Ben-hadad, the king of Syria, is intent on conquering Israel. Ahab has not been following the Lord but He is going to prove to Ahab Who He is.
Not too long ago Ahab stood witness as Elijah battled the prophets of Baal and won. But that was not enough to get Ahab to abandon all his false gods. Also, God hasn’t given up on His people.
Here that very people stand on the brink of annihilation. The king of Syria and 32 other kings are facing Israel in battle. Ben-hadad called for surrender and Ahab agreed to the terms. But the terms keep changing. Ben-hadad doesn’t want Israel’s surrender, he wants to take her in battle. No amount of surrender will please this bully. And the people of Israel are not willing to accept his terms.
Swords are drawn by Ben-hadad and there is nothing left to be said. Or is there? God has something to say to Israel before she rushes onto the battle field. Ahab’s ears have been blocked for some time and Elijah and Elisha are not here. God sends another of His messengers and the word he carries is backed up by God.
Not everyone who claims to be speaking for the Lord really is. Ahab questions the word that comes to him. More accurately, he questions the messenger by whom the word comes. Elijah hasn’t been known to bring favorable words to Ahab yet this man’s words hold hope. Who is this messenger? And who sent him?!
These are answers Ahab needs before committing himself and his people. Ahab’s “By whom?” NEEDS the right answer. The answer is simple. “Thus says the Lord, By the servants of the governors of the districts” (verse 14b). In other words, “This comes from God Himself brought through the leaders of the people.” God is using the ranking leaders in Israel to deliver his message. This isn’t by one source but by all the districts.
I doubt the people had an opportunity to sit down together and vote on this message but if Ahab follows it the people will follow him. There were 232 of these servants ready to stand behind the word that was brought. After they were willing to stand Ahab had seven thousand more who were willing to take on the charge at the word of the Lord.
When I read this number it reminded me of when God was telling Elijah that he wasn’t alone. God said, “Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him” (1 Kings 19:18). Are these the same seven thousand who march out of the city and defeat Ben-hadad or God referring to the number of people who will be left when Israel falls?
Can you imagine the testimony it would be if these were the same 7,000?! The ones who wouldn’t bow to false gods are the ones who save the nation, with GOD’S help!
We know that there are more than 7,232 men able to fight in all of Israel but these are the only ones who come to face Ben-hadad, his 32 kings and all their armies. Men who were convinced that the battle belonged to the Lord.
I LOVE seeing the battle tactics too. Ben-hadad was the one spoiling for a fight, yet he was getting drunk at noon with all the other kings. They were convinced that they had this battle in the bag and were already celebrating their victory before the first blow was struck.
GOD’S forces walked out of the city and marched right towards them. No stealth. No ambushes. No cover of darkness. A direct frontal assault. And to top it all off, Ben-hadad told his people not to kill any of them but to “take them alive” (verse 18b). He didn’t care their intention, just grab them and hold them.
God’s forces didn’t have these restrictions. They cut down everyone in their path. The Syrian army and all who were with them fled and Israel pursued them. Israel’s men were empowered by the Lord because that is who they followed.
After the Syrians were on the run, the king of Israel struck the horses and chariots. This was a HUGE blow to the Syrian army. I don’t know for certain if this portion of the battle was done by the 7,232 or if Ahab sent others out in their wake to ‘mop up’ behind them. I’m leaning towards the later scenario because that is what it feels like to me, but I wasn’t there so I don’t know for sure who did what that day.
Ahab couldn’t have been happier with the outcome. Him and his kingdom were safe. God had shown Himself faithful to His people, even when the majority of His people weren’t faithful to Him. But this is not the end of the story. The prophet comes back to Ahab with news.
Ahab is given advance warning of what will come the next spring. He has a chance to get ready. Ben-hadad will be back. He hasn’t learned his lesson. Ahab is told to think about what needs to be done and be ready to do it when the time comes.
Ben-hadad gets the worst advice possible from his advisors. “Their gods are gods of the hills, and so they were stronger than we. But let us fight against them in the plain, and surely we shall be stronger than they” (verse 23b). He gets more battle plans from these advisors but being their foundational premise is flawed, they don’t have a snowball’s chance in… you know where… of succeeding. But we will see that outcome another day.
When I was looking at our reading today I was having trouble with it. I was having a hard time watching God work on behalf of a wicked king with people who had turned their backs on Him. But when the two instances of 7,000 lined up in my mind I got excited. I cannot guarantee you that these are the same two groups but my spirit bore witness to the probability. If this is not how you see this battle or if the Lord has ministered something different to you, I am not offended or dissuaded from what I see. I KNOW God can work with ANYONE He chooses but it is MUCH more likely that He works with those who are His own than with those who openly rebel against Him. How much more of a testimony of His hand could there be than for those who have followed Him to deliver those who have turned away?
For the sake of the few, the many are saved. God so loved the WHOLE WORLD that He sent His only begotten Son so that whoever believed in Him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 paraphrased). For the sake of the ‘few’ who would believe the truth, He made a way for ALL.
Thank You Father God for NOT giving up on us. Thank You for not giving up on me. How many times have I reaped the benefits of those around me and their faith? As a child I KNOW I benefited from my parent’s faith. They held me fast in Your word until I learned to seek You on my own. I know they were not perfect but I wonder what it was that they did that I failed to do which resulted in most of their children still loving You where most of mine have turned away.
Was I Ahab in their presence; chasing the wrong gods? I long for them to ‘come home’ to Your arms. PLEASE wash away any stain I may have put on Your name in their sight. Show Yourself to them in a real and powerful way. Bring them a ‘7,000 faithful’ experience. It had a significant impact on Ahab, even if it was delayed. I’m praying they are easier to reach and the outcome will be MUCH more profitable spiritually for them than with Ahab.
Again Lord, I place my children and grandchildren at Your feet. I TRUST YOU with them.