1 Kings 21
This chapter appalled me. More than once! I know I’ve read this chapter before, but it obviously didn’t make a lasting impression then. Today, it was as if I had read it for the first time. At first, I was appalled by Jezebel. She seemed to have absolutely NO problem forging her husband’s name and enlisting the help of false witnesses in order to engineer the death of an innocent man. Just when you thought you’d seen the depths of evil in Israel, that was a nasty surprise.
Then, I was appalled by the "elders and nobles" who lived in Naboth’s hometown. Jezebel wrote to them and directed them to set Naboth up so he could be stoned to death... and they did it: "So the elders and nobles who lived in Naboth’s city did as Jezebel directed in the letters she had written to them." (vs 11) They just did it! I thought about how much harder it might have been for Jezebel to carry out her evil plan if she didn’t just have amoral people willing to go along with whatever she said. Unfortunately, as most of us know, evil flourishes when good people don’t stand up against it.
But that wasn’t the end of my being shocked by this chapter. The last person I was appalled by was God Himself. After Jezebel’s wicked act (and Ahab’s acceptance of it), God sent the prophet Elijah to tell Ahab that it was all over for him. Elijah prophesied doom and gloom on Ahab and his house. And, certainly, if anyone ever deserved it in the whole history of Israel, it was Ahab and his wicked wife, Jezebel.
Of course, when Ahab heard about how his entire family was going to be annihilated because of his wickedness, he was pretty sad. Mind you, he wasn’t sorry enough to change his ways. He didn’t relinquish Naboth’s vineyard or apologize for what he had done. But he felt pretty bad that he was going to have to face hard consequences. From our perspective, though, it all seems right, doesn’t it? This would finally be justice for all the evil Ahab and Jezebel had done over the years.
But then... this: "When Ahab heard these words, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and fasted. He lay in sackcloth and went around meekly. Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite: 'Have you noticed how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself, I will not bring this disaster in his day, but I will bring it on his house in the days of his son.'" (vs 27-29) What?! Ahab gets a pass because he tore his clothes and missed a meal?
I had a little Jonah moment when I read that. God, you’re being way too lenient here! This is a God who spends so much of the Old Testament looking harsh, drawing hard lines, and sticking to His guns... yet He suddenly has a soft-hearted moment when it comes to the most wicked guy in Israel?! I gotta be honest. I just don’t get it.
So what I take away from all of this is that God knows what is needed. He not only sees the external parts of a situation, but He also sees the internal parts of a situation. He doesn’t just see behavior; He reads the heart. And He knows when a hard line needs to be drawn. And He knows when it’s best to relent from the consequences He has warned about.
I’m glad He knows exactly what is needed because I have a feeling that if we were left to determine what was necessary in any given situation, we would get it wrong a whole lot of the time. So I have to cut God some slack when He seems "overly" hard, and (unlike Jonah) I’ve also gotta cut Him some slack when He isn’t as "strict" as I think He should be. In every situation, He knows what is best, and He will do exactly what is needed.