“Behold, I will bring disaster upon you. I will utterly burn you up, and will cut off from Ahab every male, bond or free, in Israel.” 1 Kings 21:21
“Have you seen how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself before me, I will not bring the disaster in his days; but in his son’s days I will bring the disaster upon his house.” 1 Kings 21:29
I have struggled a lot lately just trying to feel God’s love and forgiveness for me. Of course, I know that He loves all His children. I’ve always had difficulty, however, accepting this truth for myself. It’s like I think there’s a special set of rules for my life that negates all the Bible’s promises for me. It all holds true for everyone else – just not for me.
Recently I decided to start listening to the Bible while making my daily work commute. I’m quite happy I made that decision. Simply put, listening to someone read the Bible opens it up in a way that merely reading it cannot do, at least for me anyway. I’m able to allow myself to focus on the words, letting them wash over me and create wonderful pictures in my mind. The biblical scenes come to life.
I began by listening to 1 Kings. The tales of Israel’s kings — some good, some not so good — came to life. I could see the various rulers sitting on their grand thrones, pronouncing judgments daily on the people of their land.
Ahab is an example of a king who was evil in God’s eyes. He did not follow the example of David, who became a man after God’s own heart. Over and over 1 Kings tells us about Ahab’s evil doings, many of which were instigated and aided by his evil wife Jezebel.
We are told that Ahab did more evil in the sight of God than any of Israel’s other kings. He worshiped other gods, not only building a house for his god Baal, but also erecting an altar to him there. Other evil deeds included letting his greed to drive him to lay claim to a neighboring vineyard after Jezebel has the owner stoned to death.
God finally has enough of Ahab and pronounces judgment on him (1 Kings 21:17-24). In verse 21 God tells Ahab through Elijah that he “will bring disaster” on him, and will “utterly burn [him] up.” God says this judgment is because Ahab has provoked him to such an extent, causing Israel to sin. As for his evil wife, God says, “The dogs shall eat Jezebel within the walls of Jezreel” (23).
If God said those words to me I’d be shaking in my boots, crying, and begging God for mercy. I would hate to find myself in direct conflict with the all-powerful Creator of the universe. I’d imagine most people would have a similar reaction.
At heart Ahab was no different from the rest of us. He did evil — a lot of evil– but when God puts His foot down, Ahab repents. The once proud king tears his clothes, puts on sackcloth, and begins fasting. One translation says that Ahab went about “despondently”, while another says he acted “meekly”. Either way, Ahab shows God that he has had a change of heart.
God sees Ahab’s repentance and He intervenes, pointing out to Elijah how humble Ahab has become. God decides not to visit calamity on Ahab while he is alive, but says that He will instead wait until Ahab’s death before He destroys all the males in Ahab’s family.
When I heard these words being read, it was like a breath of fresh air. God loves us! This passage illustrates His never-ending love for His children. He is a God of justice, but He’s also a God of mercy. He’s always ready and willing to give second chances.
If He did it for a guy like Ahab, I know He can do it for me.