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When the Truth Hurts

by Stephen Davey Scripture Reference: 2 Kings 1–2

Elijah’s ministry ended uniquely and dramatically, but his departure did not mean the end of God’s work. He had Elisha prepared and ready to step in and continue the work—a reminder that we are all uniquely equipped to serve God when and where we are.


Sometimes the truth hurts. And it especially hurts when our desires and commitments are wrong. When we feel that sting of pain, the best thing to do is face up to the truth and follow it. To ignore the truth is to invite disaster into our lives.

As we come to the book of 2 Kings, we find the very first chapter is an illustration of this in the life of Ahab’s son, who has just ascended the throne of Israel. He is going to reign for only two years (1 Kings 22:51), but Ahaziah will follow the wicked path of his father and mother, Ahab and Jezebel.

Now two traumatic events take place during Ahaziah’s reign. First, the people of Moab rebel and refuse to pay tribute to Israel or to serve the nation. This rebellion will continue for several years, as we will see in chapter 3.

The second traumatic event is a personal injury. Verse 2 says, “Ahaziah fell through the lattice in his upper chamber in Samaria, and lay sick.” This upper chamber would have been on the flat roof of has palace in the capital. It would have had an open balcony enclosed by lattice work. Evidently, Ahaziah was leaning against that lattice work, and it gave way, sending the king crashing to the earth. This injury is serious enough to confine Ahaziah to his bed; he may very likely have been partially paralyzed.

You will notice here that his response is not to seek the Lord. Rather, he tells messengers, “Go, inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron, whether I shall recover from this sickness” (verse 2). Some people get sick and turn to God. Ahaziah gets sick and turns to a false god.

The king’s messengers never make it to Ekron because Elijah the prophet intercepts them. He says to them here in verse 3, “Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are going to inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron?”

By the way, zebub is the word for fly, so Baal-zebub means “lord of the flies.” The king is seeking supernatural knowledge from a god who supposedly controls flies!

Elijah continues here in verse 4:

“Now therefore thus says the Lord, You shall not come down from the bed to which you have gone up, but you shall surely die.”

When the messengers return to the king and describe what happened, he recognizes that they have encountered Elijah. He sends fifty soldiers to arrest the prophet. When they find Elijah, they demand his surrender. Verse 10 tells us:

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.” Then fire came down from heaven and consumed him and his fifty.

Instead of learning from this, Ahaziah just sends fifty more soldiers, and the exact same thing happens to them.

Ahaziah still won’t acknowledge his sin and rebellion. Instead, he sends a third captain with fifty more soldiers.

But this captain has enough sense to fall on his knees and beg Elijah, “O man of God, please let my life, and the life of these fifty servants of yours, be precious in your sight” (verse 13). With that humble request, the captain and his men are spared. Elijah goes with them to King Ahaziah and there repeats his message: “Because you have sent messengers to inquire of Baal-zebub . . . you shall surely die” (verse 16).

And that’s exactly what happens here at the end of chapter 1. The truth hurt, but sadly, it didn’t hurt enough to bring this king to repentance. Like his father, Ahab, Ahaziah throws away his life and, even more tragically, loses out in eternity.

Let me urge you today to believe the truth of God’s Word. Believe the gospel that through faith in Christ alone there is forgiveness of sin. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Now I want to point out another truth here in chapter 2 that God’s people are going to have to face. It’s the truth that Elijah’s ministry is coming to an end.

Verse 1 tells us, “The Lord was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind.” As that time approaches, Elijah seems to be testing Elisha’s loyalty to see if he is really prepared to wear the mantle of his teacher, Elijah.

Elijah tells Elisha to stay behind—first at Gilgal (verses 1-2), then at Bethel (verse 4), and then again at Jericho (verses 5-6). Each time, Elisha says, “As the Lord lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.”

When they finally arrive at the Jordan River, with fifty prophets of God watching, Elijah rolls up his cloak and strikes the water. The river miraculously parts, and they cross over on dry ground (verse 8).

Once they are on the other side, Elijah turns to Elisha and says, “Ask what I shall do for you, before I am taken from you.” Elisha replies, “Please let there be a double portion of your spirit on me” (verse 9).

What is Elisha asking here? The Bible does record that Elisha performed more miracles than Elijah and that his ministry was nearly twice as long, but Elisha is not asking here for some kind of magic wand that will give him twice as much power. Not at all.

What he asks for is a “double portion.” That is the expression used for the firstborn son’s inheritance. He carried on the family business and received twice the inheritance of his brothers. Elisha is effectively asking to carry on the work of God as Elijah’s heir, his firstborn son, so to speak.

Elijah responds in verse 10, “If you see me as I am being taken from you, it shall be so for you.” And a few minutes later, verse 11 tells us: “Chariots of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.”

The biography of Elijah ends as dramatically as it began. Imagine, this was the prophet who had been so discouraged earlier in his ministry that he had asked the Lord to end his life. And now, this old prophet of God is taken to heaven in a chariot of fire without dying.

As soon as those horses disappear into the clouds, the powerful ministry of Elisha begins. God immediately validates Elisha, as he repeats the miracle of parting the waters of the Jordan River (verse 14). Then Elisha goes to Jericho, where the water supply has become poisoned in some way, making it unfit for drinking and irrigation. And he miraculously cleanses the water (verse 21).

As he is traveling to Bethel, Elisha is insulted, and more than likely threatened, by a gang of boys. Your translation might call them children, but these were young men who were especially antagonistic toward God’s prophet. Elisha ends up bringing down on them a curse in verse 24: “And two she-bears came out of the woods and tore forty-two of the boys.” These momma bears literally kill this gang of young men who defied the prophet of God.

That is another way of saying to the nation, “This is a true prophet, and you had better listen to the truth he is going to deliver on behalf of God.”

God has given us His Word today, and His Word is truth. And sometimes the truth hurts, but God designed it to protect us and convict us and keep us on the right path, as we walk with Him today.

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