1 Kings 20:1–21:29
Samaria, the capital of Israel, was surrounded by the forces of Syria, horses and chariots, AND thirty-two other kings were with them.
King Ahab was willing to surrender his silver and gold, loveliest wives and children to the king of Syria, but when Ben Hadad demanded the freedom to search and take anything their hearts desired, Ahab brought it to the elders of Israel who counseled the king to resist. The king of Syria then threatened to reduce Samaria to dust.
At this point a prophet is sent to King Ahab:
1 Kings 20:13 (NKJV) “Suddenly a prophet approached Ahab king of Israel, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD: Have you seen all this great multitude? Behold, I will deliver it into your hand today, and you shall know that I am the LORD.’”
Sure enough, the LORD defeated Syria and all her friends and forces! If only Ahab would have opened his heart to see and surrender his life to the LORD, that was God’s heart, His intention and reason for the victory.
Round 1 goes to Israel.
As a quick side-note, I thought it was interesting to read the words of the prophet who counseled Ahab to strengthen himself because the king of Syria would attack again in the spring. Have you ever noticed that some days in our lives are tougher than others? Satan attacks in certain seasons. It’s wise to prepare ourselves in peaceful times, because the enemy will come against us again.
The bell then rings, for round 2.
The King of Syria assumes that the only reason Israel was able to defeat Israel was because their God was the God of the hills and not the plains or valleys. So he takes the battle there – and again, God sends His prophet to Israel.
1 Kings 20:28 (NKJV) “Then a man of God came and spoke to the king of Israel, and said, ‘Thus says the LORD: Because the Syrians have said, The LORD is God of the hills, but He is not God of the valleys, therefore I will deliver all this great multitude into your hand, and you shall know that I am the LORD.’”
And sure enough, God graciously gives Israel the victory over Syria. The LORD was proving Himself to Ahab, to Israel, and even to Syria. He’s also proving Himself to us. God is the God of the mountain-top experiences, He’s the God of the valleys in life, He’s there with us in the deepest darkest times. He’s also the God of the plains, when life seems pretty normal, pretty “plain.” Let make sure we don’t do the same thing that Ahab did, miss and dismiss all the LORD does to show Himself to us.
King Ahab was a foolish king; he let the enemy of the nation he was appointed to protect, get away. The prophet let King Ahab know he would die as a result, so King Ahab was sullen. He was also sullen (he sulked, was depressed and moody) because he couldn’t get a vineyard adjacent to the palace that he wanted to make into a vegetable garden. In steps Jezebel, his wife who has the owner Naboth, murdered and allows Ahab to acqiure his vineyard.
The prophet Elijah is then sent to Ahab to pronounce judgment for what he’s done. Not just death, but he and Jezebel would be eaten by dogs. A couple of things stand out:
1 Kings 21:20 ((NKJV) “So Ahab said to Elijah, “Have you found me, O my enemy?” And he answered, “I have found you, because you have sold yourself to do evil in the sight of the LORD.”
Ahab sold himself to do evil.
1 Kings 21:25 (NKJV) “But there was no one like Ahab who sold himself to do wickedness in the sight of the LORD, because Jezebel his wife stirred him up.”
What a difference an ungodly spouse can make. Ahab was weak and therefore wicked. Maybe he though he could turn a blind eye to all his wife was doing, but as a husband, he was responsible for his family.
His attempt at remorse, however, was seen by God and delayed the judgment.
Herod tried to stop the work of God. He even thought of himself AS a god, but Herod died, and the Word of God lived on, it continued to grow and multiply.
Barnabas and Saul took benevolence to the church in Jerusalem, and while they were there, they brought to Antioch a young man named John-Mark (he was the nephew of Barnabas).
What a beautiful work God was doing in the church at Antioch – they were rich in the Word with many prophets and teachers. They sought the Lord and served the Lord, even with fasting. And then the day came when the Holy Spirit made it clear that He had a mission for Barnabas and Saul. The church laid hands on them, fasted and prayed some more, and being sent out by the Holy Spirit, the 1st Missionary Journey was born! Antioch would become a launching pad.
Sandy Adams said, “The Lord picked, the church prayed, and Paul and Barnabas parted.” The church had finally come to the point where they were convinced that Gentiles could be saved, this is now a deliberate attempt to reach them.
They traveled to the island of Cyprus, which was the homeland of Barnabas, where they preached the Word, experienced opposition, discerned and dispelled demons, and God did a great work. Saul stepped it up and God raised him up. Just as Saul was blinded when he was saved, so he did to Elymas the sorcerer. It would give him time to think.
It didn’t take long for Saul to be established as the leader, and Barnabas had no problem with it whatsoever. Did you notice the subtle transition of the Holy Spirit in writing the book of Acts? What used to be Barnabas and Saul, is now Paul and his party.
We’re not 100% sure why Mark went home at this point, he may have been disgruntled at the “change” in leadership, but most say he got scared. It was a dangerous journey they were taking. This would later be a point of great contention between Paul and Barnabas.
Imagine being taken away to a foreign land, there in captivity because of your sin. It’s understandable that Israel wept, that they missed Zion (Jerusalem), but they should have also wept over their sins.
The Babylonians asked the Jews to sing one of their Psalms, they were known for their joyful hymns…but how could they…while captive, in a foreign land?
I get mixed emotions on this. Some point to the fact that Paul and Silas were able to sing praises at midnight, but keep in mind, they were imprisoned for doing right. It’s much more challenging to praise God when we’ve done wrong and we’re suffering the consequences.
Psalms 137:4 (NKJV) “How shall we sing the LORD’s song in a foreign land?”
If we ever find ourselves there, “in a foreign land,” due to our sin, let us begin with songs of repentance.
It’s of utmost importance that the Jews never lost that heart for Jerusalem.
Psalms 137:5-6 (NKJV) “If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill! If I do not remember you, let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth—if I do not exalt Jerusalem above my chief joy.”
Jerusalem is God promise to His people, both now and forever. May we never forget His promise of the city we all, as God’s people, will one day inhabit.
The Jews knew the prophecy, that Babylon would be defeated. Their imprecatory prayers, however, are without the full counsel of God (Matthew 5:44).
Proverbs 17:16 (NKJV) “Why is there in the hand of a fool the purchase price of wisdom, since he has no heart for it?”
What does it take to be a wise?
A heart for God (Proverbs 23:26) – we need to completely put our hearts into it. But if we’re not willing to give God our hearts – all of it – every area of my life – we need to know that that type of window shopping, doesn’t get us the goods, the wisdom we need.
Why do you bother with the “price,” if you’re not willing to pay?
If you have any questions or comments on today’s reading, or you’d like to share something the Lord showed you, feel free to leave a reply below. I’d love to hear from you as we grow forward in 2021.