A King’s Vanity and a Slap in the Face

Scripture Focus: 1 Kings 22:6-8
6 So the king of Israel brought together the prophets—about four hundred men—and asked them, “Shall I go to war against Ramoth Gilead, or shall I refrain?”
“Go,” they answered, “for the Lord will give it into the king’s hand.”
7 But Jehoshaphat asked, “Is there no longer a prophet of the Lord here whom we can inquire of?”
8 The king of Israel answered Jehoshaphat, “There is still one prophet through whom we can inquire of the Lord, but I hate him because he never prophesies anything good about me, but always bad. He is Micaiah son of Imlah.”
“The king should not say such a thing,” Jehoshaphat replied.

1 Thessalonians 5:19-22
19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not treat prophecies with contempt 21 but test them all; hold on to what is good, 22 reject every kind of evil.

Reflection: A King’s Vanity and a Slap in the Face 
By Jon Polk

It’s official. Ahab was the worst king of Israel.

The stinging indictment is made in 1 Kings 16, “Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him.”

Why does Ahab deserve this dubious distinction? Aside from implementing Baal worship and the shocking murder of Naboth, Ahab was notorious for antagonistic relations with God’s prophets.

Ahab tussled with Elijah on several occasions, but 1 Kings 22 records an encounter with the sharp-tongued Micaiah. The scene opens with Ahab attempting to convince king Jehoshaphat of Judah to join him in attacking Aram to reclaim the land of Ramoth Gilead. Jehoshaphat suggests that they seek God’s counsel, so Ahab calls in all 400 of his official prophets.

Led by the overly dramatic Zedekiah, who had crafted iron horns representing victory, the king’s prophets unanimously proclaimed that the Lord would give the land to Ahab in battle.

Jehoshaphat was not convinced and saw through the blatant pandering of those false prophets. He asked if there were still any true prophets around. 

Ahab’s response sums up his desire to be surrounded by “yes” men. “There is still one prophet through whom we can inquire of the Lord, but I hate him because he never prophesies anything good about me.”

That prophet, Micaiah, is asked if they should go to war. He quipped sarcastically, “Sure, go ahead, attack and be victorious,” prompting Ahab to insist that Micaiah actually tell him the truth from God.

So he did: War with Aram will not end well, Israel will be sacked, Ahab will be killed, and by the way, all those other prophets were filled with a deceiving spirit.

Micaiah’s prophecy of doom earned him a slap across the face from the sanctimonious Zedekiah.

Alas, the king decided to make war anyway, and, lo and behold, everything happened exactly as Micaiah said it would.

Are we any better than Ahab, with our echo chambers of social media reinforcing only those opinions and attitudes that we want to believe? Do we find enjoyment in metaphorically slapping the faces of our opponents, real or imagined? Do we surround ourselves with voices that only tell us what we want to hear?

Let us learn from the foolish Ahab that we must not only be able to discern truth from error but we should also not discount the voice of God simply if it comes to us from sources we may find disagreeable. Let the hearer understand.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
Search for the Lord and his strength; continually seek his face. — Psalm 105.4

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
1 Kings 22 (Listen – 7:51)
1 Thessalonians 5 (Listen – 2:37)

Read more about “Trivial” Sin
Ahab is notorious for promoting the worship of Baal and Asherah…For Ahab, these were “trivial”

Read more about Kingdoms Breaking Bad
As Israel fractures, each dynasty hopes to be the answer. But each one, especially in the northern kingdom, “breaks bad.”

Ahab and David

Scripture Focus: 1 Kings 21.20-21, 25-29
20 Ahab said to Elijah, “So you have found me, my enemy!” 
“I have found you,” he answered, “because you have sold yourself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord. 21 He says, ‘I am going to bring disaster on you. I will wipe out your descendants and cut off from Ahab every last male in Israel—slave or free.

25 (There was never anyone like Ahab, who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord, urged on by Jezebel his wife. 26 He behaved in the vilest manner by going after idols, like the Amorites the Lord drove out before Israel.) 
27 When Ahab heard these words, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and fasted. He lay in sackcloth and went around meekly. 
28 Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite: 29 “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.”

Reflection: Ahab and David
By John Tillman

David is the prototypical king to whom Judah’s kings are compared. Israel’s kings will be compared to Ahab. Ahab’s murder of Naboth has some interesting parallels to David and the murder of Uriah: 

The king sees something that he wants near his palace. 
What the king wants is a violation of the commands of God. (Naboth appealed to Moses’ command not to sell one’s inheritance: Leviticus 25.23.)
Conspirators are recruited by letter.
A loyal citizen is killed by treachery and the crime is covered up.
The king swoops in to take possession of the object of his lust.
The king does all this when he has plenty of vineyards (in David’s case, plenty of wives) of his own.
God sends a prophet to confront the king with his crime and pronounce a harsh judgment. (David’s child will die. Ahab and all his children will die.)
The king repents and mourns in humility, wearing sackcloth and fasting.

Both men receive a measure of mercy from God, and both men suffer a judgment from God that is not removed.

In David’s case, the child conceived with Bathsheba dies, but David does not. (1 Samuel 12.13)
In Ahab’s case, the only mercy from the Lord is that the utter destruction of Ahab’s family will happen after Ahab himself dies. Ahab doesn’t truly seem to have fully repented (He later condemns Micaiah to punishment for prophesying his death) and perhaps this is why the mercy he receives is quite limited.

Ahab has moments in which he seems to show remorse or to acknowledge God, but they are few. He knows God’s true prophets by name, but holds some of them in prison, such as Micaiah. Rather than the friendly relationship David had with God and his prophets, Ahab considers Elijah his “enemy.”

Ahab and Jezebel are, to this day, synonymous with evil rulers. Yet even Ahab, the wickedest of wicked kings, obtained a measure of mercy from God when he showed humility and grief. 

There is, shockingly, no one so far gone that God won’t respond when they truly humble themselves. There is no one so evil God can’t forgive. There is no one so wicked that there is no hope.

God can break through and will have mercy whenever there is true repentance. Persevere in sharing the gospel with the strength and boldness of Elijah, Micaiah, and Elisha.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
Show me your ways, O Lord, and teach me your paths.
Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; in you have I trusted all the day long. — Psalm 25.3-4

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
1 Kings 21 (Listen – 4:19)
1 Thessalonians 4 (Listen – 2:24)

Read more about More and More and Less and Less :: Guided Prayer
Give us more and less, Father… 
More of Christ’s love for others less of our love of self.

Read more about Incomparable King and Kingdom
Many wicked kings will be compared to Jeroboam until Ahab takes his place as the most wicked king.

Unity of Belief, Freedom of Expression

Scripture Focus: 1 Kings 18.12-15
12 I your servant have worshiped the Lord since my youth. 13 Haven’t you heard, my lord, what I did while Jezebel was killing the prophets of the Lord? I hid a hundred of the Lord’s prophets in two caves, fifty in each, and supplied them with food and water. 14 And now you tell me to go to my master and say, ‘Elijah is here.’ He will kill me!” 
15 Elijah said, “As the Lord Almighty lives, whom I serve, I will surely present myself to Ahab today.” 

1 Thessalonians 1.4-10
4 For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5 because our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction. You know how we lived among you for your sake. 6 You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. 7 And so you became a model to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. 8 The Lord’s message rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, 9 for they themselves report what kind of reception you gave us. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath. 

Reflection: Unity of Belief, Freedom of Expression
By John Tillman

Two years ago we focused on the opposite methods of two men serving the same God: Obadiah and Elijah. They were united despite serving the same God in different ways. We pray today a prayer based on 1 Thessalonians 1.4-10 to remind us that we are brothers and sisters, called to follow Jesus even though unity in belief does not always lead to uniformity of expression.

Unity of Belief, Freedom of Expression
We pray for brothers and sisters loved by God, who do things differently than we do.
Those who vote based on one issue, those who vote based on another…
Those who draw doctrinal lines in the sand differently than we do…
Jesus has chosen us. His love and gospel unite us.

May we not hold “different” gospels or be swayed by eloquent words or human arguments.
The gospel unites us not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction.

May we live among believers and unbelievers, in ways that do not serve ourselves but, instead, sacrifice ourselves for them.
May we become imitators of the greatest servants among us…
Not the greatest blowhards, those so-called “leaders”…
Not those who use words to insult, harm, and slander… 

May we imitate instead those who imitate Jesus, 
Who take a message of grace and joy to the suffering
Who put aside personal gain to offer grace
Who hold out the gospel message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.

Let us be a model to believers in our cities, our counties, our countries so that the Lord’s message will ring out from where we are. 

May our faith make God’s message become known everywhere. 

May our loving, gospel-centered actions speak so loudly that we hardly need to say anything about it. May the report of us be that we received well our fellow servants and the lost who are searching for the hope we have.

May we turn to God from idols, so that idol worshipers around us can see how to serve the living and true God
We can assuredly trust that he who was raised from the dead is able to rescue us from any wrath, pain, suffering, or struggle that we face.

May we do so joyfully and in unity with those also called by his name.

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
Jesus taught us, saying: “Alas for you when everyone speaks well of you! This is how their ancestors treated the false prophets.” — Luke 6.26

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
1 Kings 18 (Listen – 7:08)
1 Thessalonians 1 (Listen – 1:27)

This Weekend’s Readings
1 Kings 19 (Listen – 3:53), 1 Thessalonians 2 (Listen – 2:53)
1 Kings 20 (Listen – 7:03), 1 Thessalonians 3 (Listen – 1:44)

Read more about Resisting or Assisting a Corrupt Regime?
We must remember that Obadiah and Elijah are not enemies. They are on the same side.

Read more about The Losers Who Write History
May we learn to listen to “losers” and learn what God may say through them.

Christ the Enemy of Death

Scripture Focus: 1 Kings 17.18
18 She said to Elijah, “What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?”

Colossians 4.3
3 Pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ.

1 Corinthians 15.26
The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

From John: Two years ago, on the day this devotional was posted, I spoke at the funeral of a young man who grew up performing in theatre with me since he was about 10 years old. He had died suddenly one night at 23 of a previously undetected heart condition. This left many asking if this was “God’s plan.” I wrote this partly in response to that question. Scripture does not make a strong argument that God meticulously controls and determines every event. Christians aren’t fatalists. And when it comes to death, God’s clearly stated plan is to destroy death, not collaborate with him. We can be assured that death, though it can be used for good, is not part of his “plan.”

Reflection: Christ the Enemy of Death
By John Tillman

God’s plan may refer to the unchanging will of God that cannot, due to God’s sovereignty and purpose, be overturned. This is true of God’s eternal purpose for humans to live forever in peace with God. Eden was an expression of this plan, and the new earth to come, will be the completion of this unchangeable and inevitable sovereign plan of God. 

God’s plan can also refer to God’s direction for a specific situation. God’s direction to Elijah to stay with the Sidonian widow is an example of this. This granular and finite definition of “God’s plan” is not equivalent to God’s eternal, sovereign purposes.

Elijah assumes, and we often do as well, that God dictates every death as part of his plan. However, God consistently shows through scripture that he is death’s enemy, not death’s co-conspirator. 

God makes it clear—throughout scripture but most directly through the actions of Christ—that death itself is not part of his “plan.” 

Death is used in God’s plans in the same way God uses many evil and wicked things, diverting evil purposes for righteous purposes. God uses the death of wicked individuals in his working of justice. God uses suffering caused by death to conform us to the image of Christ. God tenderly cares for his people during the suffering of death, as a part of his loving-kindness. In many situations in the Old Testament and the New, God reverses death, resuscitating death’s victims in miraculous ways.

We can be comforted knowing God hates death. He hates the long, slow death of old age. He hates the crippling, painful death of cancer and other wasting diseases. He hates the sudden and tragic deaths of the young. He hates death that rides on the heels of war, conflict, violence, injustice, and abuses of power.  

Death is God’s enemy because it harms and hurts his children. Death is an evil attempt by Satan to violate God’s eternal plans and purposes. God is, from chapter three of Genesis, working his will against death, advancing his purpose to destroy death, and preparing his people to overcome death.  

Part of the mystery of Christ that Paul refers to is he confronts, on our behalf, our greatest enemies—sin and death. He has defeated them both on the cross and the Holy Spirit, our comforter today, is our guarantee that victory over sin and death will ultimately be ours.

Christ is the deadly enemy of death.


Divine Hours Prayer: The Request for Presence

Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul. — Psalm 86.4

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
1 Kings 17 (Listen – 3:14)
Colossians 4 (Listen – 2:21)

Read more about Make No Peace With Death
The Christian does not make peace with death. Death is the final enemy to be defeated.

Read more about The Gospel is an Uprising
Christ exiting the doors of Hell itself…is often depicted stepping upon Death…The Anastasis—the Uprising—is the great jailbreak of God.

“Trivial” Sin

Scripture Focus: 1 Kings 16.30-31
30 Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him. 31 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.

Reflection: “Trivial” Sin
By Erin Newton

“I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.” This was a funny line from Andy Bernard in the sitcom, The Office. But the essence is true; hindsight is 20/20. Good days are taken for granted and evil days are brushed off apathetically. We go through life without pausing to consider what is happening.

The previous chapters of Kings show the increasing wickedness of each successive king in Judah and Israel. Later comparison reveals a greater number of wicked kings in the northern kingdom (Israel) versus the southern kingdom (Judah). However, sin is not a comparative business. Both kingdoms were plagued with bad leaders. The story reaches a crescendo with Ahab, king over the northern kingdom.

Ahab is notorious for promoting the worship of Baal and Asherah. These two deities were the common gods of Canaan. Seasons were thought to be determined by Baal’s battles with competing gods. Asherah was known as the fertility goddess. Self-mutilation, temple prostitution, examining animal entrails were examples of rituals done in the name of worshipping these gods. For Ahab, these were “trivial” and the people accepted it without a second thought. 

The reign of Ahab brought a resurgence of other voices in the history of Israel: Prophets. These courageous people stood up against the evil of their day to speak truth and call for repentance. Speaking against injustice and corruption is isolating and difficult. Those who spoke against leaders were constantly threatened. The price of speaking truth was often their own life.

One-third of the Old Testament books are prophetic. You might assume these voices were popular and common. On the contrary, prophets were rejected and few. Each story is a testimony of the cost of truth in a chaotic world.

Jesus also warned, “They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me” (John 15.21).  Following Christ echoes the lives of prophets. Abusive leaders infect our world while brave voices are intimidated or attacked. Do we join the population or the prophets? To join the population, we abandon God and do whatever seems right in our own eyes. To join the prophets, we abandon comfort for the sake of truth. “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” (Mark 8.36).

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Be still, then, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations; I will be exalted in the earth. — Psalm 46.11 

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Today’s Readings
1 Kings 16 (Listen – 5:31)
Colossians 3 (Listen – 3:09)

Read more about Kingdoms Breaking Bad
Ahijah says, “I have … bad news,” but we also bear the Good News. The gospel we prophesy is that tragedy can be reversed.

Read more about Gods of Ruin and Ridicule
We must decide every day whom we will serve. The gods of this world bring ruin and ridicule.

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