1 Kings 21:3-4 (There was never a man like Ahab, who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the LORD, urged on by Jezebel his wife. He behaved in the vilest manner by going after idols, like the Amorites the LORD drove out before Israel.)
As I read this parenthetical statement in the narrative of the kings of Israel, I can’t help thinking about another king who ruled over the undivided kingdom a century and a half earlier.
Jezebel had contrived and plotted the cold-blooded execution of Naboth on false, trumped up charges, but clearly Ahab was complicit in the heinous crime. In fact, most of Ahab’s sins could be traced to the influence of this wicked, Baal-worshipping woman. So King Ahab had arranged for an ‘innocent’ man to die so that he could rationalise the illegal procurement of his intimately personal property (cf verse 3).
The other King that comes to mind is King David, because of the way he ‘disposed of’ Bathsheba’s husband. The problem for us is: ‘Why did the LORD respond so differently to each of their crimes?’
The answer is found in their HEARTS. Ahab was a proud, arrogant ruler who was determined to run the kingdom in his own way, according to his own wisdom and inclinations. Baal was a fertility God, and his specified rituals were much more sensual and satisfying to a self-centred, lustful disposition. So if Jezebel insisted that their future prosperity, well-being and comfort were better served by worshipping him, then that was clearly the better way to go.
King David, on the other hand, was ‘a man after GOD’S OWN HEART’ (cf 1 Samuel 13:14, Acts 13:22), a king who understood what it meant to walk humbly with his LORD, and allow HIM to be the REAL King. From a truly human perspective, David’s treatment of Uriah the Hittite was just as despicable and culpable as Ahab’s treatment of Naboth, or perhaps even more so, but David was in an established personal, covenant relationship with his God which he KNEW and understood had its source in the LORD’s GRACE ALONE, whereas Ahab wanted to remain his ‘own man’, in full control of his own pleasure-seeking future and destiny.
What is the ‘take-home’ lesson for us in all this? The Scriptures make clear that we are ALL born with the disposition of Ahab, and Jesus calls us to REPENT of this and to submit to his rule in and over our lives as our Saviour and Lord. As Jesus himself said, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?” (Luke 9:25). It’s really a no-brainer. I strive very hard to live a life that is pleasing to my Saviour in every way, but I know my own failings and the deep-seated sinfulness of a heart that is capable of failing as hopelessly as David and Ahab, so my eternal comfort and only hope depends on God’s GRACE and the resultant covenant relationship I can have with him because of the new life JESUS HAS PROCURED FOR ME, through his atoning, substitutionary death and his glorious resurrection.