|Elijah confronts Ahab - Artist unknown|
TO CHEW ON: "Ahab did more to provoke the LORD God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him. " 1 Kings 16:33
Provoking God? It sounds serious!
A brief survey of Bible passages that speak of provocation tell us some of the things that provoke God.
God is provoked by:
- Unbelief and refusal to act in faith—what the Israelites did when they balked at entering the Promised Land despite all the miracles along the way - Numbers 14:11.
- Rejecting His appointed leaders—the way Korah, Dathan and Abiram challenged the leadership of Moses and Aaron - Numbers 16:30.
- Rebellion—the way the Israelites often acted during their wilderness trek - Deuteronomy 9:7,8,22; Psalm 106:7.
- Idol worship - Deuteronomy 31:20,29; 1 Kings 14:9; 16:26,33 (our focus verse); Jeremiah 7:18.
- Scoffing at God's work—what Sanballat and Tobiah did over Nehemiah's wall - Nehemiah 4:6.
- Breaking covenant with Him and refusing to keep His law ("testimonies") - Deuteronomy 31:29; Psalm 78:56.
- Words against Him - Isaiah 3:8.
- Sacrilegious things in a holy place - Ezekiel 8:3.
The results of provoking God throughout Israel's history were serious:
- The Israelites were doomed to wander for 38 more years in the wilderness - Number 14:23
- Korah, Dathan, and Abiram and their families were destroyed for challenging God's appointed leaders - Numbers 16:31,32.
- Ahab's provocative ways led to three years of drought- 1 Kings 17:1.
- Nehemiah seemed concerned that the scorn of his detractors would lead to discouragement of the workers - Nehemiah 4:5.
- Israel's idol worship led to the temple's destruction by a foreign power - Ezra 5:12.
- Provoking God also led to Israel's exile - Jeremiah 8:19.
Though it's easy for us to look down our noses at the fearful and rebellious Israelites or idolatrous Ahab, another read-through of the list of things that provoke God in relation to our setting may demolish some of that smugness.
- Are we ever guilty of unbelief and refusing to act in faith?
- Have we ever rebelled against the leaders God has placed over us?
- Do we have idols? Not silver and gold images, perhaps, but other things like work, people's praise, money, etc. that compete with God for first place in our hearts?
- Have we ever scoffed at what others report as God's work?
- Have we ever been disdainful of sacred things—by what we've said? By what we've done?
Yes, God is long-suffering and merciful. Jesus has paid for these sins with His death. But still our provocations may have consequences. What a shame to miss out on His best, to assign ourselves, by our attitudes, words, and actions, to seasons of wilderness wanderings, drought, and exile.
PRAYER: Dear Father, help me to be sensitive to what pleases and what provokes You. I have been guilty of unbelief, rebellion, idolatry and more. Help me to see these things that provoke, grieve and displease you—as sin. Amen.
Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.