1Kings 12-22 completes this book, a violent and idolatrous story.
One vile man that the story centers on is Ahab. He gets about six chapters of attention, and several prophets come and go out of his life: Elijah, Micaiah, and a nameless one. Ahab is a scoundral, an openly contemptous man towards God and what is good, selfish and sulky. An unjust deed of his, the "stealing" of Naboth's vineward provoked a harsh judgment from God, through Elijah: "I am going to bring disaster on you. I will wipe out your descendants and cut off from Ahab every last male in Israel - slave or free. And also concerning (your wife) Jezebel the LORD says, Dogs will devour Jezebel by teh wall of Jezreel. Dogs will eat those belonging to Ahab who die in the city, and the birds will feed on those who die in the country."
And then there is this very fascinating account given: "When Ahab heard these words, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and fasted. He lay in sackcloth and went around meekly."
When I read this, I snickered: just like Ahab to get sulky over his punishment. In my TNIV Bible, this last quoted text ends the right hand page. Turning the page, I was taken aback by what I read at the top left: "Then the word of the LORD came to Elijah...Have you noticed how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself, I will not bring this disaster in his day, but I will bring it on his house in the days of his son."
Why is God doing this? Ahab doesn't deserve that kind of mercy...Ahab is a sulky king who has wreaked havoc on God's people, why is God acknowledging the penitent heart? Isn't it just a sign of a pouty old man?
And then I feel convicted; I was quick to judge, quick to condemn, quick to relish in the coming judgement upon Ahab - he had it coming and I was going to be glad for his doom. But God didn't react the way I did...God noticed the humbling of the heart, even in Ahab.
Oh how quickly I judge people...how I harden my heart against them...God, help me notice the humbled hearts that you notice.