Wednesday, July 27, 2022

2022.07.27 Hopewell @Home ▫ 1 Kings 20

Read 1 Kings 20

Questions from the Scripture text: Who gathered whom in 1 Kings 20:1? Who were with him? What did they have? Where did he go? What two things did he do there? Whom did he send to whom (1 Kings 20:2)? What did they say—what three things did he claim (1 Kings 20:3)? How did Ahab answer (1 Kings 20:41 Kings 20:7)? What did the messengers next demand (1 Kings 20:5-6)? What does Ahab tell his people Ben-Hadad is seeking (1 Kings 20:7)? How do they answer Ahab (1 Kings 20:8)? So how does he answer Ben-Hadad (1 Kings 20:9)? Now how does Ben-Hadad respond (1 Kings 20:10)? How does Ahab respond to this bluster (1 Kings 20:11)? What were the 1 Kings 20:1 coalition doing when they heard Ahab’s response (1 Kings 20:12)? What does Ben-Hadad tell them to do? Who suddenly approaches Ahab in 1 Kings 20:13? What will Yahweh do? Why? For what particular instructions does Ahab ask in 1 Kings 20:14? How many leaders and people does he have (1 Kings 20:15)? What is the 1 Kings 20:1 coalition doing at what time of day in 1 Kings 20:16? Whom does Ahab send out first (1 Kings 20:17)? Who see them? What does Ben-Hadad say to do (1 Kings 20:18)? Who were with each young leader (1 Kings 20:19)? What they each do (1 Kings 20:20)? What do the Syrians do? And Israel? But where does Ben-Hadad go? What is the outcome (1 Kings 20:21)? What news does the prophet now give Ahab (1 Kings 20:22)? Who speak in 1 Kings 20:23? To what do they attribute Israel’s win? What strategy do they suggest (1 Kings 20:24-25)? What happens in the spring (1 Kings 20:26-27)? What does Israel’s army look like (verse 27)? What do the Syrians do? What is Yahweh going to do (1 Kings 20:28)? Why? How long until the battle is engaged (1 Kings 20:29)? How many do Israel kill? Where do the rest go (1 Kings 20:30)? Who kills how many of them? Where does Ben-Hadad go? Now what do his servants tell him (1 Kings 20:31)? And what do they suggest? What do they do in 1 Kings 20:32? How does Ahab answer? What are they encouraged to do by this answer (1 Kings 20:33)? To what agreement do they come (1 Kings 20:34)? Who says what to whom in 1 Kings 20:35? By what word? What does the man (not) do? What does the prophet say will happen (1 Kings 20:36)? What happens? How does the second try go (1 Kings 20:37)? For what did the prophet need his injury (1 Kings 20:38)? What story does he tell whom in 1 Kings 20:39-40? What sentence does the king pronounce? Now what does the prophet do (1 Kings 20:41)? And what does Ahab see? For what sin is Ahab finally condemned (1 Kings 20:42)? How does Ahab respond (1 Kings 20:43)? 

What controls the histories of nations and armies?  1 Kings 20 looks forward to the first serial reading in morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these forty-three verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that the Lord’s purpose in the history of nations and armies is to make Himself known to His people.

Behold the patience of God! Even after the drought (1 Kings 17:1–18:2), the competition on Carmel (1 Kings 18:3–40), and the prophet’s run in front of Ahab (1 Kings 18:41–46), Ahab has refused to be directed by the Word of God. Now, the Lord gives him another opportunity to be led by His Word. His providence brings an army so great that Ahab quickly gives up Israel’s wealth and future (1 Kings 20:3–41 Kings 20:7), and He has reduced Israel to a total leadership of 232 and total army of 7000 (1 Kings 20:15).

This level of adversity is what finally softens Ahab so that when the prophet comes in 1 Kings 20:13, Ahab’s response in 1 Kings 20:14 is finally to seek from the Lord detailed instructions for what to do. Perhaps you have experienced this as many have: mercy from God so great as to put you through whatever severity is necessary to turn you to His Word as all of the ideas and orders by which you live.

Compared to the Aramean coalition, whose strength literally made them drunk (cf. 1 Kings 20:121 Kings 20:16), Ahab and Israel had been sobered by their weakness. Praise the Lord for when He patiently sobers us by weakness.

Behold the purpose of God! The prophet doesn’t just come with predictions in 1 Kings 20:13 and 1 Kings 20:28. He comes with the Lord’s purpose: “and you shall know that I am Yahweh.” Perhaps the stupid theology to which God has given over the Arameans (1 Kings 20:23) is a reflection of Ahab’s own. But Ahab is king over God’s covenant people. His state-sponsoring of Baal and Asherah worship (cf. 1 Kings 18:19) contradict the special purpose of the special people whom God gave him to rule: to know Yahweh and make Him known (cf. Deuteronomy 4:5–10).

Behold the power of God! He defeats a great horde twice, with a small band in 1 Kings 20:19-21 and with two little flocks of soldiers who kill 100,000 Arameans in 1 Kings 20:29. And just in case we are tempted to credit the small band, the Lord uses precisely zero Israelites to kill 27,000 in 1 Kings 20:30. When we see His ultimate power, we are reminded that our job is not to be powerful ourselves, but just to do what He commands us and trust that He will work all things for good.

Behold the prescriptions of God! He decides how we glorify Him. The word “merciful” in 1 Kings 20:31 is that word that, when used of God, speaks of His covenant love. Ahab may have had some indication that this reputation was being factored into the display and negotiations in 1 Kings 20:31-33. And perhaps Ahab saw the concessions in 1 Kings 20:34 as a gift from God to restore His people’s fortunes. 

But it is God Who decides how we will bring Him honor and glory. Our job is just to obey Him. When God said all this great multitude in 1 Kings 20:28, He meant it. We must never rationalize incomplete obedience by thinking that it would somehow bring honor to God or prosper His people. This is a sadly timely message for the church in the West. And in our individual lives, too, we must trust the Lord to see to His glory and our good, as we make it our business to give complete and consistent obedience.

How serious is the Lord about this? After all that Ahab has done, the action by which he forfeited his life and the survival of the northern kingdom was sparing Ben-Hadad’s life (1 Kings 20:42). This, then, becomes a great theme for us in God’s dealing with the kings of Israel (cf. 1 Samuel 15:20–29). Rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft (cf. 1 Samuel 15:23), and Ahab becomes its most recent poster-boy in 1 Kings 20:43 (“sullen” there translates a word that means “rebellious”). 

God requires complete obedience, and He Himself provides the King Who gives it (cf. 1 Samuel 15:28)—Christ! As we trust that Christ has done it in our behalf, and that God is now pressing us into the shape of our Redeemer, let us seek to offer our Lord complete obedience in our redeemed lives.

How has God been patient with you? What difference does it make to you to know that His purposes in all of your circumstances include making you to know Him? What is an area in your life in which you are especially tempted to offer incomplete obedience?

Sample prayer:  Lord, we praise Your patience with people like Ahab, where You keep giving them undeserved opportunities to be led by Your Word. Forgive us for how stubbornly we can continue to follow our own inclinations, when You keep calling us to be led by Your Word. Truly, it is arrogant to think that we can bring good outcomes in any other way than obeying You. So, forgive us for when our hearts and minds begin to rationalize incomplete obedience. Thank You that Christ’s complete obedience is counted for us through faith in Him. By Your Spirit, keep remaking us into His likeness we pray in His Name, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP1 “How Blessed the Man” or TPH1B “How Blessed the Man”

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