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ELIJAH: LIGHTNING OR FIRE BALL?



It was probably about ten years earlier when Elijah had stood on the side of Mount Carmel and prayed, “ ‘Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, today let it be known that you are God in Israel and I am your servant, and that at your word I have done all these things. Answer me, Lord! Answer me so that this people will know that you, the Lord, are God and that you have turned their hearts back.’ Then the Lord’s fire fell and consumed the burnt offering, the wood, the stones, and the dust, and it licked up the water that was in the trench” (1 Kings 18:36–38). That’s an awesome prayer, and that’s an even more awesome God!


Fire fell from heaven. Was it a bolt of lightning? Maybe it was a ball of fire, like a blazing meteor. Was it visible, falling from high in the atmosphere? Or was it more akin to a waterfall, fire poured out from the cauldron of God’s wrath? Hollywood would be hard-pressed to produce images that would be as formidable and fearsome.


It happened on Mount Carmel, and it happened again at the end of Ahaziah’s reign.


When the messengers from king Ahaziah were on their way to Ekron to seek a prognosis concerning the king’s injuries from the fall from the window, Elijah approached the messengers. He sent them back to the king with God’s verdict. “Ahaziah won’t recover. He’ll die!” Period. End of report.


Apparently Ahaziah didn’t appreciate the blunt reply and wanted to know the identity of the man. “ ‘What sort of man came up to meet you and spoke those words to you?’ They replied, ‘A hairy man with a leather belt around his waist.’ He said, ‘It’s Elijah the Tishbite’ ” (2 Kings 1:7–8). You can almost hear the king’s dismay. “Well rats! I wish that old preacher would mind his own business!”


I’ll bet the king was mad as he commissioned a troop of fifty warriors with an arrest warrant. “Go get Elijah and bring him here.” When the warriors arrived, they found Elijah sitting on a hill. Elijah responded to the captain’s demands. “ ‘If I am a man of God, may fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty men.’ Then fire came down from heaven and consumed him and his fifty men” (2 Kings 1:10). A lightning bolt? A ball of fire? God’s wrath poured down from above?


“So the king sent another captain with his fifty men to Elijah. He took in the situation and announced, ‘Man of God, this is what the king says: “Come down immediately!” ’ Elijah responded, ‘If I am a man of God, may fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty men.’ So a divine fire came down from heaven and consumed him and his fifty men” (2 Kings 1:11-12). Once again, God’s judgment against Ahaziah’s evil empire came in the form of fire from heaven.


A third captain and his fifty men were dispatched by the king. This time, the “third captain went up and fell on his knees in front of Elijah and begged him, ‘Man of God, please let my life and the lives of these fifty servants of yours be precious to you. Already fire has come down from heaven and consumed the first two captains with their companies, but this time let my life be precious to you” (2 Kings 1:13-14). God’s response... mercy... not fire.