Friday, November 18, 2011

Bad Reputations Last Long

(There was none who sold himself to do what was evil in the sight of the LORD like Ahab, whom Jezebel his wife incited. He acted very abominably in going after idols, as the Amorites had done, whom the LORD cast out before the people of Israel.)
1 Kings 21:25-26

This parenthetical commentary on the moral character of king Ahab is telling. It is not the kind of life story we would want God to write of us. Ahab was a bad guy. He was not the kind of king God envisioned to lead His people. There are several indictments against his reputation and character in this short commentary.

First and foremost, Ahab was unique in his evil idolatry. There was no one else like him in terms of his turning his back on God. He had a penchant and lust for idols. And he followed that lust in defiance of a very straight-forward and vivid prophetic ministry. God kept speaking to Ahab through Elijah and other prophets. And Ahab just kept at his idolatrous worship. He was manic in his pursuit of idolatry.

Ahab's idolatry had some strong self-interest behind it. The text says he "sold himself to do evil". He felt like he got personal gain from his rampant neglect of God. He was evil with a profit motive behind it. In that sense, it is clear that this commentary sees Ahab as something of a spiritual prostitute. That is not a pleasant picture to have of the leader of God's people.

He was also easily influenced by his evil wife Jezebel. The entire text of 1 Kings 21 relays the account of Jezebel's conspiracy that illicitly gained Naboth's vineyard for her husband. She killed a righteous man in cold blood, using the technicalities of the covenant God made with Israel to design Naboth's demise. And Ahab was happy with the results that his wife got for him.

The nail in the coffin for Ahab was his outright pagan reputation. He was as idolatrous as the Amorite people that God eradicated in the Promised Land. Israel had become as despicable in their culture as the Canaanites had been in God's sight. The reputation of pagan idolatry now was the practice in Israel. Evil marked the society, thanks to Ahab and Jezebel and their corrupting influences.

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