Saturday, 10 May 2014

(131) May 11: 1 Kings 21-22 & John 3:1-21

Ask God to open your mind, heart and will to understand, delight in and obey what you read.

To discover:­­
As you read consider what distinguishes Ahab from Jehoshaphat.

To ponder:
Ahab’s actions here prove his kind words and treaty with Ben-Hadad (20v31-34) were driven by politics rather than a merciful nature. Naboth’s refusal to sell is righteous (Lev 25v8-10, 23). Ahab’s response shows how desperately wrong his priorities are, acting with respect to greed as one should with respect to sin (21v4, 27). Jezebel sees it as a reflection of his inadequacy (21v7). In Ahab’s name she therefore arranges Naboth’s death. The detail displays the audacity of Jezebel in including an act of worship in the murder, and the corruptibility of the town’s leaders (21v8-11) who should have been the guardians of justice.
When Jezebel tells Ahab to take the vineyard because Naboth is dead, he happily does so rather than ensure it passes to Naboth’s family. God then sends Elijah to condemn him for “murder” and theft, implying Ahab knew what Jezebel was doing, and was guilty for not preventing it. This is an echo of Adam standing by silent as Eve ate the fruit, challenging all husbands to intervene when their family members sin.
Ahab’s sin is strikingly similar to David’s in implicating others in murdering Uriah to steal Bathsheba. But Ahab hadn’t displayed David’s general devotion to the LORD. Rather, he had “sold” himself to do evil (21v20) just to gain a vineyard – a shocking price to pay! And so he would be punished for his sin and for causing Israel to sin too. Dogs will lick up his blood and devour Jezebel, and Ahab’s house will be destroyed in the manner of Jeroboam and Baasha (21v24, see 14v11, 16v4). There is warning here about how greed leads to other sin and to leading others astray. But “what good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul” (Mk 8v36).
Consider, however, the heights of God’s grace. Having been told there “was never a man” as evil as Ahab, when he responds by mourning his sin, God chooses to save him the grief of the disaster, bringing it instead in the days of his son. Ahab hadn’t turned fully to the LORD (see ch. 22), but this encourages us with God’s readiness to show mercy.
Three years later Jehoshaphat, the king of Judah, unites with his brother king in the north, but proves godly by insisting they seek God’s counsel before doing battle, and rebuking Ahab’s hatred of God’s prophet (22v8). It’s quite a picture: The two kings, robed and on their thrones, with 400 false prophets declaring God would give them victory. Acting like the pagan king Barak (Num 23-24), Israel’s king then instructs Micaiah to agree with them and “speak favourably.” Like Balaam (Num 23-24), and all true prophets (Deut 18v20), he says he will only say what God gives him. After a sarcastic positive response that highlights Ahab’s attitude, Micaiah then says he “saw” (in a vision) “Israel scattered” like “sheep without a shepherd” – implying Ahab's death, and reminding him that God had intended his kings to be shepherd-like. He also “saw” God enthroned with his “host” around him. This puts the scene of the two kings (22v10) in perspective, showing who really reigns. And so we hear the false prophets were actually serving God’s purpose, speaking by a “lying spirit” he had “put” in their mouths. Rather than heed God however, Ahab imprisons his prophet and enters battle, thinking he can outwit God’s judgement by disguising himself!
The certainty of God’s word is then seen in the king of Aram instructing his men only to fight Ahab, his apparently “random” killing, and Jehoshaphat’s timely escape. Israel are therefore defeated and God’s word is fulfilled as dogs lick up Ahab’s blood from his chariot. Despite his foolishness in doing battle after Micaiah’s prophecy, we learn that Jehoshaphat did “right” like his father, even continuing his reforms – but for removing the high places. However, he was not able to return the kingdom to its glory and unity under Solomon (22v48-49). By contrast, Ahab’s son in the north, “did” evil and worshipped Baal like his father and Jeroboam.

Praying it home:
Praise God that whatever decisions human rulers make for good or evil, he reigns over it all. Pray that you would not endanger your souls by seeking the things of this world, and that you would intervene where family members may be endangering theirs.

Thinking further:
None today.

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