Saturday, June 17, 2017
Grace Beyond our Imagination
1Kings 21:25 (Indeed, there was no one like Ahab, who sold himself to do what was evil in the sight of the Lord, urged on by his wife Jezebel. 26 He acted most abominably in going after idols, as the Amorites had done, whom the Lord drove out before the Israelites.)
1Kings 21:27 When Ahab heard those words, he tore his clothes and put sackcloth over his bare flesh; he fasted, lay in the sackcloth, and went about dejectedly. 28 Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite: 29 “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 on his house.”
Ahab and Jezebel are poster children for some of the most wicked people in the Bible and perhaps, in all of history. Therefore, coming to this section regarding the final days of Ahab’s life are a bit stunning. Verses 25-26 are placed as a bit of commentary for us to understand the very depth of Ahab’s depravity. He was horrible and yet, when Elijah approaches him this time (for he had been approached several times before), Ahab suddenly seems to soak it all in and repent. He tears his clothing, fasts and lays in sackcloth. The air of superiority is gone as he walks through the city in great humility. God looks down upon Ahab’s contrite heart and withholds judgment. Even after all that Ahab has done, God’s grace responds in holy love.
Somehow, for all the times that I have read the Bible, I seemed to have forgotten about Ahab’s repentance. This story is not so much about Ahab, then it is about the very character of God. The grace of God is revealed in comparison to the evil of Ahab. Where sin tries to abound, love abounds even more. Evil cannot win the day because there will always be more love and more grace.
For those who think that they have failed the Lord, or fallen so far from God, think again. The equivalent of Ahab in modern history would be someone like Hitler and for most of us, the thought of him finding grace would be repulsive. Ahab receiving grace must have been difficult for Elijah, and yet what we see is that God is patient with us, not wanting any to perish. (2 Peter 3:9) That includes those who may seem the most repulsive to us!
If we are to participate with Christ in God’s activity in the world, then it seems that we are also to reflect grace. This past week I was confronted with a question regarding grace. I was called up for jury duty and as the lawyers were attempting to select a jury they peppered us with all kinds of questions. The young man being tried had stabbed and injured two individuals. We were asked whether we would be willing to sentence this young man with the maximum sentence, which was thirty years to life. Of course, we hadn’t heard any evidence yet. We were just being selected for the jury but as I looked at the young man at the defense table I had a hard time imagining that I would be willing to throw away the remainder of his life. I know that, if he was found guilty, he needed to be punished for his crime, but I also believe in grace. I spoke up and mentioned that I believe in grace and the hope of transformation. My spirit of optimism would desire an opportunity for this young man to be redeemed, both personally and for society as a whole. This is not some kind of cheap grace, but creating the space for the genuine and redemptive grace of God.
There are times when people will disappointment us. It may be a child, or a niece, or a nephew, or even a parent. We may feel that we have exhausted all of our resources and ability to continue to love them in the midst of their behaviors — but God does not give up. God’s grace reaches beyond our humble imagination and continually draws those who are fallen back toward a redemptive relationship. If God is willing to do this, are we? Participating with Christ in kingdom activity means that we become active agents of God’s prevenient grace. We begin to see the Ahab’s of this world differently because we believe that God’s love really does transform. The character of God is revealed by the amount of love we show in response to evil.
Lord, thank you for the ways in which you continually challenge and stretch me. Amen.