Monday, July 31, 2017

Family Destroyed in Disaster

30 And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord, more than all who were before him. 31 And as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, he took for his wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and went and served Baal and worshiped him. 32 He erected an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he built in Samaria. 33 And Ahab made an Asherah. Ahab did more to provoke the Lord, the God of Israel, to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him.
1 Kings 16:30-33

The history of the Northern Israel’s kingdom is full of rebellion against the Lord.  It all started with Jeroboam who was appointed as king of Israel.  Jeroboam ascended to the throne during the reign of Rehoboam, Solomon’s successor.  But instead of following the Lord, Jeroboam, out of fear, chose to lead Israel away from the Lord by breaking the second commandment.  Jeroboam erected two golden calf statues for Israel to worship (1 Kings 12:28-30).  Thus Jeroboam carved a statue to represent Yahweh.  So all Israel fell into the sin of idol worship.  Jeroboam also replaced the levitical system of priesthood by his own system (1 Kings 12:31).  Ever since Jeroboam, all kings after him followed his path of rebellion.  Ahab was no different.  Ahab was the seventh king of the northern Israel.  Ahab, the son of Omri, followed the footsteps of his father.  Omri himself was said to be someone who “did what was evil in the sight of the Lord, and did more evil than all who were before him” (1 Kings 16:25).  Ahab is even more evil than his father, for he was said to be “did evil in the sight of the Lord, more than all who were before him” (v. 30).
The Bible gives the detail of Ahab’s sin, which is not only breaking the second commandment – idol worship, but he also worshiped different gods which is breaking the first commandment, Baal and Asherah, the gods of the Sidonians.  This brings us to Ahab’s wife, Jezebel, the princess of Sidon.  If we read through the story of Ahab and Jezebel, we immediately know that Jezebel had a profound influence over Ahab.  The story of Ahab and Naboth’s vineyard was a witness to Jezebel’s powerful influence over Ahab.  Jezebel was the one who devised the plan to get rid of Naboth so Ahab could take his vineyard.  And Ahab, the king, did not do anything to prevent Jezebel from doing evil.  The story of Jezebel’s enmity toward Elijah over the slaughter of the 400 prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel was also a witness to Jezebel’s power over Ahab.  Elijah had proven that only Yahweh was real God.  But Jezebel couldn’t take that reality.  She ordered to kill Elijah.  Ahab did nothing to stop his wife.
And so, this is the summary of Ahab’s state.  Ahab disregarded the God of Israel.  He rebelled against God as he followed the footsteps of Jeroboam by breaking the second commandment.  He did more evil when he boldly broke the first commandment by bowing down to Baal and Asherah, his wife’s gods.  By doing this, Ahab was the first king in the northern kingdom of Israel that introduced the worship of other gods to the people.  Under his leadership, Israel started bowing to Baal in a massive scale.  He also allowed his wife to commit murder by devising an evil plan and supplying false witnesses in the case of Naboth.  He even allowed his wife to pursue Elijah, God’s faithful servant, in order to kill him.  Husband and wife join together in mocking the God of Israel.
In the eyes of the world, this couple might look like they are successful.  They were the king and queen of a fairly rich kingdom.  They got what they wanted, power, money, fame, you name it.  Today if we look at them with the perspective of the world, we would admire them as being smart, powerful, glorious, glamorous, and all the attributed of success.  A lot of rich and powerful families today dominate the world and we secretly desire to become like them.  But often we don’t care about how they got where they are now.  Many of them cheat their way up.  Many of them took down their business rivals in a very cunning way.  And many of them won’t acknowledge God who holds them accountable for whatever they do.  But still they are cheered and hailed as great.  And many people bow to them.  However, God sees into the hidden details of their lives.  Whereas their lives on earth might enjoy all the convenience and comfort of life, God’s judgment in the end time will be just.  The ultimate judgment will not be cancelled.
Now, Ahab was supposed to keep God’s commandments.  He was supposed to glorify God in all he did.  He chose not to.  He continued to rebel against God, even though God had sent his prophets to warn him.  God wanted him to repent.  But he refused.  Elijah’s battle with 400 prophets of Baal was supposed to persuade Ahab to repent.  But instead of repenting, his wife took over and prevented him from repenting.  Ahab listened to Jezebel more than God.  1 Kings 21:25-26 testifies:
25There was none who sold himself to do what was evil in the sight of the Lord like Ahab, whom Jezebel his wife incited. 26 He acted very abominably in going after idols, as the Amorites had done, whom the Lord cast out before the people of Israel.
So God condemned Ahab and Jezebel (1 Kings 21:17-24).  They both would die.  The dogs would lick Ahab’s blood in the place where dogs licked Naboth’s blood (fulfilled in 1 Kings 22:38), and the dogs would devour Jezebel’s body (fulfilled in 2 Kings 9:30-37).  The disaster that God brought upon Ahab’s family was massive.  Listen to 1 Kings 21:20-22:
20 Ahab said to Elijah, “Have you found me, O my enemy?” He answered, “I have found you, because you have sold yourself to do what is evil in the sight of the Lord. 21 Behold, I will bring disaster upon you. I will utterly burn you up, and will cut off from Ahab every male, bond or free, in Israel. 22 And I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah, for the anger to which you have provoked me, and because you have made Israel to sin.
This prophecy was fulfilled in 2 Kings 9 when Jehu revolted and became king in Samaria.
            The story of Ahab and Jezebel is written for all people to see.  This story of rebellion is written for all to learn not to do what they did.  This story is an example of what might happen to those who rebel against God.  Ahab was an Israelite.  He was supposed to safeguard the Law of God with all his heart.  Someone with the status as king in the house of God disobeyed God in the most obvious way.  Ahab allowed a non-believer to lead him even further away from the Lord.  Forever his name will be remembered as a bad name.
            We better watch how we live.  We better be careful with how our family live.  Do we live honoring the Lord?  Do we let worldly practice infiltrate our life?  Do we replace God with other things, like mammon, power, comfort, and so on?  When God’s warning comes to us, how would we respond?  Speaking about response, let me bring you to a very small detail in this story.
            When Elijah spoke the prophecy to Ahab that God would bring disaster to his family, Ahab responded.  Often we overlook this small detail.  But today I want us to pay attention to it.  1 Kings 21:27 records Ahab’s response:
27 And when Ahab heard those words, he tore his clothes and put sackcloth on his flesh and fasted and lay in sackcloth and went about dejectedly.
When I read this I was surprised.  I thought Ahab would just mock Elijah’s message and continued in his rebellion against God.  But he did something so different.  He did something extraordinary as a bad king.  This time he chose the way of David, who repented when Nathan rebuked him for what he did to Bathsheba and Uriah.  Ahab responded in a godly way.  He did not follow the way of his wife, Jezebel, who mocked God’s servant.  So God also did something extraordinary.  Look at the next two verses (1 Kings 21:28-29):
28 And the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, 29 “Have you seen how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself before me, I will not bring the disaster in his days; but in his son’s days I will bring the disaster upon his house.”
God is a truly merciful God.  Just one act of repentance from Ahab, and God accepted his repentance.  Ahab’s repentance was genuine.  And God decided to delay the disaster He spoke through Elijah.  And yes, the disaster God spoke was brought upon Ahab’s house after Ahab died.
            Two important things we need to learn from here.  First, God would not reject a genuine repentance.  He always accepts our genuine repentance.  That’s a relief.  And that’s God’s grace.  Repentance remains the proper response from our sins.  Remember this and practice it genuinely.  At one time or another, we will sin.  But when we do, do not harden our hearts.  The proper response is simply to repent.  David did.  Ahab did.  David was known as a man after God’s heart.  So we could say: “Yeah but that’s David.  A very good man.  For sure God will accept.”  But don’t forget, Ahab was not.  Who was Ahab?  A person known to be doing more evil than any kings before him.  Yet God also accepted his repentance.  That’s how high, wide, and deep God’s grace and mercy is.  Thus, no matter how terrible you are as a person you might think, when you repent genuinely, God will certainly accept.  This is the first important lesson we ought to learn from here.
            Second important lesson is that we ought not to think that when God accepts our repentance and thus forgives us our sins, disaster will definitely be cancelled.  No, not always.  Sometimes He did cancel it.  But often He did not cancel it.  He cancelled the disaster He planned to the Israelites in the wilderness over the golden calf incident.  But He did not cancel the disaster He spoke regarding Ahab’s house.  God too did not cancel the severe punishment He planned for David over his adultery and murder.  Disaster might still come.  In the case of Moses, God cancelled the disaster upon Israel.  In the case of David, God executed the punishment in his lifetime.  In the case of Ahab, God did not bring the disaster when Ahab was still living.  The most important thing here is to humble oneself.  True repentance is when we genuinely repent and then accept God’s decision in humility.  David accepted God’s punishment.  He did not fight God.  This is a very difficult lesson to learn.  Accepting God’s punishment is extremely difficult.  But never forget that God is merciful.  He is a compassionate God.  The disaster God devised for Ahab was great.  So when Ahab repented, God let the disaster pass over him.  When the disaster was eventually executed, Ahab was not there to suffer it.
            Brothers and sisters, I do not know what sins you have committed even as a family.  Ahab and Jezebel committed a great sin as a family.  The first family of the North Israel was supposed to represent God in all His goodness and holiness and justice and love and grace and mercy.  But Ahab and Jezebel failed miserably.  They not only provoked God to anger by following the sins of Jeroboam.  They even increased the level of the sin in Israel by bowing down to Baal and Asherah and thus led all 10 tribes of the northern kingdom astray.  For sure we should not follow their footsteps.  Not in our individual life, and definitely not in our family life.
            But if we have committed sins, be it individually, or as a family, God has also provided a way out.  He is waiting for our repentance.  Rest assured, God will accept your genuine repentance.  However, do not expect that God then must cancel His punishment.  If He does, praise the Lord.  If He doesn’t, accept His decision.  I know it is not easy to live with.  But that’s how it is.  Even though His punishment might still be executed, that doesn’t make Him a cruel God.  He is merciful, for He forgives.  Our souls won’t be destroyed in hell, for He has forgiven us through the blood of Jesus.  When we repent, our attitude should be of a humble person.  Humility should dominate.  Ahab did not ask anything more.  All he did was repenting in humility.  He let God be God in deciding his fate.
            May this lesson guide us in our life, be it individually or as family, in following our Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

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