Sermon: Barry McWilliams Christ Church 95/03/05
1 Kings 21:13-29 Sackcloth and Ahab


These are sermon notes ... Many references are for study purposes - Bulletin Cover verse: Joel 2:12

The Bible tells us a lot about Ahab - he was a very a wicked man. Why should we consider him?

As God's kindness alone holds back His judgement; people must humble themselves before God and turn their hearts away from sin.

Ahab was a sinner unmasked. From him we can learn something of

The Nature of a sinner's heart before God

A sinner has No excuses!

Was not Ahab an awful man deserving of wrath? Yet Ahab had been delivered by God when attacked by Benhadad not just once, but twice (see chapter 20)

Two lingering questions intrigue us::

Two Suggestions:

So Ahab would know the Lord was God God showed his power in delivering Ahab. But even spared Ahab was disobedient - sparing Benhadad (who came to him clad in sackcloth begging mercy - 1 Kings 20:31; 32 cf 21:27 - Ahab was condemned by a prophet for this.)

God showed His patience: He allows space for repentence - Rom 1:18-20; ff;Rom 2:5-9; 1 tim 1:13-16 (vss 13; 28 (And in God's providence, during this time Elijah and Elisha, unhindered by a preoccupied Ahab, had been able to establish the schools of prophets)

The unreasonable Power of Lust in the sinner's heart- Romans 1:24-26

Ahab has more to teach us about a sinner's heart. Some time later ... 21:1-4 While at ease (Cf David and Bathsheba) Ahab coveted Naboth's vineyard This was something Naboth refused him on basis of God's law: Lev 25:23; Num 36:7. Ahab wanted to expand his gardens, Naboth was in his way. Ahab tried all sorts of ways to get what he wanted - but his temptations and 0ffers were refused - Naboth was concerned about pleasing the Lord not the king.

So Ahab went home, sullen and angry because Naboth the Jezreelite had said, "I will not give you the inheritance of my fathers." He lay on his bed sulking and refused to eat. What he doesn't have has becomes such an obsession, he's a wreck! In this we see The power of sin to eat at our hearts - the unreasonable appetites at work within us. James 4:2ff Beware of coveteousness - Ahab blames Naboth - but the problem is in his own heart.

Jeremiah 17:9 The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?

The depths of Depravity a sinful heart can achieve - Romans 1:28-32

Jezebel's "sympathy" "Act like a King! Cheer up! I'll fix things!" - Vs. 7 - Ahab allowed her to act and using a panoply of wickedness, she took the vineyard. She was a pagan idolater, who killed God's prophets, a liar, a murderer, a thief - A schemer - resorting to strategems: forgery - hypocrisy - perjury to accomplish her ends. As a result, Naboth (and his sons - 2 Kings 9:26) were stoned and the vineyard seized "legally"

And in all this Ahab complies He was no less guilty than she for he allowed it to be done by another. And reaped the benefits of it. Vs 16 (this is "acting like a king?" What kind of king? One concerned with justice or just having his way?) [Lest we forget it was David who arranged for Uriah to be killed to obtain Bathsheba, and Paul who began persecuting the church by holding the garments of those who stoned Stephen - and then got authorization for a search and desroy mission of the church in Damascus - the sinful heart is capable of terrible things.) How much wickedness to we close our eyes to?

Such is the nature of the sinners heart before God! Is there something of Ahab in us? Do we mistake God's patience for favor? Do we control our appetites or do they control us? Do we "overlook" or "tolerate" sin?

Digressions:

God's Ways of Confrontation and judgement and His insistence on Repentence

Ahab was a sinner who took off his mask. From him we can learn something of The Nature of a repentent sinner's heart before God

God confronts sin

God sent Elijah - This was their first confrontation since Carmel - an unpleasant part of ministry requiring much faith and boldness - An unpopular message - to confront a ungodly king and tell his face to face what he was in the sight of God - Elijah Confronts Ahab in Naboth's vineyard Sending Elijah instead of instant justice is a manifestation of God's kindness. (Eccl 8:11; Rom 2:5)

Vs. 20 - Have you found me, o my enemy? (In reality God is his enemy - Rom 5:10) - and he has a guilty heart which will never be at peace - discomforted - now caught in his sin (in the vineyard)
Your sins will find you out - Numbers 32:23 "But if you fail to do this, you will be sinning against the LORD; and you may be sure that your sin will find you out." Proverbs 15:3 The eyes of the Lord are everywhere, keeping watch on the wicked and the good. Jeremiah 23:24 Can any one hide....?

vs. 20 You have sold yourself to work evil in the eyes of the Lord. (cf 23,24) (Isaiah 52:3, 55:2) "Sold yourself" Can a believer "sell himself to sin"? [ct Rom 7:14 - "Sold to sin"]

(In)sincere repentence

Vs27-29; Joel 2:12ff So Ahab tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and fasted went around meekly -

God's response:

I Kings 21:29 "Have you noticed how Ahab humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself, I will not bring this disaster in his day, but I will bring it oh his house in the days of his son" (what! How can God say this?!) [humiliation has a place before God - cf Josiah 2 Kings 22:19-20; James 4:7-10)

Vs 29 - a delay in Judgement - Was Ahab sincere? Yes, to a point he was truely sorry, but it was not lasting: he made no restoration of property, he did not put away Jezebel and he hated the prophet cf 1 Kings 22:8) - his heart was not changed

Why and what was God's response? (Time will tell) He only delayed the calamity. [Isa 48:9 - Judgement will come, 2 Peter 3:9-11a - cf Eccl 8:11 - when a sentence is not quickly carried out the hearts of the people are filled with schemes to do wrong.]

Joel 2:12-13 `Even now,` declares the LORD, `return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.` 13 Rend your heart and not your garments. Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and compassionate, slow to anger and abounding in love, and he relents from sending calamity.

Why does God accept Ahab's sackcloth? Remember the same grace that spared Ahab this time around, also spared David when confronted by Samuel and Saul (Paul) on the road to Damascus!!

Fulfilments of Judgement on Ahab came:

Why does God delay bringing Judgement upon a sinners heart? Why does he accept for a time the insincere torn garments of sinners who's hearts are still wicked? He is a patience God and a merciful God who gives opportunity for true repentence to reveal itself in torn hearts!


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