“’O man of God, the king says, ‘Come down.’’ But Elijah answered the captain of fifty, ‘If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty.’” (2 Kings 1:9-10)
When king Ahaziah hears the bad news that Elijah has announced, he summons the prophet to come down for a personal encounter. He sends a captain of fifty men who bluntly tells Elijah: “O man of God, the king says, ‘Come down.’”
So, although the king and the captain recognize that Elijah is a “man of God”, they don’t show any respect for him. They think they can command him to do what they want him to do. But Elijah is God’s servant and spokesperson. God is on his side.
Elijah answers the captain: “If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty.” And just as on Mount Carmel, God shows his power and supremacy by sending fire from heaven. The captain and his soldiers are consumed by it.
A second captain undergoes the same judgment. Only when the third captain respectfully asks Elijah to spare his life and come down to the king, the angel of the Lord tells him to go. The “man of God” will speak to king Ahaziah again, but on God’s terms. Elijah repeats the Lord’s judgment and Ahaziah dies “according to the word of the Lord that Elijah had spoken.”
Does this story fit with what you think God is like? Or does it astonish you?