Israel 2016

Israel 2016
Roman architectural influence in Bet Sean, Israel

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Canonical Reading Plan for Apr 18, 1 Kgs 18-20

Today's readings are 1 Kgs 18-20.

Elijah and Ahab meet through Obadiah, a royal official in Ahab’s court but a secret follower of God (1 Kgs 18:1-19).

Obadiah has been protecting multiple groups of believers but has a fear of Ahab that keeps his actions clandestine. During the drought that Elijah prophesied, Ahab’s reaction is a contrast to David’s repentance (2 Sam 21:1) when his kingdom is struck with famine. All Ahab seems to be interested in is preserving his fighting forces so he can keep his alliance with Syria active (1 Kgs 18:3-5).

The image being painted is of an Israel where the number of those devoted to God is rapidly waning. They have resorted to hiding from the authorities and keeping their faith under cover for fear of retribution. It’s a sad witness for the people who have been charged with bringing the truth of God to the world and being His representatives.

In 1 Kings 18:7-16 Elijah steps boldly onto the scene, challenging Obadiah to be open and trust God (and, BTW, Elijah) by arranging a meeting between the prophet and Ahab. Obadiah obeys!

Ironically, upon meeting, Ahab calls Elijah the "Troubler of Israel" when Ahab is the true problem Israel is struggling with (1 Kgs 18:17). Elijah, placing his life in God’s hands, challenges the prophets of Baal, 450 of them, to a showdown (1 Kgs 18:18-19).

There are parallels with the story of David and Goliath in Elijah’s confrontation with the prophets of Baal. Ahab, like Saul, is a seriously flawed king. Saul was facing an enemy (Goliath and the Philistines); Ahab has allied himself with the enemy (Syria). God sends one man (David to Saul, Elijah to Ahab) against overwhelming odds to demonstrate to the king that He is all-powerful, giving the king a chance to repent and mend his ways.

Elijah defeats the prophets of Baal in spectacular fashion, once again demonstrating the sovereign power of the God of Israel (1 Kgs 20-40). God also prophesies through Elijah to end the drought. The drought in Baal's backyard is completely controlled by God who puts Himself on display magnificently through His prophet Elijah (1 Kgs 18:41-46).
Amazingly Elijah is intimidated by Jezebel, Ahab's wife, who threatens to kill him in 1 Kings 19:1-3. Even more surprisingly, Elijah runs and is in desperate need of encouragement. So, God ministers to him in a similar fashion to the way He did with the ravens during the drought (1 Kgs 19:4-8).

Elijah ends up on Mt Horeb (Mt Sinai) in the same spot where God spoke to Moses. The prophet’s journey takes 40 days and nights (1 Kgs 19:8), another similarity, this time to Moses and his time on the mountain (Ex 24:18).  Elijah is being portrayed as a type of Moses. He certainly represents a new beginning, and he also is a type of remnant, one man God will use to redeem Israel. But even more, Elijah arrives during a dark time and brings encouragement that God is moving among His people.

The prophet naively complains that he's the only one on God's side, but God reveals that there are actually 7,000 others that Elijah was unaware of. All this happens after God brings a mighty wind, an earthquake and fire, ultimately speaking in a quiet whisper (1 Kgs 19:9-18). By all this, Elijah learns that God, at times, moves in quiet ways that we may not always be aware of.

God tells Elijah to anoint three men two of whom will defeat Ahab, effectively removing him from kingship and demonstrating that God is the one who raises up kings and brings them down as well (1 Kgs 19:15-17). 
The third man is Elisha, Elijah's replacement and the next in a long series of prophets God will use to speak to Israel and Judah (1 Kgs 19:19-21).

1 Kings 20:1-11 finds Aramean King Ben-hadad and an alliance of 32 kings coming against King Ahab of Israel. Ahab, who was worshiping Baal and had an inferior force is granted victory over Ben-hadad by God (1 Kgs 20:13-23). Two things become clear, God is the true God of Israel, regardless of Ahab...and God is exceedingly gracious. Ahab deserves destruction, yet God grants him victory instead. Simultaneously, God demonstrates His power to the Arameans, who, by all measures, should have easily defeated Ahab.

A year later, the Arameans, who believe God is only a god of the hills, attack Aphek, another of Ahab's cities which lies in a valley. God grants Israel the victory again, showing that He is Lord over hill and valley.

Ahab violates the rules of holy war and spares Ben-hadad (1 Kgs 2:26-34). God sends a prophet, condemning Ahab for neglecting God's word. Ironically, Ahab ends up proclaiming his own judgment in 1 Kings 20:35-43.

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