Monday, July 31, 2017

God Is Willing To Forgive

King Ahab was one of the wickedest kings Israel ever had.  I kings 16:29-33 describes his reign.  “And in the thirty and eighth year of Asa king of Judah began Ahab the son of Omri to reign over Israel: and Ahab the son of Omri reigned over Israel in Samaria twenty and two years.  And Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the LORD above all that were before him.  And it came to pass, as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, that he took to wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Zidonians, and went and served Baal, and worshipped him.  And he reared up an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he had built in Samaria.  And Ahab made a grove; and Ahab did more to provoke the LORD God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him.”

While Jeroboam and subsequent kings had encouraged Israel to worship other religions, Ahab and his wife Jezebel actively sought to kill those who worshipped God and force the people to change their religion.  Finally the corruption had spread so widely that local religious leaders were willing to murder a man named Naboth so Ahab could get a piece of land he wanted for his personal use.  God sent Elijah to condemn his actions in I Kings 21:17-24.

“And the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, Arise, go down to meet Ahab king of Israel, which is in Samaria: behold, he is in the vineyard of Naboth, whither he is gone down to possess it.  And thou shalt speak unto him, saying, Thus saith the LORD, Hast thou killed, and also taken possession? And thou shalt speak unto him, saying, Thus saith the LORD, In the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth shall dogs lick thy blood, even thine.

And Ahab said to Elijah, hast thou found me, O mine enemy?

And he answered, I have found thee; because thou hast sold thyself to work evil in the sight of the LORD.  Behold, I will bring evil upon thee, and will take away thy posterity, and will cut off from Ahab him that pisseth against the wall, and him that is shut up and left in Israel, And will make thine house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah, for the provocation wherewith thou hast provoked me to anger, and made Israel to sin.  And of Jezebel also spake the LORD, saying, The dogs shall eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel.  Him that dieth of Ahab in the city the dogs shall eat; and him that dieth in the field shall the fowls of the air eat.”

Because of Ahab’s sin, Israel had suffered repeatedly, and Ahab had blamed Elijah for it, considering him as his enemy, in I Kings 18:17.  He still considered Elijah his enemy, knowing he was God’s prophet.  Elijah told him that because of his sin, Ahab’s entire family would be destroyed, and that they and his wife would just be left for the dogs to eat rather than being buried.   

“And it came to pass, when Ahab heard those words, that he rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his flesh, and fasted, and lay in sackcloth, and went softly.” (I Kings 21:27)

When he learned of the punishment for his sin, Ahab realized how bad his sin was, and repented, completely changing his behavior.  He was willing to humble himself, acknowledging he had sinned, and yielding his power and arrogance to show respect to God. 

“And the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, Seest thou how Ahab humbleth himself before me? because he humbleth himself before me, I will not bring the evil in his days: but in his son's days will I bring the evil upon his house.” (I Kings 21:28-29)

Many today worry that God will not forgive some of the things they have done.  As wicked as Ahab had been, even condoning murder on his behalf, God was willing to forgive him for his sin, and he will forgive us as well, no matter how bad our sin may have been. 

It is important to realize that, although Ahab was forgiven, the results of his sin would remain.  His sons would continue to practice the things he had taught them, and would be destroyed, as would Jezebel.  It was not punishment on Ahab. But the natural result of the example he had set before them.  Far too many people ignore the fact that their actions have natural consequences that God’s forgiveness does not automatically eliminate.  For example, being forgiven for sexual sin does not eliminate an unwanted pregnancy or AIDS, nor does being forgiven for murder bring the victim back to life.  We still have to deal with those results, even though God has forgiven us.     

The idea that being justified means everything is just as if I had never sinned is a false doctrine.    Jesus died on the cross for our sin.  The fact that we have been justified does not undo his sacrifice.  The result of sin is still death.  He took our place, paying for the sin so that we would not have to suffer God’s punishment.     If we had not sinned, his death would have been unnecessary.  We have been forgiven for our sin, not proven innocent of it.  

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