27 June 2021


Fire from the Lord

Speaker:  Ps Daniel Tan
Sermon Title: Fire from the Lord
Scripture Text: 2 Kings 1-2

 

“Is it because there is no God in Israel?”

 

 

“Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?”


Reflection Questions:

  • What is the appeal of Baal to Ahaziah? How might worldly ideas and values similarly appeal to believers today?
  • Why do believers so readily claim the promises of God but do not follow seriously His threats?
  • How does Elisha’s question in v14 help us re-calibrate the way we view godly leaders who have ministered to us?
Scripture: 2 Kings 1-2 (ESV)

After the death of Ahab, Moab rebelled against Israel.

Now Ahaziah fell through the lattice in his upper chamber in Samaria, and lay sick; so he sent messengers, telling them, “Go, inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron, whether I shall recover from this sickness.” 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? Now therefore thus says the Lord, You shall not come down from the bed to which you have gone up, but you shall surely die.’” So Elijah went.

The messengers returned to the king, and he said to them, “Why have you returned?” And they said to him, “There came a man to meet us, and said to us, ‘Go back to the king who sent you, and say to him, Thus says the Lord, Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are sending to inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron? Therefore you shall not come down from the bed to which you have gone up, but you shall surely die.’” He said to them, “What kind of man was he who came to meet you and told you these things?” They answered him, “He wore a garment of hair, with a belt of leather about his waist.” And he said, “It is Elijah the Tishbite.”

Then the king sent to him a captain of fifty men with his fifty. 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.’” 10 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.

11 Again the king sent to him another captain of fifty men with his fifty. And he answered and said to him, “O man of God, this is the king’s order, ‘Come down quickly!’” 12 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.

13 Again the king sent the captain of a third fifty with his fifty. And 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. 14 Behold, 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.” 15 Then the angel of the Lord said to Elijah, “Go down with him; do not be afraid of him.” So he arose and went down with him to the king 16 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 come down from the bed to which you have gone up, but you shall surely die.’”

17 So he died according to the word of the Lord that Elijah had spoken. Jehoram became king in his place in the second year of Jehoram the son of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, because Ahaziah had no son. 18 Now the rest of the acts of Ahaziah that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel?

Continue reading here 

transcript

Introduction

Blessed Sunday to all. We are glad that this Sunday, we can go back to in-person service for 50 of us, together with the worship team leading in Jerusalem Sanctuary.

At the same time, we are glad that through technology, the rest of our members can participate in the service from home.

Let’s thank God for preserving His word for us and for His enabling so that we can worship God even throughout the pandemic, with technology.

Let’s pause for a word of prayer – Lord, may the words of my mouth and the meditation of all our hearts, be acceptable to you, O Lord, our rock and our redeemer. Amen.

Last week was Father’s Day and for 1 day in the year, we are reminded to give thanks for our fathers and prompted of the significant influence of Fathers in the lives of the family.

In today’s text, I would like to see also this theme of Fatherhood evident in these 2 chapters.

In chapter 1, we see the transition between Ahab and his son Ahaziah. In chapter 2, we see the transition between Elijah the ‘spiritual father’ and Elisha.

Elijah and Elisha were more than Master and Disciple. Elisha was a spiritual son as indicated by his request:

2 Kgs 2:9 When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha, “Ask what I shall do for you, before I am taken from you.” And Elisha said, “Please let there be a double portion of your spirit on me.”

 

The asking of a double portion according to the principle in Deut 21:17, meant that the request was for the rightful inheritance of the firstborn son.

And this inheritance requested was not for wealth but for the empowerment of God’s Spirit.

So we ask, how does God see the lives of the sons – Ahaziah, Elisha?

I submit God shows His view through the miraculous display of fire. Thus, I’ve entitled today’s sermon ‘Fire from the Lord’.

Is fire good or bad? I’m sure we all can acknowledge; fire can be good as well as back. It’s very varied.

On one hand, fire gives light and heat for safety and protection. On the other hand, fire can burn off all the fluff, exposing the true essence, and can destroy totally.

Paul tells us that our lives, our achievements, even that of our fatherhoods will be tested by fire.

1 Cor 3:10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. 11 For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.

And God does not just use fire on the final day, but His word is the refining fire even in the present.

I pray that in our daily lives, Scripture will burn away the fluff and gives us clear biblical lenses to accurately view God’s truth from 2 Kings 1 & 2.

And as God’s precious truths shines through, may our gaze will be directed to another Father and Son pair.

That of our loving Heavenly Father. Who sent His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ to bear the penalty for sin and redeem us for eternal life.

“Is it because there is no God in Israel?”

Let’s begin with our first section. And in case you are wondering, I’ve used 2 quotations from the chapters to be the respective sermon section outlines.

I sense that they are good summaries of Ahaziah and Elisha respectively.

God’s verdict of Ahab was already given in 1 Kings 16. There God pronounced that Ahab did evil in the sight of the Lord, more than all who were before him.

And if intentional fatherhood is what’s advocated, then Ahab in an objective way was a successful father.

He was able to pass on his legacy of idolatry.

1 Kgs 22:51 Ahaziah the son of Ahab began to reign over Israel in Samaria …. and he reigned two years over Israel. 52 He did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and walked in the way of his father and in the way of his mother …. 53 He served Baal and worshiped him and provoked the Lord, the God of Israel, to anger in every way that his father had done.

It’s because of his lifestyle that we are then, not surprized that on his death bed, unable to recover from a very bad fall, Ahaziah sends messengers to enquire of Baal-zebub and not Yahweh.

Ahaziah’s attempt to seek answers from idols is not a momentary lapse of judgement due to a desperate situation. No, it is because his heart is fully idolatrous, that he can think of no other deity than Baal.

In life’s threatening moments, we all react instinctively.

Unless we allow the transforming power of the Holy Spirit to have greater control over our tongue or our anger, in challenging moments, our sinful nature takes over.

Vulgar language and rage will naturally come forth.

If we like Ahaziah live totally in opposition to God, our hearts will become so harden  – that even in death-bed crisis, we will not seek the Lord.

Are there idols in our lives that have been all-consuming? Do we put our trust in our investments and our careers above everything? Throughout the week, are we selling our souls as it were to almighty dollar?

Jesus warns us, where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

If our focus is on the idols of this world, it will also be to these idols we will turn, even in the deepest of crisis.

But instead of being punitive, what do we see? We see our gracious Heavenly Father intervening.

As Ahaziah sent messengers to enquire from Baal-zebub, God graciously sent Elijah to give another message – Is it because there is no God in Israel?

This phase is repeated 3 times in chapter 1 – v3, v6, v16. The writer of 2 Kings, wants to hammer home this point. Do not seek after any idols. For there is only one God and that is Yahweh.

The natural inclination of man is to reject God and to be His enemy forever. We all like sheep have gone astray, we have turned, everyone, to his own way.

Yet, this is a God who graciously seeks out the defiant sinner.

Are we not like Ahaziah? We were fleeing from God, yet God lovingly pursued us.

So Scripture says, God sent Jesus, while we were still objects of His wrath:

Gal 4:4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.

Church, we need to note the utter stubbornness of Ahaziah.

I’m sure he witnessed the God of Elijah at Mt Carmel. As the king of Israel, I’m sure there were remnants of believers in the nation. Yet Ahaziah flatly rejected God.

At his death bed, he sought Baal-zebub not Yahweh.

At the same time, we cannot fail to also note the graciousness of our Heavenly Father. In the face of such idolatry, God still sent Elijah to confront.

God desired that Ahaziah repent and turn to God. He kept holding out the question, ‘is it because there is no God in Israel?’

Fellow Hermonites, I’m sure when we look back at our journey towards salvation, we would realize that God too, reached out to us many times with His grace.

Before we finally yielded to God’s grace, the Gospel seeds was sown, either through a Vacation Bible Camp, a testimony of a loved one, or even through a booklet.

Let’s thank God for His relentless pursuit of our souls today. Acknowledging that we too were like Ahaziah.

To prove that Yahweh is God and Baal-zebub is not, God repeated the miracle of fire of Mt Carmel from 1 Kings 18.

Ahaziah sent a captain and 50 armed men to capture Elijah. The fact that they were soldiers, the fact that there were 50 of them, showed that they were not merely for escort purposes.

In v15, the angel of the Lord told Elijah, do not be afraid, go with the 3rd captain. The situation with the soldiers was a life and death situation.

With the first 2 captains, we see pride and disdain as they approached Elijah, God’s anointed representative.  

The first captain conveyed that he has royal authority. He commanded ‘come down!’. The 2nd captain added by commanding immediate response ‘come down quickly’.

So Yahweh showed who was truly God.

If the 2 captains came in the name of king Ahaziah, the worshipper of Baal-zebub, how come they could not be saved from the fire sent by the prophet of Yahweh?

By the fire, Yahweh proved that He is God and not Baal-zebub, who is merely made with human hands.

And with their death, these first 2 captains instruct, that they displayed the wrong attitude in approaching God.

In contrast, we see the right posture from the 3rd captain. We see fear (he fell on his knees and entreated Elijah). We see humility (he asked for his life and the lives of his men to be spared).

This 3rd captain understood Lamentations 3.

Lam 3:22 It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. (KJV)

The whole of 1 & 2 Kings, show us a picture of God’s people being unfaithful time and time again. Yet at the same time, a God whose mercies never fail for they are new every morning. Great is God’s faithfulness.

Are the attitudes and actions of the 3rd captain evident in our approach to God today?

Or do we come to God with the attitude of demanding He accomplish things for us and accomplish it for us immediately.

We have already noted that God’s question ‘Is it because there is no God in Israel’, was a gracious gesture to Ahaziah. May I add, that God’s timing was also gracious.

God asked it before and after Ahaziah witnessed, God’s interaction with the 3 captains.

After proving that Yahweh is God, Ahaziah was again given the opportunity to repent.

And we have seen how God is so quick to shower mercy when true repentance is shown. Remember how God did not bring disaster during Ahab’s lifetime when Ahab repented in 1 Kings 21.  

But Ahaziah rejected God’s mercies and so he faced the certainty of God’s judgement.

2 Kgs 1:17 So he died according to the word of the Lord which Elijah had spoken.

The fire from God, proved that Yahweh is God and Baal-zebub is not. Embracing idolatry will prove fatal, while embracing God’s mercies will give life.  

And all this proves that God’s word is true. What God says happens.  

The phase ‘Is it because there is no God in Israel’, shows us that Yahweh is a God capable of both fiery judgement and relentless mercies.

This same principle holds true today as well. For Scripture says, 

Rom 6:23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Today, the same question is asked of us – ‘Is it because there is no God in Israel?’. May all of us respond together with the 3rd captain.

“Where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?”

The fire from the Lord in chapter 1 was that of judgement on idolatry and protection of Elijah.

In chapter 2, we see fire in v11, ‘behold chariots of fire and horses of fire’ took Elijah into heaven.

2 Kgs 2:9 And Elisha said, “Please let there be a double portion of your spirit on me.” 10 And he said, “You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it shall be so for you, but if you do not see me, it shall not be so.” 11 And as they still went on and talked, behold, chariots of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. 12 And Elisha saw it and he cried, “My father, my father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” And he saw him no more.

I would like to submit that the fire from God here in 2 Kings 2 is about transition and endorsement.

The transition of ministry from Elijah and Elisha and then the endorsement of Elisha’s ministry.

Because Elisha stuck with Elijah, he was able to fulfil the conditions of receiving God’s endorsement and enablement found in v10 – if you see me as I am being taken from you, it shall be so for you.

3 times Elijah requested Elisha to stay (v2 (Bethel), v4 (Jericho), v6 (Jordan)), yet Elisha persisted, and God rewarded Elisha’s steadfastness in ministry.

May I elaborate on this point by commending Eld Elgin’s editorial in the Herald today. Eld Elgin has written a good explanation under the paragraph titled – ‘Test of Leadership Transition’.

By exclaiming ‘the chariots of Israel and its horsemen’, Elisha was pronouncing that the defence of Israel was bound up in Elijah.

God was protecting and providing for Israel through His prophet Elijah.

And as we review Elisha’s words, I submit, we see a sense of despondency. A bit of doubt, uncertainty. A sense that the comforting divine protection associated with Elijah is no more.

I think we too get a sense of what Elisha is experiencing when a prominent and well-loved church leader is taken home to glory.

When such a time happens, and it has throughout history, we feel a sense not just of lost but of dis-orientation.

Yet, as history has shown, God’s plans and His purposes extends beyond any individual.

Even as Elijah had such a powerful ministry, he was human, his ministry had to come to an end.

Thus I’ve highlighted the phase ‘where is the Lord, the God of Elijah’ as the summary of chapter 2.

The focus is not on Elijah, nor on Elisha. The focus should always be the God of Elijah and Elisha.

The sound leadership of Elijah only happened because He was speaking on behalf of God. Elijah carried out God’s instructions.

The spectacular miracles by Elijah only happened because it was in line with God’s desire. God is no divine genie, there to fulfil the wishes of Elijah.

It’s a reminder for us today that no man, no matter how godly, how anointed by God, will last for ever.

All ministry, all churches belong to God and God alone.

Let’s always look to the God behind the man and not place our dependence on the person.

And that is comforting is it not? Elijah may have gone, but God continues His work by raising Elisha.  

If you see in this transition between Elijah to Elisha, glimpses of the transition between Moses and Joshua, you would not be wrong.

This Elijah and Moses pairing, we already saw happen in 1 Kings 19. God spoken to Elijah at Mt Horeb like how He did with Moses.

Even their deaths were unique. Elijah was taken up to heaven in chariots of fire. God was the one who buried Moses according to Deut 34.

And Scripture says, when Moses died, his eyes were undimmed and his vigour unabated.

In this chapter, the parting of the Jordan by Elijah, brings back images of Moses parting the Red Sea. Further strengthening the link between Elijah and Moses.

So has Elisha truly taken over the ministry of Elijah? Is Yahweh continuing to be present with His people?

Thus, the significant cry from the lips of Elisha – where is the Lord, the God of Elijah’. It’s not where is the spirit of Elijah but where is the God of Elijah.

And so Elisha receives God’s comforting encouragement – as I was with Elijah, I will be with you, Elisha. With the cloak of Elijah, Elisha performs the same miracle at the Jordan.

2 other miracles happen to authenticate Elisha as God’s anointed successor of Elijah.

The first is with the healing of the waters of the city of Jericho. This too echoes Joshua – further emphasizing the Moses/Joshua, Elijah/Elisha transition pairing.

Jericho had been a cursed city since the time of Joshua. Remember in 1 Kings 16.

1 Kgs 16:34 In his days Hiel of Bethel built Jericho. He laid its foundation at the cost of Abiram his firstborn, and set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub, according to the word of the Lord, which he spoke by Joshua the son of Nun.

Now through Elisha, God bestows grace to the city of Jericho. The water will turn good again and the land will be fruitful.

 

God has now, through sending Elisha to Jericho, showered grace so that the city is redeemed. It can be rebuilt again, it can flourish.

By this miracle, God authenticates Elisha and uses him as a channel of blessing.

Jericho was a pagan society in the time of Joshua, yet grace was given to a prostitute named Rahab.

In the time of Jesus, he approached a Samaritan women who seem to be a committed adulterer and offered her living water.

John 4:13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

 

May the redemption of the Jericho water by Elisha, remind us of the gracious gift of Jesus, the living water, that God offers even to the outcast in society.

It does not matter if your life was utterly sinful like that of Rahab or the Samaritan women, or even cursed like the city of Jericho. God has the power to redeem it.

All we need to do is accept God’s gift in His son Jesus Christ.

Then, what is bad and unfruitful will become good again. In Jesus, we have the living water of life, we will never thirst again.

Elisha was with Elijah at Bethel at the beginning of 2 Kings 2, they then went to Jericho, then crossed the Jordan.

2 men crossed the Jordan but only Elisha crossed back.

Now after the miracle at Jericho, Elisha returns to the starting point in Bethel (v23).

Bethel is not a positive place during the time of Elisha.

Remember when the nation split into 2, we read in 1 Kings 12 that Jeroboam who was the king of Israel, built 2 calves of gold for the people to worship and he placed them at Bethel and Dan.

So, Bethel is a place steep in idol worship. And Elisha was going past Bethel from Jericho.

2 Kgs 2:23 He went up from there to Bethel, and while he was going up on the way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him, saying, “Go up, you baldhead! Go up, you baldhead!” 24 And he turned around, and when he saw them, he cursed them in the name of the Lord. And two she-bears came out of the woods and tore forty-two of the boys.

Scripture tells, us, a mob of boys deliberately went out from the city to mock and threaten Elisha. Though the ESV translates it as ‘small boys’, it can also be translated as ‘youth’ or ‘young men’.

Thus, we cannot look at it as just some playful teasing.

The fact that 42 youths were mauled and that some escaped, shows it was the size of a threatening mob.

So, we need to view the situation as a deliberate and hostile crowd that Elisha faced.

This 3rd miracle then shows us God’s continued endorsement of Elisha by God’s protection through 2 female bears.

And this recalls, also the discipline of the Lord upon the unnamed young prophet by the lion in 1 Kings 13.

Yahweh is the God of creation and can control animals. Since we have already established that God is nobody’s genie, then this mauling by 2 female bears is in line with God’s discipline.

The God of Elijah and the God of Elisha is the same God. Consistent in all His ways.

In chapter 1 God dispenses fiery judgement upon the 2 captains and mercy to the 3rd captain.

Here too, in chapter 2, God dispenses fiery judgement on the 42 youths and mercy upon the city of Jericho.

Church, the future may look shaky when the Lord takes home His servant leaders. The future may look uncertain when we move from CCKBC to Henderson.

So, we too may ask like Elijah ‘where is the Lord, the God of Elijah?’. Scripture assures us, God presence continues to be with us. God is with His people as they seek to follow Him.

I’m sure the disciples of Jesus were in this same situation as the Elisha. Jesus comforts them and us:

Jn 14:15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. 18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.

May God’s promises encourage our hearts.

Conclusion

Fire can cleanse and protects or burn and destroy.  I submit God’s word can be like fire for us as well.

Though God in His mercies, will give us time to reflect and digest His truth from these 2 chapters. I pray that today, we will not respond like that of the sons of the prophets at Jericho.

2 Kgs 2:15 Now when the sons of the prophets who were at Jericho saw him opposite them, they said, “The spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha.” And they came to meet him and bowed to the ground before him. 16 And they said to him, “Behold now, there are with your servants fifty strong men. Please let them go and seek your master. It may be that the Spirit of the Lord has caught him up and cast him upon some mountain or into some valley.” And he said, “You shall not send.” 17 But when they urged him till he was ashamed, he said, “Send.” They sent therefore fifty men. And for three days they sought him but did not find him. 18 And they came back to him while he was staying at Jericho, and he said to them, “Did I not say to you, ‘Do not go’?”

In v5, they already knew that God was going to take Elijah away from Elisha. Yet when Elisha came across the Jordan alone, it took them 3 days and much effort before they accepted Elisha’s wisdom, not to go search for Elijah.  

They knew the spirit of Elijah rests on Elisha, yet they did not accept his counsel. So wasted, much effort and time relying on their own wisdom.

Since 2 Kings 1 & 2 is the inspired word of God, may we not delay in taking heed to what the Lord has spoken to us today.  

Amen.

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