Mercy And Testing

1 Kings 21-22

This is an interesting account of Ahab, once king of Israel. Let’s start with this:

In the thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah, Ahab son of Omri became king of Israel, and he reigned in Samaria over Israel twenty-two years. Ahab son of Omri did more <sup style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(Z)”>evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him. He not only considered it trivial to commit the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, but he also married <sup style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(AA)”>Jezebel daughter <sup style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(AB)”>of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and began to serve Baal <sup style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(AC)”>and worship him. He set up an altar <sup style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(AD)”>for Baal in the temple <sup style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(AE)”>of Baal that he built in Samaria. Ahab also made an Asherah pole <sup style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(AF)”>and did more <sup style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(AG)”>to provoke the Lord, the God of Israel, to anger than did all the kings of Israel before him. (1 Kings 16:29-33 NIV84)

Obviously Ahab did not have any type of good reputation with God or among His followers and prophets. It’s repeated again toward the end of the 1 Kings. The author of the book makes sure we all know that from the very beginning of his reign to the end of it, Ahab was THE worst.

Take a moment and read the two chapters I listed at the top of this post. Read this interesting account.

There are so many things about this that also relate to me and my life. One of the biggest differences between Ahab and I is the fact that I have Jesus. Ahab was bent on doing evil. Now that my life has been changed by Christ, I’m doing my best to make sure I’m bent on pleasing the Lord.

Take a lesson from Ahab and his sin. When told of his destiny, he repented dramatically. God saw his repentance and took away the punishment from his lifetime, but would still carry out judgment upon his future generations as foretold in the prophecy. But God saw his repentance and showed mercy. There is nothing too great for God to have mercy on us. His grace knows no limits. A broken and contrite heart, He will not despise (Psalm 51:17).

Then we move on to a moment of truth in Ahab’s life. And in this moment we see a glimpse of what goes on behind the scenes in a realm we don’t understand. We see the sovereignty of God, His orchestrating events to the fruition of His will.

Ahab wants to go to war. First off, why in a time of peace (three years of peace) would that even cross his mind? I guess it’s because he still surrounded himself with the sins of his past. A moment of repentance without complete replacement with the Lord and worship to Him remains short-lived. His wife was still Jezebel. His surroundings we still consumed with false gods. Even the remembrance of the visible hand of God working a miracle before his very eyes on a mountain complete with fire from heaven could not convert a heart bent on evil. The proverb is true: bad company corrupts good character. Flirting with sin committed in the past will never bring a good result in the end.

Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, joins him in the war (I’m going to call him “Jeho” because his name’s so long to type out). But he’s different from Ahab. He follows God to an extent and desires to be led by the truth rather than falsehood. Ahab, still surrounded by the falsehood, called in prophets to tell him what he wanted to hear. Jeho knew that these guys prophesying around them were a little fishy and asked for the real deal. Ahab responded the way most of us do to God’s Word when convicted by it: “Yeah, but I hate him. He always says things that won’t turn out good for me.”

How often to do we ignore those truths God says in the Bible because it makes us uncomfortable? We’ll spend time picking and choosing what we’re going to follow as long as it’s easy or makes us feel comfortable. Ahab’s prophets were the ones who told him what he wanted to be told. The one true prophet who could actually relay God’s message about the future gets ignored because it wasn’t good for Ahab. Do we respond the same way? “I’ll speak the truth in love, but I need to lie to get out of this one…I’ll be faithful to my wife emotionally and physically, but with my eyes, it’s different…No one hears me say those words…I know what God says about getting drunk, but what does it matter when I’m with friends who understand me…I only lose my temper in traffic…”

All our excuses in following Him completely doesn’t matter and won’t matter. What God says is what goes. That’s the truth of it. And Ahab found that out after hearing it. You see, the prophet Micaiah knew God’s voice over all the other prophets around. (I’m not sure who these other prophets were. Maybe they were advisors or preachers who would give advice to the king from what they believed God’s perspective to be. If there were false prophets like mentioned earlier in 1 Kings, they most likely would have been named that in the account. But they were proven false in the end because their word never came true and Micaiah’s did.) Those who are true followers of God can tell the difference between the voice of the Lord and the voice of a deceiving spirit. If Ahab, and I’m convinced he knew God’s Word would really come from Micaiah, would have listened, he could have saved himself from his fate. But with his heart being bent on evil from the get-go, he wasn’t looking for the truth as much as “good fortune” with his decision. He already made up his mind before he asked what the outcome would be.

We do the same thing. We make up our mind before we ask and then refuse to listen when God tells us otherwise, or when His Word gently corrects our path to a closer walk with Him.

We get to another interesting part of the account: the heavenly discussion between God and spirits.

Remember when Ahab repented and God showed him mercy? This is a moment of God’s righteous judgment and sovereignty unveiled to us. I believe that the whole time God was looking for any part of a repentant heart left in him. The test of true repentance is tested throughout our lives. Each moment we’re faced with temptation is another moment to stand firm on God’s grace and mercy. It builds and strengthens our relationship with our Savior. Obviously Ahab failed. But with Jesus, we will overcome! We can conquer through Him because He’s conquered for us! And each moment viewed as an opportunity to remember His sacrifice, His love, and our repentance of those things which once held us captive, is one more moment to stand on the mercy of our God.

I’m convinced also, that if God didn’t care about us as much as He does, we wouldn’t have any hardships at all. Does God wish them upon us? No, but He desires for us to know Him more than do now. The question about those things changes to something like this: will God ever do anything to keep me from growing in my relationship with Him? He desires us so much!

So what will we be known for? Are we the people who provoke God more than any other in the history of the church? Or are the trials we face moments to strengthen our stand on God’s grace?

What are your thoughts?