Dear BRP: I Am A Terrible Person – What Can I Do That Will Impress God? #296

Happy Lord’s Day, Friends – may it be a day of refreshment and worship. May you seek the face of God today – together with other believers – and may He refresh you body, mind and soul as you seek after Him! I invite you to join us today at 11am at VBC Salinas as we discuss, “Where is the LORD, the God of Elijah?” and consider how God is calling His church to history-changing prayer during this pandemic.

Our Bible readings today begin with 1 Kings 21, our focus passage, and also include Psalms 107, Daniel 3 and 1 Thessalonians 4. This will be our fourth straight day in an epistle of Paul, and we haven’t focused on it yet – I suspect that will change tomorrow, but I haven’t gone over Monday’s readings just yet, so I guess we’ll see.

Ahab was a pretty horrible guy. Actually, that doesn’t really cut it. Ahab was just plain awful. A murderer, a spineless leader, and a whiny king who prostituted himself with many other Gods. I actually think 1 Kings does a better job of summing up his life than I just did:

25 Still, there was no one like Ahab, who devoted himself to do what was evil in the Lord’s sight, because his wife Jezebel incited him. 26 He committed the most detestable acts by following idols as the Amorites had, whom the Lord had dispossessed before the Israelites.

1 Kings 21:25-26

Ouch! Ahab is king for 22 years, and makes one bad decision after another, perhaps worst of all enabling his wife Jezebel to preside over the mass murder of hundreds of prophets and priests. In today’s chapter, we see Ahab commit first degree murder by proxy, just so he – a man with nearly everything – can have one more vineyard. (Very reminiscent of David’s sin…) In response to all of this evil, God pronounces a terrible judgment on Ahab through Elijah the prophet:

17 Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite: 18 “Get up and go to meet King Ahab of Israel, who is in Samaria. He’s in Naboth’s vineyard, where he has gone to take possession of it. 19 Tell him, ‘This is what the Lord says: Have you murdered and also taken possession?’ Then tell him, ‘This is what the Lord says: In the place where the dogs licked up Naboth’s blood, the dogs will also lick up your blood!’”

1st Kings 21:17-19

So vivid, so final and so terrifying…and yet this story does NOT end how we expect it to, because Ahab does something that is so utterly astounding that it seems to …impress? God. Now, I struggled with what word to use in today’s Big Bible question. I’m not quite certain that Ahab ‘impresses’ God, exactly, Him being omniscient and all…but God does seem to be quite moved by Ahab’s surprising act. Let’s read the passage and find out all about it.

Did you see that coming? Maybe for those who have read 1 Kings before, they remembered that Ahab humbled himself and repented, but if this is your first time around, I suspect you might be shocked. Ahab humbles himself and repents!! Even more surprising is that God actually is moved by this act and forestalls His judgment! How can this be?? Two things I want to point out here. #1 The importance of humility and repentance and #2 the HOPE that this should give ALL sinners – even the worst of them – about the nature and character of God and His abundant mercy!

We can say for certain that God is not impressed by hardly any of the things that impresses humanity. God looks on the inside, and thus He is not moved by worldly wealth, or popularity, or good looks, or the number of views your latest Tik Tok hand-dancing video got. God is moved by humility, however. Consider:

Though the Lord is exalted, he takes note of the humble; but he knows the haughty from a distance. Psalms 138:6

The humble will have joy after joy in the Lord, and the poor people will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel. Isaiah 29:29

Blessed are the humble, for they will inherit the earth. Matthew 5:5

All of you clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. 1 Peter 5:5 
And, as we saw yesterday, God takes no delight in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live! (Ezekiel 33:11) God delights in repentance, and He gives joy after joy, grace after grace to the humble, and He KNOWS THEM INTIMATELY AND HE GIVES THEM THE EARTH as their inheritance.
It is utterly astounding to me that God is so full of gracious compassion that this awful scoundrel Ahab even has mercy upon mercy poured out on his head simply by humbling himself and repenting. I don’t know that this phrase has been repeated often, but may we learn this lesson from Ahab here that God gives His riches of mercy and compassion to even the vilest sinner who turns to Him in humility and repentance. No sinners has put themselves outside the bounds of God’s lovingkindness!
That said, we must be consider a sobering truth: Ahab humbled himself and repented and God bestowed magnificent mercy on him…but then Ahab rebelled against God again, and stopped humbling himself and repenting, and the judgment that was delayed by mercy was reinstated by justice yet again. In the same way that a criminal pardoned for robbery by the great mercy of a judge will be sent to jail immediately upon committing a robbery again, so did Ahab put himself back under the Lord’s judgment by his rebellion. That is a sobering truth, but I want to end on a more hopeful note, so let’s turn to Spurgeon, who is here to remind us of God’s propensity to give when asked:

Let it be remembered that frequently even when the ungodly and the wicked have asked of God they have received. Full often in the time of their distress they have called upon God, and he has answered them. “Say you so?” saith one. Nay, I say not so, but so saith Scripture. Ahab’s prayer was answered, and the Lord said, “seest thou how Ahab humbleth himself before me? because he humbleth himself before me, I will not bring the evil in his days: but in his son’s days will I bring the evil upon his house.” So, also, the Lord heard the prayer of Jehoahaz, the son of Jehu, who did evil in the sight of the Lord. 2 Kings 13:1–4. The Israelites also, when for their sins they were given over to their foes, cried to God for deliverance, and they were answered, yet the Lord himself testified concerning them that they did but flatter with their mouth. Does this stagger you? Does he not hear the young ravens when they cry? Do you think he will not hear man, that is formed in his own image? Do you doubt it? Remember Nineveh. The prayers offered at Nineveh, were they spiritual prayers? Did you ever hear of a church of God in Nineveh? I have not, neither do I believe the Ninevites were ever visited by converting grace; but they were by the preaching of Jonah convinced that they were in danger from the great Jehovah, and they proclaimed a fast, and humbled themselves, and God heard their prayer, and Nineveh for a while was preserved. Many a time in the hour of sickness, and in the time of woe, God has heard the prayers of the unthankful and the evil. Dost thou think God gives nothing except to the good? Hast thou dwelt at the foot of Sinai and learned to judge according to the law of merit? What wast thou when thou didst begin to pray? Wert thou good and righteous? Has not God commanded thee to do good to the evil? Will he command thee to do what he will not do himself? Has he not said that he “sendeth rain upon the just and upon the unjust,” and is it not so? Is he not daily blessing those who curse him, and doing good to those who despitefully use him? This is one of the glories of God’s grace; and when there is nothing else good in the man, yet if there be a cry lifted up from his heart the Lord deigns full often to send relief from trouble. Now, if God has heard the prayers even of men who have not sought him in the highest manner, and has given them temporary deliverances in answer to their cries, will he not much more hear you when you are humbling yourself in his sight, and desiring to be reconciled to him.

C. H. Spurgeon, “Prayer Certified of Success,” in The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit Sermons, vol. 19 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1873), 33–34.

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