2 Kings 1:1-4
Then Moab rebelled against Israel after the death of Ahab.…
We are here introduced to a kingly home. All the pomp of royalty is there. But it is not a happy home. To beta with, there is sickness in that home. Royalty, or rank, or riches cannot keep sickness out. Ahaziah had been looking through the window of his chamber, or, as some think, leaning over the frail baluster of wicker-work which ran round the roof on the inner or courtyard side, when the lattice-work gave way, and he was precipitated into the court beneath and seriously injured. But there are homes of sickness that are nevertheless happy homes. The sufferer is happy; the other members of the family are happy. Why? Because they all know that Jesus is there. They hear his voice saying, "It is I: be not afraid." They took Christ into their house when all was going well with them, and they find that he does not leave them when sickness comes. But it was not so with Ahaziah. How a man will bear sickness depends a good deal on what his life and character have been when he was in health. This is true physically. It is true also in a moral and spiritual sense. The bad man is generally afraid of sickness. Yes; for he is afraid of death. What about Ahaziah's previous history? We have it summed up in the closing verses of 1 Kings. "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 made Israel to sin: for he served Baal, and worshipped him, and provoked to anger the Lord God of Israel, according to all that his father had done." Oh, the tremendous influence of a bad example. Ahaziah was in alarm about this illness. He wanted to know if he was to recover. He had forsaken God when in health; perhaps he does not think that God would hear him now. Or perhaps he has been so hardened in sin that he really believes his heathen god can help him. So he sends messengers to inquire of Baal-zebub at Ekron, whether he would recover of his disease.
I. THE CAUSE OF SEEKING AFTER STRANGE GODS. What is the secret of that idolatry which in all ages has taken such a hold of the human heart? Why is it that such a people as the Hebrews, descended from one who lived so entirely under the power of the invisible God as Abraham did - they who in their Passover had a constant reminder of God's existence and power, and in their ten commandments a constant reminder of his mind and will, - why is it that they so far forgot God as to sink into the degrading worship of the heathen deities? Or, to bring it more home to ourselves and our own surroundings, why is it that men and women who know that Christ died for them, who therefore know the priceless worth of their immortal souls, who bear in the very name of Christian a constant reminder of the Son of God, and who have in the precepts of the gospel the highest code of morality ever taught to man, - why, is it that they too forget God, reject his mercy, set at naught his counsels, and writ have none of his reproof? Why is it that in our Christian land so many are living in practical heathenism? Why are they so few who read the Bible, and, of those who do read it, so few who obey its teachings? Why so many thousands who never enter the house of God? Why is it that a really religious daily newspaper it is almost impossible to find, while nearly all our daily newspapers largely devote themselves to advance the interests of the theatre, the race-course, and the betting-ring? Truly it may be said that our nation has gone after strange gods. What is the secret of it all? Largely this, the love of what is seen, more than of what is unseen. This is at the root of all idolatry. It is this that makes men such an easy prey to sin. They are absorbed in the interests and pleasures of the body only. They forget the interests of the immortal soul. They live for the present, but neglect the future. They live for self, but neglect God. They lay up treasure on earth, but have no treasure in heaven. We see this love of what is seen - this going after strange gods - in much of the philosophy of the present day. Men deny God, the God of the Bible, the intelligent, wise, powerful, provident, holy, loving Creator of the universe. And what do they substitute for him? A mere negation. At best matter or force. Here plainly they are absorbed in what is seen. They make a god of matter. They forget that only mind could produce mind, only soul could produce soul, that only an intelligent Being could produce the order and control the workings of the universe. Strange gods, indeed - gods of which they have no certainty - they set up in place of the God of our Christian faith. We see this love of what is seen operating also in the case of the money-lover. It is not wrong to acquire wealth, provided it is rightly won and rightly used. But there are many who make a god of money. It occupies all their thoughts while they are awake. When they are asleep, they dream of it. Even the sabbath, supposed to be devoted to the worship of God, is often devoted to meditations on money and how to get it. Yet even for the present life there are things more precious than money. Men who sacrifice everything for money soon find that they have lost things which money cannot buy.
"The world with stones instead of bread
My hungry soul has always fed:
It promised health; in one short hour
Perished the fair but fragile flower.
It promised riches; in a day
They made them wings and flew away.
It promised friends; all sought their owns
And left my widowed heart alone." And then what shall we say of the folly of those who, while making ample provision for this short life, have made none for the life that is to come? "What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" Let us beware of making a god of money. We see the same love of what is seen entering even into the Church of God. There is too much tendency, even in the Christian Church, to worship earthly rank, to attend to the rich and neglect the poor. How often have our Churches made a god of custom, of the traditions of men, of public opinion, of expediency and worldly policy I Images and pictures are set up to aid in the worship of him of whom it is said that "God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth."
II. THE CONSEQUENCE OF SEEKING AFTER STRANGE GODS. "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 unto them, Is it not because there is not a God in Israel, that ye go to inquire of Baal-zebub the god of Ekron? Now therefore thus saith the Lord, Thou shalt not come down from that bed on which thou art gone up, but shalt surely die." The strange deity that Ahaziah sought after had not served him much. Strange gods have never been much help to those who seek after them. They have not helped the heathen nations, but their degrading and demoralizing worship has always been a source of weakness and decay. It is the same with all the strange gods that men serve everywhere - with all the passions and desires to gratify which they spend their energies and time. We read of King Ahaz that he turned away from the true God to serve the gods of Damascus, because Syria enjoyed prosperity. He said, "Because the gods of the kings of Syria help them, therefore will I sacrifice to them, that they may help me? But, says the Bible narrative, they were the ruin of him, and of all Israel" (2 Chronicles 28:23). How many a man has done like Ahaz - turned his back upon God, and found that the strange gods whom he served proved to be his ruin! Many a man has lived without God when in health, who was very glad to seek him when sickness came and death was drawing nigh. It is told of a skeptic called Saunderson, who was a great admirer of Sir Isaac Newton's talents, but who made light of his religion when in health, that when on his death-bed he was heard to say, in mournful entreaty, "God of Sir Isaac Newton, have mercy on me!" But, as many a one has found, it may be too late then to seek the Lord. Such are the consequences of seeking after strange gods. The same message which was sent to Ahaziah will one day be sent to us - this part at least: "Thou shalt not come down from that bed on which thou art gone up, but shalt surely die." The way to prepare for that message is to accept the messages of life. The way to prepare for sickness is so serve God while in health. - C.H.I.
Parallel VersesKJV: Then Moab rebelled against Israel after the death of Ahab.