Thursday, April 26, 2012

"Have you seen how Ahab has humbled himself before me?"

This is the ninth and final of a continuing series on hard questions from the Old Testament. They have been adapted from a series of articles I wrote for my church's community groups during our Old Testament Challenge. You can also read the introduction and  parts 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8. 

This week’s reading reveals a stark contrast between two kings. Consider:
  • King Solomon was the son of David and the kingdom of Israel reached the height of political and military power under his rule. This has historically been considered the golden age of Israel as they enjoyed unprecedented peace and prosperity. The Lord appeared to Solomon twice and blessed him with wisdom, wealth, and honor beyond any other king of Israel before or after him.
  • King Ahab, on the other hand, was the most detestable, abominable ruler that Israel ever had. And lest you think this an exaggeration, 1 Kings 21:25, 26 confirms, “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.”

But these two kings provide an interesting look at the character of man and the character of God. Both of them made pivotal decisions towards the end of their reigns that greatly influenced the kingdom of Israel.
  • King Solomon loved many foreign women, and in time turned to worshiping the false gods of his wives (1 Kings 11). Because of this the kingdom of Israel was fractured in two, an event that would lead to a severely weakened state and even civil war.
  • King Ahab heeded the condemnation of the Lord and responded in humility (1 Kings 21). He turned to God in sackcloth and fasting and the Lord withheld the judgment he had planned.
Why is this significant? It reveals the frailty, the brokenness, of the human condition. The one who had everything given him (by both his father and God) made ruin of his entire kingdom by his sin. But it also reveals the far-reaching grace of God. The one who had nothing found grace from God and his kingdom was spared.

Even the most gifted are not beyond the depths of human depravity. Even the most depraved are not beyond the depths of God’s grace. Both of these facts should serve to humble every man, king and commoner alike.