We SERVE a GOD who is ‘GRACIOUS’ and ‘MERCIFUL’: But there was no one like Ahab who sold himself to do wickedness in the sight of the Lord, because Jezebel his wife stirred him up. And he behaved very abominably in following idols, according to all that the Amorites had done, whom the Lord had cast out before the children of Israel. So it was, when Ahab heard those words, that he tore his clothes and put sackcloth on his body, and fasted and lay in sackcloth, and went about mourning. And the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, "See how Ahab has humbled himself before Me? Because he has humbled himself before Me, I will not bring the calamity in his days. In the days of his son I will bring the calamity on his house." (1 Kings 21:25-29)
The initial two verses in today’s passage sum up what really troubled Israel. Ahab had sold himself out to evil because he was incited by his heathen wife Jezebel, and for this reason God would judge Ahab and his descendants (see vv. 20b-24). Elijah, God’s prophet, pronounced these terrible judgments upon Ahab, but then Ahab humbled himself and God would not let the calamity happen in Ahab’s lifetime!
One of the root problems in the home of Ahab and Jezebel was the reversal of God-assigned roles (Eph. 5:22, 23). Jezebel’s dominant leadership in the home was against the divine order, as was Ahab’s refusal to assume leadership. The vacillating nature of Ahab’s character is evident from these passages. He could be easily led into wickedness by his wife but at times he displayed courage (22:34, 35) and even humility before God (v. 29). Unfortunately, Ahab never really entered into a genuine spiritual relationship with God and despised God’s mercies due to which he would perish eventually (2 Pet. 3:5–10).
This passage reflects some key character traits of God – He is full of grace and mercy. "‘As I live,’ says the Lord GOD, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die?’" (Ezek. 33:11). Even Ahab’s superficial repentance made God postpone His judgment towards Ahab! We can also discover the goodness of God, and God’s readiness to show mercy and grace even to wicked people like Ahab. Let us also take notice of the goodness of people even though they may be of the worst possible kind. This may be why the wicked people prosper around us: God rewards what little good is in them. It is possible that one day they may repent and turn back to God.
In the case of Ahab, he had a complex personality. At times he could respond to divine rebuke and instruction. Ahab humbled himself before God, not because he felt the burden of his sins but because he faced the terror of death. God delayed the execution of the sentence, but it came just the same. Ahab had sold himself to do evil, and his master—sin—finally paid the wages (Rom. 6:23). So, despite God’s longsuffering kindness to him, there was little indication of any spiritual reality in Ahab.
Just like God was patient with Ahab, He is gracious and merciful to us today. That is why Jesus is delaying His coming back to this earth even though He had promised us over 2000 years ago that He was ‘coming quickly’ (Rev. 22:20). God does not want anyone to perish but that everyone should enjoy eternal life through Christ. Let us serve God with reverence and godly fear for He is a consuming fire as well (Heb. 12:28b-29).