THE STORY OF HAZAEL
T. Pierce Brown
There is a short story in 2 Kings 8:7-15 that I have never heard discussed, but in which there are a few lessons for us. Benhadad, king ofSyriawas sick. He sent Hazael to Elisha to find out if he would recover. In the 10th verse we find, “And Elisha said unto him, Go, say unto him, `Thou mayest certainly recover,’ howbeit the Lord hath showed unto me that shall surely die.” One may assume the prophet was telling a lie, or condoning lying by Hazael. That is not so. It was true that he may certainly recover as far as the disease is concerned, but Hazael would kill him. Hazael did not tell the king what Elisha had said.
The king wanted to know his future. This is a common thing among the children of men. This is one reason fortune tellers and astrologers read tea leaves, examine the lines in the hand, look at the stars. Even little children may pull the leaves off the daisy, saying, “Loves me; loves me not” until the last one reveals what they hope is the truth about the present or future. Black cats may cross paths, persons may break mirrors or walk under ladders and assume that they then know more about their future than they did before. These tend toward lack of faith in God, and may lead to direct dependence on evil spirits, witchcraft and such things. If “All things work together for good to them that love God” (Romans8:28), then a black cat will not change that.
There are some philosophical and Biblical answers about why ignorance of the future may be a blessing to us. There are special occasions when knowledge of some future events may be helpful, so God sent prophets to reveal them. Yet the uncertainty of the future is the mainspring of human action. It is the recognition that one will meet good and bad in life that causes one to make preparation for them that builds character. For example, if the average man knew that he would inherit $10,000,000 would he work as hard, study to learn what would be good to know and be as worthwhile to himself and society as he would otherwise be? If you had known in your youth the calamities that would befall you, do you not know that often you would have been very unhappy. I heard of a man who meditated on the idea that he probably would tie his shoes over 50,000 times. Facing a problem of that magnitude, he committed suicide. Jesus said in Matthew 6:3-4, “Take no thought (be not anxious) for the morrow.”
Ignorance of the future is protection against temptation to employ sinful methods of securing that which we have been assured will take place. If a fortuneteller assures you that you will receive much money, you might be like Macbeth. He could pretend that if chance would make him king, he could commit murder and let Fate get the blame. One might assume that if God told a person that it would be so, the average man would wait for God to make it so. This is generally not so. Even as in the case of Abraham and Sarah, people have a tendency to try to help God do what he has promised would happen. David is an excellent example of an exception to the rule. He had been anointed king. He was tempted to kill Saul, but refused, for he had implicit trust in God to do it in his way. Most others, even David’s companions, would not have refused any opportunity, fair or foul, and would have reasoned, “God or Fate or whatever has decreed that I have it, so I will get it.”
If we knew when we were going to die, we might wait until the time was almost on us to obey the gospel. One does not have to try to prove that tendency to those who have bought car licenses or paid income tax, or even gone Christmas shopping. The lesson God wants us to know is that we should not be worried about the future. If we will take care of all duties, responsibilities and obligations today, God will take care of the future.
When Hazael saw the tears on the aged prophet’s face and heard the startling announcement of the evil that he would do to the children of Israel, it may be that he really did not then conceive of himself as a dog, doing all those things. It seems probable that he was as shocked as David would have been if someone had told him that he would commit adultery with Bathsheba and have Uriah killed. It suggests a lesson for us. 1 Corinthians11:31says, “If we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged.” The scriptures teach us often that we need rigorous self-examination to discover the depth of our depravity as well as our strengths. There is a danger in this, for if a person examines himself unduly, he will become self-centered instead of Christ centered. There may be no specific rule to tell us when we should stop looking into our own hearts to see what is there, but there is a principle that may help. When one is learning to use a keyboard to type or compute, he needs to look at the place he puts his fingers until it becomes a part of his nature. Then he can think of other things. As I type this article, I am not even aware of which keys my fingers strike. So in our Christian life, if we can so examine and direct our thoughts that they are brought into captivity to Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5), then we can stop thinking of how good or bad we are and concentrate on how wonderful Christ is.
We need to see in this story the importance and limitations of the influence of circumstances. One of my most respected professors in graduate school tried to teach me that the only difference between what men called the noblest saint and the most hardened criminal is the structure of their brains and the character of their surroundings. Neither that professor nor Robert Owen believed that philosophy enough to act upon it in respect to their own deeds nor in their judgment of others. No society can function with that philosophy. I asked him, “If I hit you and broke your jaw, would you calmly say that I could not help it for my brain structure and circumstances were the cause, and I have no responsibility?”
Of course it is true that there are many powerful circumstances that will mold and tempt us. We have the responsibility to disregard some, overcome others. A tiny seed, when sown, may grow and split a rock or break concrete. A drop of water, repeated often, may wear away a stone. Little circumstances that may seem insignificant may have tremendous influence on us. Although we may not be able to control the circumstances, we can control our response to them.
Hazael, Cain, Lot, David, Peter and Judas help us to see that men, unconscious of their feebleness, blind to the dangers that surround them, assured of their security, filled with pride and self love that makes them think they cannot fall, may be in terrible danger. We may learn among many other lessons not to be too harsh in our judgment of others because we are so sure that we are above all those kinds of sins. We must be severe in our condemnation of sin, but gentle with the sinner who has fallen into it (Galatians 6:1).
General abhorrence of certain sins and a good disposition is no guarantee that one will not commit those sins. The only thing that will guarantee it is the development of definite principles of righteousness and a constant determination to let Christ be Lord in all things. We have the promise that he will not suffer us to be tempted above that which we are able to bear (1 Corinthians10:13). He will keep that promise if we choose to let all we do in word or deed be done to the glory of Christ (1 Corinthians10:31). When one makes firmly the major decisions, most of the minor ones are made automatically. I never have to spend a moment deciding whether Camels or Luckies would produce cancer more quickly. Hazael did not murder Benhadad because of entrapment and suggestion on the part of Elisha. He murdered him because of his previous decision. If you have to consider more than a split second the question of “What would I do if” any wrong action is presented to you, you are in danger, and should pay special heed to Jesus in Mark 14:38, “Watch and pray, lest ye inter into temptation.