If I would have been Elijah, 51 more people would have died.
When Ahaziah, King of Judah fell through a lattice and lay sick in his bed, he wanted to know if he would live. “Go, inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron,” he told his messengers.
But on the way, Elijah intercepted the messengers to give the king a word from the Lord: “You shall surely die.”
King Ahaziah wasn’t happy with this meddling in his affairs and he sent out a captain with his 50 men to fetch Elijah from where he sat on top of a hill. Elijah responded by calling down fire from heaven and consuming the 51 men.
But the king didn’t give up. He sent another captain and 50 men. These also were consumed by fire from heaven.
And still King Ahaziah didn’t give up.
If I had been Elijah and seen the third party of 51 men approaching me, I would have sighed, “Yes, Lord, I know the routine. Fire from heaven.”
But the third captain fell on his knees and pleaded, “O man of God, please let my life, and the life of these fifty servants of yours, be precious in your sight.”
Elijah had executed God’s will on the former two occasions. Why would God want anything different this time?
That’s why I say that if I had been Elijah, 51 more people would have died. Or at least I would have attempted to call down the same fire from heaven. I would have been on a roll.
I often think about this story when I’m tempted to make a “policy” on how to treat a certain category of people: persistent beggars, inappropriate men, meddling taxi drivers, aggressive women, etc. Yet, God showed Elijah the Tishbite how important it was to listen to His voice in every situation. Likewise, God may want me to say a certain thing to one aggressive woman and want me to keep silent with the next. The point isn’t to get energized by being “on a roll” but to listen in each situation.
Yes, always listening can be exhausting, especially when we hear commands we don’t want to obey. When Elijah heard the angel of the Lord say, “Go down with him; do not be afraid of him” it may have crossed his mind that calling down fire from heaven would have been less of a hassle. But he still went. He still listened.
(2 Kings 1)