God asks some very interesting questions in the Bible. In 1 Kings 21:29, He asked Elijah, “Do you see how Ahab has humbled himself before Me?” (NASU) You remember the story; Ahab and Jezebel killed Naboth so they could steal his vineyard. God sent Elijah to Ahab with word of impending, horrific judgment against Ahab, Jezebel, and their descendants. Evidently, Jezebel ignored the warning for the punishment came swift and sure to her.
However, the warning made an impression on Ahab. He immediately repented and humbled himself before the Lord. He went about barefoot, with head hung down, clothed in sackcloth and ashes. In mercy, God declared a postponement to Ahab’s punishment.
God declared that He would send the punishment during the days of Ahab’s son. Some would see injustice in this, claiming that an innocent man was being punished for the crime of another. Let me point out a couple of things. First of all, God is God. No one, let me repeat, no one has the knowledge, wisdom, or authority to declare anything God does to be unjust. That is hard for some people to swallow but it is true, nonetheless. Second, Ahab’s crimes were heinous, and God had decreed punishment whereby Ahab and every male in his household would be killed. Rather than injustice, I see great mercy in postponing the punishment. Ahab’s sin was terrible, repeated, and far-reaching in its influence. He and his house deserved swift and sure punishment. That would have been the end of Ahab’s son right then and there. Postponing it gave Ahab’s son some life, however short it might be. Also, the postponing gave Ahab’s son an opportunity to repent and be saved himself. We ought to see great mercy in this postponement.
There is much for you and me to learn from the life of Ahab. The life of Ahab is a study in evil and its awful consequences. First Kings 21 details Ahab’s life in graphic terms. First, he sold himself to do evil by marrying Jezebel. Second, he did more evil than any man before him. Third, he behaved in the vilest manner. Fourth, he led the whole nation to sin against God. And yet a merciful God gave Ahab another chance when he repented. Tragically, Ahab’s repentance did not last throughout his lifetime. Ours ought to. Ahab’s son followed in his evil footsteps, not his repenting footsteps. We ought to consider that, when we are inclined to presume on the mercy of God. Yes, God offers forgiveness to the repentant soul. However, forgiveness does not always mean that punishment is taken away. Sometimes punishment goes on just as scheduled; sometimes it is taken away. Ahab found out that sometimes punishment is postponed.
Ahab learned another painful lesson. Almost always, our sin hurts others. Very often, our sin causes others to sin. Our repentance may lessen the consequences for us, or it may not, but it seems unlikely that it will lessen the consequences for those we have led into sin. Ahab had influence over his wife, his son, and his nation. He helped to bring judgment upon all of them. Whom do you have influence over? When you are tempted to sin, and in the back of your mind, you presume on the mercy of God, please consider the lesson of Ahab. It is very probable that your repentance will have much less of an effect on those you influence than your sin did. Your sin is likely to lead others into sin; your repentance is less likely to have influence over them. I see this in the life of Ahab, but I have also observed it in families all around me. Just who is it that you would like to lead to their destruction?