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One Last Confrontation: God's Patience and Our Repentance

‘There certainly was no one like Ahab who gave himself over to do evil in the sight of the Lord…Yet it came about, when Ahab heard these words, that he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and fasted.’

- 1 Kings 21:25, 27 -

By the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, King David marveled how God ‘has not dealt with us according to our sins, and He has not rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us’ (Ps. 103:10-12). A more wondrous summary of God’s grace and our redemption are hard to find in Scripture.

God raised David up from a lowly shepherd-boy to become Israel’s anointed king. David adored God all his days. He slew Goliath, danced before the Ark, and longed to ‘dwell in the house of Yahweh forever’ (Ps. 23:6). Yet God’s chosen king fell prey to the lust of the flesh and the boastful pride of life, committing adultery and murder. David shirked his duty as commander-in-chief and seduced Bathsheba in the comfort of his palace, all while brave men like Uriah the Hittite (not even an Israelite!) fought and died for Israel.

If God were like us mere mortals, David’s heinous crimes would have obliterated their bond. Yet our gracious God chastised David by sending the prophet Nathan to deliver a parable about an innocent lamb butchered out of greed. The effect was instant. David realized his evil and repented before God. He was granted eternal forgiveness, but as often happens, his earthly punishment was severe. David’s infant son was taken to heaven prematurely. It taught the king (and all future believers) that God saves those who repent and return to Him, but that evil still carries consequences in this life.


Scripture doesn’t pull punches when it contrasts God’s perfection with our corruption. From Genesis to Malachi, the Old Testament is full of broken people, be they prophets, priests, or kings. This makes Jesus shine unbearably bright in the Gospels. His singular perfection forces us to ask why God lets us stumble and sin, only to plead mercy time after time. Scripture's answer is that God is glorified when we fall to our knees and receive His grace. This is what knocked David’s spiritual socks off in Psalm 103. He saw how God casts His children’s sins as far as the east is from the west, covering our wrongs with Christ’s rights: His perfect life and sacrificial death. Thanks to Christ we can enter God’s presence, bask in His goodness, and share in His joy forever.

As the seventh rotten monarch of Israel’s northern kingdom, King Ahab reigned long before Christ’s incarnation. Ahab’s works were utterly wicked, but God showed grace by having Elijah confront the king again and again. The fiery prophet didn’t mince his words in their final feud. Elijah warned Ahab that he was heading for divine disaster, prophesying that the king’s heirs would die in dishonor: ‘The one belonging to Ahab, who dies in the city, the dogs will eat, and the one who dies in the field, the birds of the sky will eat’ (1 Kings 21:24).

After Elijah’s indictment of the king, we're reminded that Ahab took the gold medal for evil: ‘Surely there was no one who sold himself to do what is evil in the sight of Yahweh like Ahab’ (1 Kings 21:25). Sin is a cruel master, and Ahab sold himself to it. We might expect God to rain down fire and brimstone, pound Ahab into dust, and blot him out of history. Instead we find a familiar event in the tale of redemption: ‘Now it happened when Ahab heard these words, he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and fasted and…went on despondently’ (1 Kings 21:27). It sadly wasn't repentance leading to salvation, but after untold run-ins with Ahab, you can bet Elijah was stunned by the wicked ruler’s earnest (albeit temporary) sorrow.

God's grace toward Ahab is spelled out as the chapter ends: ‘the word of Yahweh came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, “Do you see how Ahab has humbled himself before Me? Because he has humbled himself before Me, I will not bring the evil in his days, but I will bring the evil upon his house in his son’s days”’ (1 Kings 21:28-29).

As with David, God used Ahab to model mercy as well as justice. Ahab’s horrors could have been nailed to Christ’s cross and forgiven (Col. 2:14). After all, God is eager and able to blot out the sins of all who embrace Christ’s sacrifice and see their lives transformed by faith. That crucial second step of transformation was why John the Baptist preached repentance in the wilderness until he was thrown in a dungeon. John knew that only the truly redeemed “bear fruits in keeping with repentance” (Luke 3:8). Ahab stumbled at that second step, yet God still offered an olive branch to the king as He ‘desires all men to be saved and to come to the full knowledge of the truth’ (1 Tim. 2:4). Therefore Ahab’s rejection rested on his own shoulders.

The lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world is of no use to depraved men like Ahab, who, like dogs returning to their vomit, run back to idolatry and warmongering even after profound moments of grief. Ahab wasn’t zealous to be renewed by the good news of God’s grace to sinners. The Lord of Glory terrified him, but his terror never inspired righteous reverence or lasting love. Ahab’s window of opportunity closed, but ours remains open. Anyone with eyes to see and ears to hear can fall to their knees and God will remake them in His Son’s perfect image (1 John 3:2). Oh, what a God we have.

All Scripture quotations are from the Legacy Standard Bible


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