Posted by: arieliondotcom | May 5, 2013

The Leadership Vacuum (1 Kings 20)

The Leadership Vacuum
(1 Kings 20)

They say that “Nature abhors a vacuum”; that is, nature will fill what’s empty with something. Although confusing Nature for GOD, the principle is otherwise a valid one. Something empty will usually be filled, somehow. A lack of action becomes a sort of action of itself. By not filling the void with good it will be filled with lesser good or downright evil. Refusing to speak against the voice of evil will allow the evil to be heard and obeyed. And in today’s example, lack of leadership leads not only to a lack of leadership credibility but loss to the very people being led.

King Ben-Hadad of Syria is a bully. After taking over the surrounding countryside he sends word to King Ahab of Israel that he’s about to take over Israel, too. He sends messengers to Ahab and says ” I claim the best of whatever you’ve got, including your wives.”

We’ve already seen earlier that Ahab is a lousy king. He’s weak-willed and his wife Jezebel is really in charge. So when Ben-Hadad “calls him out” to “fight like a man”, he certainly can’t defer to her. So instead he defers to Ben-Hadad and says “Okay! Have it your way!”

But bullies are never satisfied when you give in to them. Ahab’s lack of leadership just encourages Ben-Hadad more. So he says, “Not only do I claim the best you have, but I don’t trust you to choose it. So my soldiers will come and take whatever you like the best.”

Notice the difference. At first, Ben-Hadad just claimed the victor’s spoils of what has market value. But now he’s sending soldiers to take what’s sentimentally valuable. Now it’s not excess riches but what Ahab and the Israelites love most that Ben-Hadad is after, purely out of cruelty.

And even then Ahab refuses to act. Instead of leading, his advisors and even the people he’s supposed to be leading tell him what to do. So he does what he’s told (not making a decision of his own) and repeats to Ben-Hadad what the people said to him. “No, enough is enough.”

Ben-Hadad the bully threatens to overwhelm Israel with a great army and Ahab, feeling emoldened by his people treating him as a leader gets cocky and says “Not so fast. Don’t act like you’ve won when you haven’t even started.” Not a smart reply to a stronger army.

Ben-Hadad, who may have just been making threats before, gets this message when he’s drunk and calls his armies to prepare to attack.

Meanwhile, a prophet comes to tell Ahab that the LORD is going to give Israel the victory. And the same huge army that opposes him will be his by the end of the day. Why? To show Ahab himself that GOD is real and that GOD is the true Leader of Israel.

We remember that Ahab is an idol worshipper. Elijah defeated and killed the false prophets to bring Israel back to GOD. Ahab had been given a second chance to choose GOD and now GOD was giving him a reason to make that decision.

But Ahab still didn’t decide to call on GOD when Ben-Hadad threatened him. Now GOD is about to give a miracle to convince him (and Israel). But Ahab is still full of indecision, asking who will do the fighting and who will summon the troops? It must have been quite a shock when GOD says the army will be an army of servants and that Ahab himself would launch the attack!

Ahab gathers the servants, as he was told, and they were less than 300 men so he added his own army of 7000 soldiers. And they all march against Ben-Hadad who’s still in a drunken haze with the other kings he conquered. When word comes back to him that they’re under attack he says to take everyone in the army of Israel as prisoners, even if they come in peace.

But as indecisive as Ahab is, the servants of the Israelite army aren’t. They begin killing Ben-Hadad’s soldiers as soon as they’re confronted. The servants send Ben-Hadad’s army running before the official Israelite army behind the servants even gets a chance at them. And the emboldened Ahab continues the battle until he wins victory for Israel. But it isn’t over yet. Ben-Hadad escapes.

A prophet tells Ahab not to rest but prepare for Ben-Hadad to lead the Syrians against Israel again in the Spring. And sure enough, after some rest, Ben-Hadad’s counselors convince him it was only the Israeli god of the high places that defeated them and since the god of the low places is probably weaker, if Syria attacks Israel in the plains, Syria will win.

GOD hears this, of course, and sets about to prove to Syria that He is GOD Almighty, on high and below, in Heaven and on earth and in charge of those under the earth.

Ben-Hadad replaces the former kings in his army with military commanders and builds an army as huge as the last one, then goes out to fight Israel in the lowlands. The Israelite army goes out, tiny as their numbers are, to face the overwhelming armies of the Syrians. A prophet tells Ahab not to worry. GOD is about to teach Ben-Hadad and his armies a lesson that He is the One, True GOD.

True to His Word, GOD led Israel to rout the Syrian armies again. But just as they had the opportunity to defeat them and kill Ben-Hadad, the indecisive Ahab lets himself make a treaty with them so he must let them live to bother Israel again. A prophet warns Ahab that because he didn’t have the leadership to be decisive GOD has decided to let Ahab die earlier than he would have in place of Ben-Hadad and the Israelites will suffer because the Syrians were spared.

We are told, indirectly here and throughout Scripture, to be decisive. When we know Scripture and prayerfully consult GOD and godly counselors we have the best means to “let our yes be yes and our no be no” as JESUS will later say. We will be hot or cold not putridly neutral. We will avoid what James will describe as being tossed about by every wind of doctrine.
We will avoid the leadership vacuum.

Let us learn from Ahab’s frustration at the prophesy and anger about his impending death. Lack of leadership is disastrous. As Christians we are to follow Christ and disciple others to follow. They can only follow if we lead.


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