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King Ahad: The King who Committed Apostasy

Text: 1 Kings 16: 29-34

Dr. Alex Tang

 

Summary

In our worship of the one true triune God, we must be careful not to incorporate elements of other religions into our worship.

 

We continue in the study of The Four Kings:

(1)   King Asa: The King who Began Well.

(2)   King Jeroboam: The King who Corrupted the Heart of Worship

(3)   King Ahad: The King who Committed Apostasy

(4)   King Herod: The King who tried to Kill God.

 

The theme of this study is worship and our relationship to God as illustrated by these 4 kings. This fits into the theme of this year “He shall increase while I shall decrease” (Jn 3:30) which is about relationship with God. We have seen how King Asa began with such great promise in his worship of  God and his relationship to God. Yet with success and complacency, Asa finished so badly, rejecting God at the end. We also drew lessons from Jeroboam who tried to corrupt worship of God by offering an alternate worship system devised by himself and his advisors:

A. Two calves of gold served as idols, even though the invisible God was supposed to be riding astride them. Jerusalem was replaced by Dan and Bethel as worship centers. The Canaanite religion has Baal as the symbol of the bull with goddess Asherah riding on the bull.

      B. Priests not of the priestly line were appointed to serve at Bethel and Dan, as well as at “high places” (like roadside shrines).

C. A system of festivals that counterfeited those ordained by God was established.

D. Sacrifices were offered at the northern worship centers, which was again a direct violation of God’s Law.

  1. Jeroboam offered the burnt offers at the altar, usurping the role of the high priest

 

This whole pattern is summed up in 1 Kings 12:28-33, which contrasts the system Jeroboam devised in his own heart to replace that which had been devised and revealed by God.

I Kings 16:29-34

29 In the thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah, Ahab son of Omri became king of Israel, and he reigned in Samaria over Israel twenty-two years.  30 Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the LORD than any of those before him.  31 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.  32 He set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal that he built in Samaria.  33 Ahab also made an Asherah pole and did more to provoke the LORD, the God of Israel, to anger than did all the kings of Israel before him. 34 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. [1]

 

Background and Commentary

16:29-31. Ahab ruled Israel from Samaria for 22 years (874-853 b.c.). He was the most wicked king Israel had experienced, even worse than his father Omri who was worse than all before him (v. 25).

 

                                                TWO KINGDOMS

 

                              ISRAEL                                                          JUDAH

 

 

Major Kings

Prophet

 

Major Kings

Prophet

931

Jeroboam

Ahijah

(unnamed)

931

Rehoboam

Shemiah

909

Baasha

Jehu

910

Asa

Azariah

886

Omri

 

 

 

 

874

Ahab

Elijah

(unnamed)

Miciaiah

Elisah

Obadiah

872

Jehoshaphat

Hanani

Jehu

 

Jahaziel

Eliezer

Elijah

841

Jehu

 

835

Joash

 

Zechariah

Joel

 

(1)      Ahab’s wickedness consisted of perpetuating all the sins of Jeroboam; he even considered them trivial.

(2)       Ahab married a pagan princess, Jezebel, who zealously tried to promote her depraved cult as the exclusive religion of Israel. Jezebel’s father, Ethbaal, was king of the Sidonians (Phoenicians), with his capital in Tyre. Baal (meaning ”lord“) is a name used generally in the Old Testament for the male deity the native Canaanite tribes worshiped under various other titles. The Tyrians called him Baal Melqart, but their religion was only a cultic variation of the standard Baal worship common throughout Palestine. Evidently Ahab was not forced to marry Jezebel; his choice to marry her is something for which the writer held him responsible.

(3)      Ahab built a temple for Baal in the capital of Israel and constructed an altar for Baal in it.

(4)      Asherah poles (cf. 14:15, 23; 15:13) were idols carved to stimulate worship of Baal’s female counterpart. The writer repeated the seriousness of Ahab’s sins for emphasis (16:33; cf. v. 30).

16:34. The refortification of Jericho was specifically forbidden by Joshua after God supernaturally destroyed it (Josh. 6:26).

JOS 6:26 At that time Joshua pronounced this solemn oath: "Cursed before the LORD is the man who undertakes to rebuild this city, Jericho:

"At the cost of his firstborn son

will he lay its foundations;

at the cost of his youngest

will he set up its gates."

 

 Though the city had been occupied since Joshua’s day, Hiel’s reconstruction seems to have been the first serious attempt to restore it to its former condition. Joshua’s prophecy was fulfilled literally when two of Hiel’s sons perished. Perhaps this reference, which seems unrelated to Ahab’s accomplishments, was included to show that as God’s word was fulfilled in this instance so it would be in Ahab’s case. Ahab was setting up a system of worship that God said He would judge, as Hiel had tried to set up a city that God had said He would judge.[2]

For Jeroboam, it starts with an intention to set up or modify or improve the existing belief system. Ahad took it a step further. He wants to combine the worship of Yahweh with the worship of Baal. The names of Ahad’s sons (Ahaziah, “The Lord grasps”; Joram, “The Lord is exalted” suggest that Ahad did not intend to replace the worship of  Yahweh with the worship of Baal but to worship both deities in a syncretistic way.

This reminds me of the time I shared the gospel with an old Chinese man using the bridge illustration – the Navigators version of the four spiritual laws. After the presentation, I asked him whether he wanted to accept Christ. To my surprise, he said yes. When I asked him why, he said that he has many gods. Having the Jesus god will be better for him. The more gods he has the better the protection and greater the good fortune he will have.

Apparently, it has not harmed Ahad either. As a political and military leader, Ahab receives good marks. He was effective in defeating Israel’s Syrian enemies. He joined in a coalition army which halted the invasion of a great Assyrian force under Shalmaneser III. And Ahab maintained the borders of his land. Assyrian records tell us that Ahab was able to contribute 2,000 chariots (the tanks of ancient warfare) to the coalition army, as well as some 10,000 foot soldiers.

Economically, Israel also prospered. The Phoenician alliance meant that sea trade routes were open to landlocked Israel, and the great “ivory house” Ahab built for himself (1 Kings 22:39) testifies to the land’s prosperity.[3] Recent archaeological excavation of one of the palaces found walls panel made of ivory.

 

Syncretism

Syncretism is the process in which the elements of one religion are assimilated into another religion resulting in a change in the fundamental tenets or nature of those religions.

 

Deut 6:4   Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one.

Ex 34:14 Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.

 

The Bible has always taught that there is only one God and all our worship is directed to this God only. The failings of the Israelites were that they tried to incorporate other religious systems into their worship of Yahweh. Religious systems from the countries of Canaan.  Religious system of Baal and Asherah.

Barrett has estimated that there are 150,000 religions in the world today. Some scholars think the figures are even higher. Os Guiness, Senior Fellow of Trinity Forum, a Christian think-tank in the United States, wrote in his latest book, Long Journey Home, said that the world’s religions can be broadly classified into three categories:

(a)                The Eastern family of faiths includes Hinduism, Buddhism and New Age thought. Their common view of the ultimate reality could be termed ‘undifferentiated impersonal’ or an impersonal ground of being.

(b)               The Western secular family of faiths includes atheism, naturalism, and secular humanism. Their common view of ultimate reality is an “chance plus matter plus time”.

(c)                The Biblical family of faiths, including Judaism, Christianity and Islam, whose shared view of the ultimate reality is an “infinite, personal God”.

As Christian, we know that there is only one religion, Christianity. And Christianity is the worship of the one true triune God. True worship is in spirit and in truth. God is spirit and God is truth. We can look at Ahad and wonder how he can stray so far? How can he even consider adding the worship of Baal to the worship of Yahweh? Before we become too judgmental, maybe we should look at our own spiritual belief systems to see how pure we are.

 

Whom do we worship?

Let us examine our faith and see whom do we worship. Maybe we do not deliberately introduce another religion like what Ahad did. But do we allow other religions into our lives? We live in the Asia, which is one of the most religious regions in the world. We come from a background of Buddhism, Taoism, Animism, Islam, Confucianism and Hinduism. Christianity is a relative newcomer. Many of our families and relatives embrace other religions. The question I ask tonight is that, “Do we worship only one triune God? Or do we allow elements of other religions into our worship?”  Worship God or God-+plus

 

1.                  God plus Chinese religion and culture

(i)                 Chinese Religion

When I was young, my mother brought me to a temple and dedicated me to Kuan Yin, Goddess of Mercy. Much as Hannah dedicated young Samuel to the Lord. This is common practice to give the young child protection, good health ad a good future. When I became a Christian, I had to renounce this dedication.

 Many of us who grew up in non-Christian family must be aware of this practice and need to renounce our former ties. These are not mere words but true spiritual bonds. We must break such bonds.

 

(ii)               Fung Shui

Fung means wind and shui, water. Fung shui is the art of predicting how the earth forces and the stars can influence a person’s life. Originating in China thousands of years ago, fung shui is a complex study of astrology and geology in relationship to the fortunes of man.

·        location of your building

·        wind and water

·        your front door.

 

(iii)             Chinese Cultural practices (Superstitions)

Superstition is defined as an irrational fear of unknown or mysterious, credulity regarding the supernatural.

·        walking into a broom will bring bad luck

·        when you sweep your house, do not sweep outside the door. It will sweep away good luck.

·        Chinese New Year taboos

q       keep your house brightly lighted on Chinese New Year day and open the front door to welcome the “God of Fortune”

q       avoid eating porridge and sweet potatoes. Eat rice for good luck.

q       do not use knives or scissors. These must be wrapped in red paper and put away until after New Year Day.

q       be careful not to break utensils.

q       avoid sweeping the floor and throwing away rubbish

q       do not take afternoon naps. If a man takes afternoon nap, his vegetable garden will wither away. If a woman takes afternoon nap, her kitchen will crumble.

q       do not scold or beat children. It is a bad omen. It will mean the child will get frequent scolding and beating throughout the year. Or even worst if you hit the child’s head- he may turn bald or become an idiot.

·        ask for permission to walk  through a corpse of trees

·        number 13 or 14

·        car licence plate 4444 or 28

 

2.                  God plus secular humanism

(i)                 Individualism

The cult of the rugged independent individual, facing all odds and winning is the romanticism of the American Western. The Marlborough man is the ideal of this until it was kidnapped by the marketing department of the tobacco industry. We worship individualism.

·        I am my own person, I don’t belong to you or any organization or do what you say

·        I can do what I like, and I will; I’m not responsible for the results.

·        I am following on what matters to me; I don’t care how it fits in with everything else.

Associated with this individualism is the worship of youth, beauty, power and success.

 

(ii)               Human know-how (technology)

Closely associated with the idea of individualism is the concept of “I can do all things”. Compared this to “ I can do all things through Christ who strengthened men. Secular humanism places man at the center of the universe. With our technology, our resources and our intellect, who needs God? We have begun to worship our technology and our methodology. We begin to believe that if we have enough resources, enough man and womanpower, enough money, enough education, we can change the world.  Indeed technology and methodology have increased the standard of living, reduced poverty and increased the level of general health around the whole. But it has not changed man. The twentieth century is the bloodiest century in the whole history of mankind. General health has improved; poverty level has decreased in the twentieth century more than in other centuries. But the number of deaths resulting from war, genocide, political and social changes are higher than in any other century. Man has not changed.

 

Concluding remarks – why do we worship God-plus?

Many of us are not aware that we are worshipping God-plus.

·        if we are building our house, arranging furniture in our house, building a water fountain, use a little knowledge of fund shui to locate the structures. What harm can it do? It may bring us good luck and fortune.

·        the various taboos are part of the Chinese culture. What harm is it to follow them?  It may bring us good luck and fortune.

·        God needs our help in church. We help God in the ministry of the church. We can do a better job with our technology and our methods and our skills. Watch out, church. God doesn’t need you. You need God. Do not let secular humanism thought influence you. We need God. It is not by our power or our might or our know-how that we can overcome. It is God.

PS 127:1 Unless the LORD builds the house,

its builders labor in vain.

Unless the LORD watches over the city,

the watchmen stand guard in vain.

 

Do you know why we allow God-plus?  Why did Ahad embrace the worship of Baal. It’s because we do not trust God enough. We do not trust God to protect us, to sustain us, to give us good fortune or good luck. All of us are afraid of pain and suffering. Maybe having another god will help. Even the Bible says, two is better than one…  The root of God plus is lack of trust in God. So we hackens to our traditional roots for help. We look to our Western education and training for help. We do not throw ourselves to God’s mercy and be dependent on him alone. We do not have enough trust and faith.

So where do we stand today? Have we been accepting other gods? We need to confess before the Lord. Cry out to him for forgiveness. For our lack of trust and faith. Go back to the worship of the one true God. That is what Elijah has been trying to tell Ahad the whole time. Elijah’s name means “ The Lord is one”    

 

 

 Soli Deo Gloria


 

[1]The New International Version, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House) 1984.

 

[2]Walvoord, John F., and Zuck, Roy B., The Bible Knowledge Commentary, (Wheaton, Illinois: Scripture Press Publications, Inc.) 1983, 1985.

[3]Richards, Lawrence O., The Teacher’s Commentary, (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books) 1987.

 

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