The enemy; unseen but close...fire for effect!

TWO FACES OF WAR

If Ahab was not as opposed to God as Jezebel, how does he fail?  Is there any good to come of his reign, or will he snatch defeat from the jaws of victory?  The king of Syria hopes so.

And Benhadad the king of Syria gathered all his host together: and there were thirty and two kings with him, and horses, and chariots; and he went up and besieged Samaria, and warred against it.  And he sent messengers to Ahab king of Israel into the city, and said unto him, Thus saith Benhadad,  Thy silver and thy gold is mine; thy wives also and thy children, even the goodliest, are mine.  And the king of Israel answered and said, My lord, O king, according to thy saying, I am thine, and all that I have.  1 Kings 20:1-4

Ahab is not a great man of faith here; he just gives up.  That just makes your enemies more aggressive.  Do we remember an event called “peace in our time”?  That at least bought time for the British to prepare for war.  Benhadad just wants more now.

And the messengers came again, and said, Thus speaketh Benhadad, saying, Although I have sent unto thee, saying, Thou shalt deliver me thy silver, and thy gold, and thy wives, and thy children;  Yet I will send my servants unto thee to morrow about this time, and they shall search thine house, and the houses of thy servants; and it shall be, that whatsoever is pleasant in thine eyes, they shall put it in their hand, and take it away.  Then the king of Israel called all the elders of the land, and said, Mark, I pray you, and see how this man seeketh mischief: for he sent unto me for my wives, and for my children, and for my silver, and for my gold; and I denied him not.  And all the elders and all the people said unto him, Hearken not unto him, nor consent.  Wherefore he said unto the messengers of Benhadad, Tell my lord the king, All that thou didst send for to thy servant at the first I will do: but this thing I may not do. And the messengers departed, and brought him word again.  And Benhadad sent unto him, and said, The gods do so unto me, and more also, if the dust of Samaria shall suffice for handfuls for all the people that follow me.  1 Kings 20:5-10

Ben toots his own horn a bit, boasting that his followers will be more than the sands of Samaria.  Ahab finally figures out that the Syrian will not be satisfied and has an answer of his own.  He tells Benhadad not to boast while strapping his armor on, but rather when he can take it off safely.

And the king of Israel answered and said, Tell him, Let not him that girdeth on his harness boast himself as he that putteth it off.  And it came to pass, when Ben-hadad heard this message, as he was drinking, he and the kings in the pavilions, that he said unto his servants, Set yourselves in array. And they set themselves in array against the city.  And, behold, there came a prophet unto Ahab king of Israel, saying, Thus saith the LORD, Hast thou seen all this great multitude? behold, I will deliver it into thine hand this day; and thou shalt know that I am the LORD.  And Ahab said, By whom? And he said, Thus saith the LORD, Even by the young men of the princes of the provinces. Then he said, Who shall order the battle? And he answered, Thou.  1 Kings 20:11-14

A prophet promises victory, and Ahab wants to know who would be their hero.  Ahab and his young leaders would draw that job.  So he does a census of young leaders and their soldiers.  They are not a huge number, but they have help from high places.

Then he numbered the young men of the princes of the provinces, and they were two hundred and thirty two: and after them he numbered all the people, even all the children of Israel, being seven thousand.  And they went out at noon. But Benhadad was drinking himself drunk in the pavilions, he and the kings,  the thirty and two kings that helped him.  And the young men of the princes of the provinces went out first; and Benhadad sent out, and they told him, saying, There are men come out of Samaria.  And he said, Whether they be come out for peace, take them alive; or whether they be come out for war, take them alive.  So these young men of the princes of the provinces came out of the city, and the army which followed them.  And they slew every one his man: and the Syrians fled; and Israel pursued them: and Benhadad the king of Syria escaped on an horse with the horsemen.  And the king of Israel went out, and smote the horses and chariots, and slew the Syrians with a great slaughter.  1 Kings 20:15-21

This day brought the Syrians a retreat in defeat.  They were caught in overconfidence, and were not able to capture the young men of Israel as they planned.  That doesn’t mean they have learned their lesson.

And the prophet came to the king of Israel, and said unto him, Go, strengthen thyself, and mark, and see what thou doest: for at the return of the year the king of Syria will come up against thee.  And the servants of the king of Syria said unto him, Their gods are gods of the hills; therefore they were stronger than we; but let us fight against them in the plain, and surely we shall be stronger than they.  And do this thing, Take the kings away, every man out of his place, and put captains in their rooms:  And number thee an army, like the army that thou hast lost, horse for horse, and chariot for chariot: and we will fight against them in the plain, and surely we shall be stronger than they. And he hearkened unto their voice, and did so.  1 Kings 20:22-25

So the prophet issues a warning in advance again as the Syrians are seeking a new way to win.  Their logic suggests that their gods are of the valley, not of the hills.  Our God is over hills and valleys alike.  There Are two battlefields unfolding before us here.  One is the material, and the other is spiritual.  The natural battlefield looks tilted towards the Syrian numbers.  There is another battle in a different realm at the same time and space though.

And it came to pass at the return of the year, that Benhadad numbered the Syrians, and went up to Aphek, to fight against Israel.  And the children of Israel were numbered, and were all present, and went against them: and the children of Israel pitched before them like two little flocks of kids; but the Syrians filled the country.  And there came a man of God, and spake unto the king of Israel, and said, Thus saith the LORD, Because the Syrians have said, The LORD is God of the hills, but he is not God of the valleys, therefore will I deliver all this great multitude into thine hand, and ye shall know that I am the LORD.  And they pitched one over against the other seven days. And so it was, that in the seventh day the battle was joined: and the children of Israel slew of the Syrians an hundred thousand footmen in one day.  But the rest fled to Aphek, into the city; and there a wall fell upon twenty and seven thousand of the men that were left. And Benhadad fled, and came into the city, into an inner chamber.  1 Kings 20:26-30

Men have followed their own gods because they have misguided beliefs.  There are real spirits that draw them, which we know as fallen angels.  Remember the magical power of the magicians of the Pharaoh in Moses day.  There are spirits like the Prince of Persia that interfered with the prayers of the prophets.  Evil is real, but not dominant.  One God is over every area of the battlefield.  He is jealous and seeks to keep his people faithful to the way of life.  Spiritual warfare rages in that realm as we war in this one.  Benhadad is considering a different path in his defeat.  He is counting on a pattern Ahab displayed earlier.

And his servants said unto him, Behold now, we have heard that the kings of the house of Israel are merciful kings: let us, I pray thee, put sackcloth on our loins, and ropes upon our heads, and go out to the king of Israel: peradventure he will save thy life.  So they girded sackcloth on their loins, and put ropes on their heads, and came to the king of Israel, and said, Thy servant Benhadad saith, I pray thee, let me live. And he said, Is he yet alive? he is my brother.  Now the men did diligently observe whether any thing would come from him, and did hastily catch it: and they said, Thy brother Benhadad. Then he said, Go ye, bring him. Then Benhadad came forth to him; and he caused him to come up into the chariot.  And Ben-hadad said unto him, The cities, which my father took from thy father, I will restore; and thou shalt make streets for thee in Damascus, as my father made in Samaria. Then said Ahab, I will send thee away with this covenant. So he made a covenant with him, and sent him away.  1 Kings 20:31-34

Ahab had offered an easy surrender earlier, and Benhadad is counting on this weakness again.  He presents himself as a brother, and Ahab indeed speaks of him as a brother.  Ahab’s men pick up this representation, and Ahab agrees to let Benhadad go free.  God has a different opinion, and he has a man to deliver his message.

And a certain man of the sons of the prophets said unto his neighbour in the word of the LORD, Smite me, I pray thee. And the man refused to smite him.  Then said he unto him, Because thou hast not obeyed the voice of the LORD, behold, as soon as thou art departed from me, a lion shall slay thee. And as soon as he was departed from him, a lion found him, and slew him.  Then he found another man, and said, Smite me, I pray thee. And the man smote him, so that in smiting he wounded him.  So the prophet departed, and waited for the king by the way, and disguised himself with ashes upon his face.  And as the king passed by, he cried unto the king: and he said, Thy servant went out into the midst of the battle; and, behold, a man turned aside, and brought a man unto me, and said, Keep this man: if by any means he be missing, then shall thy life be for his life, or else thou shalt pay a talent of silver.  1 Kings 20:35-39

So the prophet is presenting a charade, pretending to have been given charge of an important prisoner.  The responsibility was to have been for his own life if he failed to keep the prisoner.  The story continues.

And as thy servant was busy here and there, he was gone. And the king of Israel said unto him, So shall thy judgment be; thyself hast decided it.  And he hasted, and took the ashes away from his face; and the king of Israel discerned him that he was of the prophets.  And he said unto him, Thus saith the LORD, Because thou hast let go out of thy hand a man whom I appointed to utter destruction, therefore thy life shall go for his life, and thy people for his people.  And the king of Israel went to his house heavy and displeased, and came to Samaria.  1 Kings 20:39-43

The servant was busy here and there??  And the prisoner was GONE?  Ahab responded as David did when Samuel told the story of the man whose lamb was stolen.  He pronounced immediate judgment against the “soldier” being portrayed by the prophet.  Now the prophet removes his disguise and the truth of the word of God is revealed to Ahab.  Again Ahab has left an enemy live against the word of God, and his condemnation is confirmed.  Knowing that God himself has declared your condemnation is a heavy piece of news indeed.

In the New Testament we are told to war against spirit, and not against flesh and blood.  Why is the Old Testament so filled with blood and violence then?  Here we see what happens when we fail to be obedient in spiritual warfare, and the carnal warfare escalates into open bloodshed.  Ahab has failed to stand up to a godless force, and it has grown into a war.  If we keep touching the top of the stove, eventually we will find a hot burner.

We are to engage in prayer, good works, and gentle Christian fellowship.  We should not engage motorists in road rage or rail against ungodly movements.  We are to deliver the gospel to whosoever will.  Spiritual warfare is effective, but we need to understand the urgency of engaging the enemy in prayer.  The carnal warfare of the Old Testament was necessary because the enemies of Israel were fallen far enough for God himself to intervene.  It is also the example of how and why we should war against the spiritual powers and principalities in our world today. 

There will be military war in the end times and we will need spiritual warfare to overcome then too.  We need to be aware of God’s orders so that we will be in harmony with the spiritual warfare in the heat of our own carnal warfare.  Witness how the warfare continues in peacetime as recession, crime and disasters rage around us.  We are aware of needs, and we are needed in the front lines of spiritual warfare.  Prayer, Bible study, and Christian fellowship will keep us in balanced relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

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