SAY WHAT? (What is the passage saying?)
- Ben-Hadad is the king of Aram, a nation set against God, His people, and the two nations where they live.
- Ahab's quick submission to Ben-Hadad (verse 4) reveals that Ahab believes his Israelite army would have no chance against the army of Aram.
- In verse 6, Ben-Hadad makes a demand that was the equivalent of telling Ahab that he had to surrender his entire city. This Ahab and the elders decide they cannot do (verses 7-9). Ben-Hadad declares war (verses 10-12).
- A prophet (someone who was close to God and spoke for God) tells Ahab that despite the seeming impossibility of victory, and the Israelite army being vastly out-numbered, God was going to provide victory in the battle (verses 13-14).
- The Israelites whoop the army from Aram (verses 19-21).
- The officials of Aram superstitiously (or stupidly) believe it was because the battle took place in the hills, and the Israelites gods have an advantage over their gods in the hills. So the next battle happens on the fields, but the Israelites win again.
- Ben-Hadad goes to King Ahab seeking mercy, and (shockingly) Ahab grants it and makes a treaty with him (verses 31-34). That may seem like a nice moment of mercy on Ahab's behalf, but Ben-Hadad was under God's judgment to die, and it wasn't Ahab's prerogative to let him live. A prophet tricks Ahab into seeing himself and what he had done, and then declares that Ahab would give up his life for his disobedience to God (verses 35-43). We'll see that happen in chapter 22.
SO WHAT? (What are the underlying principles?)
- We've seen in previous chapters that Ahab had very little commitment to God (despite the fact that he was supposed to be leading the nation of God's people). In this chapter, he relies on God when he's in trouble, and gladly receives blessings from God, but it doesn't change his commitment to God or his desire to obey God. Too often it's too easy for too may people to be like Ahab. If we're in trouble, we may turn to God. If God wants to do something good in our lives, we'll certainly take it. But our commitment to Him, and to obeying Him, is weak at best. That is not the path we want to be on, and we see at the end of this chapter that it is going to lead Ahab to destruction.
- Somehow God acting on Ahab's behalf and doing great things around him didn't change Ahab's perspective on or love for God. That's true for many people. They receive blessings from God like they're just happenstance or deserved rewards for the way they've been living, and they continue to ignore God.
NOW WHAT? (How will you personally apply this passage?)
- How is your life oriented towards God? Do you mostly only turn to Him when you're in trouble and need help or do you consistently put Him first? Do you just accept His blessings, or do you seek to obey Him no matter what? Where is change needed? How will you make sure that change happens?
- What has God done for you? Get a piece of paper, number one to thirty, and write down thirty great things about your life. Thank God for the way He's blessed you. If you've been ignoring Him and His activity in your life, confess that and receive His forgiveness.