal-ekron and they are going to get an answer from esh-baal who will send fire from heaven. He is the man of God who will send fire from God. The other things that we see here is this play on words with Baal. Baal-zebub is used only this time in the Old Testament and it means lord of the flies. It is a very derogatory way of speaking and writing about this "glorious god." The Bible has no respect for other people's religions; it is not politically correct. The prophets deride and mock what other people believe because Christianity is true. If we are going top believe anything else, from Darwinism to Marxism to Islam, then we are just fools and worthy to be mocked because we are such idiots. That is how the Bible approaches this. So the prophets would refer to Baal-zebul, which is his real name [Baal the prince or exalted one], by just changing that one letter and calling him Baal-zebub, i.e. the lord of the flies. God is not a respecter of other religions. So we see that Elijah is this man of God, the ish ha elohim, and he is going to send the fire of God, the esh Elohim, and the pun emphasizes that the man of God is really the fire of God. Ekijah is the one who brings fiery judgment upon the northern kingdom.

Another word play that shows up is there in verse 2 when Ahaziah sends out his messengers. The Hebrew word for "messenger" is malak. An angel is a messenger, so we have the word "angel" because it is just a transliteration of the Greek word aggelos [a)ggeloj] which means messenger, the same as the Hebrew malak. So Ahaziah send out his malak; the malak of Yahweh says to Elijah you will be my malak. The Holy Spirit is very comical in all of this and he is poking all kinds of fun at Ahaziah and those who worship the Baalim. It is for this reason that God is going to be so severe toward those troops that Ahaziah sends out. They are not innocent; they are guilty because they are supporting this tyrannical regime that is supporting the worship of Baal, all of which comes under the death penalty in the Mosaic Law. God is going to send down this fire that incinerates these troops because He is protecting His people—and in this case His prophet, Elijah. The first two groups who came were arrogant and Elijah wasn't safe, but the last man shows by his humility and respect for Elijah that Elijah would be safe. God never expects us to voluntarily put ourselves in risky situations where our life may be in danger, other than if it is for the purpose of protecting others or the nation.

One other interesting word play that goes on is the contrast between up and down. Azariah falls down through the lattice. The angel of Yahweh tells Elijah to get up and to go up to address the messengers of Ahaziah. His message is that Ahaziah will never come down from the bed to which he has gone up. Elijah's oracle is repeated three times, it repeats this message of going up and coming down. Instead of Elijah going down to Samaria fire comes down from God from heaven. When the third captain comes along he goes up to Elijah because of his humility, and Yahweh tells Elijah to go down. The point of this is that the Bible depicts the sin and the consequences of sin as going down. We talk about the fall of Lucifer, the fall of Adam. When unbelieving man dies he goes down to Sheol. There is this contrast: you go up to God, you go down to punishment. Elijah is exalted, lifted up, because of his humility. The humble are lifted up by God's grace.

The name Baal-zebub is used only here in the Old Testament, but it is used one time in the New Testament, in the Gospels. At the turning point in Jesus' ministry the Pharisees came to Him and accused Him of healing people by Baal-zebub. There is a direct allusion to what happened as Ahaziah sought to be healed by Baal-zebub because he was sick. Jesus was accused of consorting with Baal-zebub in order to heal people and to cast out demons. The Pharisees who challenged Jesus were in effect charging Jesus with the sin of Ahaziah and the sin of Ahab. But they were the ones who had distorted everything because of their arrogance and self-deception. But Jesus was the God of the Old Testament and he is the God who will eventually bring judgment upon Israel, as announced by John the Baptist, that he would come and baptize by means of the Spirit and by means of fire. That is a direct allusion to the fire called down from heaven by Elijah. So standing before them was one who was greater than Elijah, the one who died on the cross for our sins that the victory in the angelic conflict would be won; because He was willing, not to be arrogant but to humble Himself to obedience to the point of death and dying for our sins on the cross.