Ahab, Elijah and God        

A Sermon

Reading from 1 Kgs 1629-171

"In the thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah, Ahab son of Omri became king of Israel,
and he reigned in Samaria over Israel twenty-two years.
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,
but he also married Jezebel daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and began to serve Baal and worship him.
He set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal that he built in Samaria.
Ahab also made an Asherah pole and did more to provoke the Lord, the God of Israel,
to anger than did all the kings of Israel before him."

Ahab was the 7th and worst in a line of 20 evil kings of Israel.
When Solomon died, Israel divided. Judea under Rehoboam.
And northern tribes under Jeroboam, who had returned from hiding in Egypt.
Nadab and all house of Jeroboam was killed by Baasha.
Zimri killed Elah and all house of Baasha.
He lasted 1 week, before being killed himself.
Both Omri (a General) and Tibni were made king. Tibni was killed in battle.
Ahab was made king when his father Omri died 11 years later.
A stormy background!

Some of the major incidents of Ahab's reign are recorded in 1 Kings 16-22
      These we will look at in a moment.
But first: What was the Sin of Jeroboam? (in portion we have just read).
He made 2 golden calves, one at Bethel and another at Dan. (like Aaron in Exodus)
The separated northern kingdom needed an alternative to the Temple at Jerusalem.
Ahab continued this worship of the golden calves and added to it!
He married Jezebel, daughter of the king of Sidon - a Phoenician.
Why so wrong?
Boaz married Ruth, the Moabitess and that was fine. So it is not just because she was foreign.
It was terribly wrong because Jezebel worshipped Baal and Asherah, (the mother of Baal)
       and being a strong character, she made sure everyone else did so too!
But Ruth was different, she said, "your God is my God."

Ahab, Jezebel and the people worshipped Baal in the hope of agricultural prosperity,
       and Asherah for fertility, which soon led to immorality and free sex.
They worshipped these gods not out of love, but for what they could get out of it.
We can easily do the same; prayer that tries to use God for our own convenience.

2 questions:-
1) What did God do about Ahab, Jezebel his wife and a nation that worshipped other gods?
2) And what will God do today about UK who also 'worships other gods'.
       True the 'gods' are different, but the purpose is the same - an easy prosperous fun-filled life.
       Every year 165,000 children are sacrificed by abortion, not to Baal but to the god of 'Social Convenience'.
       In the last 30 years divorce has increased by 500%.
       Money has become a burning ambition, we love it dearly!
       'Free sex' is rampant and is a major cause in the disintegration of the family.
       1/4 of the children that make it to full term are born out of wedlock.
       Today there are over 1500 mosques in UK.  Idolatry in the name of religious tolerance.
There can be little doubt that we worship 'other gods'
In law, as well as in fact, we have abandoned God's Commandments.

What God will do to us?  I do not know exactly.
But we do know what God did then - and He didn't just walk away!

There was a man living at Tishbe, Elijah by name, who agonized and wept and prayed - earnestly.
James 517 says he was just like one of us!   (I wish we were more like him)
He cried, "Lord, how do you see this nation?  What are you going to do about it?"
And Elijah didn't give up after 5 minutes -
He persevered until he heard God.
And God said, "No rain (or agricultural prosperity) until I tell you."
Elijah promptly left his home in Gilead and walked the 30 miles to Samaria.
He brushed passed the security guards, strode up to Ahab and said,
      "As the Lord, the God of Israel lives, whom I serve,
       there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word."  (1 Kgs 171)
And off he went home again.
Simple!  But not exactly designed to win friends in high places, or anywhere!

In Israel it only rains in the Winter, from the early rain in October until the latter rain in March/April.
      Then nothing till October again.
So when it didn't rain all Summer, that was no great odds - it never did anyway.
But this year by December the ground was still dry, so they couldn't plant their winter wheat and barley.
Ahab started looking for Elijah but God hid him and fed him by a small stream in today's Northern Jordan.

Why was this drought significant?
Because Baal was the god of thunder and rain. The weather god; the god of agricultural success.
When the Winter rains failed as well as the early rain, Jezebel organised more meetings for the prophets of Baal.
But it still did not rain.
Don't worry, they said, the drought will soon end - the law of averages you know.
Next Autumn the rains will come again, it can't happen twice.
But it did!
And even the brook Cherith dried up in the second Summer.
God had said there would be no rain, so Elijah wasn't surprised.
But he did wonder what God would do next!
God had plans for his servant Elijah - and they did surprise him.
"Go to Zarapheth," he said, "there is a widow there ..."
But hang on, that's right next to Sidon, Jezebel's home town!

But Elijah went. He did not argue or hesitate. He obeyed.
And he found the widow - and her oil and flour did not run out!
God said that he would provide, and naturally he kept his word.
Now this widow in Zarapheth was not a Jew.
And neither was her son who died.
But Elijah stretched himself upon the dead child, and he cried, as Jesus cries to his Father for each of us,
       "O Lord, let this boy live."   And he did!  The child rose up from the dead!
What an beautiful expression of new birth ... but we digress!

Ahab and Jezebel are now in the new palace. They had completed it just before Elijah had burst onto the scene.
A lovely pad, complete with cedar furniture, inlaid ivory and a swimming pool.
It had a fantastic view across the Jezreel valley that stretched away to the North.
       5 miles x 20 of the most beautiful, rich red gently sloping farmland,
Jezreel is fertile, lush, green and very productive.
Well it should have been!
But Elijah had spoiled it. He was to blame; Elijah the trouble-maker.

You know the rest of the story. The duel on Mt Carmel.
You know why this battle on the mountain top was so significant.
Baal was supposed to provide the much needed rain from heaven.
But he had failed ... O how he failed.

But God, the God of Elijah,
the God who answered by fire showed who was the real Master.
Baal was seen to be nothing but useless bits of stone and wood.
Ahab and Jezebel were so deluded.
It is also possible for us to be deluded too by the gods of success, prosperity, indulgence and greed.
Just as Elijah killed all the 450 prophets of Baal, so God will also destroy our trust in trinkets,
        and our supposed security in success, if we are foolish enough, deluded enough, to rely on them.

For Ahab, a few years passed, years which included victories over the Syrian army,
        when even Ahab twice obeyed an un-named prophet of God.
But soon it was back to normal.
Jezebel was not in any way subdued. And Ahab was weak.
It was Jezebel who ruled Israel, and Ahab did not stop her.
That was largely the problem; Ahab was ruled by his wife!
And it was a problem because she was as wicked, as Ahab was weak.
Please note that many a Christian husband needs to value the words of his godly wife.
       Her hearing may well be sharper than he realised!

After the Carmel contest, the rain had come each year.
Jezreel was now lush again ... and their prosperous life looked good.
Even Elijah hadn't said much recently!
But there was one little niggle for Ahab, which he allowed to become a large festering sore.
His sumptuous palace overlooked a small vineyard.
Just right for vegetables he thought. Vegetables for me!
He already had good vineyards and plenty of wine.
But the chap refused to sell - Naboth was his name.
Ahab grew more sullen each day; he couldn't have his own way.
It quite spoilt all Jezebel's parties.
Eventually Ahab told her the trouble: "Don't worry," she said, "I'll soon sort it out for you."  
She did too.
She devised a neat little scheme to have Naboth murdered!
Trouble was, God had seen what they had done, and he was not pleased!
Before Ahab could enjoy his first cabbage, Elijah was there and Elijah didn't go in for pleasantries.
"In this place, Ahab," he said, "dogs will lick up your blood ..."  
3 years later they did.
"And also," he added, "dogs will devour Jezebel."
It was some 14 years later that Jehu arrived outside Jezebel's palace - suddenly!
       (He was the chap you may remember who 'drove furiously')
He instructed two eunuchs to throw the wicked woman out of the window.
They did so. And Jehu went in and had lunch.
He was hungry and thirsty after driving his chariot all morning.
Then he remembered that Jezebel needed to be buried.
But the dogs had been busy. Only her hands and feet and skull were left.
The word of God through Elijah had been precisely fulfilled.

Note that God's prophecy does not always happen next day, or even next year.
In this case it had been 14 years.
When Isaiah prophesied that  "Unto us a child is born ... and he shall be called wonderful counsellor ..."
The world would have to wait for over 700 years until Mary, the virgin, conceived and Jesus was born, the Son of God.
Be sure, when God speaks it will certainly happen ... and right on time.

But back to Ahab.
And back in time to 3 years after Elijah had delivered God's word about Naboth's vineyard.
There had been peace with Syria, their northern neighbour.
Ahab was getting restless.
Ramoth Gilead belongs to us, so why do the Syrians still occupy it?
Jehoshaphat, the righteous king of Judah, had just came up to see Ahab.
"Let's go together and get it back," said Ahab.
So Ahab summoned the 400 prophets of Asherah to ask them what to do.
Unfortunately they hadn't accepted Elijah's invitation on Carmel!
Unknown to them they still had 9 years to live before Jehu would kill these 400 false prophets.
Yes, they all said, you go and the Lord will give the city back to you.
Jehoshaphat liked their verdict, but was not too sure of their accuracy.
So he asked if there was a prophet of the Lord.
"We can ask Micaiah," said Ahab reluctantly, "but he never prophesies anything good about me!"
How do we react when hearing anything difficult, dangerous, or disagreeable.
We love sermons on God's promises, but not his warnings.
Do we gladly receive all the benefits of God, but ignore his conditions?
We can be like the Danites who found their inheritance too difficult.
Where they lived, there were too many Philistines, too much war.
They wanted an easier life and so they moved up north above Galilee.
Yes it was easier, more prosperous, a good land with unfailing water.
But soon they were worshipping the local god, Baal.
It should be well noted that they are the only tribe not mentioned in Rev 7.
They gained material benefits and lost their inheritance.
Like the seed that fell among thistles and was soon choked to death.
Like so many in England ... even some in God's Church.

So Jehoshaphat asked Micaiah, who said,
      "I saw all Israel scattered on the hills, like sheep without a shepherd
       ... Let everyone go home in peace."

Not liking what he said, Ahab put him in prison.
      And they went off to do what they wanted - to capture Ramoth-Gilead.
Ahab even thought of a smart plan.
"Jehoshaphat," he said, "you go as king and I will go disguised as a common soldier!"
       As if that would thwart Almighty God!
       As if a little bit of fancy dress could confuse the Creator of the Universe!
The scriptures tell how a soldier drew his bow at random and strangely his arrow struck Ahab!
He died slowly from loss of blood.
They washed his chariot at the pool in Samaria and the dogs licked up his blood
       right next to Naboth's vineyard, that was now Ahab's vegetable patch.
Just as God had said they would.
To give your life for few cabbages seems a poor exchange!
But that was his foolish choice.

So what do we learn?
God didn't walk away from the wickedness in Israel.
He sent Elijah.
What will God do about the wickedness in UK?
God has sent his Son Jesus Christ.
God has given us his word to read, to understand and to proclaim.
Let us be like Elijah. He desired God, not just his blessings.
      "My goal is God himself, not joy, nor peace,
       Nor even blessing, but himself, my God:
       'Tis his to lead me there, not mine, but his
       At any cost, dear Lord, by any road!"

Beware of being deceived.
In Math 24 Jesus said that many in the church would be deceived.
False peace, false hope, false assurance even false friendship;
        and false religion for what we can get out of it.
In these words about the last days it was the Church that Jesus warns, not the world.
Perhaps being deceived is easier than we think?!

God will not ignore and just walk away from wickedness in the UK.
He didn't in the days of Ahab - and he will not do so now!
Let us be aware.
Let us not be surprised if God judges the arrogance of men as if it was undeserved,
       and contrary to the nature of  God.  It has good precedent.


O the love that drew salvation's plan,
O the grace that brought it down to man,
O the mighty gulf that God did span at Calvary.
Mercy there was great and grace was free,
Pardon there was multiplied for me
There my burdened soul found liberty, at Calvary.