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2 Kings 1:1-18 - Homiletics

The short reign of Ahaziah: his sins, and their punishment.

For homiletic purposes we must attach to this chapter the last three verses of the First Book of the Kings. We find in that passage a short but very complete account of the general character of Ahaziah's sins; we find in this chapter a tolerably full account of one great act of sin, and a clear declaration of the manner in which that act and his other sins were punished. It will be well to consider separately

I. THE SINS . These were three in number:

II. THEIR AGGRAVATIONS . Ahaziah might have been expected to have learnt wisdom by experience, to have taken to heart the warning 'furnished by his father's life and death, and at least to have avoided the sins which had brought down upon the king and upon the kingdom so terrible a blow, so signal and severe a punishment. But, on the contrary, he went beyond his father in the great sin for which his lather was punished, viz. apostasy from Jehovah to Baal. Ahab had always been half-hearted in his irreligion—he would, and he would not; he strove to combine an acknowledgment of Jehovah with a practical devotion to his rival; he gave both his sons names which placed them under the protection of Israel's true God; he at one time "humbled himself before Jehovah" and "fasted, and lay in sackcloth, and went softly" ( 1 Kings 21:27 , 1 Kings 21:29 ); he consented to inquire of a prophet of the Lord at the request of Jehoshaphat ( 1 Kings 22:9 ); he had no dealings, that we know of, with the foreign Baalistic temples or oracles which abounded in Phoenicia and Philistia, and thus did not, at any rate, parade his contempt of Jehovah in the eyes of the adjoining nations. Ahaziah acted differently. He was a consistent, thorough-faced, out-and-out idolater. Jehovah was nothing to him; Baal was everything. We ought, perhaps, to view it as some extenuation of his sin that he would naturally be influenced to some extent by his mother, whatever her character, and that the strong, firm, and fierce character of Jezebel would naturally influence him to a large extent. But men are not mere creatures of circumstances; they have the power to resist influences no less than to yield to them, and are bound to consider the nature of the influences surrounding them, and to resist such as they perceive to be bad. There is no evidence that Ahaziah offered any resistance at all to Jezebel's influences. He was the weak son of a wicked mother, and simply "walked in her way," As Ewald says, he "exhibited a far more decided inclination than Ahab had done to all sorts of heathenish superstitions". He made a parade of his Baalistic leanings. He was obdurate and persistent, and despised warning after warning. A cruel hardness of heart, quite equal to his mother's, is shown in his exposing to probable death a second and a third body of fifty men, rather than submit to Elijah, and own himself in the wrong. Thus he would appear to have reached, in his comparatively short life, a deeper depth of moral evil than his father in his longer one.

III. THEIR PUNISHMENT . The revolt of the subject kingdom of Moab was the first punishment which befell the apostate king. He had to determine, on ascending the throne, what line he would take in religious matters—whether he would maintain or abolish the Baal-worship, whether he would maintain or abolish the worship of the calves, whether he would persecute or protect the adherents of the Jehovistic religion. He decided to "walk in the way of his father and of his mother," and at once the first blow fell Moab revolted, and was successful. The mere attempt at revolt might have happened in any case, for Mesha would naturally have seized such an opportunity as the death of Ahab under such circumstances offered. But the God of battles determines success or failure, and Mesha's unbroken series of victories (Moabite Stone, lines 9-33) were the consequence of Ahaziah's guilt. As usual, "for the king's offence the people bled." Seven thousand Israelite warriors were destroyed in one siege; the women and children were taken prisoners, and "devoted to Ashtar-Chemosh." There was widespread and extreme suffering. This should not surprise us. There is a solidarity between a king and his people, which unites them almost indissolubly in their fortunes and in their sins. The people follow the king's example, and, partaking in his guilt, naturally and justly partake in his punishment. The king's second punishment was personal It was permitted that an accident should befall him. Sitting in an upper chamber, i.e. in one not upon the ground floor, which had a latticed window, opening out probably on a garden, he rashly leant against it, when the fastenings or the woodwork gave way, and he was precipitated to the ground. The hurt received was serious, and forced him to take to his bed, where he lay probably in much pain and discomfort. Here was an opportunity for considering his ways, for asking himself what was amiss in them, for mourning over the sins which he had committed ( 1 Kings 22:52 , 1 Kings 22:53 ), and renouncing them and turning away from them. God's judgments are sent to lead men to repentance. Prolonged lying on a sick-bed is especially favorable to meditation, self-examination, self-condemnation, penitence. But Ahaziah was obdurate. He thought nothing of the goodness of God in sparing his life, for the fall might well have been instantaneously fatal; he thought nothing of God's mercy in giving him a time for reflection and amendment. He was merely impatient of his affliction, and anxious to have done with it. And in his impatience and obduracy he added sin to sin. Ignoring Jehovah and his prophets, through whom it was always possible to "inquire of the Lord" ( 1 Kings 22:5-28 ), he makes his appeal to Baal. It is an ostentatious appeal. He sends a public embassy to consult the Baal of a foreign town. Then his final punishment is decreed. Hitherto his life had hung in the balance—his fate had been in the hands of him with whom are the issues of life and death, now his own act had shut the gate of mercy. The sentence went forth from the mouth of God's prophet, "Thou shalt not come down off that bed on which thou art gone up, but shalt surely die." Cut off in his youth, childless ( 2 Kings 1:17 ), he pays the fitting penalty of obstinate persistence in sin, and, after weeks or months of suffering, "goes to his own place." He "whom Jehovah upholds" becomes "he whom Jehovah destroys"—destroys after a short reign of little more than a year—a reign disgraceful to himself and disastrous to his country.

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