For many years the prophet Elijah had been the voice of God to a sinful nation. His last official act was to predict the death of Israel’s King Ahaziah. The closing words of the book of First Kings summarize Ahaziah’s life, who was just as wicked and ungodly as his father had been. As evidence of his wickedness, this chapter records to whom he turned when he was in trouble. Ahaziah had been injured in a fall “through the lattice in his upper chamber” (v.2). Perhaps because of internal injuries, he was in serious condition and wondered if he would ever recover. He sent his messengers to the temple of the false god Baal-zebub in Ekron to find out if he would get better. This showed the king’s disrespect for the one true God of Israel.
While the messengers were on their way to Ekron, they met Elijah, who appeared on the scene with characteristic abruptness. Elijah asked a reasonable question: “Israel already has a God — Jehovah, the one true God — so why are you going to Ekron to consult the false god of the pagans?” (v.3, paraphrased; for emphasis, this question is repeated three times in this chapter). Without waiting for an answer, he pronounced the word of the Lord: Ahaziah would die because he had forsaken the the one true God of Israel and worshiped idols.
When the messengers told the king what they had heard and described who had said it, he knew immediately that it was Elijah and sent a platoon of soldiers to bring the prophet to the palace. My opinion, based on the wording of verse 15, is that Ahaziah intended to execute Elijah for his unfavorable prophecy. He had learned from his father, Ahab, to accept from the Lord only what suited him (see 1 Kings 22:8).
The first and second platoons suffered deadly consequences for trying to capture and harm the man of God. When the captain of the third platoon humbled himself before Elijah, God released him to go to the palace. Standing before the ailing king, the prophet’s message did not change. Ahaziah was still an idolater who persisted in his open rebellion against a holy God, and as such, deserved death.
The message of Scripture is clear: if you want to know what lies at the end of a life that dishonors God and disregards His Word, look at the shameful death of Ahaziah. But if you wonder about the destiny of those who love the Lord and faithfully obey His Word, read on tomorrow about the glorious non-death of Elijah.