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As this blog focuses on church growth, creativity, leadership, and casting vision, one key thing that is sure to mess up your ability to move forward in these areas is a distant relationship with God.
How do you know if you are drifting away from the Lord? These four steps down the broad road are being taken by many people:
1. Break a commandment of God. (1 Kings 16:31)
1 Kings 16:31 says, He not only considered it trivial to commit the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, but he also married Jezebel daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and began to serve Baal and worship him.
You can study more about this in Deuteronomy 7:3. When God’s people entered into the promised land, they were commanded to never marry people who worshiped idols.
It is important to understand what the issue was in this situation. The issue was not interracial marriage. We know this because Ruth, in the Old Testament, was a Moabitess. She married Boaz after she took refuge “under the wings of the Lord.” She was included in the line that led to Christ. We know, for sure, that God smiles upon the marriage of a man or a woman of different races when they marry in the Lord.
God speaks very clearly to His own people, with regard to entering a marriage with someone who does not submit to Him. Here you are and you submit to God and you are with someone who doesn’t submit to the Lord. That is what the Bible calls being “unequally yoked.”
Ahab pays absolutely no attention to that. What did he care about the Word of God in old books like Deuteronomy, written hundreds of years ago, at that time. He would have said he was dealing with political reality.
The political reality of the day was that Assyria (to the north) was growing exponentially in power. Ahab was presiding as king over these ten tribes in the northern part of Israel, in Samaria. He worked it out, and it doesn’t take a genius to grasp this.
He knew he needed a strong ally to bolster his defense against his threat from the north. It seemed, to Ahab, that the Sidonians were just the answer. What better way to cement an alliance with the Sidonians than for him to marry the crown princess, the daughter of Ethbal, whose name was Jezebel. So, they married approximately 60 years after Solomon’s death.
He was the seventh king in line after the awful schism in which the kingdom ruptured with the ten tribes in the north, separating themselves from the line of David that continued the Davidic king’s ruling in the south.
It is interesting, in this passage, that after seven kings and 60 years, Ahab wasn’t phased by walking in the sins of Jeroboam. Vast changes had happened over just half a century, since the death of Solomon. Sins that would have seemed shocking to one generation, now, within 60 years, seemed trivial to another.
Older folks, who could look back 60 years to Solomon’s reign, must have looked back and thought, “What has happened to our nation?” Have you ever asked that question about America? Have you ever felt that what seemed shocking a half century ago seemed lite and trivial today?
You begin to say, “How could a culture have moved so far and so fast after sixty years?” That’s the situation in America today and in 1 Kings 16.
2. Subvert the worship of God. (1 Kings 16:32)
1 Kings 16:32 says, He set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal that he built in Samaria.
What a change this is. It is only 100 years since David planned for the temple of God, and 60 years since Solomon built it. Now, here we are, these years down the line, and Ahab is on the throne.
The ten tribes from the north were separated from Jerusalem, in the south, where the temple was located. Ahab decided to not build a house for the Lord, but for Baal. He built an altar for Baal inside the house for Baal that he built.
Think about this with me. No one who takes the Bible seriously can say that all religions are different ways of saying the same thing.
Nobody who takes the Bible seriously can say that all religions are different ways of coming to the same God via different routes. There is one God. Baal is not God.
The first commandment, in Exodus 20:3, says, You shall have no other gods before me.
What does that mean? It means there is one God. Because it is our nature to rebel against Him, we invent other gods who will sit comfortably with our pleasures.
Our first sins hide inside the apparent sincerity of our man-made religions.
What is the second commandment? Exodus 20:4 says, You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.
Jeroboam led the rebellion in which the ten tribes to the north broke away from the line of David. When he did that, he set up an alternative worship center. In fact, he set up two of them: one in Dan and one in Bethel. He didn’t want people going back to Jerusalem in the south.
He made two golden calves: one was in the center of Dan and the other was in the center of Bethel. 1 Kings 12:28 says, After seeking advice, the king made two golden calves. He said to the people, “It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem. Here are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.”
Do you see what he is saying? He is saying, “We worship the same god, but we do it in our own place and we do it in our way.” In doing that, Jeroboam broke the second commandment.
Now, Ahab goes a step further. He doesn’t bother saying, “Folks, let’s worship God in our own way.” He says, “We are worshiping Baal. We live in a brave new world, and we’re living in a new way.”
Ahab breaks both the first and the second commandments. He leads God’s people to a low point. This is a place where not only is he breaking the commandments of God, but he feels that he has the freedom to choose his own god as well as his own lifestyle.
People begin to say, “I have the freedom to choose my own lifestyle.” Walk down the road further, you say, “I have the freedom to choose my own god.”
3. Provoke the anger of God. (1 Kings 16:33)
1 Kings 16:33 says, Ahab also made an Asherah pole and did more to arouse the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel, than did all the kings of Israel before him.
The word “arouse,” or “provoke,” is really important. This tells us that anger is not God’s natural state.
The pagans believed in gods who were constantly angry and always needed to be placated. By His very nature, God is not angry. God is love. That is His nature.
The Bible says God is wrath. It says He is love, and it says He can be provoked to anger.
God hates evil, and when His people are evil, He can be provoked to anger. The Bible says God is slow to anger.
Ahab had been, for years, on a sustained assault in a pursuit of evil. He did more to provoke the anger of God than all of the kings of Israel before him.
4. Ignore the warning of God. (1 Kings 16:34)
1 Kings 16:34a says, In Ahab’s time, Hiel of Bethel rebuilt Jericho.
What is the significance of that? Back in the book of Joshua, remember the great story of when people came into the land of Canaan, and the walls of Jericho tumbled down. After that great victory, God gave specific instruction that nobody was to rebuild the city of Jericho.
Joshua 6:26 says, At that time Joshua pronounced this solemn oath: “Cursed before the Lord is the one who undertakes to rebuild this city, Jericho: “At the cost of his firstborn son he will lay its foundations; at the cost of his youngest he will set up its gates.”
There is a commandment of God against the rebuilding of Jericho. Any man who rebuilds the city and contradicts God’s command, will be cursed before the Lord. This is crystal clear.
What does Ahab do? He directly contradicts the Word of God and commissions Hiel to rebuild Jericho, in 1 Kings 16:34.
1 Kings 16:34 says, In Ahab’s time, Hiel of Bethel rebuilt Jericho. He laid its foundations at the cost of his firstborn son Abiram, and he set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub, in accordance with the word of the Lord spoken by Joshua son of Nun.
Hiel pours the foundation, and his first son dies. You think that may have been a clue he should stop. Then, he set up the gates, and his youngest son dies. What a tragedy!
You can read the story of how God redeemed this rebuilt city from the curse on which it was built. However, this story shows us how far God’s people had come from fearing Him.
If you have started drift, then be honest with yourself. Pray that God would help you to draw closer to Him.