TODAY’S READING: 1 Kings 20–21
There are spiritual wins, losses, and ties. In the grand missionary goal of God, representatives of all peoples are to be won to worship Jehovah. A sad missionary “tie” would be for the people of God to not win the nations and not lose their faith. A disastrous missionary loss would be for God’s people to be won over to the idolatry of the nations. What made Ahab’s story a disastrous missionary loss was that in marrying Jezebel, her people (the Lebanese today) were not won to Jehovah, but rather they stirred up Israel to follow false gods. Ahab’s epitaph then was descriptive of colossal missionary setback because he “sold himself to do wickedness in the sight of the Lord” (1 Kings 21:25). The double error which provoked Jehovah’s wrath (v. 22) was that the Lebanese were not won for the glory of God and Israel was lost to Baal’s shameful reign. The tragedy? The bill would be paid by Ahab’s sons, by Ahab’s house.
How different it could have been. God in mercy often uses bent tools for His greatest works and bald brushes for His most beautiful art. Battles are won by the unlikely so that God will get all the glory. We err crucially when we laud the unlikely for what God did through them, despite them, for His fame among the nations. In Ahab’s case (though he was vile), God was still willing to use him to teach the Syrians a glory lesson. God’s choice for this glory display were 232 young leaders who He used to overcome 32 cocky kings (20:15–16). These young leaders each killed their own man (v. 20), and in the sequel the children of Israel killed 100,000 Syrian soldiers (v. 29). The reference to children coupled with the reference to young leaders shows that God used the weak to overcome the strong so that our missionary God would get all the glory. None of the glory is to be shared with His young, inexperienced workers.
In missionary battle, which is ever now about love and souls, not loathing and swords, God expects us to wage total war and take no prisoners. I refuse to lay down any militant analogy, though the risk of misinterpretation is great, for the Bible trusts us to understand the analogy and to fight by loving, serving, and dying to self. In the Old Testament application Ahab not only erred but sinned—he pardoned the one Jehovah had destined for utter destruction. In God’s eyes this was a capital offense (v. 42). In fact, it was so capital that the neighbor who would not strike the prophet to set up God’s illustration was himself eaten by a lion (v. 36). What seems over the top is intended as a reminder that God is deadly serious about being glorified by all peoples and that we must live seriously for the total glory of God through total war and do our part that all nations hear the gospel via total obedience. Nothing less than a complete, utter devotion to God’s passion that all nations be part of His family pleases Him.
Naboth’s refusal to give his vineyard to Ahab (21:3) has a missionary application. Obviously, Naboth referred to land, but we can apply it to the Psalm 2 inheritance of nations, the Genesis 12 inheritance of all peoples, and the mandate that Israel’s land was to be an epicenter for holy living and nation wooing. Naboth would not cede his ground to anyone who was not all in for the glory of God among the Syrians. We must not cede our seed to anything but the glory of God among the Tajik and all unreached peoples of earth. Ahab’s lack of total commitment to God’s mission left his sons in calamity (v. 29). Our commitment to link our children to God’s missionary covenant with father Abraham will lead to eternal celebration.