Ahaziah sent to Baal for a cure for his sickness but did not find one. Elijah, the man of God, informed Ahaziah that he would never recover. Ahaziah sought to coerce Elijah into changing his prognosis by sending 50 soldiers. When they called Elijah to come down from his mountain, Elijah, the man, “Ish,” of God, sent fire, “Esh,” from God down, and it devoured the whole company. The king still thought he was the authority of the land and had to be obeyed, so he sent another 50. 2 Kings 1:11-15 tells us what happened to the second company, and then the third company was sent to retrieve Elijah. It says, “Again the king sent to him another captain of fifty men with his fifty. And he answered and said to him, ‘O man of God, this is the king’s order; ‘come down quickly!’ But Elijah answered them, ‘If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty.’ Then the fire of God came down from heaven and consumed him and his fifty. Again, the king sent the captain of a third fifty with his fifty. And the third captain of fifty went up and came and fell on his knees before Elijah and entreated him, ‘O man of God, please let my life, and the life of these fifty servants of yours, be precious in your sight. Behold, fire came down from heaven and consumed the two former captains of fifty men with their fifties, but now let my life be precious in your sight.’”

 We must remember that “Elijah” in Hebrew literally translates as “Yahweh is my God.” It stands as a perpetual confession of who should be worshipped and who should be sacrificed to. Ahaziah, at the beginning of this narrative, sought healing from a pagan god and was confronted with the question, “Is there no God in Israel that you should look to the god of the Philistines for healing?” We know that this pagan god had a reputation for healing over the past few centuries, and it prevailed even at the time of Christ. You might remember that some of Jesus’ detractors associated Jesus’ healing abilities with Beelzebub. So Ahaziah approached the wrong god for healing earlier, and now he approached the right God’s man. But he approaches him the wrong way. Auld says, “Elijah, like his God, is to be entreated, and not commanded. And it may be tragic truth that the first two detachments had to perish before the king was receptive to Elijah’s authority.” Elijah said there would not be healing for Ahaziah, and “Ahaziah died in his second year of office and was succeeded by Jehoram.”[1]

The prosperity gospel of our day urges adherents to demand things from God. It’s sometimes referred to as the “name it and claim it” view of prayer. It’s usually based on John 15:7, where Jesus tells his followers, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” The notion that the Greek word “ask” in this verse is really a demand of some sort seems to be the focus of the prosperity gospel.  One writer says, “To tell the truth, God wants you to act boldly and courageously in prayer. He wants you to seize His will for your life and demand that it come into manifestation! He’s just waiting for you to ask! And don’t think that you can only come to God for spiritual blessings. As noted earlier, the word used in John 15:7 primarily has to do with requesting things of a physical and material nature, such as food, clothes, shelter, money, and so forth. Jesus plainly stated in Matthew 6:33 that if we seek the Kingdom of God first, God will see to it that all the material things we need are provided.”[2] Such an approach to God contradicts a contrite and humble heart. It fails to acknowledge that we’re all sinners saved by Grace. Another writer on the other side of the issue concludes, “Sadly, ‘name it and claim it’ theology promotes self-centeredness. It promotes greed, which is a sin. If you only have enough faith, you can get anything you want, including wealth.”[3] Elijah, God’s namesake for Israel, could tolerate such a bold and arrogant approach. But he would respond to a humble and contrite approach. “In Isaiah 66:2, the Lord says, ‘These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word.’ And in Psalm 51:17, David writes, ‘The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” Contrition is spoken of as something God likes, and it is linked in these verses to humility, brokenness, and a healthy fear of God’s Word.”[4] Thus, the third company of fifty men received mercy.

[1] Auld, A Graeme. 1986. I & II Kings. The Daily Study Bible Series. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press.

[2] Do You Have the Right To Demand Anything From God? | Renner Ministries

[3] Is “name it and claim it” biblical? – Mark 11:23-24 | NeverThirsty

[4] Got Questions Ministries. 2002–2013. Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.