And it came to pass, when Ahab heard those words, that he rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his flesh, and fasted, and lay in sackcloth, and went softly… And the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, Seest thou how Ahab humbleth himself before me? because he humbleth himself before me, I will not bring the evil in his days: but in his son’s days will I bring the evil upon his house. 1Ki 21:27-29
It stumps me to imagine that God could forgive a man as evil as Ahab was. This Israelite king had just okayed the wanton execution of an innocent man just so he could take possession of his plot of land. Prior to this, King Ahab had done many other evil things and brought untold suffering upon his subjects. The Bible states about this Ahab: “But there was none like unto Ahab, which did sell himself to work wickedness in the sight of the LORD, whom Jezebel his wife stirred up…” (verse 25).
I wonder what kind of judgment many of us would have passed on such an evil man. No doubt, the same that God Himself passed on Ahab, as we read in verses 21 to 24 of this sad account: “Behold, I will bring evil upon thee, and will take away thy posterity, and will cut off from Ahab him that pisseth against the wall, and him that is shut up and left in Israel, And will make thine house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah, for the provocation wherewith thou hast provoked me to anger, and made Israel to sin. And of Jezebel also spake the LORD, saying, The dogs shall eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel. Him that dieth of Ahab in the city the dogs shall eat; and him that dieth in the field shall the fowls of the air eat.”
We would have executed that sentence swiftly and surely.
But apparently God was not going to carry out that sentence. Something occurred that stayed God’s hand. Something about this man, Ahab, moved God to change His mind. What was it? The Bible says that Ahab humbled himself before God. This action by an evil man made God to re-consider Ahab!
Hot-headed as we might be, we may want to consider the fact that probably God knew Ahab’s heart more than we do. This is one of the most significant things that set God so far apart from us. God knows the hearts of men. That is something none of us can lay a claim to. God can see into the innermost parts where none of us can see. That is why the Bible warns men to desist from judging others – man is hardly capable of judging another man’s heart! We might think a man proud but God knows he is humble enough, thank you.
That Ahab could go from one such extreme of committing evil, to another, of completely humbling his heart before God, tells volumes about his character. I am of the opinion that Ahab was simply a weak man who was controlled by a totally evil woman, his Canaanite wife Jezebel.
The point is that God saw the humility in Ahab’s heart and His fierce anger was stayed. There is something about God and a man with a humble heart. From reading through the Bible, it appears to me that God will move heaven and earth to reach out to a man who has decided to humble himself before Him, regardless of what that man may or may not have done. You see, God knows us perfectly well and the first thing He knows about us is that we are evil through and through. He does not need to waste His time muckraking through our hearts looking for some good in them. It is we who think that we have any good in us; but God knows otherwise. For that reason God is not looking for us to be good. And He is certainly not interested in those nice-looking facades which we are so expert at in putting up. God is looking for us to walk before Him with a humble heart, period. God will consider a humble man a thousand times over while he thoroughly ignores a man who imagines he is good – for there is no such thing as a ‘good man’ with God.
It is God alone who can work any good in a man’s heart; and this Godly dealing is only possible in a humble heart. But many people confuse the gifts and calling of God with humility. (We will look into that topic another day.)
God is gracious and merciful. He can easily forgive in circumstances where it is very difficult for us to forgive. God is capable of easily letting go of situations, and He does. And He can do inexpressibly far much more along that line! BUT… He needs to find a heart which is humble so He can show mercy to it. The Bible in James 4:6 says that God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.
In many times of crisis in my life, I have found that the only thing I could really do was to simply fall face down before my God with a bowed heart. Unfortunately, that is not always my first option but when at last I find myself there, what a sweet relief…! I can attest to the fact that God has never let me down in such situations.
Tonight I want to address anyone going through a moment of crisis in their lives. You may wish to take the beautiful option of humbling yourself before God. Humbling yourself means making up your mind to fall into the hands of God and cry out to Him for mercy. The best thing is not to mourn, which we normally do when in crisis. The best thing is to happily humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand and await His grace there. The point about fasting in this regard is that forgoing the things of the flesh will help you to focus on the things of the Spirit, especially your heart.
I guarantee you from God’s Word that He will not fail you. If God was able to look and see into Ahab’s heart, I assure you He will do the same with you. You will experience His mercy – and find victory in the issues that you are facing.