Ahab is a bad man given a good opportunity to turn his life around. Isn't that a good thing to preach to somebody? You find people, knuckleheads like this. Can't you see God working in your life? It's just so hard for them.
They won't give you a chance to say these things so many times. We want God to instantly defeat our foe. Yet, there are times God wants us to take command of the battlefield. He'll give us the outline and we've got to go execute it.
That's what's going on here. This is a profound little piece of scripture. This is Cross Reference Radio with our pastor and teacher Rick Gaston. Rick is the pastor of Calvary Chapel Mechanicsville. Pastor Rick is currently teaching through the Book of 1 Kings.
Please stay with us after today's message to hear more information about Cross Reference Radio, specifically how you can get a free copy of this teaching. But for now, let's join Pastor Rick in the Book of 1 Kings chapter 20 as he begins his message called, Botched Victory. 1 Kings chapter 20, well, Botched Victory. In many ways, this chapter epitomizes those who think they know better than God and remain apart from Him, refusing to become His subject. This is King Ahab. He is the king of the Jews here at this time.
We know the husband of Jezebel. It's difficult to set a timeline, a chronological order for this because the events are kind of, they should be switched around, I think, with chapter 21, 20 for 21. Now, I'm not alone in this thinking. The Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible, the Septuagint, does it that way. It puts this 20th chapter as the 21st chapter and then the 21st chapter, which is about Naboth, as the 20th. Hope I didn't confuse you. So just switch 21 and it flows much better. In the first verse of chapter, when we get to chapter 22, we'll make it perfect sense.
But this is what we have. Now, no truth is lost in any of this. It's just a chronology and how the historians handed it to us, but there are no contradictions or slights.
You can come to that conclusion by careful analysis. For instance, in this chapter, where is Elijah? Where is Jezebel? These two characters should be present if it's in chronological order with chapter 19. I think Jezebel fled to Sidon for two reasons.
Well, she had to replace 450 prophets of Baal, so that was one cause. Also, if chapter 21 comes after 19, switching 22, then you have this word from Elijah. 1 Kings 21 verse 23, concerning Jezebel, Yahweh also spoke saying, the dog shall eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel.
Well, she might have taken that seriously and said, you know what? I'm not going to be around the wall of Jezreel. I'm going to go to Sidon, home where my dad is, and get some new prophets.
That is a big possibility because, again, she is absent through these events. So, looking at verse 1, now Ben-Hadad, king of Israel, gathered all his forces together. Thirty-two kings were with him, with horses and chariots, and he went up and besieged Samaria and made war against it. Interesting note here, the topography of Samaria is very hilly. Chariots ain't going to work well there.
And that comes out in the story, too. Now, this is Ben-Hadad II, and it's a title, not his name. He is the king in Syria, the ancient name for Syria, Aram, which is in some of the translations because it's the original word used there. Not to be confused with Assyria, Syria and Assyria next to each other. Syria is still there today. Assyria is located in Iraq, in their territory today. Anyway, this is Ben-Hadad II. There are three of them in the scripture, and they were trade rivals with the northern kingdom, and that's where this confrontation is really coming from, these raids and the frequency of war between these two kingdoms, Syria and northern Israel. It says here, gathered all his forces together. Thirty-two kings were with him, with horses and chariots. These are likely chieftains, not kings, not whole kingdoms. They're not really major players.
In fact, he's going to get rid of them later on. Anyway, likely small little tribal territories that are under the Syrian king's authority, paying tribute and also contributing troops for war. Well, when the British Empire was in place, if the crown went to war, so did its colonies. This is why in World War II, India, Canada, Australia, all the colonies, other colonies of Great Britain, England, they got involved.
And that's what was happening here. If Syria goes to war, all these little chieftains are coming too. And they went up and besieged Samaria, it says here, and made war against it, the capital of the northern kingdom. Well, Syria lost trade routes in the north to us, Syria. Syria is going to continue to become a problem until they become this juggernaut that no one can stop. Well, when they lost those trade routes, the Syrians said, we got to get some way of supplying ourselves because these Assyrians are going to come against us eventually. So they look to Israel. We'll take their trade routes. In fact, we'll take their kingdom and we'll force them to be one of the chieftains in our cause.
So that's where all of this is coming from. They want those southern trade routes and they're going to try to force Israel to provide weapons and tribute as with the others. Verse 2, then he sent messengers into the city to Ahab, king of Israel, and said to him, thus says Ben-Hadad. It's really Hay-Dad, but man, he's twisting terms with these pronunciations.
They make you go bald. Anyway, verse 3, your silver and your gold are mine, your loveliest wives and children are mine. Well, by mine, their mine means, yeah, he's not necessarily saying, okay, I'm going to take them all with me to Syria, but he is saying, if I want to, I will. I'm claiming it. I'm making you subject to my kingdom in every way. Ahab initially will accept this.
He continues, your loveliest wives and children are mine. Again, you ask, well, where is Jezebel at this time? You think that as wicked as she was and as mouthy as she was, I mean, she's still mouthing off right before she gets thrown out the window. She's a nut. Anyhow, yeah, because she goes to put her makeup on.
She's like, I don't want to be caught dead without my makeup on. Well, that really happened. Anyhow, the harems of the kings of the east, they were very possessive of their harems, and they regarded them fiercely. To surrender one was to be shamed, and this goes back even in David and Absalom, Hithophel advising him, you know, take the concubines and make your statement. So this is part of what's going on, verse 4. And the king of Israel answered and said, O my lord, O king, just as you say, I and all that I have are yours.
And so he says, okay, fine, I submit. And he's using these reverent titles, my lord, O king, just wanting this not to escalate, certainly meeting with his council saying, well, we'll just pay the fines. He's probably not going to come here and take anything.
Wrong. The appeasing of this Ben-Hadad is going to fail. Verse 5, then the messengers came back and said, Thus speaks Ben-Hadad, saying, Indeed I have sent to you, saying, You shall deliver to me your silver and your gold, your wives and your children. But, verse 6, I will send my servants to you tomorrow about this time, and they shall search your house and the houses of your servants, and it shall be whatever is pleasant in your eyes, they will put it in their hands and take it. Man, this guy, this is going to be his downfall.
He wants to plunder the capital city, the palace, you know, he wants to ransack the guy's house, go through his stuff. You just don't do that. That's why I encourage you, get signs printed up for when you get raptured. Put them on your front lawn and in your house. Don't touch my stuff.
Be back in seven years. But anyway, he wanted to reduce, not only reduce them to a servant state, he wanted to ruin the kingdom, just take everything for himself. Verse 7, So the king of Israel called all the elders of the land and said, Notice, please, and see how this man seeks trouble. For he sent to me for my wives and my children my silver and my gold, and I did not deny. So at this point, this is a direct attack on the kingdom, just not using troops yet. If he doesn't have to save money in doing it, he wants to take everything without resistance.
This is different from the initial symbolic gesture of your children are mine, your gold, you still would have to pay, but this is worse. Ahab appears to be a capable leader when you know who is not around. Jezebel, his wicked wife.
When she's not there, he functions well, but when she's there, he just falls apart into this monster. It is also interesting here that it says, and see how this man, well, the translators have inserted the word man, the pronoun. In the Hebrew, it is, you see how this trouble, and you say, well, that's just the way he's talking. No, this is when he is upset, because he does the same thing when Micaiah the prophet, whom he despises, begins to deal with him. He's going to say, you know, I hate this, this, not this man, not this prophet, this. He's insulting him. And so this human element's coming out, and you get to see this Ahab when he doesn't like somebody. He lets those around him know it.
Should it be any other way, but realistic? Verse 8, and all the elders and all the people said to him, do not listen or consent. Well, they're not going to be ransacked without a fight.
They're getting a little upset at this too. Verse 9, therefore he said to the messengers of Ben-Hadad, tell my lord the king, all that you sent for to your servant, the first time I will do, but this thing I cannot do. And the messengers departed and brought back word to him. Well, of course when he says, well, that you said before, the silver gold, I could do that, but this is where I draw the line. You cannot just come and take my stuff. And I know the initial thought is, well, where's the chivalry? Where's the defense for his children and his family? Well, again, he's probably not viewing that as a direct threat.
It could escalate, but it's not there. But this now is, now they're coming into the kingdom actually touching things. I think that's more of what is taking place, and he is not going to let them strip it bare. He would lose the kingdom if they did. Verse 10, then, and pause there a minute, we're seeing this in the Ukraine, are we not? Let's just come and take your government from me. I'm not picking sides or anything like that.
In other words, I'm not getting into the politics of it, just the rough facts of one army invading another government. That's some serious stuff. Verse 10, then Ben-Haddad sent to him and said, the gods do so to me and more also if dust is left of Samaria for a handful for each of the people who follow me. So now he's getting into this big talk, this propaganda, the common oath, the god do so to me and more. Some of you might remember Baghdad Bob during the Gulf War. Well, I have two quotes when it happened, when it was going on, we were in kings, I think, and we were not.
I knew I was going to get this into this section. This is one thing that he said when the coalition forces were in Iraq and in force with over half a million men almost. He says Baghdad Bob, who was the PR guy for Saddam Hussein, he says, our initial assessment is that they will all die. Meanwhile, he kept wiping out the Iraqi troops. And then he said, God will roast their stomachs in hell at the hands of the Iraqis.
And he would just say these wacky things and you'd say, who is this guy? He's their minister of information and he was. I think he's still alive. He was such a non-threat to the world.
They let him live. Don't even arrest him, just let him go, Baghdad Bob. Anyway, this is kind of like that. There's not going to be enough dust left for my people to take out of your country when I'm done with you, which is not true.
You'd have to go all the way down past China. I mean, anyway, verse 11. So the king of Israel answered and said, tell him, let not the one who puts on his armor boast like the one who takes it off.
I love this part. Talk is cheap. You got to play the game. Don't talk like you've already won.
You haven't even dressed up for the fight. Proverbs 16, 18, pride goes before destruction in a haughty spirit before the fall and here it's in action. This response of Ahab, this pithy little comeback, there's actually only four words in the Hebrew. And it's a proverbial.
It's just, you know, like, shut up, kind of a, you know, talk is cheap. Verse 12, and it happened when Ben-Hadad heard this message as he and the kings were drinking at the command post that he said to his servants, get ready, and they got ready to attack the city. Well, he's enraged, of course. A guy comes back to him like, no, no, you can take a hike.
You can't take this stuff. So he's enraged and he uses this actually where it says, get ready, it's a single word in the Hebrew, just like action. So everybody jumps into war gear now. How many young men will die because of this foolish, wicked king Ben-Hadad? Verse 13, suddenly a prophet approached Ahab, king of Israel, saying, thus says Yahweh, have you seen all this great multitude?
Behold, I will deliver it into your hand today and you shall know that I am Yahweh. Well, this is why it's in the Bible. This is why the story is in the Bible. Otherwise, it's just, you know, a war story. And there's no end to those. God is trying to get Ahab to trust him, to believe him. And he is using what the most dramatic experience in the human existence in this life is war, combat. Is there anything worse than that?
Just how many, you know, on the scale, the horror, the misery it leaves behind. Well, anyway, the prophet shows up, he's not named, reminding us that there were other prophets in Israel than Elijah, saying, thus says the Lord, and his message is straight from God, and he's saying, yeah, you're greatly outnumbered. You're not, you have no chance. That's why you were capitulating so quickly. But I'm going to give you the victory. And so God reaching out to the king and the kingdom to turn from their idols, this is why the victory is going to be given to him twice. He's going to fight the Assyrians twice and beat them both times. He and the people will botch the victories because they will not surrender to Yahweh. And this epitomizes the worldly man, Mr. Worldly Wise, who's just determined to live his way and not really care about what God is doing and even benefit from the goodness and kindness of God.
This is common. Verse 14, So Ahab said, By whom? He's answering the prophet.
How are we going to get this victory? He says, Behold, I will deliver you into the hand today, and you shall know that I am Yahweh. So Ahab said, verse 14, By whom? And he said, Thus says Yahweh, By the young leaders of the provinces?
As Ahab. And he said, Thus says the Lord, By the young leaders of the provinces? Then he said, Who will set the battle in order? And he answered you. So I talk about botched up victories, botched up verse. I get excited.
There's so much going on here. Ahab said to the prophet, By whom? And the prophet said, Thus says Yahweh, By the young leaders of the provinces? Then he said, Ahab, Who will set the battle in order? And the prophet answered, You.
Ahab is a bad man given a good opportunity to turn his life around. There's another good thing to preach to somebody. You find people, knuckleheads like this, can't you see God working in your life? It's just so hard for them.
They won't give you a chance to say these things so many times. We want God to instantly defeat our foe. Yet there are times God wants us to take command of the battlefield. He'll give us the outline, and we've got to go execute it.
That's what's going on here. This is a profound little piece of scripture. It shows up in Acts chapter 4, when the apostles entering into persecution prayed, Now, Lord, look on their threats and grant to your servants that with all boldness they may speak your word, that we will set the battle in order. Who will set the battle in order? The apostles said, We will.
Because they had that from the Lord, to go out into the world and preach the gospel. So I like that. God tells him you're going to get these young leaders involved. We'll get to those in a moment.
Then you will command the battle. Verse 15, Then he mustered the young leaders of the provinces, and there were two hundred and thirty-two. And after them he mustered all the people, all the children of Israel, seven thousand. Now, it's difficult to identify just who these guys are. They're young, they're in the provinces, they're leaders or people of notoriety. I think they are elite troops, because that's how they behave in this story.
I don't think they're princes with their long robes, and they've got the high life, and they never get their hands dirty or anything like that. So what we have here is, Israel has a brigade-sized army, but Syria has an army group. So there's like seven thousand men next to a hundred thousand. Those are the numbers we're working with. So how can the seven thousand win? Two hundred guys?
That's a rifle company. What are they going to do? Well, verse 16, So they went out at noon. Meanwhile, Ben-Hadad and the thirty-two kings helping him were getting drunk at the command post. Now that's leadership. Verse 17, The young leaders of the provinces went out first. Now these are the... Well, let's just read it. Verse 17, And Ben-Hadad sent out a patrol, and they told him, saying, Men are coming out of Samaria.
So here these young leaders, these two hundred and thirty-two Hebrews, are coming out. Ben-Hadad had his patrols out. That's what you do.
You set your perimeter. You put patrols out. You look for skirmishes to see how the other side, how much force they can get to the battle to kind of feel everybody out. And so they report back to him about these two hundred young men coming out. Verse 18, So he said, If they have come out for peace, take them alive. And if they have come out for war, take them alive. So his orders are, Well, if they're looking to surrender, don't kill them.
But if they want to fight, try to capture them so we can interrogate them and find out what's going on. Verse 19, Then these young leaders of the provinces went out of the city with the army which followed. These are the Hebrews.
Seven thousand, a following. Verse 20, And each one killed his man, so the Syrians fled, and Israel pursued them. Ben-Hadad, the king of Syria, escaped on a horse with the cavalry. Verse 21, Then the king of Israel went out and attacked the horses and chariots and killed the Syrians with a great slaughter.
Again, that's a hilly area and they didn't have just the room they want. The next time they come to war, they're going to factor that in and we're going to fight them in the valley next time. Anyway, that elite unit as I see them, 232 with the seven thousand following, deliver an upset victory because God had ordained it.
You would hope that Ahab would see it. Verse 22, And the prophet came to the king of Israel and said to him, Go strengthen yourself, take note, and see what you should do, for in the spring of the year, the king of Syria will come up against you. The enemy's going to come back. He's not satisfied. Yeah, you beat him, but he still thinks he can take you. He lost the battle, he's going to win the war.
That's how he's thinking and you need to be ready. Jesus, when he was tempted in the wilderness, Luke adds this note, Now when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time. And that's a tactic of the enemy. He gets pushed back, he regroups.
He doesn't quit, ever. We go through this life with body armor. We sleep with body armor. We wake up with body armor. The Christian, hopefully always ready.
And I know it's hard and the Lord sustains us. The springtime was the time of year that typically armies went to war. Well, because the provisions would be there.
They could live off the land, they could feed the livestock better. It just wasn't rainy and chariots couldn't get bogged down, supply wagons. There's a reason why they went to war.
We'll come back to that, verse 23. Then the servants of the king of Syria said to him, Their gods are the gods of the hills. Therefore, they were stronger than we, but if we fight against them in the plain, surely we will be stronger than they. Well, his advisors came up with an explanation why such a large army was defeated by such a small army.
It didn't take much. Once you get them in retreat, I mean, they just panic and drop their weapons and flee. And that's what happened to these Syrians. So they spin it and say, you know what, we're going to beat them this time.
We'll choose a different battlefield. Thanks for joining us for today's teaching on Cross-Reference Radio. This is the daily radio ministry of Pastor Rick Gaston of Calvary Chapel Mechanicsville in Virginia.
We trust that what you've heard today in the book of 1 Kings has had a lasting imprint on your life. If you'd like to listen to more teachings from this series or share it with someone you know, please visit crossreferenceradio.com. We encourage you to subscribe to our podcast too so you'll never miss another edition. Just visit crossreferenceradio.com and follow the links under radio. Again, that's crossreferenceradio.com. Our time with you today is about up, but we hope you'll tune in next time to continue studying the word of God. Join us again as Pastor Rick covers more in the book of 1 Kings on Cross-Reference Radio.
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