In 1 Kings 20 we read about a series of encounters where God teaches some wayward kings a lesson.
During a siege of Israel’s capital of Samaria, King Ben-hadad of Syria sends a messenger to King Ahab demanding , “All your silver and gold, and your prettiest wives and children are all mine now.” (v3)
Ahab, who seeing the odds stacked against him, says, “Okay, you win.” He probably expects Ben-hadad to make Ahab his vassal, but let him keep his family and treasure with the understanding that it all really belongs to Ben-hadad. (v4-6)
But Ben-hadad makes further demands which Ahab rejects infuriating Ben-hadad who commands his huge army to go against the city. (v7-12)
Lesson 1: An unknown prophet comes to Ahab and tells him that the Lord is going to help him win the battle so he’ll know that he is God. (v13-14)
Obediently Ahab gathers 232 young men at the head of his army of 7,000 Israelites and attacks Ben-hadad and his generals while they are getting drunk in their tents. Ahab’s army leaves no prisoners, and Ben-hadad barely escapes on horseback. (v15-21)
The prophet returns and warns Ahab that Ben-hadad will return next spring to attack once again, so he should better strengthen his defences.
Lesson 2: Following the embarrassing defeat, Ben-hadad’s servants tell him that Israel must worship a hill god, and that is why they were so much stronger when they fought in the hills. They suggest that Ben-hadad fight Israel in the plains, where (he mistakenly believes) their god won’t be able to help them. So that spring, a huge Syrian army goes out to meet the Israelite army in the plains. Once again, a man of God tells Ahab that the Lord will give him victory to prove that he is God—and not just of the hills.
The Israelites kill 100,000 soldiers in a single day, and the Syrians flee to a city called Aphek. There, a wall collapses killing the 27,000 surviving soldiers. (v26-30)
While Ben-hadad hides in the city, his advisors suggest that that Israelite kings are merciful, he should but on sackcloth and surrender. Ahab spares Ben-hadad’s life because he sees him as a brother. Ahab and Ben-hadad settle their differences; make some treaties, and part ways. (v30-35)
Lesson 3: But the Lord wanted Ahab to kill Ben-hadad, so he sets up a little lesson for Ahab. A prophet disguises himself as a wounded soldier (he even gets someone to actually wound him) and covers his face with a bandage over his eyes.
When Ahab comes, he tells him, “King, I was fighting in the battle, but then someone told me to guard a prisoner, and that if he got away, I’d have to pay a talent of silver or die. But I got distracted during the battle, and he got away. Can you help me out here?”
But Ahab replies, “No way. You have to pay the price.” At that moment the prophet’s removes his disguise much to the shock of Ahab and condemns him. “You let Ben-hadad get away instead of taking care of him like the Lord wanted. Now the Lord will take your life in place of his.”
A sullen Ahab goes home with a death sentence hanging over his head.
Points to ponder
Do we acknowledge God in the victories in our lives ?
Do we ever compartmentalise God – thinking he can work in this area of our lives but not in others ?
Do we treat him as the God of the mountaintop experiences and forget about him in the valleys or vice versa?
Are we fully obedient to what the Lord commands?