I was listening to Pastor Phil Johnson preach an Old Testament passage this morning. Pr. Johnson is the Executive Director of John MacArthur’s site, Grace to You. I love when Johnson preaches the Old Testament and also the Psalms. He adds quite a bit of context from history, culture and even topography so the listener fully understands the scenes passing through our minds so as to picture it with detail.
The passage this morning was an overview of 2 Kings 1, “Fire From Heaven.” A short synopsis is that King Ahaziah is on the throne of Judah. Ahaziah is a descendant of King Ahab, and the LORD had already spoken that eventually, no descendant of Ahab’s would live. He would wipe them all out. No mean feat, as Johnson said, Ahab had 70 sons.
There was a battle, and Ahaziah stayed behind in his castle. His castle was not so safe after all, for Ahaziah fell through the lattice from a high place, incurring critical injuries. Though God is still God is Israel, and Elijah is still prophesying, Ahaziah’s apostasy, or worse, ignorance of the One True God, was so deep that “he sent messengers, telling them, ‘Go, inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron, whether I shall recover from this sickness.'”
Therein lay the crux of the matter.
First, let’s see the LORD’S response:
“Arise, go up to meet the messengers of the king of Samaria, and say to them, ‘Is it because there is no God in Israel that you are going to inquire of Baal-zebub, the god of Ekron? 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.‘” (2 Kings 1:3-4)
Ahaziah was not so ill that the LORD could not have healed him if He chose, prolonging his life until His prophecy would be fulfilled at a later time. Alternately, Ahaziah could have died instantly upon falling through the lattice.
The reason Ahaziah was going to die at that time was because he sought an oracle from another god.
God is deadly serious about not indulging in oracles, divination, predictions, sorceries, or anything similar. Consulting mediums is the major reason of what cost King Saul his kingship, his dynasty, and his life. (1 Chronicles 10:13–14). Consulting another god is what cost King Ahaziah his life.
When you come into the land that the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominable practices of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens, or a sorcerer or a charmer or a medium or a necromancer or one who inquires of the dead, for whoever does these things is an abomination to the LORD. (Deuteronomy 18:9-12).
An abomination. In the Hebrew the word abomination used here also means detestable and loathsome. In that verse, the LORD hates 9 things in particular:
- offers child for sacrifice
- tells fortunes
- interprets omens
- medium (King Saul’s sin, 1 Samuel 28)
- inquires of the dead
Offering a child in sacrifice refers to the biblical practice of Molech worship where parents would cast their child into the belly of Molech which was an oven, and the child would be burned alive. Parents who did this wanted a better life. Today some have likened Molech-sacrifice to abortion.
Divination is having implied power to learn secret things via various methods such as hydromancy (through water), cast bones, cast arrows, divining rod (Ezekiel 8:17 alludes to) & etc. Hepatoscopy is divining via the liver (of a dead animal), which Ezekiel 21:21 says the King of Babylon engaged in. Today occult practitioners use Tarot Cards, chicken bones, crystals, crystal ball, palm reading, Ouija boards, horoscopes and the like.
The International Bible Dictionary says of divination,
“The word “divination” itself, from deus, “god,” or divus, “pertaining to god,” carries with it the notion that the information obtained came from deity.” Astrology is a kind of divination, via peering into secret things of ‘god’ via the alignment of the stars.
Mediums AKA Fortune tellers AKA witchcraft AKA soothsayers AKA necromancers (Leviticus 19:31) are persons who act as go-betweens from this world to the world of spirits. These occult practitioners claim ability to communicate with the dead or with spirits or familiars, bringing messages back and forth between the two realms. The ‘spirits of the dead’ are actually demons impersonating Grandma, and thus are lying spirits. In Luke 16:18-31 we are given information that the dead stay in their abode, a great gulf is fixed between Hades and Paradise, and it is alluded to that none escape from either location to return and commune with the living. (The Witch at En-Dor’s conjuring of dead Samuel is a sole exception- to drive home the point that if you do this, you will die.) As an aside, remember the 1960s TV show “Bewitched” Samantha the witch’s mother was named En-dora.
Mark Batterson’s The Circle Maker book is a modern practice of the ancient art of witchcraft. I explored that issue in-depth here. Contemplative prayer is another re-packaged mystical-occult practice.
Charmers, #6,is an interesting occult practice. Psalm 58:5 Jeremiah 8:17; Ecclesiastes 10:11 and mention them. Charmers are occult practitioners who are also known as are whisperers, who by their voice engage in spells so that the hearer becomes spellbound and will do as the charmer wishes. Snake charmers would play their instrument, usually a flute or other high-pitched sound and the snake wold be drawn to the charmer, stop about two feet from him, rear its head, and sway in time to the music. Afterward they would lay docile at his feet. (Cyclopaedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature, Volume 9, by McClintock & Strong).
In the bible the intended audience was a snake, in modern times it could be any person who uses his voice to cast a spell over his audience. For example, many women attending Obama’s speeches became spell-bound, swooned or fainted at the sound of his voice.
An interpreter of omens, according to the Holman Bible Dictionary, is defined-
The Israelites were prohibited from interpreting omens (Deuteronomy 18:10). Pagan prophesy employed reading of omens (Numbers 24:1, Ezekiel 21:21). As Lord of history, God frustrates the plans of “liars” who interpret omens … The faithful witness of Christians in the face of opposition is likewise an omen or sign pointed to the salvation of believers and the destruction of God’s enemies (Philippians 1:28).
Also many of those who were now believers came, confessing and divulging their practices. And a number of those who had practiced magic arts brought their books together and burned them in the sight of all. (Acts 19:18-19)
An interpreter of omens would be the same as a diviner. For example, a person would sacrifice at a pagan temple, and an interpreter would divine the meaning of the way the person’s animal burned, the way the bones lay and such.They would extract secret meaning from these ‘omens.’
Modern examples of ancient pagan/occult practices may be seen today on CBN, when one of the hosts says “I’m getting a word of knowledge from the other side that someone listening is going to be cured of a backache.” Or channeling, which seems to be very popular with Neale Donald Walsch of Conversations with God, Saran Young of Jesus Calling and Beth Moore of When Godly People Do Ungodly Things, whereupon they allow their bodies to be possessed for a time by a spirit which delivers information that the authors translate into a book allegedly full of extra-biblical spiritual insights from the other side. Circle makers are engaging in witchcraft. Prayer labyrinth walkers are doing something pagan, ritualistic, and unbiblical. People like Bill Johnson of Bethel Church and Kim Walker Smith and Beth Moore and many others who say they have entertained God Himself or Jesus in other dimensions through astral travel or visions, and returned with information or predictions to give the body of believers are diviners, witches, soothsayers, fortune tellers.
Inviting conjuring glory clouds, gold dust falling, feathers drifting down is nothing more than people practicing wizardry.
I have written about these practitioners of the demonic occult before, and we can take no pleasure in knowing that though God’s hand has mercifully stayed their execution, eventually they will face Him and the consequences of their sins. Saul did. Ahab did. Jezebel did. Ahaziah did. I am sorry for these people that they will more than likely be one of the many saying on His Day, “Lord, Lord did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ (Matthew 7:22). And He will say to them depart from m, I never knew you…
However in returning to the 2 Kings passage, let’s turn from the practitioners to looking at Ahazia’s followers. His subjects, army men whom Ahaziah sent to meet Prophet Elijah to hear Elijah’s message.
Then the king sent to him a captain of fifty men with his fifty. He went up to Elijah, who was sitting on the top of a hill, and said to him, “O man of God, the king says, ‘Come down.’” 10But 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. (2 Kings 1:9-10)
Now, Ahaziah, the son of the wicked Jezebel, had challenged Jehovah to a trial of strength by first ignoring him, and then sending a troop of soldiers to arrest his prophet. Was Elijah to succumb without an effort, or was he to vindicate the majesty and honor of Jehovah?
This happened again, so that 100 men, followers of Ahaziah were consumed.
But Elijah’s fire from heaven was meant by God as a public display of divine vindication, and a public judgment against an evil regime that sat on Israel’s throne, opposing Jehovah and all He stood for. Such extreme wickedness called for a breathtaking, awe-inspiring judgment.
The judgment fell upon Ahaziah but it also fell on Ahaziah’s followers, whose who followed the king, supported the king, and were an arm of the king in evil deeds.
But the third company of 50 men acted different than their predecessors.
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. (2 Kings 1:13)
Here the men have an attitude not of command but of submission. Phil Johnson:
But the third group of soldiers is a reminder that “God . . . gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6; 1 Peter 5:5). God’s mercies are never exhausted, and those who humble themselves before Him and confess their sins can always find mercy.
In today’s Age of Grace, I am not saying that Beth Moore or Sarah Young or any of the modern occult practitioners will be consumed by fire. Jesus came not to destroy but to save. It is a different age. Final judgement is coming and until then, His mercies are manifold and opportunities for repentance are many. The same is true for these “teachers'” followers. Those who participate in their evil deeds, who buy Beth Moore books hoping to gain insights into the knowledge of God apart from the bible, or listen to Kim Walker Smith’s visions about Jesus apart from the bible, or believe CBN’s ‘word of knowledge’ are participating by proxy with the practitioners’ occult evil deeds.
The first two groups of fifty men believed the king to be the highest authority and took to arrest the man of God. The third group of fifty men believed Elijah as the proxy for the highest authority and submitted to God.
God always looks favorably on humility and repentance. He looks unfavorably to the proud and stiff-necked.
Do not practice divination-by-proxy by following those who practice it. If you have been doing so, if you repent, God gives grace to the humble. Amanda Bowers repented, publicly, of her Beth Moore and Henry Blackaby following.
Harold Camping, predicter of the end of the world by specific date (fortune telling), did.
Sunny Shell did, too, not so much for following a diviner but publicly repented for something else.
You don’t have to repent publicly if you haven’t taught anything publicly to be repenting of, but the glory here is pointing to several real and recent examples of where the Spirit showed these people the error of their ways and in repenting gave glory to Him, just as the third group of 50 soldiers did. The idea is that God awaits a contrite heart, a seeking heart, a submissive heart. He is a great God who is literally a consuming fire -to the men of Ahaziah- but he is a loving Father to His children who seek to practice not occultism, but righteousness.