Kings Ahab and David have very different relationships with God. Yet both experience grace alongside consequence at various times of their lives.
King Ahab is notoriously known to be one of Israel’s most evil kings. In fact, [1 Kings 16:30] says that he “did evil in the sight of the Lord, more than all who were before him.” He worshipped other Gods, persecuted God’s prophets and mocked God’s word. Yet, there were moments where Ahab showed belief that God was real and at work. While his life ends as a consequence of ignoring God’s word, there are some moments where even Ahab submits to God and experiences grace.
[1 Kings 21:17-29] shows how Ahab responds to God’s judgement of Naboth’s murder. The word is delivered through the prophet Elijah, whom Ahab calls “my enemy”. Elijah gives Ahab a run-down of God’s judgement, which among other things, includes the destruction of his household and legacy. Ahab, upon hearing this, fasts, puts on sackcloth and mourns. Then God says to Elijah,
“… See how Ahab has humbled himself before Me? Because he has humbled himself before Me, I will not bring calamity in his days. In the days of his son I will bring this calamity.” – [1 Kings 21:29]
Ahab, it seems, has little regard for God. Yet, in this moment, he is recognised by God and shown grace. The fact that God comments on how Ahab humbled himself before God is significant. Whatever the reason, and for however long or short this lasted, Ahab humbled himself in this moment and acknowledged God’s superiority. Tragically, he later dies when he chooses to ignore God’s word regarding the outcome of a certain battle.
This story of Ahab shows us that God’s grace is for everyone. If even Ahab’s temporary act of surrender to God could allow him to experience grace, how much more will a life lived to follow Him experience grace? Grace, however, comes with justice. Ahab’s wrongful actions still incur a consequence though grace is shown to him in this.
Another example of grace and consequence is found in [2 Samuel 11]. This passage tells how King David commits adultery with Bathsheba and even arranges the murder of her husband to cover-up. When God’s verdict is handed down to the repentant David, his life is spared, but his child dies. David pleads for his child in fasting and weeping until the child dies, then composes himself and eats again. He explains his behaviour to his servants saying,
“…While the child was alive, I fasted and wept; for I said, ‘Who can tell whether the Lord will be gracious to me, that the child may live?’ But now he is dead; why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.” [2 Samuel 12:22-23]
In this case, David cries out to God on behalf of his sick son, but God’s word remains and the infant dies. David accepts God’s judgement and moves on, choosing still to praise God. Grace is shown to him again as his son Solomon, the future king of Israel, is borne through Bathsheba.
It is possible to have grace alongside consequence. Though grace was shown to Ahab and David, they still experienced consequences. For Ahab, it was his death and the obliteration of his family. For David, it was the death of his child. Our world today is filled with things that do not honour God. There will be consequences for these things, yet God will still give grace to those who honour him. It may not be what we want, just as Ahab’s family was not saved, and David’s son still died. However, it will be according to the justice of God who is worthy to judge, and is Lord over all.
How can we respond to grace with consequence?
- Endeavor to always humble ourselves before God.
[James 4:10] says “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.” Whether for a moment, or for a lifetime, we know that we can experience God’s grace when we humble ourselves before Him. The biggest experience of grace we can have is through the revelation of the cross – how Christ died to save us undeserved in our sin.
- When something we want does not happen, know that God is God, and continue to trust in His love.
Sometimes, it seems we are like spoilt children. We think that if we just tell God we want something, He will give it to us. Sometimes the consequences are clear, but sometimes things happen and we do not know why. Sometimes what we want neglects the bigger picture that God can see, and it falls short in seeing the omnipotence of His being. Sometimes things happen because of our sin, sometimes because of the sin of others, sometimes because of things we cannot understand. When we know God loves and we know God is just, we know we can trust him even when our own understanding fails. A loving, just and merciful God can always be trusted to do the right thing, and to do it with grace. [Romans 8:28] – “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
- Give thanks for the grace that God gives, and we will be able to recognise it more and more.
[2 Thessalonians 5:18] says, “… in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” We have been given the gift of grace through Christ, to live in grace every day and in all things, so let us give thanks to God for this.
- Acknowledge the authority of God – all things belong to Him, He alone is able to give judgement.
It is easy to pass judgment on what we think we know. However, only God sees all things and it is God who holds the true authority to judge. As [Colossians 1:16] says, “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.
In a world of sin and consequences, we can be confident that God’s grace will still be shown where people humble themselves before Him.