The stories about Ahab, Elijah, and the northern kingdom of Israel provides lots of interesting food for thought. As always there’s far more here than I have time or space to comment on, but if you’ve got some lessons out of these readings that I might have missed you’re welcome to point them out in your comments. But for now let’s dive right on in and think about these great stories today.
Get busy and get better — We left Elijah going from a great high to a great low. He had managed to prove the LORD to be the only God and eliminate hundreds of pagan prophets from Israel all with one fell swoop. It looked like everything was finally — finally — going right after all his years of struggling against Baal and Ashteroth worship. But then Jezebel threatened his life and suddenly things were at their lowest ebb for Elijah. He ran; he crossed over to Judah (Beersheba) and then headed for Horeb, Mt. Sinai (which, by the way, is likely in Arabia, Jabal al Lawz). Elijah was in despair, he was ready to give up, he was asking to simply die. But instead of allowing Elijah to wallow in despair, God gave Elijah something to do. Here’s a principle for elevating our spirits — action, doing something meaningful. When we’re down, the last thing we want to do is to do something — in reality it is the most important thing we can do. Get busy and get better.
Can God be localized? — It was a common thought in the ancient world that the gods were localized to particular nations or regions or even terrain. When the Arameans, led by Ben-hadad, were defeated by Ahab and Israel, servants of Ben-hadad pressed the king for another campaign against Israel. They reasoned that Israel’s God was a God of the mountains, and if they attacked in the plains, they could win. In other words, God could be contained, localized. We might chuckle at such a thought, but there are still versions and traces of this thought in our own times. For example, cursing in a church or in front of the preacher is mostly unthinkable, but get away from the church or the preacher and the curses and vulgar language begins to fly fluently again, as if God can’t hear us or see what we’re doing now. But, of course, God does hear and see; and God’s arm is certainly long enough to punish each and every evil doer.
Is compassion always called for? — God gave a rout of a victory to Ahab over the Aramens. Israel’s victory was so great that the powerful king Ben-hadad was cornered and captured. But instead of killing this enemy of God, Ahab accepted cities and a covenant from Ben-hadad. Perhaps Ahab thought that diplomacy, peaceful coexistence, and tolerance was the more appropriate approach. But he was wrong. God was displeased and sent a prophet with a parable-like prophecy of punishment to Ahab. This isn’t said to recommend or sanction revenge, unforgiveness, bitterness, or hatred. It is not to say that compassion and mercy aren’t really important toward others (it’s what the Lord has done for us). It is to say, however, that those in positions of leadership that opt for “compassion” and tolerance within the family, the church, etc. are not doing anyone a favor. The Arameans came back at Israel again and again
What a turn around! — Ahab was a bad king. The Scriptures says, “Surely there was no one like Ahab who sold himself to do evil in the sight of the LORD, because Jezebel his wife incited him. He acted very abominably in following idols, according to all that the Amorites had done, whom the LORD cast out before the sons of Israel.” 1 Kings 21:25, 26, NAS95. And yet when Ahab heard the words of Elijah about God’s plans to bring down him and his whole family, he did repent! This ought to give hope and encouragement to anyone who has lived a sinful life. So often those who would like to turn toward God are put off by a misperception that Christianity, forgiveness, hope, and Heaven is only for the good, not for them. How wrong!! Even God, who saw Ahab’s heart, seems to have been impressed.
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.