The reading today is 1 Kings 21:17-29.
17 Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying: 18 Go down to meet King Ahab of Israel, who rules in Samaria; he is now in the vineyard of Naboth, where he has gone to take possession. 19 You shall say to him, "Thus says the Lord: Have you killed, and also taken possession?" You shall say to him, "Thus says the Lord: In the place where dogs licked up the blood of Naboth, dogs will also lick up your blood." 20 Ahab said to Elijah, "Have you found me, O my enemy?" He answered, "I have found you. Because you have sold yourself to do what is evil in the sight of the Lord, 21 I will bring disaster on you; I will consume you, and will cut off from Ahab every male, bond or free, in Israel; 22 and I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha son of Ahijah, because you have provoked me to anger and have caused Israel to sin. 23 Also concerning Jezebel the Lord said, "The dogs shall eat Jezebel within the bounds of Jezreel.' 24 Anyone belonging to Ahab who dies in the city the dogs shall eat; and anyone of his who dies in the open country the birds of the air shall eat." 25 (Indeed, there was no one like Ahab, who sold himself to do what was evil in the sight of the Lord, urged on by his wife Jezebel.
26 He acted most abominably in going after idols, as the Amorites had done, whom the Lord drove out before the Israelites.) 27 When Ahab heard those words, he tore his clothes and put sackcloth over his bare flesh; he fasted, lay in the sackcloth, and went about dejectedly. 28 Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite: 29 "Have you seen how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself before me, I will not bring the disaster in his days"
I wonder if Elijah was scared? He had a tough assignment, to confront the king, Ahab, about killing Naboth and stealing his vineyard. The consequences could be very bad for Elijah. The king may imprison him, or even kill him also like he did Naboth.
Yet the story has a different ending, a very different, surprising ending. After Elijah confronts him, and even warns of God’s judgment, the king tore his cloths, put on sackcloth, fasted and went about dejectedly. In short, he felt sorry. Very, very sorry.
God sees the king’s sudden humility and, instead of punishment, shows him mercy. Happy ending.
There have been times when I have had to confront people, even church leaders, about what they were doing. Not murder, fortunately, but too often some kind of stealing, like the king did to Naboth. Getting something for nothing is still a strong temptation.
These times were not easy. Sometimes scary, even. I feared the consequences. Yet it was necessary.
And sometimes they did as the king did. They felt sorry. Really, really sorry.
Those were moments of grace and mercy. Human mercy. God’s mercy. And happy endings.
Prayer: Loving God, thank you for the courage to speak boldly like Elijah, and for your never-ending mercy.
Pastor Lanny Westphal firstname.lastname@example.org
Prayer Concern: Those who work to ensure integrity and uphold justice.