Hazael said [to Elisha], “How could your servant, a mere dog, accomplish such a feat?”
“The Lord has shown me that you will become king of Aram,” answered Elisha.
2 Kings 8:13 (NIV)
In today’s chapter, there is a fascinating episode in which the servant of the king of Aram sends a man named Hazael to the prophet Elisha to ask if he will recover from his illness. Elisha informs Hazael that the king will recover but he will die. Then Elisha stares at Hazael for an uncomfortable and awkward period of time and begins to weep. Elisha then tells Hazael that he will become king of Aram and will do great harm to the kingdom of Israel.
Hazael returns to the King of Aram, murders him, and usurps the throne. I’m left wondering if Hazael’s coup was already in process when he went to see Elisha, and Elisha’s prophecy confirmed for Hazael that it was time to pull the trigger.
An interesting historical side note: An ancient Assyrian inscription records the reign of Hazael “Son of Nobody” in Aram.
What struck me as I read this story was how similar it is to one of my favorite Shakespearean plays. The tragedy of Macbeth basically follows the same plot line. It is prophesied that Macbeth, a relative nobody among the nobility of Scotland, will be king. It so happened that the King of Scotland decides to stay at Macbeth’s place for the night and his wife convinces him that they should murder the king and make the prophecy come true. I couldn’t help but wonder if Shakespeare was inspired by the story of Hazael.
By the way, things don’t work out so well for Macbeth and his wife. Hazael, on the other hand, did quite well for himself. He created a fairly impressive little regional empire in Damascus and reigned for over 40 years.
Prophecy is a fascinating element of life. As I contemplated it in the quiet this morning it struck me, from horoscopes to Nostradamus, how pervasive it is, even among otherwise nominally spiritual people.
As a disciple of Jesus, prophecy is a part of the fabric of life, and the Great Story is chock full of it. Seventeen books of the Bible are the words of the ancient prophets and the book of Revelations records the prophetic visions of John. One of the gifts the Holy Spirit bestows on individual believers is the gift of prophecy.
During my forty-plus years of being a follower of Jesus, I’ve experienced many instances of people who have told me things that have been prophesied to them or for them. In other instances, both Wendy and I have had people speak prophetic words to us. And, on a handful of occasions, I’ve been directly given specific prophetic words from God’s Spirit.
My experience with the prophetic, however, includes individuals who regularly share with me prophetic messages they’ve been given that I’ve noticed never pan out. I’ve also observed instances of individuals who, like Lady Macbeth, go to great lengths to make a prophetic message happen, usually to semi-tragic ends. False prophecy has always been a part of the prophetic experience.
I’ve also had some legitimately amazing, truly prophetic experiences.
I’ve learned along my life journey to take what I call the .38 Special approach to prophecy: “Hold on loosely, but don’t let go.” I’ve come to believe in holding the tension between being someone who frantically chases after the prophetic and those who dismiss it entirely. If a prophetic word is truly prophetic, it will come to pass. When given a prophetic word I listen. I make note of it. Then I place it on the back burner of my heart and mind, and I continue to press on as normal.
If you know anyone who might be encouraged by today’s post, please share.