How fortunate are we that as much, if not more, than any other attribute of God, his longsuffering heart and willingness to forgive is what defines our relationship with him. Not only is he willing to put up with our waywardness, but amazingly, he actually goes out of his way to show us his love. As Micah 7:18 says, “Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy.”
Going Deep // Focus: 1 Kings 21:27-29
But when Ahab heard Elijah’s message of impending judgment, he tore his clothing, dressed in burlap, and fasted. He even slept in burlap and went about in deep mourning. Then another message from the Lord came to Elijah: “Do you see how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has done this, I will not do what I promised during his lifetime…”
No one deserved judgment more than King Ahab. He raised the bar on wickedness: “No one else so completely sold himself to what was evil in the Lord’s sight as Ahab did under the influence of his wife Jezebel. His worst outrage was worshiping idols just as the Amorites had done—the people whom the Lord had driven out from the land ahead of the Israelites.” (1 Kings 21:25-26).
King Ahab’s list of evil deeds was long, and growing by the day. Among the evil things we know about, we are told that he followed the evil advice of his nefarious wife, Jezebel—a foreign woman who raised the bar on bad. We also know that he threw a tantrum over a piece of property he wanted, and he murdered the property owner to get it. And if that weren’t bad enough, we know that he personally raised idolatry to an art form in Israel! God’s chosen people were worshiping idols—and doing despicable things as a part of their worship. Ahab was one bad king!
Yet when Elijah pronounced judgment on him, Ahab humbled himself to the point that God relented and withheld much deserved punishment. Now make no mistake, we should not take God’s patience with Ahab to mean that he winks at sin. As someone has said, “there is a payday, someday” for wickedness. And Ahab will get his!
But what is most interesting about this story is what it reveals about God. What a patient and merciful God we serve! And the same God who would delay much deserved judgment for evil Ahab in order to give him time to change his ways will also be patient and merciful with you and me—hallelujah—and also with a sinful world that God doesn’t want to perish. Now again, let’s not equate God’s longsuffering with tolerance for sin. There is a payday, someday—and we need to take that most seriously. This reality of a day of reckoning ought to be one of the things that prods us to a life of purity and motivates us to share the Good News with those who are bound for a Christless eternity.
Likewise, the fact that we have obtained a “redemptive pass” on Judgment Day through Christ’s substitutionary death ought to inspire us to greater gratitude to God for his grace and mercy. How fortunate are we that as much, if not more, than any other attribute of God, his longsuffering heart and willingness to forgive is what defines our relationship with him. Not only is he willing to put up with our waywardness, but amazingly, he actually goes out of his way to show us his love. Think about these words from Micah 7:18,
Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? You do not stay angry forever but delight to show mercy.
Let me suggest that you reframe this Ahab story. Try reading yourself into Ahab’s character, because in truth, you and I are the ones to whom God has extended such amazing and undeserved grace. As you do that, it would then be appropriate to take some time today to offer heartfelt thanks to God for what he has done for you…and for what he has not done to you.
And by the way, don’t make Ahab’s mistake: He didn’t recognize that God’s patience and mercy was meant to transform his character. So offer God your heart, then allow him to remold it.