The Weakness in Evil’s Armor

Scripture Focus: 1 Kings 22:30, 34
30 The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “I will enter the battle in disguise, but you wear your royal robes.” So the king of Israel disguised himself and went into battle.
34 But someone drew his bow at random and hit the king of Israel between the sections of his armor. The king told his chariot driver, “Wheel around and get me out of the fighting. I’ve been wounded.” 

Reflection: The Weakness in Evil’s Armor
By Erin Newton

No evil act can thwart the providence of God. No person can go unnoticed by the ever-watchful eye of our Lord. Nobody hides from an omnipresent deity.

Ahab ruled over God’s people with an oppressive hand. Confident in his power, he ignored the prophet’s threat and wore a disguise to battle. He tried to control the situation and force a favorable outcome. Then by chance—no, by God’s providence—a stray arrow pierced the king and he died.

Evil leaders seem indestructible. They promote themselves as indestructible. Ahab certainly fit the profile. He was corrupt, deceitful, proud, and merciless. He would rather harm befall his peers. He tried to place the target on his comrade, the king of Judah.

The king shielded his weakness with armor, assuming the protection would be as impenetrable as dragon scales. But even iron-clad monsters are not invincible.

The Hobbit tells a story of Smaug, a dragon who set out to destroy the people of Dale. Cocky and boastful of his armored hide, Smaug taunts the people, “My armor is like ten-fold shields, my teeth are swords, my claws spears…” This prideful spirit is just like Ahab. But a weakness in the armor of king and dragon will be found.

In each story, a single arrow strikes in the smallest gap of the armor. The miraculous “once in a lifetime” shot is an arrow finding its target. For our story, it is an arrow guided by the almighty hand of God. The undefeated Creator of the world can bring down evil leaders with a slender stick and random human efforts.

Such is the providence of God. Scheming evil leaders assume they have power to hide themselves, control the circumstances, and escape judgment. The story of Ahab reminds us of the omnipotence of our God.

But some aspects of his providence are difficult to understand. What about all the prophets harmed by Ahab’s rule and Jezebel’s rage? Why could not that arrow have flown years earlier?

We simply do not know. And this leads us to the place in our faith that we must hold in tension: God’s sovereign rule and the continuance of evil. We know God despises evil and grieves such atrocities. We fill our hearts with pleas for justice and intercession for the weak.

Rest assured, no one escapes the will of God. Not even leaders who think they can hide. 

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
Who is like you, Lord God of hosts? O mighty Lord, your faithfulness is all around you.
Righteousness and justice are the foundations of your throne; love and truth go before your face. — Psalm 89.8

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

Today’s Readings
1 Kings 22 (Listen 7:51)
Psalms 44 (Listen 2:44)

Read more about Kings Like Ahab
Ahab gets the most ink in Kings. He’s unquestionably wicked, yet God used and spoke to him frequently. Why?

Read more about Evil, Judgment, or Discipline?
Sometimes bad things happen as part of God’s judgment…as Johnny Cash sang, “…sooner or later, God’ll cut you down.”

Kings Like Ahab

Scripture Focus: 1 Kings 20.28
28 The man of God came up and told the king of Israel, “This is what the Lord says: ‘Because the Arameans think the Lord is a god of the hills and not a god of the valleys, I will deliver this vast army into your hands, and you will know that I am the Lord.’ ” 

Reflection: Kings Like Ahab
By John Tillman

Ahab is the anti-David. If David shows us “a man after God’s heart,” Ahab is the mirror image. (1 Samuel 13.14; Acts 13.22) Ahab and David become moral measuring sticks. Scripture describes bad kings as following Ahab’s ways and good kings as following David’s.

Ahab gets the most ink in Kings. He’s unquestionably wicked, yet God used and spoke to him frequently. Why?

It may shock us that God blesses Ahab with victories and with his presence and voice, spoken through many prophets. Humans aren’t perfect, yet God works through them. We know this academically, but emotionally, we feel God should find someone else when he uses the wicked. We can learn from this.

God uses wicked kings to accomplish good things. This doesn’t make them good kings. God used Ahab as a mercy to the people of Israel and for the glory of his own name, not because Ahab was good. Victories don’t grant leaders a never-expiring stamp of God’s approval or mean a leader is “God’s man or woman.” They don’t suddenly deserve praise, adoration, or unquestioning, unshakable devotion.

God pursues the wicked for salvation. God repeatedly tells Ahab, “You will know that I am the Lord.” God wanted Ahab to know him and offered himself to Ahab, who repeatedly rejected God. We typically think of God pursuing the wicked, seeking to punish or destroy them, but God also pursues the wicked to turn them to him and change their hearts.

We are among the wicked. Ahab was wicked and God used him. David was wicked and God used him. We are wicked and God will use us. Our wickedness is different by degrees when we compare them humanly, but to God wicked is wicked. Just as God pursued wicked kings for repentance, he has and will pursue us. 

Jesus is the only righteous king. God did find a better, righteous king to do the work that no imperfect king could do. Jesus is the king who accomplishes all that God wants. He is the only king to whom we can be unswervingly loyal because he is the only righteous one.

Like Ahab and all wicked kings, we are wicked ones repeatedly called to repentance. Ahab and David differ in their response to God, not in God’s offer. May we respond like David and not like Ahab.

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
Jesus taught us, saying: “I tell you, if anyone openly declares himself for me in the presence of human beings, the Son of man will declare himself for him in the presence of God’s angels. But anyone who disowns me in the presence of human beings will be disowned in the presence of God’s angels.” — Luke 12.8-9

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

Today’s Readings
1 Kings 20 (Listen 7:03)
Psalms 40-41 (Listen 3:57)

Read more about Ahab and David
Even Ahab, the wickedest of wicked kings, obtained a measure of mercy from God when he showed humility and grief.

Read more about Supporting Our Work
Our ad-free content is not free to produce or publish. Give a one-time gift or join our monthly donors.

Nameless Prophets

Scripture Focus: 1 Kings 13.29-33
29 So the prophet picked up the body of the man of God, laid it on the donkey, and brought it back to his own city to mourn for him and bury him. 30 Then he laid the body in his own tomb, and they mourned over him and said, “Alas, my brother!”

31 After burying him, he said to his sons, “When I die, bury me in the grave where the man of God is buried; lay my bones beside his bones. 32 For the message he declared by the word of the LORD against the altar in Bethel and against all the shrines on the high places in the towns of Samaria will certainly come true.”

33 Even after this, Jeroboam did not change his evil ways… 

2 Kings 23.4-24
15 Even the altar at Bethel, the high place made by Jeroboam son of Nebat, who had caused Israel to sin—even that altar and high place he demolished. He burned the high place and ground it to powder, and burned the Asherah pole also. 16 Then Josiah looked around, and when he saw the tombs that were there on the hillside, he had the bones removed from them and burned on the altar to defile it, in accordance with the word of the Lord proclaimed by the man of God who foretold these things.

17 The king asked, “What is that tombstone I see?”

The people of the city said, “It marks the tomb of the man of God who came from Judah and pronounced against the altar of Bethel the very things you have done to it.”

18 “Leave it alone,” he said. “Don’t let anyone disturb his bones.” So they spared his bones and those of the prophet who had come from Samaria.

Reflection: Nameless Prophets
By John Tillman

It is one of the strangest stories in the Bible. 

Three powerful and frightening signs.
Jeroboam was offering a sacrifice on the altar of Bethel when the Judean man of God prophesied to the altar. At the prophecy, two signs occurred. The altar split and the ashes spilled. The third sign came when Jeroboam threatened the man of God and his hand instantly shriveled. Jeroboam repented of his threat and at the prophet’s prayer, the hand was restored.

Two nameless prophets.
The mysterious “man of God from Judah” is identified only by gender and geography. He confronted a powerful king with powerful signs. Yet, he became so hungry he made a serious error in judgment.

The “old prophet” from Samaria was unscrupulous and ambiguous. Did he attempt to save a fellow prophet from starving on the side of the road? Did he sabotage a rival prophet who destroyed an altar his family served? Where did his loyalty lie? He lies to the man of God, then lies with the man of God, side-by-side in the same tomb. His dying wish implies he meant no harm, but we can’t be sure.

One corrupt, wicked king.
God promised Jeroboam a kingdom “as enduring as the one I built for David” if he would walk in obedience. Instead, he became as corrupt as the son of Solomon he rebelled against. (1 Kings 11.34-40)

One reforming, destroying future king.
Josiah is the greatest reformer of any biblical king. (2 Kings 23.25) He is known more by what he tore down than by what he built. David fought for political peace against outer threats, armies entrenched at the borders. Josiah fought for spiritual peace against inner threats, foreign gods entrenched in hearts and culture.

The Bible is not a curriculum. Many tales, like this one, lack obvious takeaways. However, we know that God is on a mission of reformation and restoration. The process will be painful. Errors in one generation harm those following. Future generations must tear down errors before harms can be healed.

Jesus is a greater reformer than Josiah. When Jesus sets things right, they will stay that way. Are we willing to be nameless prophets, announcing the coming king? God seeks the repentant and the faithful for nameless missions whose happy endings may come after our death.

Come soon, King Jesus.

Divine Hours Prayer: A Reading
Jesus taught us, saying: “There is no need to be afraid, little flock, for it has pleased your Father to give you the kingdom.” — Luke 12.32

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

Today’s Readings
1 Kings 13 (Listen 5:14)
Psalms 33 (Listen 2:08)

Read more about Incomparable King and Kingdom
Scripture’s accounts of kings are focused on the only statistic that matters—righteousness.

Read more about Supporting Our Work
Our work needs your support. Join us in bringing biblical devotionals to inboxes across the world.

Gods of Ruin and Ridicule

Scripture Focus: 1 Kings 9.6-7
6 “But if you or your descendants turn away from me and do not observe the commands and decrees I have given you and go off to serve other gods and worship them, 7 then I will cut off Israel from the land I have given them and will reject this temple I have consecrated for my Name. Israel will then become a byword and an object of ridicule among all peoples.

Reflection: Gods of Ruin and Ridicule
By Erin Newton

I don’t think humanity was made to live in perpetual uncertainty. The looming threat of another worldwide crisis hinders decision-making. Fearful, we let impulse govern our lives. But these impulses lead us into pain. When threats feel imminent, determining our choices beforehand can save us from unintended disaster.

After Solomon succeeded in building a temple, God encouraged the people to decide ahead of time to stay committed to him. The Temple was now filled with the constant presence of God and he promised to hear their prayers. Peace, prosperity, and joy were all benefits from the covenant relationship. Israel’s future was bright just as long as they continued in obedience and devoted worship to God alone.

I always wondered how the Israelites could abandon God so easily and fall into idolatry. However, it is evident that Israel was not operating in a vacuum. Israel was actively involved with other people: trade, marriage, travel, etc. In the ancient world, proper religious practices were thought to ensure good harvests and fruitful wombs. In the face of adversity, trials, or suffering, seeking the favor of a god was the natural impulse.

Israel’s greatest temptation was deciding to whom they would pray. If the people around them were prospering, would they look to Baal? If their wombs were empty, would they burn incense to the image of Asherah? Foreign religious practices gave people a sense of control over life, a way to manipulate a god into action.

Our greatest temptation today is to worship the false gods of power, wealth, pleasure, and narcissism. If our friends appear happier than ourselves, do we embrace the impulses of instant pleasure? If others act in ways that we dislike, do we trade mercy for power and subdue the world around us? When our impulses take control, we attempt to bend circumstances to our will.

Like the word given to the Israelites, Jesus said, “If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” (John 15.6-7) We must decide every day whom we will serve. The gods of this world bring ruin and ridicule. However, if we abide in Christ, we enjoy the benefit of God’s presence. 

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
I will confess you among the peoples, O Lord; I will sing praises to you among the nation.
For your loving-kindness is greater than the heavens, and your faithfulness reaches to the clouds. — Psalm 108.3-4

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

Today’s Readings
1 Kings 9 (Listen 4:16)
Psalms 28-29 (Listen 2:41)

This Weekend’s Readings
1 Kings 10 (Listen 4:27)Psalms 30 (Listen 1:32)
1 Kings 11 (Listen 7:05)Psalms 31 (Listen 3:11)

Monday’s Readings
1 Kings 12 (Listen 5:15)Psalms 32 (Listen 1:34)

Read more about Captivity, Exile, and Exodus
They rejected God and set up their own gods and a government filled with oppression and mistreatment of the poor and outcasts.

Read more about The Sojourn of Sanctification
Those indoctrinated in the false gods of Egypt would teach all nations, showing them what the one, true God is like.

Beside Still Waters

Scripture Focus: 1 Kings 7.25-26
25 The Sea stood on twelve bulls, three facing north, three facing west, three facing south and three facing east. The Sea rested on top of them, and their hindquarters were toward the center. 26 It was a handbreadth in thickness, and its rim was like the rim of a cup, like a lily blossom. It held two thousand baths.

Job 7.12
12 Am I the sea, or the monster of the deep,
     that you put me under guard?

Matthew 8.27
27 The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”

Reflection: Beside Still Waters
By Erin Newton

I’m quite terrified of the ocean. Maybe I watch too many documentaries or movies about the dangers of the open waters. Too many threats lurk beneath—rip currents, undertows, great white sharks, killer whales, and dare I say, Leviathan.

The sea plays a role in many stories of the Bible, usually as a formidable foe that threatens God’s people: the Red Sea, the raging sea that sends Jonah overboard, and stormy seas threatening the disciples on more than one occasion.

Solomon’s Temple contained features that reflected nature, perhaps the Garden of Eden where God walked among his creation unrestrained. Among the temple furnishings stood a large bronze basin. The enormous size of the bowl was a feat for the Israelite metallurgist. It stood in a fixed location in the Temple—a heavy bronze basin filled with water used for purification and cleansing—and it was called the “Sea.”

The name of the basin is a figurative term for such a large bowl of water, but it strikes at the fearsome image they knew all too well. This Sea, however, is contained, bound, motionless. There are no thrashing waves.

The water served to cleanse the priests (Lev. 8.6) or wash the organs of sacrificed animals (Lev. 8.21). The Sea was no longer a threat, but placed under the watchful eye of God with a renewed purpose. The basin was crowned with gourds and nestled upon the backs of bulls, symbols of life that flow from the cleansing waters.

In the depths of Job’s grief, he calls out to God, asking if he was also constrained like the sea. He recognized the usual threat of the waters but knew that God spoke to the sea and said, “This far you may come and no farther” (Job 38.11).

When a furious storm rolls upon the lake with waves sweeping over the boat, the sea surrenders to the voice of Jesus. Even the winds and the waves obey him.

So why, again, is the Sea in the Temple? Apart from its practical purpose of serving the priests, I think the Sea sits still within the Temple as a reminder—God has this whole world in his hands.

As you enter his presence through prayer, worship, meditation, or reading, look to your left and behold the still waters. The image heralds the supremacy of our God.

Holy, holy, holy is the God of all creation!

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
In you, O Lord, have I taken refuge; let me never be put to shame; deliver me in your righteousness. — Psalm 31.1

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

Today’s Readings
1 Kings 7 (Listen 7:47)
Psalms 25 (Listen 2:18)

Read more about Counting Waves
The disciples urged Jesus to awake, their voices strained with fear. “Teacher, do you not care if we drown?”

Read more about Supporting Our Work
Donate today to support ad-free content that brings biblical devotionals to inboxes across the world.