What are the modern alternatives to God?
Ahab was a particular scoundrel, who 'did more evil in the eyes of the Lord than any of those before him' and 'did more to provoke the Lord, the God of Israel, to anger than did all the kings of Israel before him'. Much of this was due to his choice of wife. Jezebel was a foreigner and was totally dedicated to the worship of a variety of pagan gods. Ahab was totally dominated by his evil wife and together they dedicated the kingdom to the pagan god Baal, but God was to provide a 'thorn in their side' in the person of Elijah the prophet and a showdown was imminent. It came at Mount Carmel and we read of it in 1 Kings 18.
In the light corner we have the Lord God, Creator of the Universe, represented by Elijah the prophet. In the dark corner is Baal, represented by 450 'prophets'. The task - to set fire to a bull without the use of hands, matches or any human agency. First, the prophets of Baal ranted and raved for a full day to attract their god's attention, but to no avail. 'Perhaps he is asleep', taunted Elijah. They failed and all eyes turned to Elijah. He milked the moment by drenching the altar first with water, then called down fire from heaven. It came and the people realised who was the real God of Israel. The 450 'prophets' of Baal were subsequently slaughtered. This could have been a defining moment, signalling a mass repentance and return to the God of Israel. It wasn't, as Jezebel wasn't going to let a setback like this slow her down and Elijah was forced to flee into exile.
It is important to note that although it tends to be the rulers who bring judgment on the land, it doesn't necessarily mean that the evil that they represent is fully representative of their people. We read in 1 Kings 19:18 that there was still a remnant of 7,000 in Israel 'whose knees have not bowed down to Baal'. In all of Biblical (and Church) history there is always a faithful remnant who remain true to God, despite contrary pressures that might surround them.
Although we have concentrated on the conflict between Israel and its erstwhile brothers to the south, other nations were continuing to appear on the scene, driven by the ebb and flow of ambitious rulers and empires. One such person was Ben-Hadad of Syria, who attacked Israel (or Samaria, as it was also called at this time). As Biblical history shows us time after time, God appoints other nations to punish His people when they go astray. Although Israel under Ahab was about as astray as you can get, this was not such an occasion, as the Syrians were decimated. God, in His mercy, was using this episode to remind Israel exactly who was pulling the strings.
It didn't seem to do any good as Ahab persisted in his sins and so he finally met his end in battle. Because his death was prophesied, he went in disguise, seeking to dodge his destiny, but fell foul of a stray arrow between the sections of his armour and died in his chariot.
November 2013 (This is an abridged extract from Steve's book Outcast Nation)