1 Kings 20: Lessons From Ahab’s Mistakes Regarding What God Requires From You

Introduction: Ahab had seen God perform many miracles. Yet, he did nothing when his wife tried to kill Elijah. He also refused to abandon his counterfeit Baal worship. Ahab deserved to die. Yet, instead of judging him, God sent a different prophet to warn Ahab about a Syrian attack and what Ahab needed to do to survive the attack. From this account, God reveals seven lessons regarding how He wants you to respond to His mercy and grace. These lessons can be best understood by examining the things that King Ahab failed to do on a regular basis in response to God’s multiple acts of mercy and grace in his life. He failed to respond with: (1) dependence, (2) faith, (3) gratitude, (4) submission, (5) repentance, (6) sanctification, and (7) obedience.

First, Northern Israel had turned from God by creating their own religion and by building up a strong army. To force the Jews to depend upon Him, God first weakened Northern Israel with a three-year drought. Yet, the Jews did not repent. He then performed miracles through Elijah at Mount Carmel. Yet, the Jews again did not repent. God then sent a strong army under a Syrian king named King Ben-hadad, who demanded that the Jews surrender. God again wanted the Jews to turn to Him. Like the Jews of Northern Israel, God reveals that He desires that you turn to Him and depend upon Him and not yourself. Second, Ahab had embraced idolatry, he killed God’s prophets, and he allowed his queen to threaten to kill Elijah. Yet, God sent a prophet to offer to protect Ahab if he obeyed. Just as God showed Ahab mercy and grace, He shows you mercy and grace to build up your faith. Third, after Ahab did as the prophet told him to do, God showed that He was faithful to keep His promises by defeating the Syrian armies. Just as God was faithful to keep His promises to Ahab, He is faithful to keep His promises to you as well. In return, God wants you to show your appreciation by being thankful and praising Him. Fourth, also out of mercy and grace, God’s prophet then warned the Jews about the Syrian’s plans for a second attack in a new location. When you place your trust in Him, God will also protect you. Fifth, the Syrians believed that God only had power in the mountains, not in the valleys. God defeated the Syrians to demonstrate that He is sovereign over all kings and nations. He wanted both the Jews and the Syrians to repent of their evil ways. If you profess that God is sovereign over your life, He wants you to repent of your sins and turn back to Him. Sixth, after God’s victory, Ahab disobeyed God by forming a covenant with the Syrian king. From Ahab’s mistake, God reveals that He requires that you remain separate from the unclean things of the world and holy like Him. Finally, because Ahab repeatedly rejected and disobeyed God, God sent a prophet to judge him. From Ahab’s mistake, God reveals that He demands that you have a faith that produces the fruit of obedience.

1. Dependence: God Desires that You Depend Upon Him and Not Yourself. 1 Kgs. 20:1-12.

  • Under King Ben-hadad’s command, 32 kings demanded that Northern Israel surrender. After Northern Israel was weakened by a three-year drought, King Ben-hadad and 32 kings under his command from Syria demanded that King Ahab surrender his kingdom, his people, and his wealth to the Syrian armies: “1 Now Ben-hadad king of Aram gathered all his army, and there were thirty-two kings with him, and horses and chariots. And he went up and besieged Samaria and fought against it. Then he sent messengers to the city to Ahab king of Israel and said to him, ‘Thus says Ben-hadad, ‘Your silver and your gold are mine; your most beautiful wives and children are also mine.’’ The king of Israel replied, ‘It is according to your word, my lord, O king; I am yours, and all that I have.’ Then the messengers returned and said, ‘Thus says Ben-hadad, ‘Surely, I sent to you saying, ‘You shall give me your silver and your gold and your wives and your children,’ but about this time tomorrow I will send my servants to you, and they will search your house and the houses of your servants; and whatever is desirable in your eyes, they will take in their hand and carry away.’’ Then the king of Israel called all the elders of the land and said, ‘Please observe and see how this man is looking for trouble; for he sent to me for my wives and my children and my silver and my gold, and I did not refuse him.’ All the elders and all the people said to him, ‘Do not listen or consent.’ So he said to the messengers of Ben-hadad, ‘Tell my lord the king, ‘All that you sent for to your servant at the first I will do, but this thing I cannot do.’’ And the messengers departed and brought him word again. 10 Ben-hadad sent to him and said, ‘May the gods do so to me and more also, if the dust of Samaria will suffice for handfuls for all the people who follow me.’ 11 Then the king of Israel replied, ‘Tell him, ‘Let not him who girds on his armor boast like him who takes it off.’’ 12 When Ben-hadad heard this message, as he was drinking with the kings in the temporary shelters, he said to his servants, ‘Station yourselves.’ So they stationed themselves against the city.” (1 Kgs. 20:1-12). Historians have confirmed that three Aramean kings from modern day Syria had the name Ben-hadad. One ruled between 885 and 860 B.C., a second ruled between 860 and 842 B.C., and third started ruling around 802 B.C and finished on an unknown date. The 32 kings were likely the heads of clans or tribes who swore allegiance to the Syrian king. Ben-hadad demanded that Ahab submit to his rule over the 10 tribes of Northern Israel. The terms included a complete surrender. All of Northern Israel’s wealth and its people would belong to him. Ahab did not turn to God. Instead, he was willing to give up the people’s wealth and their lands merely to save his own life. Yet, even after agreeing to his request, Ben-hadad decided that he would send his servants to seize anything and any people they wanted in the kingdom. This would include allowing Ben-hadad to plunder anything of value in Ahab’s palace. Ahab again did not turn to God. Instead, he turned to the elders of Northern Israel. He did not want to depart with his treasures and his wives. It was the elders who counseled Ahab to resist the Syrian invaders. Out of arrogance, Ben-hadad then promised to turn all of Samaria (the capital of Northern Israel) into dust if the Jews did not comply with his demands (1 Kgs. 20:10). Ahab rebuked him for boasting before the battle had begun (1 Kgs. 20:11). Again out of arrogance, Ben-hadad got drunk before the battle had even begun (1 Kgs. 20:11). He then sent his forces out to destroy the Jews. Although we do not know exact numbers, it is understood that Ben-hadad’s Syrian troops far outnumbered the Jews. There was simply no way that the Jews could prevail if they tried to fight without God. God wanted the Jews to turn to Him so that He could deliver them from their attackers.

King Ben-hadad’s army surrounds King Ahab at Samaria1

  • God wants you to depend upon Him to deliver you when you are under attack. Moses told God’s people never to forget that God was their true deliverer. Because God was their deliverer, they could depend upon Him when they cried out to Him: “Moses said to the people, ‘Remember this day in which you went out from Egypt, from the house of slavery; for by a powerful hand the LORD brought you out from this place. And nothing leavened shall be eaten.”’ (Ex. 13:3). “And it shall serve as a sign to you on your hand, and as a reminder on your forehead, that the law of the LORD may be in your mouth; for with a powerful hand the LORD brought you out of Egypt.” (Ex. 13:9). God later affirmed this because the people were prone to forget. “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” (Ex. 20:2). “Indeed, I brought you up from the land of Egypt and ransomed you from the house of slavery, and I sent before you Moses, Aaron and Miriam.” (Micah 6:4). “Therefore You delivered them into the hand of their oppressors who oppressed them, but when they cried to You in the time of their distress, You heard from heaven, and according to Your great compassion You gave them deliverers who delivered them from the hand of their oppressors.” (Neh. 9:27; Acts 13:30). When you are under attack, do you give up like Ahab? Or, do you turn to God and cry out for His deliverance?

2. Faith: God Shows You His Mercy and Grace to Grow Your Faith. 1 Kgs. 20:13-15.

  • Out of mercy and grace, God’s prophet offered Ahab God’s protection if he obeyed. Even though Ahab had embraced idolatry, killed God’s prophets, and allowed his queen to threaten to kill Elijah, God sent a prophet to offer to protect Ahab if he obeyed God’s command: “13 Now behold, a prophet approached Ahab king of Israel and said, ‘Thus says the Lord, ‘Have you seen all this great multitude? Behold, I will deliver them into your hand today, and you shall know that I am the Lord.’’ 14 Ahab said, ‘By whom?’ So he said, ‘Thus says the Lord, ‘By the young men of the rulers of the provinces.’’ Then he said, ‘Who shall begin the battle?’ And he answered, ‘You.’ 15 Then he mustered the young men of the rulers of the provinces, and there were 232; and after them he mustered all the people, even all the sons of Israel, 7,000.” (1 Kgs. 20:13-15). God’s battle plan required that Ahab obey in faith and allow God to receive all the glory. God told him to send “the young men of the rulers of the provinces” to lead the battle (1 Kgs. 20:14). He also limited the army to merely 7,000 soldiers, the same number who refused to bow before Baal (1 Kgs. 19:18). This would have likely seemed foolish to Ahab and his military commanders. They would have wanted to have their most experienced men lead the battle. And they would have wanted to send every soldier available. Yet, if God allowed this to happen, they would have given themselves credit for God’s victory. God promised “I will deliver them into your hand today.” (1 Kgs. 20:13.) These were the same words that God gave to assure His people before He fought for them in prior battles (Josh. 6:2, 16; 8:1, 18; Jdgs. 7:2; 18:10; 1 Sam. 23:4; 24:4). Ahab did nothing to deserve God’s help. Instead, God acted out of mercy and grace to help His people.

Place your trust in God along for your deliverance2

  • When you trust in God and do His will, you have no reason to fear your enemies. Unlike Ahab, David never feared his enemies because God was his rock: “I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people who have set themselves against me round about.” (Ps. 3:6). “Though a host encamp against me, my heart will not fear; though war arise against me, in spite of this I shall be confident.” (Ps. 27:3). When Goliath approached David, David charged at him without fear: “Then it happened when the Philistine rose and came and drew near to meet David, that David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine.” (1 Sam. 17:48). If you are walking in faith in Jesus, you have no reason to fear your enemies. “And has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of David His servant—” (Lk. 1:69). If you fear any enemy, give that fear to Jesus.

  • Be faithful because God is faithful to you. In response to God’s faithfulness, He wants you to be faithful as well. “for we walk by faith, not by sight—” (2 Cor. 5:7). “A faithful man will abound with blessings, . . .” (Prov. 28:20(a)). “But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.” (1 Tim. 1:5). “but holding to the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience.” (1 Tim. 3:9). Have you stayed faithful in your walk with Jesus in both good and bad times?

3. Gratitude: When God Protects You, Praise Him and Thank Him. 1 Kgs. 20:16-21.

  • God demonstrated His faithfulness by defeating Ben-hadad’s armies. After promising to defeat the Syrian armies, God then showed His faithfulness by keeping His Word: “16 They went out at noon, while Ben-hadad was drinking himself drunk in the temporary shelters with the thirty-two kings who helped him. 17 The young men of the rulers of the provinces went out first; and Ben-hadad sent out and they told him, saying, “Men have come out from Samaria.” 18 Then he said, “If they have come out for peace, take them alive; or if they have come out for war, take them alive.” 19 So these went out from the city, the young men of the rulers of the provinces, and the army which followed them. 20 They killed each his man; and the Arameans fled and Israel pursued them, and Ben-hadad king of Aram escaped on a horse with horsemen. 21 The king of Israel went out and struck the horses and chariots, and killed the Arameans with a great slaughter.” (1 Kgs. 20:16-21). In his arrogance, Ben-hadad got drunk in the middle of the day before the battle began. Either with the aid of spies or the direction of the Holy Spirit, the 7,000 Jews attacked when Ben-hadad was distracted. Also out of arrogance, Ben-hadad demanded that his soldiers take the Jews alive to make slaves out of them (1 Kgs. 20:18). Yet, despite their advantage on the battlefield, God caused most of the Syrian soldiers to die in the battle. Those who remained fled in a panic (1 Kgs. 20:20-21). Yet, the Jews who prevailed did nothing to thank or praise God for His mercy and grace.

God defeated Ben-hadad’s armies3

  • Thank God in songs and prayers for your deliverance as well. Unlike Ahab who failed to thank God, many of David’s psalms or Solomon’s proverbs contain tributes to God for His deliverance: “A Psalm; a Song at the Dedication of the House. A Psalm of David. I will extol You, O LORD, for You have lifted me up, and have not let my enemies rejoice over me.” (Ps. 30:1). “A Psalm of David. The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the defense of my life; whom shall I dread?” (Ps. 27:1). “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” (Ps. 23:4). “My lovingkindness and my fortress, My stronghold and my deliverer, My shield and He in whom I take refuge, Who subdues my people under me.” (Ps. 144:2). “But You, O LORD, are a shield about me, My glory, and the One who lifts my head.” (Ps. 3:3). “On God my salvation and my glory rest; the rock of my strength, my refuge is in God.” (Ps. 62:7). “The LORD also will be a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble;” (Ps. 9:9). “The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous runs into it and is safe.” (Prov. 18:10). If you feel under attack, give thanks for God’s deliverance.

  • Give thanks for Jesus’ mercy and grace. You should also thank Jesus for every other blessing in your life: “. . . To you I shall offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and call upon the name of the Lord, I shall pay my vows to the Lord.” (Ps. 116:1, 17-18). “ . . . I will render thank offerings to You. For you have delivered my soul from death.” (Ps. 56:12-13; 116:8). “. . .Let them also offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, and tell of His works with joyful singing.” (Ps. 107:1, 2, 22). “in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thess. 5:18). “always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father;” (Eph. 5:20). No one deserved to have Jesus die on the cross for them. Have you given thanks for Jesus’ mercy and grace?

4. Submit: God Will Protect You When You Submit to Him in Faith. 1 Kgs. 20:22-25.

  • Out of mercy and grace, God warned Ahab about the Syrian’s plans for a second attack. Because the Syrians believed that Yahweh only had power in the mountains and not in the plains, God’s prophet warned the Jews when the Syrians planned for a second attack. God again promised to protect King Ahab if he obeyed: “22 Then the prophet came near to the king of Israel and said to him, ‘Go, strengthen yourself and observe and see what you have to do; for at the turn of the year the king of Aram will come up against you.’ 23 Now the servants of the king of Aram said to him, ‘Their gods are gods of the mountains, therefore they were stronger than we; but rather let us fight against them in the plain, and surely we will be stronger than they. 24 Do this thing: remove the kings, each from his place, and put captains in their place, 25 and muster an army like the army that you have lost, horse for horse, and chariot for chariot. Then we will fight against them in the plain, and surely we will be stronger than they.’ And he listened to their voice and did so.” (1 Kgs. 20:22-25). God’s prophet again showed that he spoke on God’s behalf by identifying when and where the Syrians would attack next. They would attack “at the turn of the year” or the spring (1 Kgs. 20:22) in the plains (1 Kgs. 20:25). The Syrians had seen God’s might defeat their overwhelming forces. Yet, they tried to rationalize their defeat by believing that God’s power was limited to the mountains. This was how they believed their gods worked. Their gods had limited power in a specific area. Thus, they believed that Yahweh would not protect the Jews if they attacked in the plains. The Jews had done nothing to deserve God’s protection. God instead acted to demonstrate that He is sovereign over the Earth (2 Kgs. 19:16-19) and that His power is not limited to any time or space (Ps. 90:2; 139:7-12). All the Jews needed to do to prevail was to submit in faith to His instructions. They had to raise a new army of the same size and strength as before. God again did not want the Jews to assume that they were responsible by building a large army. Although Ahab was a sinner who repeatedly turned against God, at this time “he listened to their voice and did so.” (1 Kgs. 20:25).

  • Submit to God, and the devil will flee from you. Ahab temporarily submitted to God, and the devil’s armies fled. The Apostle James also admonished: “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” (Jam. 4:7). Jesus wants the Church to submit to Him the way He submitted to God the Father: “But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.” (Eph. 5:24). God does not want you to engage with the devil. Instead, He has given you the power to resist Satan and drive him away by rebuking him in faith in Jesus’ name. Jesus’ name is so powerful that the mere use of His name by the archangel Michael was able to drive Satan away: “But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!”’ (Jude 1:9). “The seventy returned with joy, saying, ‘Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name.”’ (Lk. 10:17). “These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues;” (Mk. 16:17). Have you rebuked Satan’s attacks in Jesus’ name?

5. Repentance: If God is Sovereign in Your Life Repent and Turn to Him. 1 Kgs. 20:26-30.

  • God again protected Ahab to bring him to repentance. God protected King Ahab not because he deserved protection. Instead, He did so to demonstrate His sovereignty over all nations and kings and to give him yet another opportunity to repent: “26 At the turn of the year, Ben-hadad mustered the Arameans and went up to Aphek to fight against Israel. 27 The sons of Israel were mustered and were provisioned and went to meet them; and the sons of Israel camped before them like two little flocks of goats, but the Arameans filled the country. 28 Then a man of God came near and spoke to the king of Israel and said, ‘Thus says the Lord, ‘Because the Arameans have said, ‘The Lord is a god of the mountains, but He is not a god of the valleys,’ therefore I will give all this great multitude into your hand, and you shall know that I am the Lord.’’ 29 So they camped one over against the other seven days. And on the seventh day the battle was joined, and the sons of Israel killed of the Arameans 100,000 foot soldiers in one day. 30 But the rest fled to Aphek into the city, and the wall fell on 27,000 men who were left. And Ben-hadad fled and came into the city into an inner chamber.” (1 Kgs. 20:26-30). Just as God’s prophet predicted in advance, Ben-hadad assembled his Syrian forces “at the turn of the year” (1 Kgs. 20:26) or Spring to fight Northern Israel in the plains at a place called Aphek. Aphek means “fortress.” Many believe that this place was a few miles east of the Sea of Galilee. As before, the Syrians had an overwhelming advantage with more than 127,000 soldiers against 7,000 Jews. By comparison, the Jews looked like “two little flocks of goats.” (1 Kgs. 20:27). God’s prophet made clear that God would grant the Jews the victory to demonstrate His sovereignty and power over all (1 Kgs. 20:28). On the seventh day of battle, God killed 100,000 Syrians. He then killed 27,000 who fled. Ahab had now experienced God’s direct and mighty power at Mount Carmel and with the first battle against Ben-hadad. Ahab did not need or deserve this third demonstration of God’s power. But God did so again this third time to give Ahab every possible chance to repent. When God would finally judge Ahab, Ahab would have no excuse.

  • Respond to God’s mercy and grace by repenting of your sins. The people who met Jesus were excited to see Him perform miracles. Yet, Jesus called upon the people to first repent and return to Him before they would experience His mercy and grace: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matt. 3:2; 4:17; Mk. 1:15). “Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord;” (Acts 3:19). Although David frequently sinned, he showed himself to be a man after God’s own heart by repenting when confronted with his sins. For example, he would later repent when the prophet Nathan confronted him regarding his adultery and murder: “Then David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the LORD.’ And Nathan said to David, ‘The LORD also has taken away your sin; you shall not die.”’ (2 Sam. 12:13). He also acknowledged his sins in his psalms for the entire country to sing: “I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I did not hide . . .” (Ps. 32:5). “For the choir director. A Psalm of David, when Nathan the prophet came to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba. Be gracious to me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; according to the greatness of Your compassion blot out my transgressions.” (Ps. 51:1). Ahab and David were both sinners in God’s eyes. What made David different was his willingness to come back to God when he sinned.

  • If you confess your sins, Jesus will forgive you. During Old Testament times, when a believer became aware of their sins, the believer was required to make a “guilt” offering (Lev. 5:5). This was either a female lamb or a female goat (Lev. 5:6). If the person was poor, the sinner could offer two turtledoves or two young pigeons. (Lev. 5:7-10). If the person was extremely poor, the sinner could offer “the tenth of an ephah of fine flour.” (Lev. 5:11-13). Today, you do not need to make a physical sacrifice to be forgiven. Jesus did that for you on the cross (1 Jo 2:2). He further promises to forgive you if you will confess your sins: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 Jo. 1:9). Will you confess you sins when the Holy Spirit reveals them to you?

6. Sanctification: God Requires That You Remain Holy Like Him. 1 Kgs. 20:31-34.

  • Against God’s command, Ahab formed a covenant of peace with Ben-hadad. After delivering Ahab from the pagan Syrian army, Ahab violated God’s commands to him by forming a covenant with the Syrian king: “31 His servants said to him, ‘Behold now, we have heard that the kings of the house of Israel are merciful kings, please let us put sackcloth on our loins and ropes on our heads, and go out to the king of Israel; perhaps he will save your life.’ 32 So they girded sackcloth on their loins and put ropes on their heads, and came to the king of Israel and said, ‘Your servant Ben-hadad says, ‘Please let me live.’’ And he said, ‘Is he still alive? He is my brother.’ 33 Now the men took this as an omen, and quickly catching his word said, ‘Your brother Ben-hadad.’ Then he said, ‘Go, bring him.’ Then Ben-hadad came out to him, and he took him up into the chariot. 34 Ben-hadad said to him, ‘The cities which my father took from your father I will restore, and you shall make streets for yourself in Damascus, as my father made in Samaria.’ Ahab said, ‘And I will let you go with this covenant.’ So he made a covenant with him and let him go.” (1 Kgs. 20:31-34). The leaders serving under Ben-hadad dressed in sackcloth and appealed for mercy to Ahab. They further professed to be his servant (1 Kgs. 20:31-32). King Ahab responded by calling Ben-hadad his “brother” (1 Kgs. 20:32). But they were neither related by lineage nor by any common faith in Yahweh. Their only common belief was in the pagan god Baal. Ben-hadad’s servants seized upon this statement to present Ben-hadad and press for a covenant between the nations. In exchange for a covenant, Ben-hadad promised to restore lands that his father took from Northern Israel and to give the Jews lucrative trading opportunities in Damascus (1 Kgs. 20:34). Ahab did not consult with Yahweh or with His prophets at this important moment. He agreed to the covenant for political reasons. Although not stated here, Shalmaneser III, the king of Assyria (859-824 B.C.), was building his own empire in a different part of Syria. He was pressing toward the Mediterranean and would soon pose a threat to another part of the border between Northern Israel and Lebanon. Ahab did not trust Yahweh to intervene for him again. Instead, he believed that Ben-hadad would serve as a useful buffer to keep Shalmaneser III distracted and unable to invade Israel.

Ahab formed a covenant with Ben-hadad because he did not trust God4

  • Be pure and holy because God is pure and holy. Unlike Ahab, you should be sanctified and set apart from the evil things of the world for Christ’s use: “Speak to all the congregation of the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.’” (Lev. 19:2; Ex. 22:31; 1 Pet. 1:16; Ep. 1:4; Matt. 5:48). You can keep yourself pure by making yourself a living sacrifice for Him: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship.” (Ro. 12:1). As a living sacrifice, you should have no fellowship with people who might pull you off your walk. “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals.”’ (1 Cor. 15:33). “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?” (2 Cor. 6:14). Like Ahab, are you joined together with ungodly people? If so, they may pull you off your walk.

7. Obedience: God Demands Your Obedience to His Word and His Will. 1 Kgs. 20:35-43.

  • God judged Ahab for refusing to follow His command to kill Ben-hadad. Because King Ahab violated God’s command to keep himself separate from pagan alliances, God’s prophet warned Ahab that God would punish him. Ahab, however, did not repent or break off his covenant: “35 Now a certain man of the sons of the prophets said to another by the word of the Lord, ‘Please strike me.’ But the man refused to strike him. 36 Then he said to him, ‘Because you have not listened to the voice of the Lord, behold, as soon as you have departed from me, a lion will kill you.’ And as soon as he had departed from him a lion found him and killed him. 37 Then he found another man and said, ‘Please strike me.’ And the man struck him, wounding him. 38 So the prophet departed and waited for the king by the way, and disguised himself with a bandage over his eyes. 39 As the king passed by, he cried to the king and said, ‘Your servant went out into the midst of the battle; and behold, a man turned aside and brought a man to me and said, ‘Guard this man; if for any reason he is missing, then your life shall be for his life, or else you shall pay a talent of silver.’ 40 While your servant was busy here and there, he was gone.’ And the king of Israel said to him, ‘So shall your judgment be; you yourself have decided it.’ 41 Then he hastily took the bandage away from his eyes, and the king of Israel recognized him that he was of the prophets. 42 He said to him, ‘Thus says the Lord, ‘Because you have let go out of your hand the man whom I had devoted to destruction, therefore your life shall go for his life, and your people for his people.’’ 43 So the king of Israel went to his house sullen and vexed, and came to Samaria.” (1 Kgs. 20:35-43). Ahab had repeatedly demonstrated that he was spiritually blind. No matter how many times God intervened, he could not bring himself to trust God, who could not be seen or touched through idols. Thus, to help him understand the nature of his sins, the prophet used a parable. Nathan used a similar method to convict David of his sins (2 Sam. 12:1-12). In this parable, the ordinary soldiers lost an important prisoner in the war. He was under a threat of death or the payment of a “talent of silver” (approximately 125 pounds) if he lost the prisoner (1 Kgs. 20:39). The silver symbolized redemption. Ahab rejected redemption and instead imposed a death sentence upon the soldier. God defeated Ben-hadad, and God wanted to judge him with death (Dt. 7:2; 20:16). In many ways, Ahab acted like king Saul when he disobeyed God and refused to kill the king of the Amalekites after Samuel told him to do so (1 Sam 15:8-33). Like Saul, Ahab did nothing to repent. He also did not break his treaty. He was simply sad to hear his punishment (1 Kgs. 20:43). For his disobedience, God judged him.

God’s prophet declares His judgment against King Ahab5

  • Although God is slow to anger and quick to forgive, He will eventually judge sin. God repeatedly delayed judgment upon Ahab to show that He is slow to anger and quick to forgive: “Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, . . .”’ (Ex. 34:6-7). “But You, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness and truth.” (Ps. 86:15; 103:8; 116:5). Jesus never changes (Heb. 13:8). He is slow to anger and quick to forgive because He wants all to come to repentance: “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” (2 Pet. 3:9). “Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” (Ro. 2:4). Yet, because God is just, He must eventually judge sin. Ahab showed that he would not repent no matter how many chances that God gave him. Even when he was judged, God delayed the actual judgment. Yet, despite witnessing God’s power repeatedly, Ahab again did not repent.

  • If you love Jesus, you will want to obey Him. Ahab failed to obey because he had no faith and did not trust God. Jesus says that, if you love Him, you will keep His commandments: “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (Jo. 14:15, 21; 15:10; 1 Jo. 5:3; 2 Jo. 1:6). Whether you are obedient out of love and not obligation is also a test for whether you really know God: “By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.” (1 Jo. 2:3). “Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but what matters is the keeping of the commandments of God.” (1 Cor. 7:19). Is your faith evidenced through your obedience?

  • God desires obedience over sacrifice. When Samuel rebuked Saul, God revealed that He also cares more for your obedience than your acts of piety: “Samuel said, ‘Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.” (1 Sam. 15:22). “So Saul died for his trespass which he committed against the LORD, because of the word of the LORD which he did not keep; and also because he asked counsel of a medium, making inquiry of it,” (1 Ch. 10:13).

  • Jesus is not your Lord if you refuse to do what He says. A believer may proclaim Jesus as Lord. Yet, Jesus is not your Lord if you disobey Him: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.” (Matt. 7:21). “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Lk. 6:46). “But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves.” (Jam. 1:22). “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock.” (Matt. 7:24). “Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.” (Matt. 7:26). If you call Jesus your Lord, is there any area of your life where you are refusing to obey Him?