I’m following along in Carson’s reading plan and today the passages for reading and contemplation are: 1 Kings 20; 1 Thess. 3; Daniel 2; and Psalm 107. I thought I’d share some reflections on the Kings chapter:
Ahab, the king of Israel, was a worthless excuse for a king who brought the infamous Jezebel to Israel and in the words of the writer of kings, “Ahab the son of Omri did more evil in the sight of the Lord than all who were before him.” (1 Kings 16:30). Firstly, it takes quite a load of sin to earn such a powerful statement. Secondly, he’s the perfect example to display the glory of the God of the hills and the plains.
Ben-hadad brought up thirty two kings with him to bully old Ahab out of his money, his wives, his children, and anything that brought some form of pleasure to Ahab and his servants. Ahab then goes to the elders and agrees with them to take a stand and essentially choose death over total humiliation of standing by while they are plundered entirely. If this were the world of the atheists then the story would end here and Israel would have been wiped out by an army so superior that Israel was willing to go completely broke in order to avoid fighting them (funny how the only thing they would not give up is their pride). But this is not the world of the atheists and the God of Israel enters the scene He’s prepared to deliver the worst king in the history of Israel in order that Israel might know that the there is a God in Heaven (v. 13).
These passages were highly inspiring to me when I had just become a believer some nearly 6 years ago. I had no church to go to, no Christian friends, and no theological backing except for having read the Bible once. I decided to put the implication of chapters like this to the test. So when my atheist girlfiend at the time used to have a laugh because she’d always beat me at card games I decided to see if God would defend His glory by involving Him in the game. So I’d challenge her to challenge the God she said she didn’t believe existed to make me win, and she did. Whenever we’d do this her winning streak would immediately turn in to a losing streak and she would become highly annoyed at the ‘luck of the situation’. Now, I am far from encouraging anyone to go out there and put God to the test by getting atheists to mock Him in order to see if He really will defend His glory. I did this in great ignorance and foolishness of heart and I would not repeat this strategy for winning games again. But the fact remains unchanged: the God of the Bible doesn’t mess around when His name is at stake.
Ben-hadad’s men proclaim that the gods of Israel are only gods of the hills and thus the plain gods of the Syrians will surely bring victory to Syria if they fight int he plain. God doesn’t let such slander and comparison of Him to imaginary beings go without response and He once again declares that He will act in order that Israel might know that He alone is God (v. 28). So the tiny of camp of Israel has an astounding victory over the masses of the Syrians.
The theme of God acting for His glory in the Old Testament is rich and I believe climaxes in Ezekiel 36 where God declares that He is tired of having His name slandered by the nations because He punishes faithless Israel by sending them off to defeat or captivity. So God promises that He will wash them with water and make them clean and also give them new hearts – something Nicodemus didn’t understand when Jesus said, “unless you are born of water and Spirit you cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven” (John 3:5). The God who gave evil Ahab victory is the God who washes away our idolatry and gives us new hearts in the New Covenant – He is the God who acts for His glory. I for one am exceedingly glad that my salvation is not bound up in me but rather in God saving wretches like me in order to show His own greatness. How eager this makes me to pray on the basis of Christ’s redeeming work and also that the Lord would be shown to be glorious through the answering of prayers that are bound up in the revealed will of God through Christ. Is our God only the God of the hills? Is He not the God of all things who is just waiting to display Himself as superior and glorious in our lives?