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wisely contemned ; of the painful flatteries of Zedekiah, which he stubbornly believed: that guilty blood of his runs down, out of his wound, into the midst of his chariot, and pays Naboth his arrearages. O Ahab, what art thou the better for thine ivory house, while thou hast a black soul ? what comfort hast thou now in those flattering prophets, which tickled thine ears and secured thee of victories? what joy is it to thee now, that thou wast great ? Who had not rather be a Micaiah in the jail, than Ahab in the chariot ? Wicked men have the advantage of the way, godly men of the end. The chariot is washed in the pool of Samaria ; the dogs come to claim their due; they lick up the blood of the king of Israel. The tongues of those brute creatures shall make good the tongue of God's prophet: Micaiah is justified, Naboth is revenged, the Baalites confounded, Ahab judged ;
Righteous art thou, O God, in all thy ways, and holy in all thy works.
AHAZIAH SICK, AND ELIJAH REVENGED. AHAZIAH succeeded his father Ahab, both in his throne and in his sin. Who could look for better issue of those loins, of those examples ? God follows him with a double judgment, of the revolt of Moab, and of his own sickness. All the reign of Ahab had Moab been a quiet tributary, and furnished Israel with rich flocks and fleeces ; now their subjection dies with that warlike king, and will not be inherited. This rebellion took advantage, as from the weaker spirits, so from the sickly body of Ahaziah, whose disease was not natural, but casual ; walking in his palace of Samaria, some grate in the floor of his chamber breaks under him, and gives way to that fall, whereby he is bruised, and languisheth. The same hand that guided Ahab's shaft, cracks Ahaziah's lattice. How infinite variety of plagues hath the just God for obstinate sinners ! whether in the field or in the chamber, he knows to find them out. How fearlessly did Ahaziah walk on his wonted pavement! The Lord hath laid a trap for him, whereinto, while he thinks least, he falls irrecoverably. No place is safe for the man that is at variance with God.
The body of Ahaziah was not more sick than his soul was graceless: none but chance was his enemy, none but the God of Ekron must be his friend. He looks not up to the omnipotent hand of divine justice for the disease, or of mercy for the remedy ; an idol is his refuge, whether for cure or intelligence. We hear not till now of Baalzebub: this new god of flies is perhaps of his making, who now is a suitor to his own erection. All these heathen deities were but a devil, with change of appellations; the influence of that evil spirit deluded those miserable clients; else there was no fly so impotent as that outside of the god of Ekron. Who would think that any Israelite could so far dote upon a stock, a fiend ? Time gathered much credit to this idol ; insomuch as the Jews afterwards styled Beel-zebub the prince of all the regions of darkness. Ahaziah is the first that brings his oracle in request, and pays him the tribute of his devotion ; he sends messengers, and says, “Go inquire of Baalzebub, the god of Ekron, whether I shall recover of this disease. The message was either idle or wicked; idle, if he sent it to a stock; if to a devil, both idle and wicked. What can the most intelligent spirits know of future things, but what they see either in their causes, or in the light of participation ? What a madness was it in Ahaziah to seek to the postern while the fore-gate stood open !
Could those evil spirits truly foretel events no way pre-existent, yet they might not, without sin, be consulted: the evil of their nature debars all the benefits of their information: if not as intelligencers, much less may they be sought to as gods. Who cannot blush to hear and see
that even the very evangelical Israel should yield pilgrims to the shrines of darkness? after this clear light of the Gospel, in their losses, in their sicknesses, send to these infernal oracles, and damn themselves wilfully in a vain curiosity! The message of the jealous God intercepts them with a just disdain, as here by Elijah ; "Is it not because there is not a God in Israel, that ye go to inquire of Baal-zebub the god of Ekron?" What can be a greater disparagement to the true God than to be neglected, than to stand aside, and see us make love to a hellish rival? Were there no God in Israel, in heaven, what could we do other? What worse? This affront, of whatever kind, Ahaziah cannot escape without a revenge: “Therefore thus saith the Lord, Thou shalt not come down from that bed on which thou art gone up, but shalt surely die." It is a high indignity to the true God, not to be sought to in our necessities; but so to be cashiered from our devotions, as to have a false god thrust in his room, is such a scorn, as it is well if it can escape with one death: let now the famous god of Ekron take off that brand of feared mortality, which the living God hath set upon Aha
let Baal-zebub make good some better news to his distressed suppliant: rather the king of Israel is himself, without his repentance, hasting to Baal-zebub. This errand is soon done; the messengers are returned ere they go. Not a little were they amazed to hear their secret message from another's mouth; neither could choose but think, he that can tell what Ahaziah said, what he thought, can foretel how he shall speed. We have met with a greater God than we went to seek; what need we inquire for another answer? With this conceit, with this report, they return to their sick lord, and astonish him with so short, so sad a relation. No marvel if the king inquired curiously of the habit and fashion of the man that could know this, that durst say this. They describe him a man whether of a hairy skin, or of
rough, coarse, careless, attire ; thus dressed, thus girded. Ahaziah readily apprehends it to be Elijah, the old friend of his father Ahab, of his mother Jezebel: more than once had he seen him, an unwelcome guest, in the court of Israel. The times had been such that the prophet could not at once speak true, and please ; nothing but reproofs and menaces sounded from the mouth of Elijah: Micaiah and he were still as welcome to the eyes of that guilty prince as the Syrian arrow was into his flesh. Too well therefore had Ahaziah noted that querulous seer, and now is not a little troubled to see himself, in succession, haunted with that bold and ill-boding spirit.
Behold the true son of Jezebel ; the anguish of his disease, the expectation of death, cannot take off his persecution of Elijah: it is against his will that his death-bed is not bloody. Had Ahaziah meant any other than a cruel violence to Elijah, he had sent a peaceable messenger to call him to the court ; he had not sent a captain, with a band of soldiers, to fetch him ; the instruments which he useth carry revenge in their face: if he had not thought Elijah more than a man, what needed a band of fifty to apprehend one? And if he did think him such, why would he send to apprehend him by fifty ? Surely Ahaziah knew of old, how miraculous a prophet Elijah was; what power that man had over all their base deities, what command of the elements, of the heavens; and yet he sends to attach him. It is a strange thing to see how wilfully godless men strive against the stream of their own hearts, hating that which they know good, fighting against that which they know divine. What a gross disagreement is in the message of this Israelitish captain!“Thou man of God, the king hath said, Come down :" if he were a man of God, how hath he offended ? And if he have justly offended the anointed of God, how is he a man of God ? And if he be a man of God, and have not offended, why should he come down to punishment ? Here is a kind confession with a false heart, with bloody ends: the world is full of these windy courtesies, real cruelties. Deadly malice lurks under fair compliments, and, while it flatters, killeth. The prophet hides not himself from the pursuit of Ahaziah ; rather he sits where he may be most conspicuous, on the top of a hill ; this band knows well where to find him, and climbs up, in the sight of Elijah, for his arrest. The steepness of the ascent, when they drew near to the highest reach, yielded a convenience both of respiration and parley ; thence doth the captain imperiously call down the prophet. Who would not tremble at the dreadful answer of Elijah ? “If I be a man of God, then let fire come down from heaven, and consume thee, and thy fifty.” What shall we say ? That a prophet is revengeful, that soldiers suffer while a prophet strikes; that a prince's command is answered with imprecation; words with fire ; that an unarmed seer should kill one-and-fifty at a blow? There are few tracks of Elijah that are ordinary, and fit for common feet ; his actions are more for wonder than for precedent : not in his own defence would the prophet have been the death of so many,
if God had not, by a peculiar instinct, made him an instrument of this just vengeance. The divine justice finds it meet to do this for the terror of Israel, that he might teach them what it was to contemn, to persecute a prophet, that they might learn to fear him whom they had forsaken, and confess that heaven was sensible of their insolencies and impieties. If not as visibly, yet as certainly, doth God punish the violations of his ordinances; the affronts offered to his messengers, still and ever; not ever with the same speed; sometimes the punishment overtakes the act, sometimes dogs it afar off, and seizeth upon the offender, when his crime is forgotten. Here, no sooner is the word out of Elijah's mouth, than the fire is out of heaven. Oh the wonderful power of a prophet! There sits Elijah in his