I Will Not Bring the Evil in His Days

“And when Ahab heard those words, he tore his clothes and put sackcloth on his flesh and fasted and lay in sackcloth and went about dejectedly. And the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, ‘Have you seen how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself before me, I will not bring the disaster in his days; but in his son’s days I will bring the disaster upon his house.’” (1 Kings 21:27–29, ESV)

Hold on, Lord! I want you to destroy Ahab! He was one of the evilest persons in the Bible — in fact, he and his wife Jezebel were a poster-couple for evil. For instance, they had just caused the death of Naboth through lying, suborning perjury, and using positions of influence to gather-up a mere piece of property...and at the cost of human blood! God, I demand justice! I demand that you pull out all of the stops and destroy this evil man in a great big visible way!

That is silly, of course. God hears all things — and all things include the cries for justice. However, we humans must proceed cautiously when invoking the justice of the Lord. Remember: All have sinned! (Romans 3:23) It is by his mercy that we continue to draw breath. God's justice demands that all persons ever born of earthly fathers be destroyed, that is, condemned to hell forever. Yes, friends, that is what the Bible’s call for justice should produce. But God applied another of his attributes, his mercy, upon us, and he sent his Son to die for our sins. When we seek mercy through the cross of Christ, God will always grant it.

Mercy is not only for our far future, however. Daily mercies touch us with every breath, and we should be thankful for our health and daily bread. Unfortunately, evil never sleeps, and God’s holiness demands that he administers justice. We should, too, never forsaking any aspect of God’s revealed attributes, but this is difficult for us because we are weak and lack vision. We should instead prefer mercy, remembering it in thanksgiving, in petitions and in applying it wherever we can. Mercy, not justice, was God’s last touch upon us as believers, and we should touch others the same way. Although I chafe at God sparing Ahab, I realize that it is by this same mercy that I draw breath… and to be thankful for it here is to be thankful for it there…even when daubed on Ahab's brow.

Do you remember how the evil city of Nineveh was spared destruction after the preaching of Jonah? (Jonah 3:10) The city repented in sackcloth and ashes, and God spared the place… for a while. But eventually, evil worked its way back (It always does!) and God destroyed that city at a later date. Ahab received that same treatment. When faced with his sin and its consequences, he repented — and not just for show — because God did indeed spare him. But he did to Ahab as he did to Nineveh, addressing Ahab’s evil at a later date. Ultimately, God destroyed Ahab’s family and ended his posterity, but it was his treatment of Ahab’s dead body that shows the end of his mercy to their house. Ahab’s carcass lay in ignominy upon the city street—and that’s pretty bad. But God saw to it that the dogs lapped up his blood. This was a cultural horror — and God's final word on evil. God is longsuffering, yes. But is he forever-suffering? No.

In his treatment of the evil Ahab, God showed us that he shall apply his justice as he will, and he shall apply his mercy, too. They are not mutually exclusive. He alone knows how…and when…and why he will work them. Ours is to look and learn — and to trust that he shall leave no loose ends.

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