One of the more difficult aspects of parenting is setting aside the dissimilitude between one child and another. I am blessed to have two very different boys in my home, each with his own personality and temperament. However, sometimes I can’t ignore the striking contrast between the naturally obedient one and the naturally intractable one. An example: “Son, would you please help carry the groceries in?” The responses couldn’t be more different. One’s quick response is “Yes, Mom,” while the other invariably replies, “Do I have to?”
In the last four chapters of 1 Kings we see a disparity between the prophets who seek to serve the Lord and the kings who are disobedient to Him. This is nothing new—the Old Testament is rife with people doing “what was right in their own eyes” (see Judges 17), and that trend continues here. In fact, we are told that of all Israel’s kings, Ahab outraged the Lord the most (1 Kings 16:33). He and his wife Jezebel displayed an astonishing indifference to the laws of God.
It is into this atmosphere that Elijah brings his ministry, declaring to Israel that the Lord is the only God and his laws must be obeyed. Of course the message is not received warmly. In response to Jezebel’s threats, Elijah flees and begs the Lord for death. Chapter 19 paints a picture of a despondent prophet who is tenderly cared for and given specific instructions on how to proceed in his calling. We see God depicted as a loving father.
Two chapters later we hear the same God condemn King Ahab and Jezebel to a bloody death: “And of Jezebel the Lord also said, ‘The dogs shall eat Jezebel within the walls of Jezreel.’ Anyone belonging to Ahab who dies in the city the dogs shall eat, and anyone of his who dies in the open country the birds of the heavens shall eat.” (1 Kings 21:23-24).
It would seem that the God who tends Elijah is incongruous with the one who condemns Ahab. Yet when Ahab repents, God’s mercy surges forth and he delays the disaster. He is inclined even towards those who turn from him. He is indeed a loving, just, wrathful, righteous God who seeks after our disobedient hearts time after time. May we all plead for the heart that says “Yes, Lord.”
Marilyn Dixon is Director of Small Groups at the Cathedral Church of the Advent in Birmingham, Alabama.
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