Israel has yet another king take the throne. This one is by right of succession. It is Ahab, the son of Omri and he is a BAD king.
We are introduced to Ahab in a quick synopsis, like all the other kings but we get to know him better right afterwards. Today we get the overview of his reign.
Ahab’s reign in Israel begins near the end of Asa’s reign in Judah. They only overlap a few years. Israel started on the path to idolatry with their first king, Jeroboam, and they fall full on into it with Ahab. The golden calves were not enough for Ahab. He built an altar for Baal and made an Asherah shrine too.
When Jeroboam first made the golden calves he told the people that they were the gods who brought them out of Egypt. Ahab doesn’t even go with that pretense. He simply worships the other gods for what he believes they can provide him. He doesn’t seek the God who truly delivered the people out of bondage or even the replacement god. He goes full tilt after other gods.
Jezebel, Ahab’s wife, is instrumental in this process but that is a story for another time. Ahab’s sins fall squarely at his own feet. “Ahab did more to provoke the Lord, the God of Israel, to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him” (verse 33).
I want to note right here that God is STILL the God of Israel. He has not abandoned that title or the people. The kingdom is split in two. The one that bears the name of Israel is chasing other gods. And STILL the God of Israel, the Lord of ALL creation, chooses to love His people. He keeps His name. He keeps watch over them. He calls out to them to return to Him. And He keeps His promises.
God NEVER gives up on His children. He is patient. But like any good father, He will correct His children. We don’t see that correction in our reading today but it IS coming. Love demands it! Unconditional love does NOT mean love without limits. The limits are there for our protection. The love stretches beyond the limits to bring us back into the ‘safe zone’ when we wander off or force our way past them. God has defined those limits for us. And He calls us back to them because He IS the BEST Father.
The last event of our text today is the rebuilding of Jericho. Ahab didn’t rebuild it, Hiel of Bethel built it. I wonder why. Was this something he longed to do? Did he not remember the prophecy spoken by Joshua? Did he not care about Joshua’s words? Or did he not believe those words?
Hiel’s belief or motivations didn’t change the facts. God said there would be a hefty price extracted from the one who rebuilt the city of Jericho. “Joshua laid an oath on them at that time, saying, “Cursed before the Lord be the man who rises up and rebuilds the city, Jericho. ‘At the cost of his firstborn shall he lay its foundation, and at the cost of his youngest son shall he set up its gates’” (Joshua 6:26). Joshua stated the curse but the Lord marked the price. Hiel paid it in full, or more accurately, his sons did.
I wonder if Hiel even considered Joshua’s words before starting on this project. Did he pause when the first part of the prophecy was fulfilled? Did he recognize the death of his firstborn as fulfillment of Joshua’s words? Or did he shake it off and forge ahead as if nothing else mattered? When the gates were set and his youngest son died, did he remember the prophecy then? Did anyone warn him or were they all so far away from God already that they didn’t care? Hiel can’t say that God didn’t try and get his attention. The price was HIGH but Hiel chose to pay it.
What sins do we rush headlong into, knowing full well the consequences? I can think of a few of my own. God has so far spared me the full weight of the consequences. I PRAY I STOP engaging in them before His patience runs out. His mercy and love has kept me from serious harm.
Father God, forgive me for ‘flirting with disaster’ in my life. I know I keep coming back to certain sins that have serious consequences. THANK YOU for protecting me from myself! Help me lay those sins down for LIFE. Not just lay them down but bury them after burning them to ashes with Your holy fire! Thank You Lord that You NEVER take Your title of Father from my life too. Let me NEVER take that for granted.