The Fire of God
F. O. Mullender, Lowestoft
In Holy Scripture there are several recorded incidents where two chapters placed side by side present a sharp contrast.
As an example, note the word "rebelled" in 2 Kings 1. 1, and contrast this with "the Lord hath sent me to Bethel", 2. 2. Again, "Ahaziah fell down", 1. 2, contrasts with "the Lord would take up Elijah", 2. 1. We may therefore head the respective chapters with the titles: Rebellion and Obedience.
Ahaziah was in trouble; through looking out of the window and falling down therefrom he was sick, a moral affliction that affects many today through looking out onto the world. As the source to which the patient turns for relief, Ahaziah sends his messengers to "inquire of Baal-zebub the god of Ekron", 1. 2. The meaning of this idol's title is "lord of flies", or more simply, "master of corruption". Who is behind all this but Satan, the god of this age, the prince of this world? "Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners", 1 Cor. 15. 33; Satan has his John and James in the form of "Jannes and Jambres", who "resist the truth . . . reprobate concerning the faith. But they shall proceed no further", 2 Tim. 3. 8-9. In other words, divine limitation is set to every form of Satanic and human imitation. But the Holy Scriptures form the resource of the saints in this corrupt age, w. 10, 15-17.
The truth is delivered to Ahaziah on God's behalf by Elijah the prophet, 2 Kings 1. 4. The Revised Version of verse 3 should be noted, "Is it because there is no God in Israel, that ye go to inquire of Baal-zebub the god of Ekron?" (the Authorized Version commences, "Is it not because . . ."). In that day as in this, despite the Lord's loving interest in our race, He is ignored as though He did not exist; this attitude, so common in our day, is also perilous. Christians certainly should be on their guard by taking heed to prophetic ministry. The Lord said, "But take heed to yourselves . . . But take ye heed: behold, I have foretold you all things . . . Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the time is", Mark 13. 9> 23, 33.
Elijah's ministry was confirmed by the fire of God which consumed the captains with their fifties who came to arrest him; Jehovah vindicated His prophet in Israel. Similarly, the Christian prophet quoted the words of the angel, "And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed", Rev. n. 5. It is gracious of the Lord to foretell these things. Moreover, all that He says is true and will come to pass, as was the case in 2 Kings 1. 17, "So he died according to the word of the Lord which Elijah had spoken".
Note the wise and becoming attitude of the third captain who respected divine authority vested in God's prophet, resulting in the preservation of both him and his fifty men; he "fell on his knees", v. 13. Let Christians ponder this, and strive to preserve a reverent spirit and attitude in their prayers. The writer has seen physically fit men reclining in easy chairs and addressing in prayer our God who is a consuming fire, and who demands our reverence and awe. "The Lord looketh on the heart" would be a poor plea in defence of similar conduct before an earthly monarch.
"Spell obedience" the author once heard a grandfather say to a lad. In 2 Kings 2. 2, Elijah said, "the Lord hath sent me to Bethel"; he spells obedience, and likewise the Christian life is summed up in that word. It is written of the Lord Jesus that He "learned . . . obedience by the things which he suffered", Heb. 5. 8; the lustre of the Lord's moral glory shines in this sentence, and this should thus subdue our hearts.
In the same way as, "he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit", 1 Cor. 6. 17, so Elisha joins himself to Elijah and they begin their journey together from Gilgal where in earlier days "the reproach of Egypt" was rolled away, Josh. 5.9. Remember when the sharp knife of circumcision was applied to the flesh, God having removed all the men of war who came out of Egypt, who had not obeyed the voice of the Lord, v. 6. In short, man in the flesh is to be put out if God is to come in, for Bethel means "the house of God". From thence, the two men went to Jericho, the city which barred its gates against Jehovah's army; but the gates of hell shall not prevail against divine purpose for a redeemed people.
Finally they went to Jordan, the last station, suggesting the dispossession of death. For in Jordan the priests' feet stood firm on dry ground "until all the people were passed clean over", Josh. 3. 17. Thus in John 12. 3, we read of the anointing of "the feet of Jesus" before He dealt with death personally, and before He annulled the power of Satan who had the power of death. The typical aspect of the Red Sea is somewhat distinct, speaking of divine power against the enemy which was under judgment through not having sheltered under the blood of the Lamb. "What ailed thee, O thou sea, that thou fleddest? thou Jordan, that thou wast driven back?", Psa. 114.5.
And finally the testing time comes for Elisha; "Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee. And Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me. And he said, Thou hast asked a hard thing: nevertheless, if thou see me when I am taken from thee, it shall be so unto thee; but if not, it shall not be so", 2 Kings 2. 9-10. In like manner, before the Man Christ Jesus went up and His mantle came down, Acts 1, 2, He said, "If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever", John 14. 15-16.
These two prophets had their last talk on earth, 2 Kings 2. ii, when, "behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven". "The way of life is above to the wise, that he may depart from hell beneath", Prov. 15. 24.