“He did what was evil in the Lord’s sight.” The book of 1 Kings repeats that phrase in describing every king who ruled in the northern kingdom of Israel. In the Lord’s sight—God was watching! Do you think God has changed? Does he not watch what presidents do in their inner chambers, or what they think in their hearts, or what they do to lead a nation either toward or away from him? Of course he does! Thomas Jefferson wrote, “I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just; that his justice cannot sleep forever.” Perhaps today we should tremble before God in repentant prayer for our country.
Going Deep // Focus: 1 Kings 16:30
But Ahab son of Omri did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, even more than any of the kings before him.
1 Kings 16 is not a fun chapter to read, unless you are a history addict. Otherwise, it paints a pretty bleak picture of what is going on in Israel during the run of kings described in this chronological narrative. While Israel’s cousin to the south, Judah, was concurrently enjoying forty-one years of godly reign under good King Asa, the northern nation had a succession of five very nasty kings that covered a span of sixty years. To make matters worse, there were evil kings before this chapter, and evil kings after—in fact, the northern kingdom did not have one single righteous ruler. But at the top of the heap of evil was King Ahab, the final king described in this chapter.
Each of the kings—Baasha, Elah, Zimri, Omri, and Ahab are each described with the same exact phrase: But he did what was evil in the Lord’s sight.” For Ahab, the writer adds, the evil was “even more than any of the kings before him.” Literally, things were going from bad to worse for Israel—with both king and people willingly participating in increasingly blatant, unspeakable sinful practices that caught the eye of God.
And therein lies the operative phrase in this chapter: “in the Lord’s sight.” The persistent, in-your-face-sinfulness against God could not be ignored, and divine judgment was building in the counsel of the righteous Godhead. Judgment would come to each of these wicked kings, who would all die an ignominious death; and a day of reckoning like no other was building that would ultimately take the nation of Israel into exile from the land of promise God had given their ancestors, a homeland to which they would not return.
God was watching! Do you think God has changed? Does he not watch over the earth today like he did back then? Does he not watch what kings and presidents do in their inner chambers, or what they think in their hearts, or what they do to lead a nation either toward or away from him? Of course he does! And while it took two hundred years for devastating judgment to come to sinful Israel, it came. It will come to nations today, as well. It may take similar lengths of time, but there will a payday someday. Perhaps the next day of reckoning will be the final payday, the Day of the Lord, but judgment comes to nations that deliberately rebel against the rightful ruler of all the earth.
What is true for nations is true for persistently sinful people, too. While modern people do not want to hear of it, God is a just and holy God. He never winks at sin. He will not withhold judgment, for to do so would impugn the very character that makes him God. It is a sobering reality, but it is reality. And those who embrace the reality of judgment are the ones who will escape it.
But what is equally true about this just and holy God is that he also longs to forgive the sins of people. He lives to offer reprieve for our sin. And he has made a way for total forgiveness through our acceptance of the propitiatory sacrifice of his Son, who died on the cross to take away our sins. And the thing that he has built into our existence to continually and powerful remind us of this is his patient delay in executing judgment and his daily kindness in providing us with life. Romans 2:4 says,
Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?
Every time you read a harsh chapter like 1 Kings 16, I hope you will remember that. God is “being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent.” (2 Peter 3:9) It is true: God’s certain judgment reminds us of God’s patient kindness.
So remember, God is watching. That is what a loving God does!