Day 84—Ahoy, Matey!—“Interruptions Toward Solitude” 1 Kings 20:1 – 22:53
March 25, 2021, 7:38 AM

Day 84—Ahoy, Matey!—“Interruptions Toward Solitude” 1 Kings 20:1 – 22:53

From the very first verses of today’s reading, it reminded me of a bad pirate sketch. King Ben-hadad’s messengers come before Ahab to give him a message from the king:“Your silver and gold are mine; your fairest wives and children also are mine,” (20:3)  Does anyone else hear an “Aaarrr!!” after that? While these kings are all land-based, their posturing and partying sound a lot like a bunch of aging pirates trying to out-do each other. King Ahab of Israel (northern kingdom) , that paragon of strength and virtue (please add a dose of sarcasm here), listens to King Ben-hadad’s messengers and says “Ok! They’re yours!” What?!?

All the elders and people have to encourage Ahab to fight back for his family, his property and his kingdom. That’s not really how it’s supposed to work, but we are clearly aware of Ahab’s moral and spiritual weakness as well as his unnatural subservience to his wife Jezebel. As we read further, our awareness of these flaws grows in the story of Naboth’s vineyard, which reminds me of David’s sin with Bathsheba. How many commandments did Ahab break in one story? Lying, coveting, stealing, murder. And if “Thou shalt not pout” was a commandment, he would have broken that one too. He is a thoroughly weak character in every way, and that means he is a bad king in every way as well. ‘Bad’ does not do justice here. Ahab is an evil king.

This is where we begin to see a greater intervention of the prophets as characters in our scriptures. Elijah makes an appearance after Ahab heads down to take possession of the vineyard, explaining that Ahab and Jezebel probably shouldn’t have any family pets, at least not any dogs, since it seems they are doomed to be eaten by dogs at the end of their earthly lives. Oh. And their blood will also be licked up by dogs. Ahab surprisingly repents, and God relents. Ahab and Jezebel will not be eaten by dogs, at least not in this instance.

I was a little surprised to read that God gave Ahab another chance. Ok, very surprised. But I have to trust that God knows the heart of his people, while I am simply reading their stories. God’s forgiveness and mercy are essential for each of us, and the potential transformation of one lying, cheating, snivelling human is, in fact, a great victory for God and God’s kingdom. Ok, yes, I was talking about Ahab in case that wasn’t clear, and we also know that Ahab’s repentance doesn’t last.

And then in comes another prophet, Micaiah. Ahab’s false prophets are already in place, toadies who cater to the King in order to keep his favor, and the false prophets predict that Ahab will win the battle against the Arameans. This is the same group that had claimed all of Ahab’s fortunes and family in the beginning of our reading today. (Arrrrrr!).

But Micaiah tells the truth as God has given it to him—Israel will be scattered and leaderless, and Ahab will be killed. And them, another swashbuckling moment as one of Ahab’s false prophets slaps Micaiah across the face as a challenge to Micaiah’s authority. Might does not equal right. Micaiah is sent to prison with only bread and water, but his words echo as he is led away “If you return in peace, the LORD has not spoken to me,” (22:28)  We know that Ahab does not return in peace. In fact he tries to trick the Arameans by wearing plain clothes into battle, yet Ahab tells King Jehoshaphat to dress in his own royal robes in the hope that the armies will kill Jehoshaphat instead. Yikes. This guy!!!

So while Ahab was not eaten by dogs, we read about a little bit of horrible blood-licking and blood-bathing after his death which show us that Ahab’s life had lost value, purpose, direction and blessing.

Of importance is the role of the prophets during the time of Ahab and his cohorts. Early prophets such as Elijah and our one-hit wonder Micaiah, were most known for their specific prophecies about an individual ruler or king, or about a specific occasion or battle. Later prophets, such as Isaiah and Jeremiah and Amos, are prophets for the nation and their prophecies have a broader reach to convert the hearts of all the people rather than to influence the behavior of a single monarch.

Prophets have this in common: they speak for the voiceless, for those who are forgotten or who are dealing with great injustice. They adhere to the conditions of the covenants of God and continually point people back to those original promises that they have made. They speak from outside the power structures of the society in which they live, and it gives them an ability to criticize and to speak against corruption, evil, and faithlessness. We will soon begin an exhaustive study of these unusual people of God who have been sent to help right the world’s wrongs, and to turn the hearts of God’s people back toward the One God, the God of Israel who has saved his chosen ones.

In the meantime, a Pirate’s Blessing for your day:

“Whatever the voyage ye hanker to start,
May pirate courage fill up yer heart.
May fair winds blow wherever ye go,
And yer ship remain sturdy me matey! Yo Ho!!”

ML

Post a Comment