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Ahab Defeats Syria

June 28, 2007

The story of Elijah is a familiar one to many Christians, mostly because of the incident where he takes on the prophets of Baal.  However, we usually don’t spend much time on Ahab, the wicked king who opposed Elijah.  God worked in Isreal despite their wicked king – a king that the text calls more wicked than any of his predecessors.

Our story today takes place in 1 Kings 20, where Ahab is caught up in a war against Syria.  God still defeats the superior army of Syria, but does so for the sake of his glory.  I find the narrative of the second battle particularly interesting:

23 And the servants of the king of Syria said to him, “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. 24 And do this: remove the kings, each from his post, and put commanders in their places, 25 and muster an army like the army that you have lost, horse for horse, and chariot for chariot. Then we will fight against them in the plain, and surely we shall be stronger than they.” And he listened to their voice and did so.

Ahab Defeats Ben-hadad Again

26 In the spring, Ben-hadad mustered the Syrians and went up to Aphek to fight against Israel. 27 And the people of Israel were mustered and were provisioned and went against them. The people of Israel encamped before them like two little flocks of goats, but the Syrians filled the country. 28 And a man of God came near and said to the king of Israel, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Because the Syrians have said, “The Lord is a god of the hills but he is not a god of the valleys,” therefore I will give all this great multitude into your hand, and you shall know that I am the Lord.’” 29 And they encamped opposite one another seven days. Then on the seventh day the battle was joined. And the people of Israel struck down of the Syrians 100,000 foot soldiers in one day. 30 And the rest fled into the city of Aphek, and the wall fell upon 27,000 men who were left.

God is jealous for his name in the world, and at times he is willing to use sinful, rebellious people if it results in glorifying his name.  The Syrians thought after their first battle that God was only a “god of the hills”, and because of this, God defended his name in the plains.  God will do whatever it takes to defend his glory, which is both comforting and sobering.

This truth is comforting because we know that God will defend his glory and his people the church.  Indeed, God will never let his church fail, because that would profane his glory in the way that Syria defeating Israel would have.  However, this should sober us as well, because God does not fail to defend his glory.  In the next chapter, God pronounces judgement on Ahab’s house.  He promises to kill Queen Jezebel and Ahab in disgrace, and to cut off Ahab’s line from the earth – judgments that he indeed carries out.  If we are not furthering God’s glory, God will discipline us – because again, he will not allow his glory to be profaned.

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