“Do you see how Ahab has humbled himself before me?
Because he has done this, I will not do what I promised during his lifetime.
It will happen to his sons; I will destroy all his descendants.”
1 Kings 21:29 nlt
Hollywood does somewhat of a poor job representing how abstract a villain is in real life. I remember growing up watching Disney villains like Shere Khan from The Jungle Book, Hook from Peter Pan, or Ursula from The Little Mermaid. It was extremely easy to identify those characters as being the bad guys. Also, at the end of each movie, I was not exactly sad to see them banished, sunk or destroyed.
In real life, however, villains come and go and come back again. My husband and I form a blended family with many complex parts to it that we rarely label anymore due to the rapidly shifting “villain role.” And if I look deeply enough, most times the person that seems the most villainous is often not that different from me, at my core. So what is the best way to deal with those ambiguous, challenging and dangerous evils in our life? I don’t wish for them to be destroyed, sunk or banished but I wasn’t quite sure what the solution was until I read the story of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel.
In the book of 1 Kings, chapter 21, God talks about two complex villains: Ahab and Jezebel. Ahab was the eighth king of Israel and Jezebel was his wife. Even prior to chapter 21, Jezebel’s character and leadership is referenced. In 18:4, it says that she had made an actual attempt to kill ALL of the LORD’s prophets. She was evil and Ahab wasn’t much better. In chapter 21, a man named Naboth owned a vineyard near Ahab’s palace in Jezreel and Ahab offered to buy it from him. Naboth believed in keeping inheritance in the family, so he declined the offer, sending Ahab home angry and sullen. Jezebel asked him what was wrong and promptly took matters into her own hands. She paid two individuals to falsely accuse Naboth of cursing God and made sure the accusations occurred in a prominent place before the people. The punishment for blasphemy was death by stoning, so he was killed immediately.
God sent his prophet Elijah to Naboth’s field where Ahab was surveying his new acquisition and told Elijah to give him a message. God’s message was simple: Ahab had sold himself to what is evil in the LORD’s sight and was going to receive the consequences of that evil. Elijah told Ahab:
“The LORD is going to bring disaster to you and sweep you away. He will not let a single one of your male descendants, slave or free alike, survive in Israel! … The LORD has also told me that the dogs of Jezreel will eat the body of your wife, Jezebel, at the city wall.” No one else so completely sold himself to what was evil in the LORD’s sight as did Ahab, for his wife, Jezebel, influenced him. (1 Kings 21:21, 23, 25)
When Ahab heard this message, he tore his clothing, dressed in sackcloth, and fasted. He even slept in sackcloth and went about in deep mourning. Then another message from the LORD came to Elijah, who was from Tishbe: “Do you see how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has done this, I will not do what I promised during his lifetime. It will happen to his sons: I will destroy all his descendants.”
God had just gotten done explaining that NO ONE ELSE so completely sold himself to what was evil in the LORD’s sight. These were REALLY BAD PEOPLE! What about the justice?! What about banishing the villain forever?! What do I do with this information?!
Then it hit me – the ending God gave Ahab and Jezebel is the exact same ending I, and all God’s children, received. I will be given grace instead of the full punishment I deserve, because God is good. God sent his own son to die, instead of taking my own eternal life, because only He is able to see beyond what we define as villain and evil. God’s justice is complete because it has truth AND mercy. There is only one way to deal with internal AND external villains: realize we are ALL the problem and God is the ONLY solution. In short: Humble eyes see beyond despise.
Dear Lord, thank you for seeing beyond what I see in my life. Thank you for looking at me with eyes of love, patience and grace. Give me the gift of humility so that I can see like you when I look at the world around me. Amen.