Pastor Steve Ellison
In our reading through the Bible, seeking out the questions God asks, we come to 1 Kings 20 where God asked in verse 13, “Do you see this vast army?” Have you ever felt like you were surrounded by a vast army, bent on destroying you and inflicting great humiliation and suffering upon you? That is exactly what King Ahab was facing. You probably remember Ahab. He was a wicked king of Israel, though not as wicked as his wife. Occasionally Ahab showed glimpses of spiritual understanding. In this case, he at first did not, but eventually showed some semblance of trusting in the Lord.
The ten northern tribes of Israel were just beginning the process of recovery from three years of drought which had ended at the word of the Lord through Elijah. Their country was weak and struggling. Ben Hadad II, ruler of Aram (Syria) just to their north, was feeling economic pressure from the growing power of Assyria. The Assyrians had taken over lucrative trade routes that had been under the control of Ben Hadad. Thus, he turned his attention toward the south, attempting to find new means of acquiring wealth from the Israelites. After a long siege, Ben Hadad sent messengers to Ahab, demanding heavy tribute including Ahab’s own family and personal wealth. Incredibly, Ahab neglected to consult God and sent word back agreeing to Ben Hadad’s demands. Ben Hadad, in his greed, sent the messengers back with increased demands. Ahab began to at least seek the counsel of the nation’s elders. They told him to refuse Hadad’s demands, which he did. Apparently, Ben Hadad was in the process of getting drunk when word of Ahab’s refusal arrived. Ben Hadad made a tragic error. His greed and foolish pride coupled with drunkenness caused him to go where no man should go. He boasted of what absolute destruction he would bring on God’s people and prepared to attack.
Jehovah sent word through His prophet and said to Ahab and to us, “Do you see this vast army? I will give it into your hand today, and then you will know that I am the Lord.” What a beautiful example and illustration of the seeking, searching, delivering grace of God Almighty. Even though he was king over God’s people, Ahab had been for all practical purposes an enemy of God. Ahab is just as undeserving of mercy and grace as you and I. Ahab had seen God’s power up close and personal on Mt. Carmel, when Elijah faced down the 450 prophets of Baal. Ahab saw the emphatic, thunderstorm which ended the three year drought brought on by the God of Elijah. What more proof could a man need? Evidently Ahab needed more. There is no indication from Scripture that it even crossed Ahab’s mind to consult the Lord, much less to run to Him. And yet, a loving and merciful God broke into Ahab’s world with the simple declaration that not next week or next month, but “this day”, Ahab would have victory over his seemingly undefeatable enemy.
Giving victory was a great act of mercy and grace from God, but not the greatest in this passage. The greatest act of mercy and grace here is the reason for the victory, the result of the victory: “I will give it into your hand today, and then you will know that I am the Lord.” There sits Ahab, an enemy of God, a weak-minded man, suffering under a domineering wife, leading a totally decimated country from three years of drought followed by a protracted siege by Ben Hadad. Ahab was in a terrible fix. He was in exactly the same predicament that I was in before God Almighty did for me what He had done for Ahab. God revealed Himself to me that I might know Him as Lord.