Saturday, October 20, 2012

1 Kings 20-21 God's Gracious Dealings with Ahab

1 Kings 20:13-14, 28 Meanwhile a prophet came to Ahab king of Israel and announced, "This is what the Lord says: 'Do you see this vast army? I will give it into your hand today, and then you will know that I am the Lord'"...The man of God came up and told the king of Israel, "This is what the Lord says: 'Because the Arameans think the Lord is a god of the hills and not a god of the valleys, I will deliver this vast army into your hands, and you will know that I am the Lord.'" 
1 Kings 21:20-29 Ahab said to Elijah, "So you have found me, my enemy!" "I have found you," he answered, "because you have sold yourself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord. 'I am going to bring disaster on you. I will consume your descendants and cut off from Ahab every last male in Israel — slave or free. I will make your house like that of Jeroboam son of Nebat and that of Baasha son of Ahijah, because you have provoked me to anger and have caused Israel to sin.' And also concerning Jezebel the Lord says: 'Dogs will devour Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel.' Dogs will eat those belonging to Ahab who die in the city, and the birds of the air will feed on those who die in the country." (There was never a man like Ahab, who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord, urged on by Jezebel his wife. He behaved in the vilest manner by going after idols, like the Amorites the Lord drove out before Israel.) When Ahab heard these words, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and fasted. He lay in sackcloth and went around meekly. Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite: "Have you noticed how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself, I will not bring this disaster in his day, but I will bring it on his house in the days of his son." 

Ahab was considered the worst of the northern kings of Israel: "He behaved in the vilest manner by going after idols, like the Amorites the Lord drove out before Israel" (1 Kings 21:26). Despite his sins, God dealt with him graciously: twice Ahab was delivered from Aram's numerically superior army. And when his wife Jezebel got Naboth stoned to death on false witnesses so that Ahab could get Naboth's vineyard to be his vegetable garden, he received the Lord's judgement on him and his wife: "I will consume your descendantsa nd cut off from Ahab every last male in Israel--slave or free...Dogs will devour Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel." When Ahab heard that, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and fasted - a sign of repentance: "He lay in sackcloth and went about meekly." His act of humility despite his sins caught God's attention: "Have you noticed how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself, I will not bring disaster in his day, but I will bring it on his house in the days of his son."

What amazing grace of God! God protected Israel against the Arameans twice when Ben-Hadad fought against Israel despite the fact that Ahab did not acknowledge the LORD as God but worship Baal and other idols. In the second instance, when Ahab humbled himself, God relented from bringing disaster in his family in his lifetime. God's amazing grace is often experienced by the repentant. When a person acknowledged his sin and humbled himself, God's attitude towards the person changed from judgement to mercy. 

God's gracious character has not changed since OT period. He has remained gracious towards all who humble themselves and repent. We oversimplify Scriptures when we say that OT is law and NT is grace. Grace is present in both the OT and NT. Christ's atoning sacrifice at the Cross was not just a historical and timely event that allows God to show grace to people after the event. No, Christ's sacrifice was an eternal and timeless event that allows God to show grace to all people at all time, including those who came before Christ and those who have not heard of Jesus Christ. God's grace is available to all who humble themselves and repent before God of heaven--wherever and whenever it happens. For "the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world" (Rev. 13:8). So the apostle Peter acknowledged this fact at Cornelius' house: "I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right" (Acts 10:34-35).

Father, we thank You that Your grace is not limited to people who have heard of Christ, but also to people who have not heard because the Lamb was slain from the foundation of the world. Thank You that from the day of Adam, you have clothed man with animal skin because You have always forgiven sins on the basis of Your Son's atoning sacrifice. Amen.

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