1 Kings 21:25-29
"Have you seen how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself before me, I will not bring the disaster in his days."
Doesn't this statement by the Lord cause you to stop and re-read verse 25? "There was none who sold himself to do what was evil in the sight of the LORD like Ahab." One moment God declared Ahab unmatched in his pursuit of evil. In the next, He proclaimed "I will not bring the disaster in his days." Instead of administering the deserved result of Ahab's sin, God chooses to withhold His judgment. What happened to bring about such a response?
Verse 27 said when Ahab heard God's word of judgment, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth, fasted, went around dejectedly and even slept in sackcloth. God describes those acts as Ahab humbling himself before Him. How quick the LORD is to respond to humility!
We see a similar situation in Jonah 3. God sent Jonah to Nineveh to proclaim "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!" The people of Nineveh believed God and responded in the same manner as Ahab. The king not only acted the same way, he also decreed a fast for the whole city, including the animals, and required both man and beast to wear sackcloth. He stated "Who knows? God may turn and relent from his fierce anger." God did relent and did not destroy the city because the people humbled themselves before Him.
In Leviticus, the phrase "realizes his guilt" is used repeatedly. These sackcloth actions of Ahab and Nineveh are an acknowledgment of their guilt before God. Proverbs 28:13 says, "Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy." Repeatedly in the Old Testament, the Lord describes Himself as "The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty" (Exodus 34:6). In Jeremiah 33:11 God explains Himself like this, "As I live, declares the LORD GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways, for why will you die, O house of Israel?"
Ahab's repentance reminds me of Psalm 107:17-22. "Some were fools through their sinful ways, and because of their iniquities suffered affliction; they loathed any kind of food, and they drew near to the gates of death. Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their destruction. He sent out his word and healed them, and delivered them from their destruction. Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man!"
The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promises as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance." 2 Peter 3:9
LORD GOD, Your graciousness to the undeserving is unimaginable in a world so quick to judge and punish. Throughout the history of mankind, You have shown Yourself to be longsuffering, slow to anger, willing to forgive man's rebellion. Thank You for such grace and mercy provided at great cost by Christ Jesus. Holy Spirit, convict me and lead me to repent quickly and produce the fruit of repentance.