Posts Tagged ‘ahab’

If you have been following this blog for very long, you have likely figured at least one thing: I gravitate towards the Old Testament. From Jacob to Ahab to Job, I consistently get more encouragement from my time in the OT. I see real life there. I see the gospel and the foreshadowing of Jesus everywhere. I identify with sinners like Judah. I see hope for God to use me in the life of a man like Jonah. I grieve and learn with Job in his suffering and loss and wrestling with who this God really is. So when I saw this post from Tyler Kenney at Desiring God, I just had to highlight it and draw attention to it. Tyler’s thoughts:

It has been my experience, in talking with fellow evangelicals, that many of us are quick to equate the Old Testament to mean little more than what the Pharisees thought it meant in Jesus’ day. It is a book of Jewish religion, and if there is any Christian doctrine in its pages, it is veiled to the reader who hasn’t first become acquainted with the New Testament.

We tend the view the OT as outdated and not useful anymore. It’s too confusing; I don’t have to obey any of Leviticus anymore anyway, right? What relevance would 1st and 2nd Kings be to me? We’re not a nation anymore and besides, I would never do what those kings did and let all that happen. Ezekiel? Way too hard to understand.

So why not skip the OT altogether and just stick with the New?

That would make sense if mere doctrinal information is all we are after. If all we want from our Bibles is to learn Christian dogma in its most developed form, reading the NT alone would probably be sufficient. It practically teaches every doctrine covered by the OT, and then of course it adds some crucial material of its own.

But we want more from Scripture than just a systematic theology, don’t we? There’s a reason we don’t settle for catechisms and dissertations in our devotional lives. We want faith and hope and encouragement and love, not merely a catalogue of things we ought to believe. And how do we get those things?

How often is the Old Testament preached on in our churches? (The last 2 months, actually, in my church!) Most folks I know have not even read the entire OT and tend to avoid it. There’s definitely something to be said for understanding the New Testament and the gospel. But isn’t sin still sin? We tend to say that the God of the OT is different and harsher and more condemning? Really? Who talked more about hell and eternal punishment and gnashing of teeth? That’s right, Jesus, in the New Testament! The OT is full of seemingly harsh physical punishments and consequences but the NT highlights the even scarier doctrine of hell.

But there’s no grace in the Old Testament! Really? There’s no grace in how God blesses and pursues men like Jacob and Ahab? Take a closer look at Ahab’s life, a man proclaimed the most evil king ever. Take a look at Job’s life even and recognize how in the OT, God is still the same God who wants relationship with us, wants us to be satisfied in Him, and will eventually crush all sin by taking the punishment and guilt on Himself. Maybe His glorious grace is not completely or fully revealed there in the Old Testament, but it’s there. Look for it. The people of the OT were real. Those things actually happened. Read it that way.

The more I read the OT, the more I see how indispensable it is for fostering the encouragement and faith I need to thrive in my walk with God. And my challenge to you in writing this post is that you would approach the OT as a complete, competent, and relevant work for you in its own right.

The OT is not a deflated sail that needs NT air to get moving. Sure, there is more revelation beyond Malachi, and yes, we shouldn’t try to just forget the NT when reading the prophets. But let’s not use what we know from the apostles to reinterpret or silence what the prophets themselves have to say to us. They were writing for us in the first place, you know (1 Peter 1:12).

Don’t fear the Old Testament. Read it. Process it. See His steadfast love there. See people not that different from you and me there. Most of all see His glorious grace there.

Read Tyler Kenney’s full post here: “Thoughts on Evangelical Neglect of the Old Testament”

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In the thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah, Ahab the son of Omri began to reign over Israel, and Ahab the son of Omri reigned over Israel in Samaria twenty-two years. And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the LORD, more than all who were before him. And as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, he took for his wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and went and served Baal and worshiped him. He erected an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he built in Samaria. And Ahab made an Asherah. Ahab did more to provoke the LORD, the God of Israel, to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him. In his days Hiel of Bethel built Jericho. He laid its foundation at the cost of Abiram his firstborn, and set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub, according to the word of the LORD, which he spoke by Joshua the son of Nun. (1 Kings 16:29-34 ESV)

Ahab is introduced to us in 1 Kings as the worst of all the kings before him, sacrificing 2 of his sons to rebuild Jericho. That is our very first description of him! You could actually argue he might have done the most evil outside of king Manasseh of Judah. The statement above at the end of 1 Kings 16 is given almost like one of those historical context notes you see at the beginning of some movies. I say this because we are about to get a more detailed glimpse of Ahab, as well as his antithesis, Elijah, in 1 Kings 16:28 – 22. What’s the big deal about 5 chapters? Only Solomon is given more coverage outside of Ahab in either 1 Kings or 2 Kings! You have to ask the question: Why? It’s not just because of Elijah. Usually that is the mistake we make when we read this section. We equate ourselves with the hero, Elijah, and how much we want to be like him in his battle against the evil king, Ahab, and his evil wife, Jezebel, the classic battle of good versus evil. Elijah is equated with Moses as one of the greatest prophets of the Old Testament and there are some crazy powerful miracles that happen through him. From chariots of fire, to parting a river, to raising the dead, to running at warp speed, to an “octagon” like confrontation of 450 evil prophets, I can see the movie teaser now (can someone please make this happen?). However, these chapters bring light to the Gospel when we take Ahab seriously and examine how God relates to him not just the superhero Elijah.

Elijah: Ahab’s Constant Reproof (1 Kings 18-19)

When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is it you, you troubler of Israel?” And he answered, “I have not troubled Israel, but you have, and your father’s house, because you have abandoned the commandments of the LORD and followed the Baals. Now therefore send and gather all Israel to me at Mount Carmel, and the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.” (1 Kings 18:17-19 ESV)

So Ahab sent to all the people of Israel and gathered the prophets together at Mount Carmel. And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word. (1 Kings 18:20-21 ESV)

Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.” (1 Kings 19:1-2 ESV)

Ahab cannot get rid of Elijah. His wife, Jezebel, certainly threatens to but they just cannot get their hands on him! Elijah is God’s constant voice and reproof in Ahab’s life. From attacking the prophets of Baal to rebuking evil actions of Ahab, Elijah is a thorn in this man’s flesh. Ahab views this as a threat and annoyance but it will prove to be a means of undeserved grace. God sends a super empowered prophet like Elijah because that is what it takes to get through to Ahab.

The Battle with Syria: God Has Not Given Up On Ahab (1 Kings 20)

When Ben-hadad heard this message as he was drinking with the kings in the booths, he said to his men, “Take your positions.” And they took their positions against the city.

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.” (1 Kings 20:12-13 ESV)

Ben-hadad, king of Syria, moves against Israel after Ahab refuses to give him his wives and children and valuables. God sends a different prophet this time to him to assure him that God is on his side and that they will defeat the massive army of Syria. Remember, this is still the most evil king ever! Why is a prophet sent to Ahab to assure him victory? Why does God not allow for him to go to his death in battle and finally end this reign of terror? God does not do that. He assures Ahab that God is still fighting for this evil man! God seems to want to make sure that Ahab knows that He is sovereign and still helping him. God makes sure that Ahab will not be able to claim any other help when they see victory against the overwhelming numbers of Syria. This is the worst king so far for Israel and here is God still protecting him and working for his good!

At the end of chapter 20, Ahab is reproved for letting Ben-Hadad go after they claim a second victory over Syria. Ahab does not seem as hardened as you would expect, he does not balk at the prophet. He goes home “vexed and sullen,” meaning something akin to being both sad and frustrated. He feels it from the reproof. There seems to be a hint of disappointment. Is he starting to get it?

The Conflict over Naboth’s Vineyard (1 Kings 21)

This chapter is insane when you take a closer look. This is a side note that seems to have nothing to do with Ahab’s rule over Israel or the big picture of Israel as a nation. This happens a lot when Elijah and Elisha are in the picture. We are given much more detail about these men and the kings they spoke to. Think about this the next time you read 1 and 2 Kings. There is a reason the author takes a microscope here but rarely does this elsewhere.

But Jezebel his wife came to him and said to him, “Why is your spirit so vexed that you eat no food?” And he said to her, “Because I spoke to Naboth the Jezreelite and said to him, ‘Give me your vineyard for money, or else, if it please you, I will give you another vineyard for it.’ And he answered, ‘I will not give you my vineyard.'” And Jezebel his wife said to him, “Do you now govern Israel? Arise and eat bread and let your heart be cheerful; I will give you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.”

So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name and sealed them with his seal, and she sent the letters to the elders and the leaders who lived with Naboth in his city. And she wrote in the letters, “Proclaim a fast, and set Naboth at the head of the people. And set two worthless men opposite him, and let them bring a charge against him, saying, ‘You have cursed God and the king.’ Then take him out and stone him to death.” (1 Kings 21:5-10 ESV)

Ahab takes possession of the land and Elijah, again, is the man to confront Ahab.

Ahab Repents? (1 Kings 21 continued)

Ahab said to Elijah, “Have you found me, O my enemy?” He answered, “I have found you, because you have sold yourself to do what is evil in the sight of the LORD. Behold, I will bring disaster upon you. I will utterly burn you up, and will cut off from Ahab every male, bond or free, in Israel. And I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah, for the anger to which you have provoked me, and because you have made Israel to sin. And of Jezebel the LORD also said, ‘The dogs shall eat Jezebel within the walls of Jezreel.’ Anyone belonging to Ahab who dies in the city the dogs shall eat, and anyone of his who dies in the open country the birds of the heavens shall eat.” (1 Kings 21:20-24 ESV)

At this point, Ahab has already been proclaimed the worst king ever, he’s sacrificed two of his sons, he’s married an evil baal worshipping woman, his regime has essentially tried to wipe out every prophet of God and do everything to turn this nation to Baal. Yet God has not given up on him. God has given him Elijah as well as his second in command, Obadiah, who has hid prophets of the Lord and will not bow to Baal. God is after Ahab. It’s almost like God made a bet with Satan once Ahab sacrificed his children that God could still win his heart. In 1 Kings 21, it sure seems like God breaks through and Ahab repents with godly sorrow.

(There was none who sold himself to do what was evil in the sight of the LORD like Ahab, whom Jezebel his wife incited. He acted very abominably in going after idols, as the Amorites had done, whom the LORD cast out before the people of Israel.)

And when Ahab heard those words, he tore his clothes and put sackcloth on his flesh and fasted and lay in sackcloth and went about dejectedly. And the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, “Have you seen how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself before me, I will not bring the disaster in his days; but in his son’s days I will bring the disaster upon his house.” (1 Kings 21:25-29 ESV)

God rubs it in Satan’s face here with a little “by the way, in case you forgot, Ahab was super evil and the worst king ever.” Then Ahab breaks down and repents! Now when I use to read this prior to this past June, I just glossed over it and brushed it off as Ahab simply repenting with worldly sorrow. But I mock God if I take that view because that is not how God responds. God rejoices and points it out to Elijah. “Did you see that? Did you see how Ahab responded? He humbled himself! He turned his heart to me!” It’s like God has been waiting for this one moment in Ahab’s life. He points it out to Elijah as if Elijah never could believe it would happen. Do we get this? Ahab was the worst king ever, the epitome of an evil king and yet God never gives up on him and even chases him down. This is why we get this anecdote about his conflict with Naboth. This is why we get a more detailed glance at Ahab. We need to see how Ahab is never without hope and that no one is out of reach of God. No single person beyond God’s forgiveness and justification. Ahab has to reap some of the consequences of his sin in 1 Kings 22 in his death on the battlefield but at least we get a glimpse of his repentance and brokenness before God prior to his final demise.

The Heart of God in the Gospel is Our Hope

God never waited for you to repent to send His only Son to suffer the worst kind of death on the cross. He doesn’t even wait for you to respond to the cross. God is a pursuing Father. The depth of your sin is not a hindrance to His adoption of you. He is the Father who runs to you. He is the Shepherd rejoicing over finding that one lost sheep, Ahab, out of a hundred. Just like He never gave up on Ahab and gave him Elijah and blessed him, God has not given up on any of us. His mercies are new every morning, great is His faithfulness!

The Rest of the Series:

Learning to Stop Reading the Bible like a Pharisee

Learning to Stop Reading the Bible like a Pharisee: Jacob – Part 1

Learning to Stop Reading the Bible like a Pharisee: Jacob – Part 2

Learning to Stop Reading the Bible like a Pharisee: Saul

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I think we all are born with the gift and ability to read the Bible through the eyes of a Pharisee.  You know you do it.  Why does Abraham lie about his wife and put her in jeopardy? I would never do that. Why is Jacob such a momma’s boy and trickster? What about Moses?  That guy heard God speak to him from a burning bush and then told God to have someone else do it? No way would I do that! King Saul, why not wait just a little more for Samuel before the rash sacrifices? Or all those kings after Solomon – so foolish. It’s a simply a little 3 step process that our flesh seems to have programmed into us:

Step 1. Stop confessing sin. Let your own sin become vague and distant to you.

Step 2. Make sure you’re comparing yourself to others around you, a lot.

Step 3. Be sure to only identify with people in Biblical accounts who are not in sin.

Over the course of the last 2 years or so, the way I read the Bible and see things in it has slowly started to transform, especially with regard to the lives that God documents for us in the Bible.  I am slowly learning to stop reading the Bible like a Pharisee (my flesh!) and to get more comfortable taking them off. I am slowly learning that the dudes in the Bible were real people just like us and I am just as much a sinful human being as they ever were. I am learning that the statements “I would have done the same thing” or “I totally did that last week” are much more accurate than “I would never do that” or “I’ve never been as bad as _____!” Maybe that is too much of a simplification but the key issue is this: Do I come to the Bible humbly as a sinner saved by grace or do I approach the Bible seeing things nearly all from just a religious legalistic perspective? Jacob is that passive liar. Ahab is that horrendous king. David was awesome (except for all that sin stuff with Bathsheba, you know, that was just a bad week). Joseph was the good brother who endured, and so forth. We judge these historical people in the Bible like the elder brother would in Luke 15. How about let’s be done with that? Let’s be done reading the Bible like a Pharisee. Maybe you don’t struggle with that but I certainly do. Tim Keller puts it like so:

“… we usually read the Bible as a series of disconnected stories, each with a “moral” for how we should live our lives. It is not. Rather, it comprises a single story, telling us how the human race got into its present condition, and how God through Jesus Christ has come and will come to put things rights. In other words, the Bible doesn’t give us a god at the top of the moral ladder saying, ‘If you try hard to summon up your strength and live right, you can make it up!’ Instead, the Bible repeatedly shows us weak people who don’t deserve God’s grace, don’t seek it, and don’t appreciate it even after they have received it.” – Counterfeit Gods (p.36-37)

In this series we’ll take a look at a number of men  of the Old Testament who have helped me, through whom I feel like I’ve seen in a new light recently, and whose stories give me a ton of encouragement in that new light. I am going to look at a few of the guys we classify as the “biggest losers,” and dig in a little bit:

Jacob (Genesis 25-50) – The deceiver. The passive whiner. The momma’s boy.

Saul (1 Samuel 8-31) – The people’s champion. The jealous king. The rash prideful fool.

Ahab (1 Kings 16-22) – The worst king of all? The weak husband of Jezebel. The enemy of Elijah.

These are men whom I would not instinctively name any kids after! But I have grown to love their stories and to really identify with them. Actually, you could say their stories teach me more about the Gospel than almost any other biographies in Old Testament.

The Series

Learning to Stop Reading the Bible like a Pharisee: Jacob – Part 1

Learning to Stop Reading the Bible like a Pharisee: Jacob – Part 2

Learning to Stop Reading the Bible like a Pharisee: Saul

Learning to Stop Reading the Bible like a Pharisee: Ahab

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