Thursday, March 31, 2016

Prophets And Kings, Day 53. The Death Of King Ahab Of Israel

Prophets And Kings
Day 53
The Death Of King Ahab Of Israel

Today the prophecy of Micaiah comes true when King Ahab goes into battle against the word of the Lord and is killed.

1 KINGS 22:29-40
Ahab has determined to fight Ben-Hadad of Aram, even though Micaiah provided a dire prophecy about the battle. "So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat king of Judah went up to Ramoth Gilead. The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, 'I will enter the battle in disguise, but you wear your royal robes.' So the king of Israel disguised himself and went into battle." (1 Kings 22:29-30) Ahab's plot is as transparent as glass. He knows Ben-Hadad will be out to get him and disguises himself to blend in with the soldiers. But doing so while asking the king of Judah to wear his royal robes is like putting a target on Jehoshaphat's back. 

At first I wondered why Jehoshaphat, a man who proved yesterday he possesses wise discernment, falls for this idea. But then I realized he's too smart to fall for it. Yesterday Jehoshaphat heard the prophecy of a true prophet of God and he knows which king really has the target on his back. Micaiah's vision was of the army of Israel scattered about the countryside with no shepherd to lead them, then each soldier going home to his own house. This makes it clear that, during the battle, the king of Israel will die, leaving the men without their leader, and so they will forfeit the battle and go home. Jehoshaphat is a man of faith and he has no fear of going into battle wearing the clothing of a king because he believes the prophecy the Lord sent. One king will die today but it won't be the king of Judah.

"Now the king of Aram had ordered his thirty-two chariot commanders, 'Do not fight with anyone, small or great, except the king of Israel.' When the chariot commanders saw Jehoshaphat, they thought, 'Surely this is the king of Israel.' So they turned to attack him, but when Jehoshaphat cried out, the chariot commanders saw that he was not the king of Israel and stopped pursuing him." (1 Kings 22:31-33) Previously in our study of 1st Kings, Ahab was willing to show kindness to Ben-Hadad by letting him go in peace instead of killing him. In exchange for his life, Ben-Hadad was to return to Israel all the territories his father had captured. He has not kept up his end of the bargain and really has no right to hold a grudge against Ahab, but Ahab is his target in this battle. He knows if the king is killed the army of Israel will flee.

What was it about Jehoshaphat's cry that persuaded Ben-Hadad's chariot commanders he wasn't the king of Israel? 2 Chronicles 18:31b-32 gives us a clue, "So they turned to attack him, but Jehoshaphat cried out, and the Lord helped him. God drew them away from him, for when the chariot commanders saw that he was not the king of Israel, they stopped pursuing him." Could it be that Jehoshaphat's cry was to the Lord? Perhaps this is what convinced the chariot commanders he wasn't Ahab, because he cried out to the Lord. Ben-Hadad is aware that Ahab instituted Baal worship in Israel and the commanders would expect him to cry out to Baal, not to the God of Abraham.

The disguise of Ahab does him no good. His disobedience of the word of the Lord causes the prophecy about his death to come true. "But someone drew his bow at random and hit the king of Israel between the sections of his armor. The king told his chariot driver, 'Wheel around and get me out of the fighting. I've been wounded.'" (1 Kings 22:34) The archer isn't even aiming at Ahab when he hits him. Ahab escaped a prophecy of death earlier in this week's study by repenting of idol worship, but today he stubbornly continues in disobedience and ends up reaping what he has sewn in his disregard for the Lord. His life could have been saved if only he'd taken what Micaiah said to heart.

"All day long the battle raged, and the king was propped up in his chariot facing the Arameans. The blood from his wound ran onto the floor of the chariot, and that evening he died. As the sun was setting, a cry spread through the army: 'Every man to his town. Every man to his land!'" (1 Kings 22:35-36) Ahab, to his credit, remains with his men as they face the enemy, even as his life drains away. Likely most of his men don't even know he's been hit. He doesn't want to demoralize them and cause them to lose heart. Even though his death is a judgment for his disobedient ways, I think there is some mercy from God in his manner of death. Ahab dies like a brave man on the battlefield, as a warrior king, and can be buried with honors. 

When Ahab dies and slumps over in the chariot, no longer able to call out encouragement to the troops, it becomes impossible for those guarding the king to keep up the pretense that everything is alright. Now the second part of Micaiah's prophecy comes true, "These people have no master. Let each one go home in peace." (1 Kings 22:17b) It could be that Ahab is the only man who dies in this battle. It isn't the fault of the troops that their king disobeyed a warning from God about going up against Ben-Hadad. I think it's entirely possible that the Lord protected everyone on the field that day except Ahab. Ben-Hadad's escape with his life is a fulfillment of the prophecy that said Ahab would give his life because he spared the life of Ben-Hadad when he was in his hands at Aphek. Today we see Ahab killed in battle but Ben-Hadad surviving to fight another day. 

"So the king died and was brought to Samaria, and they buried him there. They washed the chariot at a pool in Samaria (where the prostitutes bathed), and the dogs licked up his blood, as the word of the Lord had declared." (1 Kings 22:37-38) Elijah had prophesied the dogs would lick up the blood of Ahab. It didn't happen when and how Elijah predicted because Ahab repented at his words, but because Ahab fell back into his pattern of stubborn disobedience, he still dies prematurely with the dogs licking up his blood. His temporary repentance granted him a reprieve.

"As for the other events of Ahab's reign, including all he did, the palace he built and adorned with ivory, and the cities he fortified, are they not written in the books of the annals of the kings of Israel? Ahab rested with his ancestors. And Ahaziah his son succeeded him as king." (1 Kings 22:39-40) Ahab leaves a sad legacy behind, for Ahaziah will be a wicked man, so wicked he will only reign two years and will die without a son to succeed him on the throne. The word spoken against Ahab will come true that his descendants will be cut off, but because Ahab did have somewhat of a change of heart in his later years, the Lord held off this judgment until after his death. 

We are going to be given a welcome break from studying wicked kings of Israel because tomorrow our study tells us some things about the godly king Jehoshaphat of Judah. We will take some time over the next few days to borrow some passages from 2nd Chronicles to study the life of a man of whom the Bible says, "The Lord was with Jehoshaphat because he followed the ways of his father David before him. He did not consult the Baals, but sought the God of his father and followed His commands rather than the practices of Israel." (2 Chronicles 17:3-4) Jehoshaphat will lead a revival in Judah and this will bring home the point that one person who is obedient to the Lord can accomplish great things. Sometimes we think, "What can I do? I'm just one person." But one person who stands bravely on the word of God can encourage thousands to stand bravely. After all, one wicked king in the person of Ahab managed to bring down a whole nation into Baal worship. Why can't one godly king bring a whole nation back to the Lord? 

We each may be only one person going out into the world in the name of the Lord but, "If God is for us, who can be against us?" (Romans 8:31) 

No comments:

Post a Comment