Elisha had received a word from God for Ben-hadad, the King of Syria and so he obediently went to the home of Israel’s enemy to deliver it. Verses 7-9 read,
“Now Elisha came to Damascus. Ben-hadad the king of Syria was sick. And when it was told him, “The man of God has come here,” 8 the king said to Hazael, “Take a present with you and go to meet the man of God, and inquire of the Lord through him, saying, ‘Shall I recover from this sickness?’” 9 So Hazael went to meet him, and took a present with him, all kinds of goods of Damascus, forty camels' loads. When he came and stood before him, he said, “Your son Ben-hadad king of Syria has sent me to you, saying, ‘Shall I recover from this sickness?’”
Ben-hadad was sick and he wanted to know if he would recover or die. He was happy to have Elisha there to tell him. He was not a Jewish man, he had no idea how to inquire of God, or what the requirements were. He treated Elisha as more of a soothsayer and magician than a prophet. He paid him very well for Elisha to give him the answer he wanted to hear. But he did recognize Elisha’s authority under The Lord.
Elisha had something to tell Hazael and Ben-hadad, but it was not the answer to the question they asked. Verses 10-13 read,
“And Elisha said to him, “Go, say to him, ‘You shall certainly recover,’ but the Lord has shown me that he shall certainly die.”11 And he fixed his gaze and stared at him, until he was embarrassed. And the man of God wept. 12 And Hazael said, “Why does my lord weep?” He answered, “Because I know the evil that you will do to the people of Israel. You will set on fire their fortresses, and you will kill their young men with the sword and dash in pieces their little ones and rip open their pregnant women.” 13 And Hazael said, “What is your servant, who is but a dog, that he should do this great thing?” Elisha answered, “The Lord has shown me that you are to be king over Syria.”
Elisha’s answer was that it was not the illness that would kill Ben-hadad but murder. He then went on to tell Hazael that he would be an evil king. Although the man tried to play innocent, he was not. God’s message did not deter him from his mission, it confirmed it for him. So why would God tell him? He told Hazael that his plan would succeed and that he would be evil because He wanted the aide to know that He is The LORD. He wanted to give him a choice to recognize God as The LORD and humble himself before Him or reject Him. Elisha offered God’s salvation in that moment. What did Hazael choose? Verses 14-15 read,
“Then he departed from Elisha and came to his master, who said to him, “What did Elisha say to you?” And he answered, “He told me that you would certainly recover.” 15 But the next day he took the bed cloth and dipped it in water and spread it over his face, till he died. And Hazael became king in his place.”
Hazael lied to his king by not telling him the entire prophecy or message from God. He made the king feel good instead of giving him God’s message. He had been entrusted with a word from God and he did not obey. Elisha said, “Go say to him, ‘You shall certainly recover,’ but the Lord has shown me that he shall certainly die.” Hazael left off the second part of the message for his own benefit. He then killed Ben-hadad in his bed.
Have you ever left off part of God’s message for someone? God tells you to tell someone about His love for them and how He longs for a relationship with them. He tells you to tell them about Jesus. But in your discomfort you stop at ‘God loves you’ or ‘Jesus loves you.’ After all you’re sure that they won’t give their lives to Jesus and they’ll think you are one of those ‘Bible thumping extremist Christians.’ Believer, when we do that we are being false prophets. God gave us a mission. He knows who will accept or reject, we do not. He still wants to give them a choice. He is God. He saves, we do not. We obey or flout His commands. Our obedience to the Lord is one way we love people as Jesus loves them. Our obedience to God is one way we glorify Jesus and so allow people to see Him. Our obedience to love is how people will know we are Jesus’ followers. John 13:34-35 reads,
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Is it love to think of our comfort or reputation instead of trusting God has a reason to give someone a message? Is it love to withhold the whole Truth from someone? Penn Jillette, outspoken atheist said, “how much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?
“I mean, if I believed, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that a truck was coming at you, and you didn’t believe that truck was bearing down on you, there is a certain point where I tackle you. And this is more important than that.”[i]
I want people to see me as a Bible thumping extremist Christian. My goal is to be the image of Christ. I want to be loving, patient, kind, humble, content, peaceful, joyful, perseverant, faithful, good, and self-controlled (1 Corinthians 13:4-7, Galatians 5:22-23). When God has a message to give someone and He chooses us to give it, it is imperative to obey. The person’s response is not our responsibility, delivering the message is. Ezekiel 33:7-9 says it this way,
“So you, son of man, I have made a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. 8 If I say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. 9 But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, that person shall die in his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul.”
Every man deserves a choice. Who are we to say he will or will not believe? Who are we to take the choice away from him? God desires a relationship with all people (1 Timothy 2:3-4). He rejoices when the lost turn to Him, even the most evil (Ezekiel 18:23). He honors us by letting us tell the world His message. Who are we to displace The LORD and decide the message should be anything other than whole and true? Romans 10:13-17 reads,
“For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? 15 And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” 16 But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” 17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”
Elisha traveled to enemy territory to give God’s word to people who did not believe. He obeyed. He could have been killed for his obedience since Hazael probably had no desire for people to know his insidious scheme. But Elisha loved Ben-hadad, Hazael, and Syria enough to go and even to weep for their future. Do you love and trust God enough to obey Him? Do you love His creation enough to tell them the word of Christ?