READ: 1 Kings 21:20-29 or see the Expanded Passage of 1 Kings 20-21
(20-22) Ahab answered Elijah, “My enemy! So, you’ve run me down!”
“Yes, I’ve found you out,” said Elijah. “And because you’ve bought into the business of the evil, defying God. ‘I will most certainly bring doom upon you, make mincemeat of your descendants, kill of every sorry male wretch who’s even remotely connected with the name Ahab. And I’ll bring down on you the same fate that fell on Jeroboam son of Nebat and Baasha son of Ahijah–you’ve made me that angry by making Israel sin.'”
(23-24) As for Jezebel, God said, “Dogs will fight over the flesh of Jezebel all over Jezreel. Anyone tainted by Ahab who dies in the city will be eaten by stray dogs; corpses in the country will be eaten by carrion crows.”
(25-26) Ahab, pushed by his wife Jezebel and in open defiance of God, set an all-time record in making big business of evil. He indulged in outrageous obscenities in the world of idols, copying the Amorites whom God had earlier kicked out of Israelite territory.
(27) When Ahab heard what Elijah had to say, he ripped his clothes to shreds, dressed in penitential rough burlap, and fasted. He even slept in coarse burlap pajamas. He tiptoed around, quiet as a mouse.
(28-29) Then God spoke to Elijah the Tishbite: “Do you see how penitently submissive Ahab has become to me? Because of his repentance I’ll not bring the doom during his lifetime; Ahab’s son, though, will get it.”
THINK: Imagine yourself as Elijah, noticing what you think and feel throughout this tale. (See the expanded passage for more details.) Read the passage again until you reach God’s words to Ahab and Jezebel, and the description of what they have done to defy him. Pause there.
PRAY: As you picture yourself speaking God’s words of judgment to Ahab, listen to what you are saying. What does God’s anger toward this enemy make you feel? Do you feel the same anger God does over injustice? If not, what does Ahab’s sin make you feel? When you picture the three of you there–Ahab, God, and you–what position is your inclined to take toward each of them? Talk to God about your response.
LIVE: Meditate on the following prayer from the Book of Common Prayer (1979): “The Lord is full of compassion and mercy: O come, let us adore him,” Notice what your response is. If there is something you need to repent of today, go to God and receive his mercy. If you want to adore him for his compassion, spend time doing so. If you don’t want to adore God, take time to open yourself to the reality that he is praiseworthy. Don’t force yourself to feel things you don’t feel or say things you don’t mean, but do consider the reality acknowledged in the prayer.
As I sit here thinking about this lesson and what I want to say in response to the reading and the questions, Signature of Divine (Yahweh) by Needtobreathe is on my Pandora “Needtobbreathe” station. For some reason, their songs, and other more alternative groups like these help me to think and focus. I think it’s because they are so alternative that I have to pay more attention to understand what they are saying in parts, or to understand what they are meaning. I’m not sure what it is, but I know that hearing about Yahweh going before me is good for my soul as I think about what I want to type.
Yahweh is so high above me that it is difficult to imagine, as the song says, that we truly are the signature of the Divine. How can it be that The Holy Trinity would pour so much into mankind that would turn their backs on the gift? How can it be that God would send His Only Son to act as propitiation for the sins of men who would never come to know or accept the gift of His Life? Of Eternal Life?
How could it be that God would send His Only Son for a man like Ahab? How could God possibly show such mercy to a man who didn’t seem to care one lick for the rules of the God who led the Israelites out of Egypt to give them the Promised Land? To clarify: that is not a statement of judgment upon Ahab, regarding his sins as any worse than any of mine. To God, there is no difference between Ahab’s sins and mine. God has shown me easily as much mercy as Ahab’s whether I’ve realized it fully or not. The question is more about why, in the world, God would do such a thing in the first place.
Of course, the answer is: because He is willing that none should perish, but that all would repent and make Jesus Lord of their lives so that we could spend eternity with our Creator. That’s it. It feels like there ought to be a “but” here. But there isn’t. It’s just that simple. He wants us. And He wants us to want Him back. That’s it. That is the heart of compassion, true compassion, that only a Creator can show His creation. And with that, I will close.
Dear Heavenly Father,
You are Lord of all. All things were created by you for your good pleasure. Even the unlikeliest of sinners can be redeemed and fulfill the purpose for which You created them, if only they accept that Christ is Your Son, they repent and receive Him into their hearts as Lord and Savior. Nobody is too far gone that they can escape Your Hand of Grace and Mercy. Though we run to the ends of the Universe, there is nowhere we can go to get away from you, for you created it all with just a word, and all of creation obeys your voice. All of creation will bow to your will sooner or later. Lord, I pray that, tonight, for anyone reading this who may be lost, thinking that they’ve gone so far away from you that they have to make their way back to you, you would reassure them, that you are there. Wherever that is, you are there. If there is anyone reading this who has an ache in their souls, an emptiness they’ve been trying to fill with sex or money or drugs or work or pornography or gambling, show them that there is only one place that emptiness can be filled and that is at the well of living waters, Jesus Christ, who satisfies eternally so that they no longer have to thirst after things that always leaving them feeling more and more empty. May they be like Ahab, penitent to the point of tearing their clothes and crying out to you desperately for mercy. Meet them where they are tonight, Lord. Meet each one us right where we are. There is not a one of us who can make it through our next hour without you. And for some others of us, we need you for our next minute, our next second.
For those of us who have already answered your call, help us to walk obediently in that calling. Help us to be Jesus with skin on, and help us to glorify your name. Where there is hurting, help us to be a comfort. Where there is darkness, help us to be a light.
For the people who sit in prisons all over the world, for your name’s sake, please offer them solace and a person to witness to. Strengthen their spirits, Lord. Meet their needs in such a way that their jailers cannot help but know that the Lord of All Creation is at work.
Though we do not deserve it, Lord, be merciful unto us. We need you more than we can possibly understand.
In Your Son’s Precious and Holy Name I pray, Amen.
Go here to check out the lyrics: http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/needtobreathe/signatureofdivineyahweh.html
Go here to check out a YouTube video of the song, that shows the lyrics while the song plays in the background: