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Elijah & the Captain of 50 Men: a faith based story from the Story Powerline
Tuesday, March 31, 2020 by Retold by Becky Cerling Powers

What did Jesus mean when he said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit”? What does it look like for somebody to be “poor in spirit”? The story of King Ahaziah in the Old Testament gives some hints.

Ahaziah was one of the kings of ancient Israel during the time of God’s prophet Elijah. One day he fell through the second story railing of his house to the ground below. He was badly injured. So he sent messengers to Baal-zebub, the god of the people of Ekron, to ask if he would recover from his injuries.

Elijah met the messengers on their way. “Give the king this message,” he said, ‘“Why are you going to the god of Ekron? Is there no God in Israel? Here is what the Lord God says to the king: “You will not be able to get up from your bed. You are going to die.”’”

The messengers went back to the king and told him what happened.

“What did the man who stopped you look like?” Ahaziah asked.

“He wore a hairy garment with a leather belt around his waist,” they said.

“I know who that is!” the king said. “That’s Elijah!” And he ordered one of his military captains to take 50 men, arrest Elijah, and bring him to the king.

The captain and his 50 men located Elijah sitting on top of a hill.

“Man of God! Come down here right now!” the captain shouted. “I have orders to bring you to the king!”

“If I really am a Man of God,” Elijah said, “may fire come down from heaven and consume you all!”

Just then a ball of fire dropped from the sky. It landed on the men and they all burnt up.

So the king sent another captain with 50 men to arrest Elijah. They, too, found him on top of the hill. “Man of God! The king says, ‘Come down at once!’” the captain yelled.       

“If I really am a Man of God,” Elijah said, “may fire come down from heaven and consume you all!”

Once again a fireball fell from the sky and killed all the men.

So – can you believe it? – the king sent another captain with 50 men to arrest Elijah.

But this captain was different. He climbed all the way up the hill and fell on his knees at Elijah’s feet. “Have compassion on me and these 50 men!” he begged. “We know what happened to all the others. Fire from heaven fell on those two captains and on their 50 men. Now, please, spare our lives!”

The angel of the Lord told Elijah, “Go down with him to the king. Do not be afraid.”

So Elijah went to the king with the captain and his 50 men. He gave God’s message directly to the king: “The Lord God says to you ‘Do you think there is no God in Israel for you to consult? Is that why you sent messengers to consult with Baal-zebub the god of Ekron? Because you did this, you will never be able to get up from your bed. You will surely die!’”

So King Ahaziah died as God said. He was king of Israel for only two years.

Being poor in spirit means that you realize you are poor and powerless. You don’t have what you need and you have no power to get what you need. To be poor in spirit toward God means that you come to him for what you need realizing that you can’t bribe him to help you, that you can’t manipulate or trick him into helping you, and that you can’t force him to help you. All you can do is ask nicely.

Today’s prayer

Lord I have this problem, I have this need: _____________. I’m poor and You are rich. I can’t bribe You or pay You to help me. All power is Yours. I have no power to solve this problem or to force You to help me. You are too wise for me trick You into helping, and certainly too wise for me to advise You how to help. Have compassion on me, Lord. Help me in my need. Amen.

© 2019 Becky Cerling Powers

For the next few months I will be posting stories that help us understand the Beatitudes from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mountain. For faith-based family stories to share with friends and older children, check out Laura’s Children: the hidden story of a Chinese orphanage and My Roots Go Back to Loving and other stories from Year of the Family in the Bookstore.

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