I finished off the last article with a cliffhanger. Elijah confronted the sins of wicked King Ahab and there was a showdown between the false prophets and God’s prophet, Elijah. Elijah had the wicked, false prophets put to death for their actions. Then, he was sent to pursue King Ahab and his wicked wife, Jezebel. That is how the story ended. King Ahab and Jezebel must pay for their deeds. They rebelled against God and murdered the prophets of the Lord. They led the people in idolatry. The rest of this story unfolds in I Kings 20-22. These are some fascinating chapters in the Word of God.
King Ahab finds himself in a bind. Thirty three kings from Damascus join forces to attack Samaria. This is the capital of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. King Ahab is in trouble. God reaches down in the midst of this situation and shows mercy and grace to King Ahab, even after all the evil that he (the king) has done.
I. King Ahab experiences mercy and grace
It seems that King Ahab’s encounter with the prophet Elijah has made him rethink some things. He actually considers receiving help from the Lord. This is the same God that he has spent his life rebelling against, constantly.
13 Now behold, a prophet approached Ahab king of Israel and said, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Have you seen all this great multitude? Behold, I will deliver them into your hand today, and you shall know that I am the LORD.’ ”
14 Ahab said, “By whom?” So he said, “Thus says the LORD, ‘By the young men of the rulers of the provinces.’ ” Then he said, “Who shall begin the battle?” And he answered, “You.” (I Kings 20)
Upon learning of the impending attack of the huge army from Damascus, King Ahab immediately runs to his advisors for help. He never even considers God. The Lord reaches out to King Ahab to extend mercy and grace to him. This is a beautiful picture of the Gospel. God does not reach out to us with His mercy and grace because we deserve them. He reaches out to us exactly because we do not deserve them. God promises to give victory to King Ahab. The King actually obeys the Word of the Lord. God keeps His promises. King Ahab is victorious. Then, the Lord warns King Ahab of another enemy. King Ahab obeys again. The Lord clearly tells King Ahab to carry out justice on King Ben-hadad. King Ahab gets greedy and instead of putting King Ben-hadad to death for his actions that lead to the death of thousands of men, instead, he allows King Ben-hadad to live so that he (King Ahab) could acquire more wealth and power as King. This greed is going to manifest itself even more in the next event in King Ahab’s life. Even after experiencing the mercy and grace of God, King Ahab is still controlled by his sinful desires.
II. King Ahab goes back to his wicked ways
In I Kings 21, King Ahab continues down the wicked path of greed. There is a man named Naboth who has a vineyard that is adjacent to the King’s property. King Ahab decides that he has to have this property. He offers the man money for the property but, Naboth rightly proclaims that this property is his family inheritance and he refuses to sell. According to the Word of the Lord, his inheritance is to be passed on to his children and not sold for money. Naboth is obedient to the Word of God, in contrast to King Ahab.
So Ahab came into his house sullen and vexed because of the word which Naboth the Jezreelite had spoken to him; for he said, “I will not give you the inheritance of my fathers.” And he lay down on his bed and turned away his face and ate no food. (I Kings 21:4)
King Ahab acts like a child, sulking and pouting because he did not get his way. As I mentioned earlier, King Ahab is married to a wicked wife, Jezebel. She is the one who devised the evil plan to have the prophets of the Lord put to death. She had no problem orchestrating things so that godly people died.
8 So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name and sealed them with his seal, and sent letters to the elders and to the nobles who were living with Naboth in his city.
9 Now she wrote in the letters, saying, “Proclaim a fast and seat Naboth at the head of the people;
10 and seat two worthless men before him, and let them testify against him, saying, ‘You cursed God and the king.’ Then take him out and stone him to death.” (I Kings 21)
This is a diabolical plan. The devil is a liar and he is the father of lies. All he wants to do is steal, kill, and destroy. Jezebel devises a plan to have an innocent man murdered and she uses the Word of the Lord to carry out her plan. This is the epitome of wickedness. Her plan is carried out and King Ahab confiscates the dead man’s land. It seems that they have gotten away with this the same way that it seemed that they got away with putting the prophets of the Lord to death. But, this is not the case because God is El Roi, the God who sees all things.
17 Then the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying,
18 “Arise, go down to meet Ahab king of Israel, who is in Samaria; behold, he is in the vineyard of Naboth where he has gone down to take possession of it.
19 “You shall speak to him, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD, “Have you murdered and also taken possession?”‘ And you shall speak to him, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD, “In the place where the dogs licked up the blood of Naboth the dogs will lick up your blood, even yours.””‘
23 “Of Jezebel also has the LORD spoken, saying, ‘The dogs will eat Jezebel in the district of Jezreel.’ (I Kings 21)
The Lord saw what happened. He speaks to Elijah and sends Elijah to confront these two once again. How will King Ahab respond this time?
III. King Ahab repents
At first, he scoffs at Elijah but, we see that the Word of the Lord penetrates his heart.
27 It came about when Ahab heard these words, that he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and fasted, and he lay in sackcloth and went about despondently.
28 Then the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying,
29 “Do you see how Ahab has humbled himself before Me? Because he has humbled himself before Me, I will not bring the evil in his days, but I will bring the evil upon his house in his son’s days.” (I Kings 21)
Once again, we see the mercy and grace of God in action. King Ahab repents before the Lord and God shows him mercy. God does not carry out the harsh judgment that He originally pronounced. Notice, even though judgment is also pronounced on Jezebel and she witnesses King Ahab repent, she never repents. She is defiant until the very end. The consequences of King Ahab’s actions are not removed because of his repentant heart. Even though God extends mercy and grace to King Ahab, the king must face the consequences of his choices.
You already noticed that repentance does not wipe away the consequences. We can repent of our actions, receive the mercy and grace of God, and yet still have to face the consequences of our actions. The Word of the Lord promised that the dogs would lick up the blood of King Ahab the way that the ground licked up the blood of Nabath. In I Kings 22, King Ahab again shows his complete lack of self control. He is a man led by the impulses and desires of his sin nature instead of by the Word of the Lord. This time, King Jehoshaphat joins forces with King Ahab to fight foreign invaders. King Ahab gathers up his favorite “prophets” and has them share a favorable word over the battle. King Jehoshaphat sees through this charade. He asks for another prophet to come, one not hand picked by King Ahab, and share the Word of the Lord.
The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “There is yet one man by whom we may inquire of the LORD, but I hate him, because he does not prophesy good concerning me, but evil. He is Micaiah son of Imlah.” But Jehoshaphat said, “Let not the king say so.” (I Kings 22:8)
Other than the prophet Elijah, Micaiah was the only prophet that King Ahab did not like because this prophet spoke from the Lord and did not tell King Ahab what he wanted to hear. Micaiah shares that the battle will not end well for King Ahab, that he will be cut down in battle. King Ahab disguises himself as a common soldier to try and avoid what the Lord has promised. While the battle raged, King Ahab was in disguise riding in a chariot. A common archer fired an arrow at random and it lodged between the armor plates that King Ahab wore. It was a mortal wound. King Ahab bled out in the chariot. After the battle, the chariot was taken to be washed in a common public pool used by prostitutes. As the blood was washed out onto the ground, the stray dogs ran and licked it up, thus fulfilling the Word of the Lord.
Are you a person who is plagued by your sin nature? Even after experiencing the mercy and grace of God do you still return to your wicked ways? Do you realize that there are consequences for your sins, even after you experience mercy, grace, and forgiveness? Are you influenced by evil people or, do you turn to the Word of God and godly men and women for advice? What do you need to do with the information that you have learned from this lesson?