Why does God put up with bad leaders? The same reason he puts up with you and me day by day: His mercy! The Puritan preacher Tomas Watson said, “God is more willing to pardon than to punish. Mercy does more multiply in Him than sin in us. Mercy is His nature.” Thank God for that!
Going Deep // Focus: 1 Kings 20:13
Then a certain prophet came to see King Ahab of Israel and told him, “This is what the Lord says: Do you see all these enemy forces? Today I will hand them all over to you. Then you will know that I am the Lord.”
Ahab was a wicked king—the most evil in a long line of evil kings in Israel. As we have previously noted in 1 Kings 16:30, “Ahab son of Omri did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, even more than any of the kings before him.” So awful was Ahab that the Lord had already pronounced judgment upon him through the prophet Elijah. Not only was Ahab evil, so was Israel. From the time these ten northern tribes had broken away from King Rehoboam to form their own nation, they had been in rebellion against the Lord God. Likewise, the prophets had called Israel out for judgment.
Yet they were still God’s people. Ahab was still the king over a nation for which God cared deeply. And throughout their stubborn waywardness, the Lord continued to woo them back through these dire prophetic warnings. Yet neither king nor people listened to the prophets and turned from their wicked ways. As a result, they were ultimately destroyed and sent into exile. (2 Kings 24)
Incredibly, on several occasions the Lord had mercy on Israel’s wicked king, Ahab, when by all rights he should have been destroyed, beyond recovery. As Proverbs 29:1 reminds us, “Whoever remains stiff-necked after many rebukes will suddenly be destroyed—without remedy.” That would prove to be true for Ahab, yet this stiff-necked ruler was given chance after chance to recognize the Lord God as Israel’s rightful and sovereign ruler.
Such is the case in this particular story. Ahab is facing destruction at the hands of the Aramean army and their allies—a force much larger, stronger and better equipped than Israel’s army. In reality, this was a fight that Israel could not win. But on two occasions, the Lord sent prophets to Ahab to proclaim that Israel would indeed be victorious because God would be fighting on their behalf. And the reason for this divine intervention for am evil people? So that Israel and Ahab would know that their help was from the Lord:
Today I will hand them all over to you. Then you will know that I am the Lord. (1 Kings 20:13,20)
Unfortunately, neither Ahab nor Israel recognized the merciful hand of God and thus turned in repentance to follow him. They continued on in their sinfulness until they were indeed destroyed without remedy.
Do you ever wonder why God’s blessing seems to rest upon ungodly leaders in our day? Why does God favor godless presidents, give grace to governors who give him no regard, and move on behalf of mayors when they clearly give no thought to him, and in fact, implement policies that are in direct opposition to the Law of God? Why does the Lord withhold judgment on wayward leaders in America today?
Only God knows for sure, and he doesn’t always give us the details of his plan. And make no mistake, judgment is coming—someday. But in the meantime, the kindness of God in delaying judgment and in granting success to those who give no thought to his ways is meant to grab their attention. Like Ahab, the Lord helps in order that they, too, “will know that I am the Lord.” The Apostle Paul offered this profound truth in Romans 2:4,
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?
How patient, kind and merciful is our God! And while you may be frustrated that he doesn’t step in to call presidents and politicians to account, aren’t you glad he doesn’t, since if he did that with them, he would have to do that with you. The same mercy that he extends to rebellious sinners is the same mercy that falls on you and me day by day.
Why does God bless bad leaders? Mercy!