“Then You Will Know that I Am the Lord”

“Then You Will Know that I Am the Lord” June 17, 2024

Photo by Sapan Patel on Unsplash

God promised to defeat Israel’s enemies so that “then you will know that I am the Lord.” How can we guard ourselves against missing God’s purposes?

Scripture:       

1 Kings, chapters 20-21; 2 Chronicles, chapter 17; Colossians, chapter 3

1 Kings 20:26-30 (CEB):

So in the spring of the year, Ben-hadad assembled the Arameans and marched up to Aphek to fight with Israel. Now the Israelites had already been assembled and provisioned, so they went to engage the Arameans. The Israelites camped before them like two small flocks of goats, but the Arameans filled the land.  Then the man of God came forward and said to Israel’s king, “This is what the Lord says: Because the Arameans said that the Lord is a god of the mountains but not a god of the valleys, I am handing this whole great army over to you. Then you will know that I am the Lord.”

The two armies camped opposite each other for seven days. On the seventh day, the battle began. The Israelites attacked and destroyed one hundred thousand Aramean foot soldiers in a single day. Those who were left fled to Aphek into the city where a wall fell on twenty-seven thousand more of them. But Ben-hadad escaped and hid in an inner room within the city.

Observations: “Then You Will Know that I Am the Lord”

If you only read the verses I’ve set out above, you might not realize that “Israel’s king” was King Ahab. That’s an important detail, because Ahab was the most wicked king Israel ever had. As we read later in 1 Kings 21, “Truly there has never been anyone like Ahab who sold out by doing evil in the Lord’s eyes – evil that his wife Jezebel led him to do. Ahab’s actions were deplorable” (1 Kings 21:25-26). Ahab and Jezebel – their names evoke images of wickedness and idolatry. Hundreds of years later, Jezebel was still a symbol of idolatry and wickedness (see Revelation 2:20).

That detail is important because of what God does in our reading for today. On two occasions, God defeated the Aramean army when it attacked Israel. God obviously didn’t do that because Ahab was a good king! In fact, I would argue that God didn’t do it for Israel at all. Rather, God did it to defend his own name. “Because the Arameans said that the Lord is a god of the mountains but not a god of the valleys, I am handing this whole great army over to you.  Then you will know that I am the Lord.

That’s exactly what God did. The Israelites attacked and destroyed one hundred thousand Aramean foot soldiers in a single day. No way that happens unless God is involved! And as if to prove the point, those who were left fled to Aphek into a city where a wall fell on twenty-seven thousand more of them. The wall just fell on them?  No! Then you will know that I am the Lord. God said what he was going to do, and he did it, to prove to Israel’s king that God alone is the Lord.

Application: Then You Will Know that I Am the Lord

Unfortunately, in Ahab’s mind knowing that God is the Lord didn’t bring about a change in behavior. Instead of killing Ben-hadad once he was captured, Ahab let him go free. In a scene reminiscent of David and Nathan (2 Samuel 12), God sends a prophet to confront Ahab (1 Kings 20:35-42). The prophet disguised himself as someone wounded in battle. He went to Ahab and said that he had been charged to guard a prisoner; if the prisoner escaped, “it will be your life for his.” Ahab said, “It appears you have decided your own fate.”

When Nathan confronted David, he pronounced God’s judgment by saying, “You are the man!” In today’s reading, the prophet makes a similar statement: “This is what the Lord says: Because you freed a man I condemned to die, it will be your life for his life, and your people for his people” (1 Kings 20:42). And as we will see in our readings later this week, that’s exactly what happened.

Many times, God warns people about what is going to happen for the same reason: then you will know that I am the Lord. Unfortunately, most people don’t listen to God any better than Ahab did. They experience God’s blessing, and assume that means that God is pleased with them. Or they transfer their desires to God, assuming that God wants what they want. The danger is plain: when we think God wants what we want, we also assume that God approves of our plans to achieve our goals.

Put to Death the Sinful Nature

In our reading from Colossians today, Paul urges us to “put to death the parts of your life that belong to the earth” (Colossians 3:5) and to “put on compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience” (Colossians 3:12). It stands to reason that if we are to put those things to death, we shouldn’t excuse them or applaud them in others. What are those things? “Sexual immorality, moral corruption, lust, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry)” (Colossians 3:5).

We should also strive for and encourage the characteristics God desires: “compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience” (Colossians 3:12). Paul doesn’t stop there: “And over all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. The peace of Christ must control your hearts – a peace into which you were called in one body. And be thankful people” (Colossians 3:14-15).

As followers of Jesus, we are called to compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. We should demonstrate the peace of Christ and the love of Christ. Why would we ever excuse ungodly behavior? And if we shouldn’t excuse it, we certainly shouldn’t ever celebrate it! “Put to death the parts of your life that belong to the earth, such as sexual immorality, moral corruption, lust, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry).” If we don’t put those things to death, we’re “letting the prisoner escape.” That’s completely contrary to acknowledging God’s sovereignty. If we know that He is the Lord, we should be totally surrendered to him!

Prayer:

Father, thank you for reminding us of the ways that you show us your greatness. Each day, you do things that remind us that you are the Lord. Help us to live so that you are glorified in us. May our actions and our attitudes say to the world, “Then you will know that I am the Lord.”

Guard us against the temptation to adopt the world’s methods to achieve your ends. Help us not to make Ahab’s mistake, thinking that your blessings automatically imply your approval. You send rain on the just and the unjust. History tells us that you often use earthly powers and systems to achieve your purposes, but in the end those powers and systems fall. You used Assyria to judge Samaria, but that didn’t mean you approved of Samaria. The same is true with Babylon and Judah.

Jesus, you told Pilate that your kingdom is not of this world. You also told him he would have no authority unless it were given to him from above. Help us not to trust in this world’s leaders, systems, or authorities. Our hope is in you; our allegiance is to you alone.  Lead us in your way today. Amen.

 

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