1 Kings 20-21: Resentful and angry

I find chapter 20 of 1 Kings kind of confusing, at least on the surface. Ahab, the new standard of evil in God’s sight, is attacked by the king of Aram, an attack that he has no hope of repelling on his own. So God sends a prophet to Ahab and tells him to go a head and engage in battle because God will give him victory.

Why help Ahab? First off, let’s be clear that God is not helping Ahab because Ahab asked for help. The prophet makes it clear that God is giving Ahab a chance to repent of his ways and acknowledge God as the sovereign I AM. 1 Kings 20:13 “I am handing it [Aram’s horde] over to you today so that you wil know that I am the Lord.” Ahab has a chance here to change his path and the path of Israel moving forward. The king of Aram adds fuel to the fire by declaring that God is only God in the mountains, that if they fight in the valley God will have no power. Not only does God have a chance to display his power to Ahab, he has the opportunity to declare his power to the king of Aram.

We have to understand that the mindset of people in that time was pretty different than ours. Each nation had different gods because no one god was seen as having power in all areas of life. To cover their bases, the nations adopted many gods who had power over many different areas of life. But there were gods who were seen as regionally based, so their power was limited to a geographic area. The king of Aram is applying this thinking to Israel’s God, not understanding that God was not limited to the regulations they had placed on their own deities and idols. The interesting thing to consider is that Ahab’s religious understanding was the same as the king of Aram’s. Remember Ahab was an idol worshipper, and an adopter of many gods. In his mind, the king of Aram was probably correct in his thinking.

God takes this opportunity to declare the foolishness of this way of thinking and give evidence that he alone is the Sovereign God.

All he asks of Ahab is obedience in destroying Aram and their king. Unfortunately, Ahab ignores this command and ends up letting the king of Aram go after making a treaty with him.

Of course God is not pleased with this behaviour and punishes Ahab accordingly (using another prophet telling another parable by the way, a pattern that shows up more than I realized).

But look carefully at Ahab’s response to this whole situation. God shows up to give him a victory he does not deserve or earn, a victory God is using to try and show Ahab who he should be worshipping. Then when the king of Aram taunts God futher, God gives Ahab a second victory, with clear instructions to kill the king of Aram for his impudence. Ahab refuses to obey and God proclaims punishment for Ahab’s disobedience. Ahab’s response to all of this? He goes back to Samaria resentful and angry: short form, he goes and pouts.

Here is a chance for him to recognize once and for all that God is sovereign and worth obeying, and instead, Ahab walks his own way and pouts when he gets called on it. His lack of obedience displays his disbelief that God is in fact the great I AM, and his response to God’s discipline shows just how insensitive he is to God’s direction.

There are a ton of applicable things for us to consider in connection to our own lives from this chapter. Take time asking the Holy Spirit which ones apply to you and what he would like to you to do in response to his leading.

Happy reading

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture? What was something I already knew?
  • What was new from this piece of scripture? What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  • How does this passage apply to my life, here and now? Do I need to do anything about it?
  • What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?

Tomorrow’s Reading: 1 Kings 22; 2 Chronicles 18

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