God Needs Committed People

King Ahab was one of the most prominent figures of his day. He was politically savvy, culturally tolerant, and had military success. However, his way of life was an abomination to God. So, in the name of the Lord, the prophet Elijah was sent to oppose him.

God needs committed people in times of widespread tolerance

Ahab married Jezebel, a heathen princess from Sidonia. He himself, no doubt, believed that Yahweh, the God of Israel, was the supreme God. When Jezebel gave birth to his sons, he named them Ahaziah and Jehoram, and in the Hebrew both names show clear reference to the God of Israel. No doubt Ahab did this to show his reverence for the Lord.

Yet Jezebel served the idols. Could Ahab have prohibited her from doing so? In order for her to practice her heathen religion, a temple to Baal with an altar, images, and dedicated priests was established in Samaria, the resident city of the king. In this way, a second state religion was tolerated or even established.

Today, we might refer to this as a cultural exchange. The cult of Baal was tolerated and promoted by the king himself. Perhaps he felt forced to be tolerant? As a result, the Baal and Asherah cult did not remain a private matter restricted to the queen. After all, it also seemed appealing and interesting.

The second deity that Jezebel honoured was Asherah, believed to be a goddess of fertility. This Asherah cult was religiously-veiled sensuality. Where would such a religious spirit not find adherents? Perhaps it was not the Israelites who were first drawn to this cult. Ahab’s kingdom was a mixture of peoples. Many heathen people lived in the northern part of Israel. Because of the political division of the state, the followers of the God of Israel no longer had access to the temple of Jerusalem within their own territory. The current political climate determined whether or not they could easily make a pilgrimage to that temple.

Anyone staying away from the house of God is always in great danger. The kings preceding Ahab did not take the service of the Lord very seriously. This attitude constantly increased so that the tolerant liberal attitude of the northern part of Israel also became the norm for those whom God had chosen to be His people.

Ahab anticipated what the Prussian king, Frederick the Great, King of Prussia, declared much later, that all religions must be tolerated and that in his kingdom everyone could find salvation according to their own fashion. Certainly, it is admirable for a country to allow freedom of conscience. Yet for Elijah and for Ahab, freedom of conscience was not the issue.

Even though the northern kingdom kept the name of Israel, it was no longer connected with the Throne of David. Nine dynasties followed one after another in the northern kingdom. Most of them came about through cruel and bloody revolutions. They all knew that Israel was to be a special and holy people. However, they not only allowed their foreign-born subjects to live out their pagan beliefs, but also encouraged the spirit of evil to spread among the people of God.

Consequently, everyone lived according to whatever they felt like, including being a bit religious. The Lord’s statement about Laodicea years later describes this way of living accurately: “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth” (Revelation 3:15-16). In this time of religious apathy, something happened that should have resulted in deep reflection.

Hiel of Bethel decided to rebuild Jericho. When he laid the foundation, his son Abiram died, and when he set up its gates, his youngest son Segub perished (1 Kings 16:34). This came about “according to the word of the LORD, which He had spoken through Joshua the son of Nun” (1 Kings 16:35). After destroying Jericho, Joshua put a curse on anyone who would resurrect the city, saying, “Cursed be the man before the LORD who rises up and builds this city Jericho; he shall lay its foundation with his firstborn, and with his youngest he shall set up its gates” (Joshua 6:26).

God demonstrates His holiness through judgment and through grace

What was predicted beforehand amazingly came to pass literally. Yet, despite taking note of this, it was light-heartedly brushed aside, and life continued on as normal, just as it does today. Who considers the fact that the Bible predicts that in the last time there will be wars and rumors of war? When were these predictions as clear and numerous as today? Despite this revelation, people continue living as if all is normal. But God is different. He is a holy and jealous God who, through judgment and grace, tries to bring people to know Him and to serve Him.

What happened in Jericho impacted only a few people and may even have been considered a coincidence by some. In any case, it did not cause any major change in attitude or lead people to repent. So, Elijah gave them greater cause to know that God is in control. Elijah predicted a great drought. Again, today such natural catastrophes would be explained as the result of natural causes, nuclear missile testing, or even sunspots. Yet in Elijah’s day, such considerations were not options. The Lord was about to reveal Himself as the Almighty God.

Who is this Elijah?

The name Elijah means “My God is Yahweh.” Elijah suddenly appeared and spoke to Ahab. He came from Tishbite, a small mountain village in the tumultuous region of east Jordan. God calls whomever He wishes. Yet those called are different from the tolerant egoistical people they are among. Elijah was sure that God had sent him. Without much ado, he got right to the point. He didn’t even give reasons for his declaration. He said, “As the LORD God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, except at my word” (1 Kings 17:1).

Did Ahab truly understand Elijah’s words at the time? We know that when the drought took on catastrophic proportions, he definitely did! Even Jezebel got the message. Her tolerance quickly came to an end. She hardened her embittered heart, and displayed open enmity towards God.

Who likes to be told what to do or be admonished? Many people have shown opposition to the words of God in the past, and we see the same thing today. When unregulated tolerance is opposed, the inner emptiness and idolatry is revealed. People tend to turn away from truth when confronted and often react rudely and angrily.

Yet God needs committed people who are true to Him in all circumstances. Only they are the real salt of the earth. Without salt, this world would have been ruined long ago. Therefore, be true and committed. Stand firm. God needs a people committed to His cause no matter what others do or how they live. Serve the Lord with all your heart.

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