Sabbatical 2017

Sabbatical 2017
Arc de Triumph

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Canonical Reading Plan for Apr 20, 1 Kgs 21-22

Today's readings are 1 Kgs 21-22.

In 1 Kings 21:1-4, Ahab tries to buy a vineyard from Naboth. Lev 25:1-33 taught that God owned the land in Canaan and His people were not to dispose of it. Naboth rightfully refuses to sell sending Ahab into a fit of childish petulance. Ahab's wife, Jezebel, conspires to get two unreliable witnesses to lie about Naboth, instigating his execution. Jewish law demands that there be at least two accusers to support a charge and Naboth’s charge is blasphemy. Ahab and Jezebel acquire the land after Naboth is put to death (1 Kgs 21:5-15).

Speaking through Elijah, God judges Jezebel and the land, holding Ahab responsible for all that has happened, prophesying that Ahab would die horribly and Jezebel in an even worse fashion (1 Kgs 21:17-23).

Ahab repents, and God has mercy on him. However, His laws have been violated, and blood has been shed. There will be earthly consequences for Ahab's actions. Notice, there is no indication that Jezebel repents. We’re left to assume she does not. Her lack of repentance will have grave consequences regarding her fate (1 Kgs 21:25-29).

God's grace flows freely to those who exhibit heartfelt, contrite repentance, even people like Ahab. Those who stubbornly resist the word of God and continue in their rebellion, as we see time and again in the Scriptures, suffer serious, temporal consequences.

After being defeated by Ahab, Ben-Hadad is flexing his military muscle once again and has captured Ramoth-gilead, a strategically located fort at the entrance to the Valley of Jezreel, the valley that dominates Northern Israel.

Jehoshaphat of Judah makes peace with Ahab and make a questionable agreement to go to war with him to take back Ramoth-gilead. Ahab has replaced the 400 prophets killed in the encounter with Elijah, presumably from the same ungodly groups the original 400 came from. They tell Ahab he will win a great victory, exactly what he wants to hear. Jehoshaphat wisely demands to hear from a prophet of God. Ahab calls Michaiah who has been at odds with Ahab (1 Kgs 22:5-12). At first, Micaiah gives Ahab a sarcastic reply. Ahab gets the sarcasm and wants the truth (1 Kgs 22:13-16). Micaiah relates two visions to Ahab telling him his prophets are wrong, and the king will lose the battle and die. Micaiah also reveals that God is behind the false prophecy of the king's prophets, having sent a lying spirit (1 Kings 22:17-23) to deceive the king and draw him into battle (think about that one for a bit). So, even though Ahab repented previously, he hasn't really changed his ways and will now suffer the consequences of his actions. It is curious that Jehoshaphat, who seems like a godly man, is so willing to ally himself with Ahab.

Zedekiah, one of Ahab’s primary prophets accuses Micaiah of trying to co-opt the Spirit of the Lord. Keep in mind that Ahab has been practicing idol worship and has surrounded himself with men of a similar persuasion. Zedekiah's claim is that he's the true prophet and Micaiah the false one. Micaiah boldly prophesies that Zedekiah will have to hide from the enemy before it's all over (1 Kgs 22:24-28). Micaiah is willing to allow the truth to be determined by which prophet is accurate. 

Apparently, Ahab’s court is filled with self-centered, self-serving, man-honoring opportunists that oppose God and His people at every turn while acting pious. This is a reflection of their leader and king who has instilled those qualities in the ones he has appointed to positions of authority. Another irony that results from all this false piety and self-righteousness is the anger that rises up in the ungodly people whenever they hear the true word of God. They not only reject it, but they also become enraged and vengeful.

Micaiah is thrown in prison with Ahab condemning him to stay there until he returns peacefully from the battle. Micaiah warns Ahab that he will not return (1 Kgs 22:26-27). 
Jehoshaphat joins Ahab in the battle in spite Micaiah's prophecy. Ahab, perhaps taking Micaiah's prophecy seriously and exhibiting not only his doubt but a healthy dose of cowardice, disguises himself, but dies anyway, being struck by a random arrow. Jehoshaphat is protected and preserved by God (1 Kgs 22:29-34).

Ahab dies well, but his men scatter after he succumbs. All the prophecies concerning his death are fulfilled as they prepare his body and his chariot for burial. Dogs lap up his blood and prostitutes bathe in it (1 Kgs 22:35-40) while his son Ahaziah takes the throne.

Jehoshaphat returns to Jerusalem. He is a godly man and is blessed. But he had allowed his son Jehoram to marry Ahab's daughter, Athaliah (2 Kgs 8:18). This questionable decision is probably the motivation behind his alliance with Ahab. This will have consequences.

We see, in Ahab, that God is gracious but will tolerate outright rebellion for only so long before consequences occur. We must never mistake God's patience for His acceptance of ungodly behavior. His patience is always an act of grace, giving us time to repent.

In Jehoshaphat, we see that our own willingness to tolerate ungodly behavior or to compromise our godly behavior can be dangerous. Aligning ourselves too closely with ungodly people, apart from God's clear leading, can be equally as dangerous. Their influence on us can often be far greater than our influence on them. Jehoshaphat asked for a word from a prophet of God, then ignored it.

Jehoshaphat has three areas of struggle pointed out. He went to battle with Ahab in spite of Mecaiah's warning, entered into an ill-fated commercial venture with Ahaziah, an apostate (1 Kgs 22:47-49) and, later in 2 Chron, we will find out he and Jehoram embark on another ill-fated journey into Transjordan.

Jehoshaphat dies at the end of 1 Kings 22 leaving Jehoram to rule in his place.

Meanwhile, Ahaziah rules in Israel and is as evil and destructive as his father was (1 Kgs 22:51-53).

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