1 Kings 20:1-12
1 Ben-hadad the king of Syria gathered all his army together. Thirty-two kings were with him, and horses and chariots. And he went up and closed in on Samaria and fought against it.
2 And he sent messengers into the city to Ahab king of Israel and said to him, “Thus says Ben-hadad:
3 ‘Your silver and your gold are mine; your best wives and children also are mine.’ ”
4 And the king of Israel answered, “As you say, my lord, O king, I am yours, and all that I have.”
5 The messengers came again and said, “Thus says Ben-hadad: ‘I sent to you, saying, “Deliver to me your silver and your gold, your wives and your children.”
6 Nevertheless I will send my servants to you tomorrow about this time, and they shall search your house and the houses of your servants and lay hands on whatever pleases you and take it away.’ ”
7 Then the king of Israel called all the elders of the land and said, “Mark, now, and see how this man is seeking trouble, for he sent to me for my wives and my children, and for my silver and my gold, and I did not refuse him.”
8 And all the elders and all the people said to him, “Do not listen or consent.”
9 So he said to the messengers of Ben-hadad, “Tell my lord the king, ‘All that you first demanded of your servant I will do, but this thing I cannot do.’ ” And the messengers departed and brought him word again.
10 Ben-hadad sent to him and said, “The gods do so to me and more also, if the dust of Samaria shall suffice for handfuls for all the people who follow me.”
11 And the king of Israel answered, “Tell him, ‘Let not him who straps on his armor boast himself as he who takes it off.’ ”
12 When Ben-hadad heard this message as he was drinking with the kings in the booths, he said to his men, “Take your positions.” And they took their positions against the city.
While Elijah wanted annihilation for his enemies, God had plans for mercy. After 3½ years of drought, Israel is in poor shape and ripe for the plucking by their enemies. Instead of pouring out His wrath in the destruction of Israel, God sent enemy armies to get Ahab attention and draw him away from idolatry and back to faithfully following the Lord. As a result, the armies of Syria and the surrounding countries come together to overtake Ahab. In the verses for today we have the initial salvo in that battle. Ahab can see the destruction that is coming his way and capitulates to the demands of the Ben-hadad, the Syrian king. (In verse 10 Ben-hadad threatens that after he is finished with Samaria, there won’t even been enough dust remaining for his soldiers to pick up a handful each.) When that capitulation involves the counselors of the Ahab, they advise him to deny Ben-hadad, thus infuriating the enemy who then takes up a combatant position. What we never see is Ahab turning to God as asking Him for help. That is the one thing that could have saved him and his people, but he never bows the knee. He and Jezebel are two of the most spiritually stubborn people in all of Scripture.
Our stubborn insistence upon our own way will always end badly for us. How Ahab could watch as his nation suffered because of his idolatry is beyond understanding. And he could never claim ignorance. He had been told by Elijah exactly what the problem was, and yet he continues to insist that he is above the reproach of God. This is indeed a foolish claim. Whenever we refuse to confess our sinfulness and our need for a Savior, we are behaving as Ahab behaved. That stubborn heart will lead to destruction every time.
In Ezekiel 36:24-28, God addresses the issue of a stubborn heart.
24 I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land.
25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you.
26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.
28 You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.
The work of God includes changing our hearts and making them malleable in His hands. We don’t make our hearts new, He does. Our only task is to stand there and watch Him do it. That heart of flesh is then available to Him and ready to live obediently instead of stubbornly demanding our own way. That heart of flesh is the one that is able to be moved into action when God had work for us to do in His name. Jesus blood alone makes that possible and we are blessed to know Him and live in Him.