Sunday, March 20, 2016

Prophets And Kings, Day 49. Ahab Condemned For Disobedience

Prophets And Kings
Day 49
Ahab Condemned For Disobedience

Todays study involves an unusual method employed by a prophet to condemn the wicked King Ahab.

1 KINGS 20:35-43
"By the word of the Lord one of the company of the prophets said to his companion, 'Strike me with your weapon,' but he refused." (1 Kings 20:35) We don't know which prophet this is but I don't think it's the prophet who has been communicating with Ahab during the conflict with the Arameans. That prophet was referred to as "the prophet" and "the man of God". This seems to be a different one, "one of the company of the prophets". At first I thought he was asking his companion to kill him but he just wants to be wounded because he is going to pretend to have been in the battle we studied yesterday.

The prophet's companion refuses. I can't blame a person for not wanting to injure a prophet of the Lord but then again, the prophet assured him this command is from the Lord. "So the prophet said, 'Because you have not obeyed the Lord, as soon as you leave me a lion will kill you.' And after the man went away, a lion found him and killed him." The companion is likely also a prophet and should have been quick to obey a command of the Lord, unusual though it might be. Because he too is representative of the Lord, he isn't allowed to live after his disobedience.

"The prophet found another man and said, 'Strike me, please.' So the man struck him and wounded him." (1 Kings 20:37) I would be interested to know whether "another man" was a prophet or just some man he ran into. Whoever he is, he doesn't hesitate to obey, maybe because he's already heard that a lion ate the man who refused.

"Then the prophet went and stood by the road waiting for the king. He disguised himself with his headband down over his eyes." (1 Kings 20:38) I want to point out that some translations render this verse differently by saying he disguised himself with ashes on his face. In my research it appears that the ancient Hebrew words used for "headband" and "ashes" have only one letter that is different and scholars disagree on which letter is used in the original texts, being so similar of appearance. But either way, the intention of the prophet was to disguise himself which means he must have been known to Ahab or else there would have been no need for a disguise. 

"As the king passed by, the prophet called out to him, 'Your servant went into the thick of the battle, and someone came to me with a captive and said, 'Guard this man. If he is missing, it will be your life for his life, or you must pay a talent of silver.' While your servant was busy here and there, the man disappeared.'" (1 Kings 20:39-40a) Ahab is passing by in his chariot after his treaty meeting with King Ben-Hadad of Aram. He thinks a dusty and wounded soldier is standing by the roadside to make an appeal to him. The soldier presents him with a hard-luck story of losing track of a captive during the battle, a captive he had promised to guard either with his life or with a talent of silver. 

Ahab thinks the soldier is asking him to issue a pardon or give him the talent of silver to redeem his life. Ahab does neither. It's quite revealing of his character that he was willing to show mercy to the murderous king of Aram but is not willing to show mercy to one of his own countrymen. "'That is your sentence,' the king of Israel said. 'You have pronounced it yourself.'" (1 Kings 20:40b)

"Then the prophet quickly removed the headband from his eyes, and the king of Israel recognized him as one of the prophets. He said to the king, 'This is what the Lord says: 'You have set free a man I had determined should die. Therefore it is your life for his life, your people for his people.' Sullen and angry, the king of Israel went to his palace in Samaria." (1 Kings 20:41-43) This prophecy will come true a couple chapters ahead. It would seem that Ahab was fully aware that God intended him to kill Ben-Hadad and remove this threat from Israel, but he disobeyed. Most likely, the prophet who was advising him about yesterday's battle commanded him on the authority of the Lord not to let Ben-Hadad go. The king of Aram was actually sitting in Ahab's chariot yesterday, literally in his grasp, begging for his life and willing to make any bargain. But Ahab imposed no sanctions on him and made no demands, accepting only what was offered and letting him go. Because he didn't deal with Ben-Hadad as the Lord commanded, he will meet this enemy again. 

Ahab's attitude at the words of today's prophet tells us everything we need to know about him. Instead of quickly repenting as King David would have done, he's sullen and pouty, angry that the Lord is angry with him, as if the Lord has no right to be angry. Ahab is not willing to see his own faults. He was quick to judge the man he thought was a battle-weary soldier but is indignant that the God of Israel would dare to judge him, the king of Israel. 

There are a couple of main points I take from today's lesson. First, it's a common temptation to be quick to see and to judge the faults of others, yet to desire mercy and compassion on our own faults. I've certainly been guilty of that one. An acquaintance may end up in a world of trouble from a poor decision and I'll think, "How did they not see that coming?" Yet I fail to consider the times I've brought trouble on myself with poor decisions. When I mess up, I eagerly desire the mercy and forgiveness of God and the mercy and forgiveness of anyone I've hurt. Why is it so hard to extend that same mercy to those who hurt us? Small slights are easy to forgive, but there are some deep wounds I still struggle with. There is a particular wound I desperately want to be free of and have been praying for the Lord to help me to let it go, and I would like to ask my readers to help me pray for this. I want to lay it down, to cast it behind my back the way the Lord casts our sins behind His back. I want to handle this hurt the way Jesus would handle it, and there's no way I can do it in my own strength.

The second point is that when we don't cut something out of our life that the Lord tells us to cut out, it will keep coming back to bite us, the way the king of Aram will come back to bite Ahab. Ahab knew what he was supposed to do but he refused. We may have harmful habits or attitudes that the Lord has repeatedly told us to do away with and we stubbornly disobey. This will only lead to our own hurt. If we don't deal with it now we will just have to deal with it later. 

Lord, help us to repent and turn away from anything in our lives that is causing us harm. Give us the strength to renounce anything You've told us to renounce. We know You are only looking out for our own good. Help us to lay down our hurts and disappointments, not holding onto a spirit of unforgiveness, trusting You to deal with anyone who has sinned against us. As our loving Father, You have assured us that vengeance belongs to You. Help us to turn these things over to You. All our wounds are safe in Your hands, the hands that were wounded for us. We ask these things in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, the One who purchased forgiveness for us. Amen.

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