1 Kings 16:29-34
Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him. He not only considered it trivial to commit the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat… (16:30-31a NIV).
God’s word is always relevant to the human situation, because God and mankind are the same as when the Bible was written. Yes, our technology has changed, but the hearts of people are the same. The human race rejects God as God, refuses to love God first of all, and rebels against God and his laws. The text before us answers the question that everyone seems to ask in their time, “It can’t get any worse, can it?” Yes, it can get worse in any nation and all nations. Consider the example of Israel. Jeroboam I, the son of Nebat, invented a new religion for Israel, and the next five kings gladly walked in his ways. The warnings of God through his prophets were unheeded, and Israel provoked the Lord to anger by their worthless idols. But as bad as that was, let us see what happened when Ahab became the new ruler.
The rest of the book of 1 Kings is a contrast between Ahab, a man of wickedness, and Elijah, a man of faith. From a human perspective, Ahab should have had all the advantages in this comparison. He was the absolute ruler of his country, and Elijah had nothing. Ahab lived for self-satisfaction, and Elijah lived to deny himself pleasure for the glory of God. In this brief opening section (16:29-34), the Holy Spirit provides us with God’s evaluation of Ahab. After setting Ahab in history, the Spirit tells us about Ahab’s character and preferences.
Ahab surpassed all his predecessors in wickedness. At least three factors combined to produce Ahab as he was.
- The wickedness of his own heart. In every person there is a foul spring of what the Bible calls sin; that is, rebellion against God, the transgression of his laws, the “bentness” of the inner person of the heart. Listen to God’s word: For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander (Matthew 15:19 NIV). The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9 NIV). Never underestimate the radical corruption (total depravity) of mankind. Being dead in sins, people are capable of the worst crimes against each other and the most obstinate rebellion against the true and living God.
- The plots of Satan. Listen to the word again: The apostle wrote about the human situation this way. People are caught in the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will (2 Timothy 2:26 NIV). Humanity has a tireless enemy that wants us all dead, and he is always alert for ways to bring this about. He had an “absolute ruler” under his thumb, and he found the perfect time to strike.
- The religious decline in Israel. Where believers do not shine as lights, darkness increases (Matthew 5:14-16). If anyone doubts the power of true Christianity to transform a nation, consider England before and after the First Great Awakening. England was morally ruined, until the good news of justification by grace through faith in Christ was clearly proclaimed.
Ahab broke through barriers in his pursuit of sin. He disregarded the examples of God’s anger against his predecessors (15:30; 16:7,13 , 19). Instead of considering God’s judgment on them, he attempted to succeed where they failed. The fear of God had no place in his heart. What resides in the hearts of all people (There is no fear of God before their eyes, Romans 3:18 ESV), was life-dominating for Ahab. He considered all the sins of Jeroboam to be trivial. “Why only break the second command of the covenant? Let’s go all the way, and break the first one, too.” Let’s call this “an Ahab attitude.”
When a ruler desires to surpass all their predecessors in evil and chooses to break through any barriers to do that, you know that trouble is sure to come! Ahab chose to lead his kingdom on the path to hell, and he quickly learned the bitterness of that choice. Let’s avoid his high-handed sins.
Grace and peace, David