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Basic Bible: Elijah Rebukes King Ahab

I Kings 21:17-29

The account before us is filled with detail. Before us are the specific instructions which God issued to Elijah, the very words which Elijah spoke, King Ahab’s response to those words, and the Lord’s response to Ahab’s response. These details have been preserved in scripture for God’s purposes. The Lord is perfect in all His ways. Let us look upon the word He has given us.

“And the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite . . .” (v. 17). The Lord told Elijah to go to King Ahab, where he would find him, and instructed him to say, “Thus saith the Lord, Hast thou killed, and also taken possession?” (v. 19a). This question reads as an accusation. It is not. It is a pronouncement of the verdict. God has found King Ahab guilty of both the murder of Naboth and the theft of his vineyard (see v. 1-16). Ahab’s evil doings were not secret from the Lord.

This marks the third time which the Lord sent Elijah to Ahab. On the first occasion, the Lord sent Elijah to Ahab with the message that God would withhold rain from the land because the king had built an altar to Baal and caused the people to sin (see I Kings 17). In the text before us, Elijah was instructed to inform Ahab of the price that he would required to pay for his doings. Dogs would lick his blood in the same place where dogs had licked the blood of Naboth (v. 19b).

When Elijah came to Ahab, the king addressed him as “mine enemy” and asked him why he had come (v. 20). Ahab’s words are revealing; he regarded Elijah as his enemy. He saw Elijah as an opponent. He did not recognize Elijah as a messenger from God.

Ahab’s wrong view was short lived. Elijah delivered God’s message: God would take away Ahab’s posterity. God would make an end to Ahab’s rule over men, both the enslaved and free of Israel (v. 21). God would do the same to Ahab as God had done to the kings before him who had caused Israel to sin (v. 22). God would cause dogs to eat the body of Ahab’s wife, Jezebel (v. 23). God would cause all who followed Ahab to die untimely deaths (v. 24).

Verses 25 and 26 are not words spoken by Elijah. The two verses are a commentary on King Ahab and his evil ways penned by the human author of this scripture. The Holy Spirit would have us realize that Ahab’s evil was of the same magnitude as that of the Amorites whom God removed from the land of Canaan. When Joshua entered the land, he immediately executed the Amorite kings (see Josh. 6:21, 8:29 and 10:26).

Would it be the mind of the Lord to do likewise to Ahab? This question is answered in verse 29. The Lord delayed to do to Ahab that which He had done to the Amorite kings. Why? God delayed in ending Ahab’s life and reign because Ahab humbled himself before the Lord.

Verse 27 states that when Ahab heard God’s message issued from Elijah, “that he rent his clothes, and put on sackcloth upon his flesh, and fasted, and lay in sackcloth, and went softly.” Ahab did these things, not because he heard the words of “mine enemy.” He did these things because he heard the voice of God. He did these things because saw himself guilty and deserving of death.

Ahab heard and believed. Renting his clothing, fasting, and putting on sackcloth were an outward testimony of that which was in his heart. God, looking upon Ahab’s heart, spoke to Elijah saying, “Seest how Ahab humbleth himself before me? because he humbleth himself before me, I will not bring the evil in his days” (v. 29).

The evil that the Lord would not bring in Ahab’s lifetime is that which Elijah announced verse 21-24. All that which God said should take place happened after Ahab was killed in battle more than three years later (see I Kings 22). Dogs even licked the blood of Ahab as they had licked the blood of Naboth as God had said (see v. 19 and 22:38).

God, in His mercy, delayed Ahab’s death and the end of his kingdom. God did not change Ahab’s sentence — just the scheduled time.

New Testament believers of today have reason to believe that we are living in the end times. Israel has been regathered as God said would be. We observe that many have fallen from the faith as God said there would be. The end shall come as God has said it will. Knowing that the Lord is not willing that any should perish and delays in His coming, let us reach out to the lost while it is still day.

Knowing these things, let us ever fill our lamps with oil that we may be ready for that day.

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