Tuesday 15 June 2010

Bible Book:
1 Kings

"Because he has humbled himself before me." (v.29)

1 Kings 21:17-29 Tuesday 15 June 2010


It is in passages like this that the notion of retribution,rather than rehabilitation, is most difficult.

The prophet Elijah seems to be introduced as a stranger in verse17, even though he and King Ahab have already been locked inconflict at Mount Carmel (1Kings 18). Ahab later addresses him as his well-known nemesis -"Have you found me, O my enemy?" Ahab may be the king of Israel buthe knows immediately that the message Elijah brings will not begood news.

The role of the prophet in the Old Testament is to be theconscience of the king, as we see in the relationship betweenSamuel and Saul and then Nathan and David. Elijah and Ahab (withhis wife Jezebel) are in deepest conflict and Elijah announces,with what sounds angry invective, the word of the Lord that thepenalty for this sin will be severe. Both Ahab and Jezebel willmeet violent deaths with their bodies abused. Elijah announces theend of Ahab's dynasty and leaves the scene.

Ahab responds in penitence or fear - the action of penitence isusually evident in the rending of clothes, fasting and wearingsackcloth. But the response that he "went about dejectedly" is notthe composure of repentance. It is the attitude of anger at beingfound out in the face of a fear of a greater power.

There is the suggestion however that Ahab has "humbled himself" andthe astonishing thing is that Ahab repents. Quite unexpectedly, andso, Elijah brings the word of the Lord that through overwhelminggrace Yahweh (another name for God) will reverse or delay thejudgement.

But the event of 1Kings 22 suggests this was a temporary repentance and thatultimately Ahab and Jezebel die horrible deaths (2Kings 9:30-37).

This story fits into the broader narrative of the children ofIsrael in Babylonian exile. It is part of the answer to thequestion: Why are we in exile? This story of the betrayal by Ahabof the proper role and responsibility of ruling of God's people isjust part of that story. Ahab was just another king who had let thepeople down.

To Ponder

How do we match the overwhelming grace of Yahwehwith the retribution meted out in passages such as these?

The history of Israel is one of devotion followedby desertion. Reflect on your own spiritual life and pattern - howdoes it ebb and flow?

Those that have want more. How well does thatdescribe our contemporary culture? And you? What is yourresponse?

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