Here in 1 Kings 20, you’re reminded of the need to obey God’s powerful voice – learning from the mistakes of others.
Last time I made the point that you are to hear God’s powerful voice. I said that God has spoken to you – to all of us. In various ways, at various times, God has spoken to you.
- His silent voice, convicting you that he’s real and holds you accountable.
- His silent voice, calling you to himself.
- Sometimes not so silent, either. Every time the Bible is read you’re hearing God’s own voice.
Listen to the God of your future (1-22)
We’re going to make our way through the whole chapter, starting here with 1 Kings 20:1-22.
The first 6 verses set the situation up for us.
- King Ben-hadad of neighbouring Aram had got 32 kings together and were coming up against Samaria.
- Samaria was a the capital city of northern Israel, the place where King Ahab was.
- Ben-hadad was going to ransack Samaria and take away riches, women, and children.
In verses 7-12 King Ahab sends Ben-hadad’s messengers away with a bit of bravado, but no strength really. Ben-hadad got his army ready for attack. We then get the first of 4 words from God to Ahab in the chapter! Read 1 Kings 20:13.
That’s a prediction prophecy. Lots of Old Testament prophecy is actually a reminder of what God has already said, but some is genuine prediction of the future.
I used to run teams predicting customer activity in the future. It’s complicated, and you’re always wrong. You just have to be not too wrong. People who gamble or invest in stocks & shares are all making future predictions – all hoping to be right more than wrong. People write horoscopes vague enough to be mostly right.
Why is everyone wrong? Because no-one knows the future. But in Isaiah 44, God highlights how different he is from idols and false gods: “I am the First and the Last” – and only he knows the future.
Only God knows the future
And, sure enough, in Isaiah 7, 9, 25, 53, and others we get predictions. Of a messiah to come, born of a virgin, God with Us, who will die for his people and conquer death itself! When God makes predictions, they happen. He is the First and the Last; he knows your future. Every moment of it.
In 1 Kings 20:16-21, Ahab has an unlikely victory over Ben-hadad. You wouldn’t have got good odds on it at Betfair. And yet, because God said it would happen, it was a certainty. The future God predicts is as certain as history. Let that sink in.
The victory Jesus won – over Satan, temptation, sin, even death – was all so unlikely. Yet that was God’s plan from the beginning. He said he would do it and he did.
So then read 1 Kings 20:22. Ben-hadad would return. And he did (as we’ll see).
So when God tells you that Jesus will return to the earth, it’s as certain as history. You might be ok with the Bethlehem stable, or even the Jerusalem cross. But you need to know that Jesus is in heaven. And one day he will return. God has said so. That future – your future – is as certain and as clear to God as your past. He will appear in the twinkling of an eye. Every eye will see him, every knee will bend.
The message to Ahab was “Be ready.” Same for you.
The earth is the LORD’s (23-25)
Let’s take a brief look at what brought Ben-hadad back. Read 1 Kings 20:23-25.
See what they thought about God? That God is somehow a localised, specialist god, like theirs? Could God really be a god of the hills but not of the valleys?
- The way some Christians talk, you get the impression that God is a God of good days but not bad (or even bad days but not good).
- You might think that God is somehow our creator, but he’s too distant and remote to be interested in you (he’s a god of mountains, not valleys)
- Or maybe you think God does care about you, but you’re so self-absorbed you don’t think about his care for others?
- Do you think God cares for the souls of humanity, but not their stomachs?
- The earth is the LORD’s and everything in it; the world and all its people belong to him (Psalm 24:1).
Or maybe you hear all this stuff and you prefer to stay a little aloof. You know there’s a God, but somehow he’s the God of other people, not the God of you?
- You might even feel that God is for better people than you
- Are you too old, too bad, too damaged for God to be any help? Christ came for you. He brings you hope, life, healing, peace.
If we think God is somehow limited in his power, or in the scope of his power, we stop asking him. We don’t believe he can actually do things.
- “We’re so short of young adults and families, we’ll never see growth in this church. We’re past it.” As if church growth is something God can’t do.
- So you stop praying for it. You give up on God.
- When you should be praying all the more.
All things are possible with God
Apart from Christ we can do nothing. But all things are possible with God. You think you believe God can do anything but you don’t actually believe it. If you did believe it, you’d pray it. You’d tell people about him. You wouldn’t need telling from me or anyone else. Have a big, big vision of God and the scope and power of his interest in the world. Pray the impossible to the God of miracles!
Don’t compromise: God has spoken (26-34)
We go back to 1 Kings 20 to see what happened with Ben-hadad took on what he thought was a god of the hills. Read 1 Kings 20:26-34.
With Israel’s army looking like two little flocks of goats it all sounds a bit hopeless. But for a third time, God sends a prophet with a prediction: Read 1 Kings 20:28 again.
- And as before, the prediction had a purpose.
- When the prediction came true – very much against the odds – you would know it was God at work.
- “Then you will know that I am the LORD.”
What does that mean? “Then you will know that I am the LORD”? It means a number of things!
- It is his name – YHWH – he reveals his personal identity to his people. He is infinite, but he’s relationally intimate too.
- He often uses this reminder of his name when reminding his people of his covenant faithfulness – he will keep his word, committed to his people.
- Back in Exodus, his name was revealed to Pharoah as the God of the whole world who will judge all wickedness.
- And in the Exodus, his name was revealed to his people as one who will redeem his people for himself.
- His name is his essence – “he is” – and reveals something of his character, his reputation, his honour: Judgment and grace.
You need to know what he is like, so he’s told you. So by now it’s no surprise to see Ahab’s victory in v29-30. It’s really God’s victory, because God said it would happen. But then Ahab lets Ben-hadad live.
No compromise with evil
He signs a treaty, a covenant with him. Is this “good Ahab”? Is this grace, forgiveness, peace? Ben-hadad was an enemy of God and his people. God had determined that Ben-hadad and his army must fall – the judgment against Ben-hadad was obvious and clear.
- Ahab has not shown mercy to Ben-hadad.
- He’s compromised with evil. He’s chosen not to fulfil God’s plan. Ahab heard God’s word of judgment against Ben-hadad, and chosen to do his own thing instead.
There is to be no compromise with Satan, or dabbling with sin. Jesus himself spoke in the strongest of terms when it comes to compromising with Satan and sin:
- And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out. It’s better to enter the Kingdom of God with only one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell (Mark 9:47).
I mentioned earlier that God is the God of your future, that Jesus is coming back to the earth. Will he welcome those who have fought against him, rejected him? Revelation 19 gives a picture of what Jesus will be like against you, if you reject him throughout this life: Their entire army was killed by the sharp sword that came from the mouth of the one riding the white horse. And the vultures all gorged themselves on the dead bodies. (Revelation 19:21).
He is YHWH. He will judge all wickedness and save his people.
Don’t rage when you should repent (35-43)
What did Ahab do? Read 1 Kings 20:35-43. Ahab probably thought everything had worked out ok. But he’d treated God’s word like a pick’n’mix:
- He’d been happy to hear about rescues
- He’d chosen which bits he wanted, and the bits he’d rather do his own way.
- And he thought that was the end of it.
These final verses show that that was not the end of it. They begin with a man losing his life for not obeying the command of God, and they end by saying that that will happen to Ahab too.
You know that feeling when you think something is fixed and then the problem comes back? That’s how Ahab felt. “Another prophet? Another word from God? Against me again?”
He’d experienced God’s curse with a 3½ year drought. He’d seen God’s might at Mt Carmel and felt the call to return to God’s covenant blessing (and blessed rain!). Here, God had graciously delivered him and Israel from a foreign enemy.
Could he say God had spoken to him? Yes.
Did he like that? In some ways, yes. But he didn’t want to turn away from his sin.
Faced with the simple knowledge that there is only One God and that Ahab was accountable to him, he had a choice. Would he choose life? Repent, cry out to God? Or choose death and curse? He went home, sullen and angry.
Listen to God today
God is very much speaking to you today. There is one God and you are accountable to him. Jesus, the Son of God, will one day return to judge the earth. You will be there and you will see him. That future is as certain as the past. He calls to you. With a small whisper, a silent voice, a movement of your heart and conviction of your soul. He calls for you to come to him in repentance and faith.
- He came to earth to save you. To take the punishment your sins deserve, dying in your place.
- He offers you life – glorious, joyous, eternal life with him forever!
Today, if you hear his voice, don’t harden your heart against him. Don’t rage and kick out against the one who came to save you. Turn from your sin and rebellion to the God who came for you.
He is not the God of the hills only, or of good people only, or of other people only. He came for you. He’s the gracious worker of miracles and we’re all to cry out to him.
Hear his voice. Obey God’s powerful voice.
Turn to him and be saved. Today.