1 Kings 20:1-34 – Taking Away God’s “I Am”…

Posted: March 9, 2019 in 11-1 Kings

1 Kings 20:1-34

Ben-Hadad Attacks Samaria

We live in a culture that may give some type of mental assent to the fact that there is or was a force of some kind that created the universe. Instead of calling it God, we now call it “the universe”. The “universe” brought this set of actions, events, and people together. We no longer want to give it a name. We no longer want to call God, God! We want to depersonalize God and make Him into this impersonal force of the universe. May be force be with you. Without a personal God, without a God who is a person with knowledge, direction, and purpose, we can make life on our own terms. We call it the universe. We call it fate. The common theme of it all is that we are wresting power away from God and giving it to ourselves.

The reason that God calls Himself “I AM” is that He exists. He is a being. He has existence. He is independent. He is self-aware. Whereas we, as limited humans, must describe ourselves with an adjective after we say “I am”. God is simply “I AM”. He is complete. He is that which from all things are created that require adjectives to describe them. God is so complete that He is simply “I AM”. He is the source of all our “I am’s” It is from this “I AM” that all things flow. He is the source of all things. In other words, nobody gave Him his beginning (as our parents do for us at conception). Nobody and no power brought Him into existence or shaped His personality. He had no beginning. He pre-exists our reality, our set of events that we call history and reality. And so there is no force or influence that shaped Him. He is the being that shapes all beings that follow. He created us. He created reality. Thus, without this real I AM, there is no reality. By saying that He is “I AM” He is not only saying that He is the basis for all things, the Creator from which all OUR “I am’s” flow, He is also saying that he is personal. He is a being. He thinks. He acts. He determines. He reasons. He has plans based on His reasoning. He has emotions. He loves. He feels. It blows your mind when you think of the implications of God calling Himself “I AM”. He is not today’s cultural notion of some force of an impersonal nature of just “some thing” or “some force” out there.

Taking away God’s “I AM” nature allows us to think of God intellectually for a moment but leaves us to the rest of our lives to ourselves. When we have some force out there that is impersonal and does not react to us, we take power unto ourselves for the control of our souls. Depersonalizing God is the first step to making ourselves our own gods. We control our fate. With God as impersonal, the Bible becomes fiction and a nice story but not as the imprint of a personal “I AM” kind of God. When we go down that road, we take Him out of our daily lives. When we make Him impersonal, we can then define what it takes to be good enough to make it to that post-death nirvana that we create for ourselves. We can begin to do what we want when we make God a thing out there that is not personal, not “I AM”. That’s the only way that we can pursue what we want without concerning ourselves with a personal God who knows us personally. We must depersonalize Him. Then, we can rationalize away that we are OK because we make up the rules as we go along. When we depersonalize God as “the universe” or “fate”, we can define truth for ourselves. We can spin our own actions because there is no personal God to whom we have to account.

Sorry for blathering on this morning about this “I AM” thing. But when you really think about the implications of God calling Himself “I AM” it is huge. So for our culture to go the places that it has gone in the last half century, we must take away God’s “I AM” and make Him this deistic entity that may be out there but really has little if anything to do with the world today. When we believe he is a hands-off backdrop or force out there, we can then proceed to define truth and reality for ourselves. We are not new at this. We have been doing it as humans since the beginning of human reality in the Garden of Eden.

The reason that I thought of this idea of depersonalizing the “I AM” nature of God is that is how we rationalize away the truth of the Bible and spin it into our own truth and our own reality was that is what I see in Ahab this morning. He seems to give some mental assent to God. However, as to how it applies to his daily life, he acts as if he is his own god. He literally ignores the evidence of God’s providence over his life in these two battles. With these thoughts in mind, let’s read this chapter, 1 Kings 20:

Chapter 20

1 About that time King Ben-hadad of Aram mobilized his army, supported by the chariots and horses of thirty-two allied kings. They went to besiege Samaria, the capital of Israel, and launched attacks against it. 2 Ben-hadad sent messengers into the city to relay this message to King Ahab of Israel: “This is what Ben-hadad says: 3 ‘Your silver and gold are mine, and so are your wives and the best of your children!’”

4 “All right, my lord the king,” Israel’s king replied. “All that I have is yours!”

5 Soon Ben-hadad’s messengers returned again and said, “This is what Ben-hadad says: ‘I have already demanded that you give me your silver, gold, wives, and children. 6 But about this time tomorrow I will send my officials to search your palace and the homes of your officials. They will take away everything you consider valuable!’”

7 Then Ahab summoned all the elders of the land and said to them, “Look how this man is stirring up trouble! I already agreed with his demand that I give him my wives and children and silver and gold.”

8 “Don’t give in to any more demands,” all the elders and the people advised.

9 So Ahab told the messengers from Ben-hadad, “Say this to my lord the king: ‘I will give you everything you asked for the first time, but I cannot accept this last demand of yours.’” So the messengers returned to Ben-hadad with that response.

10 Then Ben-hadad sent this message to Ahab: “May the gods strike me and even kill me if there remains enough dust from Samaria to provide even a handful for each of my soldiers.”

11 The king of Israel sent back this answer: “A warrior putting on his sword for battle should not boast like a warrior who has already won.”

12 Ahab’s reply reached Ben-hadad and the other kings as they were drinking in their tents.[a] “Prepare to attack!” Ben-hadad commanded his officers. So they prepared to attack the city.

Ahab’s Victory over Ben-Hadad

13 Then a certain prophet came to see King Ahab of Israel and told him, “This is what the Lord says: Do you see all these enemy forces? Today I will hand them all over to you. Then you will know that I am the Lord.”

14 Ahab asked, “How will he do it?”

And the prophet replied, “This is what the Lord says: The troops of the provincial commanders will do it.”

“Should we attack first?” Ahab asked.

“Yes,” the prophet answered.

15 So Ahab mustered the troops of the 232 provincial commanders. Then he called out the rest of the army of Israel, some 7,000 men. 16 About noontime, as Ben-hadad and the thirty-two allied kings were still in their tents drinking themselves into a stupor, 17 the troops of the provincial commanders marched out of the city as the first contingent.

As they approached, Ben-hadad’s scouts reported to him, “Some troops are coming from Samaria.”

18 “Take them alive,” Ben-hadad commanded, “whether they have come for peace or for war.”

19 But Ahab’s provincial commanders and the entire army had now come out to fight. 20 Each Israelite soldier killed his Aramean opponent, and suddenly the entire Aramean army panicked and fled. The Israelites chased them, but King Ben-hadad and a few of his charioteers escaped on horses. 21 However, the king of Israel destroyed the other horses and chariots and slaughtered the Arameans.

22 Afterward the prophet said to King Ahab, “Get ready for another attack. Begin making plans now, for the king of Aram will come back next spring.[b]”

23 After their defeat, Ben-hadad’s officers said to him, “The Israelite gods are gods of the hills; that is why they won. But we can beat them easily on the plains. 24 Only this time replace the kings with field commanders! 25 Recruit another army like the one you lost. Give us the same number of horses, chariots, and men, and we will fight against them on the plains. There’s no doubt that we will beat them.” So King Ben-hadad did as they suggested.

26 The following spring he called up the Aramean army and marched out against Israel, this time at Aphek. 27 Israel then mustered its army, set up supply lines, and marched out for battle. But the Israelite army looked like two little flocks of goats in comparison to the vast Aramean forces that filled the countryside!

28 Then the man of God went to the king of Israel and said, “This is what the Lord says: The Arameans have said, ‘The Lord is a god of the hills and not of the plains.’ So I will defeat this vast army for you. Then you will know that I am the Lord.”

29 The two armies camped opposite each other for seven days, and on the seventh day the battle began. The Israelites killed 100,000 Aramean foot soldiers in one day. 30 The rest fled into the town of Aphek, but the wall fell on them and killed another 27,000. Ben-hadad fled into the town and hid in a secret room.

31 Ben-hadad’s officers said to him, “Sir, we have heard that the kings of Israel are merciful. So let’s humble ourselves by wearing burlap around our waists and putting ropes on our heads, and surrender to the king of Israel. Then perhaps he will let you live.”

32 So they put on burlap and ropes, and they went to the king of Israel and begged, “Your servant Ben-hadad says, ‘Please let me live!’”

The king of Israel responded, “Is he still alive? He is my brother!”

33 The men took this as a good sign and quickly picked up on his words. “Yes,” they said, “your brother Ben-hadad!”

“Go and get him,” the king of Israel told them. And when Ben-hadad arrived, Ahab invited him up into his chariot.

34 Ben-hadad told him, “I will give back the towns my father took from your father, and you may establish places of trade in Damascus, as my father did in Samaria.”

Then Ahab said, “I will release you under these conditions.” So they made a new treaty, and Ben-hadad was set free.

35 Meanwhile, the Lord instructed one of the group of prophets to say to another man, “Hit me!” But the man refused to hit the prophet. 36 Then the prophet told him, “Because you have not obeyed the voice of the Lord, a lion will kill you as soon as you leave me.” And when he had gone, a lion did attack and kill him.

37 Then the prophet turned to another man and said, “Hit me!” So he struck the prophet and wounded him.

38 The prophet placed a bandage over his eyes to disguise himself and then waited beside the road for the king. 39 As the king passed by, the prophet called out to him, “Sir, I was in the thick of battle, and suddenly a man brought me a prisoner. He said, ‘Guard this man; if for any reason he gets away, you will either die or pay a fine of seventy-five pounds[c] of silver!’ 40 But while I was busy doing something else, the prisoner disappeared!”

“Well, it’s your own fault,” the king replied. “You have brought the judgment on yourself.”

41 Then the prophet quickly pulled the bandage from his eyes, and the king of Israel recognized him as one of the prophets. 42 The prophet said to him, “This is what the Lord says: Because you have spared the man I said must be destroyed,[d] now you must die in his place, and your people will die instead of his people.” 43 So the king of Israel went home to Samaria angry and sullen.

In this passage/chapter, we see that God defeated the Aramean army for Ahab so that Ahab would know that God alone is Lord. Despite two great victories in this passage, Ahab continued to live without God. In this passage, we also see that since the days of Joshua Israel’s soldiers had the reputation of being superior fighters in the hills but ineffective in the open plains and valleys because they did not use chariots in battle. Horse-drawn chariots were useless in hilly terrain and dense forests but could easily run down great numbers of soldiers in the plains. What Ben-Hadad’s advisors did not understand was that God, not the chariots, that made the difference battle.

In the end of this passage, it is difficult to understand why Ahab let Ben-Hadad go, especially after all the trouble for Israel he had caused. God helped Ahab destroy the Aramean army to prove to Ahab and to Aram that He alone was God. But Ahab failed to destroy the king, his great enemy. It seems that pride may have been the cause. Ahab enjoyed the ego-stroking that Ben-Hadad was loading upon him and Ahab liked the idea of having a living, breathing, vanquished king being subservient to him for the foreseeable future. God had judged that Ben-Hadad suffer the fate of defeated kings of this era. Thus, Ahab should have killed him. He would have been an instrument of God’s justice against the wicked king of Aram. It was then that the prophet told Ahab that he would be the one to suffer death because he failed to carry out God’s justice against Ben-Hadad.

Ahab’s actions here demonstrate that he does not recognize God as the source of his victory. Just as our culture today no longer recognizes God as a personal God. We have depersonalized Him. We have taken away His “I AM” so that we can live as we wish to live because there is no active “I AM” out there to define truth for us that is separate from us. God is a hands off God to our culture today. We are left to ourselves to define this thing for ourselves, according to our culture.

However, as with Ahab, acting as if God is not personal does not end His “I AM” nature. Each of us will have to account to this personal God. Each of us on our own merit will fail miserably in that accounting before the great “I AM”. Before this personal God, we will learn that it is He that defines truth. Before this personal God, we will be held to His definition and not ours.

But thank God he is an “I AM” God. Because He is personal and loves and feels and thinks and determines and reasons and has plans, He sent His only Son to save us from ourselves. He sent His Son to atone for our disrespect for Him. He sent His Son to atone for our depersonalizing Him. He sent His Son to atone for us taking away His “I AM” and making ourselves our own gods. I am thankful for a personal “I AM” God, because if He was not personal, He would not have given me Jesus as my Savior. Let us be eternally grateful that God is an “I AM” personal God who knows you, knows me, knows everything about everything that we do, say, think, and act out. I am thankful for a personal God that has love for me personally and gave His Son for my sins.

Amen and Amen.

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