Anyone who thinks that the Bible is boring should read the first few chapters of 2 Kings, where the action grips us from the moment the curtain rises. Yahweh intervenes supernaturally over the course of three distinct episodes to chastise the idolatrous and to demonstrate his unequivocal superiority as the Savior of his people.
In Chapter 1, King Ahaziah and his lackeys are condemned for their lack of faith. The king dares to inquire of the false god Baal-zebub instead of Yahweh, and – boom! Elijah appears in his strange prophet’s clothes – probably with mussed hair and wild eyes – armed with the supernatural knowledge of the king’s illness and his spiritual unfaithfulness, and wielding a prophecy about his grim future.
Then, Chapter 2 marks the transition from the leadership of Elijah to Elisha. When the Master they both serve calls the older man home to be with Him, the younger man, Elisha, pleads for a divine inheritance so that God would work through him with double the miraculous power. And, boom! When Elijah disappears into the sky in a supernatural whirlwind, God answers Elisha’s plea by granting him the ability to part the Jordan, heal diseased water, and even curse bullies with disturbing success.
Finally, the Lord demonstrates his power again in Chapter 3, when he rescues the allied armies of Israel, Judah and Edom. In the midst of their hotheaded plan to punish Moab, they failed to take into consideration the waterless desert along the way. Through Elisha, Yahweh speaks clearly that his favor rests upon the king of Judah because of his belief, yet he has only displeasure for the king of Israel, who continues in the way of apostasy and disbelief (v. 13-14). Even so, boom! The Lord demonstrates his power by bringing water and then military victory to deliver his people.
Under each one of these stories, and the rest of 2 Kings, echoes the question – Is Yahweh Lord? Is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob sovereign over all other gods?
In the West today, we do not have the very visual presence of false deities that thrived in Elisha’s day, but we are still gripped by idolatry. I might not inquire of Baal-zebub, or burn incense to Shiva, or call upon the name of Zeus, but I do tend to rely upon human contingency plans rather than trusting in God.
When I was in third grade, I remember learning about fire safety in school. Visiting firemen asked us to draw a map of our house, and to find a safe escape route in the remote chance that our house caught on fire.
Ever the thinker and worrier, I internalized my escape plan to the point where I could not sleep at night. I lay awake, obsessing over every possible scenario.
My temporary idol was so subtle: a fire escape plan is a good thing to have, but when I began obsessing over it, I was essentially trusting more in it than in God.
Idols in our world today are pernicious, because they are very often good things like family, education, finances, intelligence, or fire escape plans. When we treat these good gifts from God as the Best Thing, or even as The Only Thing That Can Save Us, then we are distrusting God and engaging in idolatry. We are no different from kings Ahaziah and Jehoram.
In 2 Kings, God shows his uncontested power over any gods that are not gods at all but simply spiritual distractions to us fallen people. And God continues to display his unassailable sovereignty through the Only One who could redeem us from sin.
No man-made fire escape plans can solve that biggest human problem of all. But through Jesus Christ, Yahweh brought the solution to the sin of the world, including my own idolatry. My salvation is secure, and my Savior will deliver me or sustain me through any of the trials that this life brings.
And that’s what we call a real fire escape plan!