There was once a wicked king in Israel named Ahaziah, and although his nation was God’s chosen people, the God of Israel was far from his mind.
“Go, inquire of Baal-zebub the god of Ekron, whether I shall recover from this sickness,” he instructed his messengers when a time came that he finally felt a need of god.
But while Ahaziah was looking the other way, the God of Israel was far from helpless. Through His faithful messenger Elijah, the true God sent an unsolicited message back to the king. “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.”
While the word of the Lord promised nothing good to Ahaziah, the king still had reason to give thanks: though he had forgotten God, God had not forgotten him. In fact, God was still speaking to him. But rather than pay attention to the God of Israel, the king turned his attention to Elijah—the messenger who brought these words of destruction.
At the king’s command, a captain in Israel accompanied by fifty men located Elijah. “O man of God, the king says, ‘Come down,’” they commanded confidently.
Elijah replied with equal confidence. “If I am a man of God, let fire come down from heaven and consume you and your fifty.” At his word it was so.
Another fifty-one from the army of Israel arrived before Elijah with the same message and met the same fate. A third group of fifty-one arrived, ready to bring the casualties that day to a total of 153.
This captain, however, had a different concern on the forefront of his mind when he located Elijah. Falling on his knees before the prophet, he pleaded. “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.
That day there were fifty-one men who lived instead of dying.
Why did fifty-one servants of a wicked king live that day? Because the God of Israel is not impressed with displays of power, not intimidated by large numbers, or threatened by wicked kings but gives grace to the humble.
It took one person replacing confidence with humility to intercede for fifty-one people. It took one person falling to their knees, begging for mercy to see fifty-one lives spared. It took one person confessing helplessness for fifty-one lives to be precious in God’s sight.
If God cannot, does not change, then let’s consider this:
Fifty-one servants of the wicked king Ahaziah lived on a day they would have died because one man got down on his knees and humbly asked for mercy. God, true to His character and word, looked favorably on that humility and delighted to grant the request; as a result, mercy came to many.
Do we see people in need of mercy? Do we see lives ready to die? Do we see a great God promising grace to the humble? Do we see a Savior who died for sinners? Then now is a time to be on our knees humbling pleading for sinners to be precious in the sight of God.