Nothing about King Ahab of Israel that one might consider redeeming qualities. In a long line of evil kings, the summary bio on this guy was that he was the worst. “Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the LORD, more than all who were before him” (1Kings 17:30). And just in case you missed it the first time, the Spirit repeats Himself: “Ahab did more to provoke the LORD, the God of Israel, to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him” (17:33). Not the world record you wanna set. Not what you want written in the books when it comes time to open the books for judgment.
But as I’m reading in 1Kings 20 this morning, against the backdrop of this black, black character, shines the light of God’s patience. In the midst of the darkness that enveloped Ahab, God doesn’t stop trying to bring sight to the blind.
God has some business to do with Syria. What’s more, in His sovereign determination, God chooses Ahab as the weapon to be used in His hand. And so, on two different occasions, Syria musters its massive army against Israel. And twice they are defeated. But most noteworthy for me, twice God reveals to Ahab that He is the LORD, the Almighty Commander of the Army.
And behold, a prophet came near to Ahab king of Israel and said, “Thus says the LORD, Have you seen all this great multitude? Behold, I will give it into your hand this day, and you shall know that I am the LORD.“
And a man of God came near and said to the king of Israel, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Because the Syrians have said, “The LORD is a god of the hills but he is not a god of the valleys,” therefore I will give all this great multitude into your hand, and you shall know that I am the LORD.’”
(1Kings 20:13, 28 ESV)
“I will give [them] into your hand, and you shall know that I am the LORD.” That’s the repeated phrase that’s got me thinking this morning.
God owed Ahab nothing. Nothing in Ahab merited anything but God’s holy and just wrath. Yet God said, “I’ll give your enemies into you hand.”
And certainly, God could have dealt with Syria in any number of ways. Raised any king from any land and put His hand towards using them as His sword of judgment. But He chose to use Ahab.
And here’s what really gets me. Why did God enlist Ahab? So that Ahab the idolater might know that God was the LORD.
And the words of Jesus come to mind:
“And this is eternal life, that they know You the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”
(John 17:3 ESV)
Knowing who the only true God is the key that can unlock the door to eternal life. And God was handing Ahab the key.
Twice He spoke to the evil king through a personal messenger. Twice He said He would fight the king’s fight. And twice He said it was so that the Baal-worshiping king might know that God is LORD over all.
And the two words that come to mind are Pursuing Grace.
What patience. What kindness in seeking to give Ahab sight to see, ears to hear, and the resources to repent.
To be sure, Ahab’s sin-hardened heart would take the revelation and trash it, determining to continue to walk in his own ways. But I can’t get over God’s unimaginable, continuing pursuit of a wayward sinner–even if he was like, way wayward . . . more wayward than anyone had been wayward before him.
How great is the grace of God to pursue men and women who are literally hell-bent in going their own way? Pretty great!
And I’m thankful. I may have not been an Ahab, but my sin and rebellion deserved no less God’s judgment. Instead I was extended His patience and kindness. In God’s determined purpose, and by His sovereign intervention, He entered my world too. His word spoken so that I might hear. My eyes opened to see the victory He had won on my behalf against an enemy I was helpless before.
And I knew that He was the LORD. And by faith, and this not of my own doing; it is the gift of God, that knowledge gave birth to eternal life.
Only because our God is a pursuing God.
To Him be glory forever for His pursuing grace.