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( 2 Kings 20) The Wheels of Justice DO Turn

( 2 Kings 20) The Wheels of Justice DO Turn

by Stephen Davey Ref: 2 Kings 20

Ahab faces his final battle against God and Elijah and loses them both. He is given one last opportunity to repent, but still he chooses to run from God. The wheels of Justice, however, will catch up with him.



(I Kings 20 & 22)

Gary Richmond once worked in the Los Angeles Zoo.  As a committed believer, he often saw things that happened at the zoo with a different perspective.  His books A View From The Zoo and Don’t Feed the Bears are wonderful reading.

He tells the story in one of his books about a young zookeeper named Julie.  The zoo had purchased a baby raccoon and it was among her duties to care for him.  Playful, cuddly, puppy like in it’s antics, it soon won Julie’s heart - and every one else in that division.  Julie could often be seen doing her duties with her cute little raccoon perched on her shoulder.  She even named him Bandit.   But Gary’s experience caused him to worry for Julie - He told her that raccoons go through a glandular change at about 24 months of age.  After that they will often, unexplainably, viciously attack their owners.  And a 30-pound raccoon can do the same kind of damage as a large dog.  Over and over again, Gary warned his young friend about her growing pet.  She would always listen politely as he explained the coming danger.  Richmond wrote, “I will never forget her answer; it was always the same.  "It will be different for me...” And she smile as she added, 'Bandit wouldn't hurt me.  He just wouldn't.  Then Richmond wrote, "Three months after my last warning Julie underwent plastic surgery for severe facial lacerations sustained when her adult raccoon attacked her for no apparent reason.  Bandit was released into the wild."  Sin, too, often comes dressed in an adorable guise, and as we play with it, how easy it is to say, "It will be different for me." 

While chapters 20 and 22 of I Kings are considered rather uninteresting details of Ahab’s battles with Ben-Hadad - they are really vivid accounts of a man who coddled and harbored sin.  A man who’s answer to anyone who might warn him off his ways, “Oh, it will be different for me . . .”

After studying this passage, I had to entitle our discussion, “The wheels of justice do turn.”  They might turn ever so slowly at times that we think God doesn’t notice, or care - but the wheels do turn.

Our discussion, I pray will be a warning to every Christian who is in the process of refusing godly counsel and warning signs from family and friends.  I also pray this study will bring every unbeliever to a point of surrender and submission to the Savior who paid the penalty for all your sin.

For the purpose of getting a grasp on more than 3 years in the final fall and collapse of Ahab, I’ve divided our study by the battles that occurred.


The First Campaign: Takes place in I Kings chapter 20.  Look with me at verse 1.  Now Ben-hadad king of Aram gathered all his army, and there were

thirty-two kings with him, and horses and chariots.  And he went up and besieged Samaria, and fought against it. (remember that Samaria is the capital city of the northern Kingdom; Jerusalem is the capital of the southern kingdom).  2.  Then he sent messengers to the city to Ahab king of Israel, and said to him, “Thus says Ben-hadad, “Your silver and your gold are mine; your most beautiful wives and children are also mine.”  4.  And the king of Israel answered and said, “It is according to your word, my lord, O King; I am yours, and all that I have.”

What’s happening here, by the way, is the typical expression between a sovereign and a vassal king - a less powerful king.  It seems that Ben-hadad is reminding Ahab that tribute belongs to him and he can have anything he wants.

Ahab responds by calling him, “Yes sir, my Lord.”

Let’s keep the peace Ben!  Whatever you say, Sir!

Ben-hadad, by the way was the Syrian Warlord - his name literally translated means “Son of Hadad”.  Hadad was the storm god of the Syrians.  Ben-hadad literally means, “son of the storm god and he was not the kind of man you’d want to mess with unless you had a clear way to escape.

I read about a truck driver who was eating his food in a truck stop - he was rather small in stature - his meal was interrupted when three bikers pulled up - big rough guys in leather - they walked in and ordered their food too.  Then they spotted the truck driver and began to tease him because he was small - they tousled his hair - then they took his food away and threw it in the trash.  The little fella quietly paid for his food and left.  The three bikers laughed and said to the waitress, “He ain’t much of a man is he?”  She, peered out the window and said, “Nope, and he ain’t much of a truck driver either - he just backed over three motorcycles.”

Ben-hadad is the kind of bully that you don’t offend - unless you could escape in an 18 wheeler. 

It’s tragic though that Ahab is so far from God that he doesn’t seek the Lord’s help.  Like little David of old who took on an unbeatable bully named Goliath - and won.

Now notice verse 5.  Then the messengers returned and said, “Thus says Benhadad, Surely, I sent to you saying, “You shall give me your silver and your gold and your wives and your children,  6.  but about this time tomorrow I will send my servants to you, and they will search your house and the houses of your servants; and it shall come about, whatever is desirable in your eyes, they will take in their hand and carry away.

Now this is serious - the son of the thunder god is going to literally carry out his threat - Ahab has 24 hours to hand over his priceless possession, and his family.

Now a threat like this involves national and personal trauma - adversity is designed to teach us how to pray; to seek God’s face.  Where does Ahab go?

Notice verse 7.  Then the king of Israel called all the elders of the land and said, “Please observe and see how this man is looking for trouble (skip to verse 8).   And all the elders and all the people said to him, “Do not listen or consent.”

Now stop here for a moment - Ahab doesn’t seek God’s face - he doesn’t pray - he takes a poll!  Like some politician who determines his convictions by the latest popular opinion polls.  What do you and the people think I ought to do?  And they answered “Fight!”

v. 10.  And Ben-hadad sent to him and said, “May the gods do so to me and more also, if the dust of Samaria shall suffice for handfuls for all the people who follow me.”  In other words, by the time I finish with you, Samaria won’t be anything more than a dustbowl.

I like Ahab’s response - he actually shows a little grit and guts - v. 11.  Then the king of Israel answered and said, “Tell him, “Let not him who girds on his armor boast like him who takes it off.”  In modern  English that’s the same thing as saying, “Ben-hadad, don’t count your chickens before they hatch.”

Now in each of these three campaigns, Ahab is visited at least once by a prophet of God - remember, as we travel over these last three years of Ahab’s life, each visit is intended to show Ahab the power of God and his need to submit to Him.

The first prophet suddenly appears on the scene, uninvited with good news: 20:13.  Now behold, a prophet approached Ahab king of Israel and said, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Have you seen all this great multitude?  Behold, I will deliver them into your hand today, and you shall know that I am the Lord.”

Did you notice - “that who may know that I am the Lord?”  Ahab!  For whose benefit is God going to intercede?  God doesn’t need to impress a bully named Ben - God is revealing His authority for Ahab!

v. 16.  And they went out at noon, while Ben-hadad was drinking imself drunk in the temporary shelters with the 32 kings who helped him.   Imagine the overconfidence of Beh-hadad and 32 other kings - even if I’m drunk, he’s implying, I can whip you all - as far as he’s concerned, this battle’s in the bag.

v. 21.  And the king of Israel went out and struck the horses and chariots, and killed the Arameans with a great slaughter.

There shouldn’t be any question in Ahab’s mind that Samaria was saved because of a miracle of God’s protection and power.

Ahab is alive because God intervened.

By the way, you might note the reference in verse 15 to 7,000 sons of Israel who marched against Ben-Hadad.  Some have suggested that these are the same 7,000 whom God encouraged Elijah with in telling him that 7,000 refused to bow their knee to Baal.

At any case, Ahab’s small army marched - and once again Goliath came crashing to the earth.

Several weeks ago I came across a fascinating story where another soldier survived a war only because someone else intervened. Elmer Bendiner flew numerous bombing runs over Germany in World War II.  He writes of one bombing run that he will never forget.


Imagine that - saved by an unseen hand.  Do you think for a moment if that American soldier could meet that Czechoslovakian, that he would do anything other than embrace him and thank him.  No question.

And what did Ahab do for the prophet who delivered God’s word, or unto God for saving his life and his kingdom?  Absolutely nothing.

The Second Campaign occurs several months later.

Only this time, Ben-hadad thinks he’s figured everything out. Notice v. 23.  Now the servants of the king of Aram said to him, “Their gods are gods of the mountains, therefore they were stronger than we; but rather let us fight against them in the plain, and surely we shall be stronger than they. 

You see, Ben-hadad, the son of a thunder god has made a fatal miscalculation - the first campaign took place in hilly terrain.  “Well then, this time let’s take on the Israelites on a level plain” 

You see, they think God is geographically limited.  And God is about to teach Ben that He doesn’t just live in the hills.  He lives in the valley too!

It is from the lips of yet another anonymous prophet that God speaks to Ahab once again.  verse 28.  Then a man of God came near and spoke to the king of

Israel and said, “Thus says the Lord; ‘Because the Arameans have said, “The Lord is a god of the mountains, but He is not a god of the valleys; therefore, I will give all this great multitude into your hand, and you shall know that I am the Lord.”

Delusions of God still abound!

He’s only a God of mercy - only to discover that He is also the creator of Hell - a literal place of torment.

He’s the God of tolerance - only to that heaven is exclusively for followers of Jesus Christ.

He’s a God who doesn’t care about world affairs, only to learn that He indeed set the boundaries of nations, promoted kings and removed them as well.

He’s a God who can’t care about individuals; He can’t be a personal God; He certainly can’t forgive a sinner; Oh He’s a God whose love extended to humanity when His only Son came to die on a cross to pay the penalty for your sins and mine.  The word informs us that He loved us even when we were sinners.

He’s a God who cares about me only when I’m successful and victorious; Oh but He’s promised to love the brokenhearted, and bind up the weary; to never leave you nor forsake you.

There’s a wonderful old gospel song, my wife grew up in her small church in Georgia singing it - I had her sing it too me again and I wrote down some of the words:

            And the God of the mountain, is still God in the valley.

            And the God of the good times, is still God in the bad times,

            The God of the day, is still God in the night.

Ladies and Gentlemen, God is not limited geographically or any other way - He’s the Sovereign God of your mountain top, but He’s also the Sovereign God of your valley too.

Well the armies march against one another in the plain; verse 27 tells us that the Israelite army was like two little flocks of goats while the Arameans filled the country.  skip to the middle of verse 29.  The battle was foiled, and the sons of Israel killed of the Arameans 100,000 foot soldeirs in one day.  30.  But the rest fled to Aphek into the city, and the wall fell on 27,000 men who were left.  And Ben-hadad fled and came into the city unto an inner chamber. 


Now I want to show you something  that made a lot of sense politically and economically, but it clearly violated the will of God. 

v. 31.  And Ben-hadad’s servants said to him, “Behold now, we have heard that the kings of the house of Israel are merciful kings, please let us put sackcloth on our loins and ropes on our heads and go out to the king of Israel; perhaps he will save our life.”   32.  So they girded sackcloth on their loins and put ropes on their heads, and came to the king of Israel and said, “Your servant Ben-hadad says, “Please let me live.”  And he (Ahab) said, “Is he still alive??  He is


my brother.”  33.  Now the men took this as an omen, and quickly catching his word said, “Your brother Ben-hadad.”   They’re shocked - Ahab called Ben-hadad, this drunkard of a bully and blasphemer brother . . . “Uh, oh yea, brother . . . uh, sure Ahab he’s always liked you - yea, he’s your brother alright.”

What’s going on?  Well, Ahab, isn’t really interested in justice - so he blasphemed against God which is a capital offense; so he has shed the lives of Israelite soldiers in battle!

But to shrewd Ahab - saving Ben-hadads life should make of him a loyal ally.  And Syrai is strategically placed between Samaria and other potentially dangerous nations; besides, Ahab’s wanted a piece of the retail market in Damascus as well as some of his old cities returned to his kingdom . . . “Tell you what Ben - I’ll scratch your back if you’ll scratch mine.

v. 34.  And Ben-hadad said to him, “The cities which my father took from your father I will restore, and you shall make streets for yourself in Damascus, as my father made in Samaria.”  Then they, in effect, shook hands and parted. 

Um . . . Ahab - are you forgetting someone?  The one who gave your little goats victory over an incredible army?

You didn’t ask God what to do did you - because you really don’t care!

Now what happens in the next paragraph seems a little confusing, yet, once understood, it is profound.

v. 35.  Now a certain man of the sons of the prophets said to another (note this!) by the word of the Lord, “Please strike me.”  But the man refused to strike him.  36.  Then he said to him, “Because you have not listened to the voice of the Lord, behold as soon as you have departed from me, a lion will kill you.”  And as soon as he had departed from him a lion found him, and killed him.”  37.  Then he found another man and said, “Please strike me.”  And the man struck him, wounding him.   38.  So the prophet departed and waited for the king and disguised himself with a bandage over his eyes.

Now, what kind of context is God setting up here to teach Ahab - you don’t disobey the word of the Lord.

Just because you’re a prophet, like that first man, doesn’t mean you don’t have to obey the word of God.  The point is, if God will take the life of a prophet for disobedience, will He not take the life of a King?!

God doesn’t have pets - favorite students who bring Him apples.  The classroom of life is clearly divided between those who will obey his instructions and those who disobey.

So in the next few verses, this wounded prophet pretends to be a soldier who has allowed his prisoner of war to escape.  v. 39.  And as the king passed by, he cried to the king and said, “Your servant went out into the midst of the battle; and behold, a man turned aside and brought a man to me and said, “Guard this man; if for any reason he is missing, then your life shall be for his life, or else you shall pay a talent of silver” (75 pounds of silver - a sum he would never be able to pay as a common soldier).  40.  And while your servant was busy here and there, he was gone.”  And the king of Israel said to him, “So shall your judgment be; you yourself have decided it.”  (In other words, for letting that man escape you shall surely die!)  41.  Then he hastily took the bandage away from his eyes, and the king of Israel recognized him that he was of the prophets.  42.  And he said to him, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Because you have let go out of your hand the man whom I had devoted to destruction, therefore your life shall go for his life, and your people for his people.”

Ahab condemns a man to die for letting a common prisoner of war escape - but he has allowed the King of Syria to escape judgment - and that’s alright?!

How like human nature to act severely against the sins of another and wink at our own.

One mother I was reading about recently caught her young son and daughter in a shouting match where pushes and shoves had begun.  She immediately told them to go and find something for her to spank the other child with . . . the daughter brought Mom a huge limb from outdoors to spank her brother with and her brother brought in from the garage a baseball bat.  She then reversed her assignment and told them to bring her the object they wished to be spanked with personally - the daughter went back outside and found a dead twig, hardly bigger than a  ruler, and her son brought her a rubber band.

            We tend to be strict on others and lenient on ourselves!

Ahab’s disobedience will cost him his own life - at the hand of Ben-Hadad’s soldiers and the northern Kingdom will fall as well.

So what happened next - nothing - a winter passed and a spring and summer, then another year passed and went - and then another - three years - “Lord do the wheels of justice turn - will Ahab escape the Divine Avenger?! 

Let me turn your attention to the final campaign.

It’s found in the last chapter of First Kings, chapter 22.  With this we’ll end our study of the great Book of I Kings.  I don’t know about you, but this has been the first time I’ve ever heard or taught through this wonderful, powerful Book.  It has taught me once again how much the church misses when it simply runs to it’s favorite passages and well known stories.

Now the two kings listed at the end of chapter 22 - Jehoshaphat and Ahaziah will be studied in detail as we continue through Kings and Chronicles.

But for now, the end of evil Ahab is in sight.

Notice verse 1.  And three years passed without war between Aram and Israel.  And it came about in the third year, that Jehoshaphat the king of Judah came down to the king of Israel.  3.  Now the king of Israel said to his servants, “Do you know that Ramoth-Gilead belongs to us, and we are still doing nothing to take it out of the hand of the king of Aram?”  4.  And he said to Jehoshophat, “will you go with me to battle at Ramoth-Gilead?”  And Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, “I am as you are, my people as your people, my horses as your horses.”

What’s happening here is that Ben-Hadad hasn’t kept his word - he promised his good ole brother Ahab to return the cities that belonged to him - but now he’s broken the contract.

So Ahab joins forces with the southern kingdom and they prepare for war against Brother Ben.

Just as Ahab is strapping on his armor, Jehoshophat does what should have been done to begin with - v. 5.  Morevorer, Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, “Please inquire first for the word of the Lord.”  In other words, “Uh Ahab, shouldn’t we pray about this first?”

I imagine Ahab stuttered around a bit, “Um, sure - of course - how could I forget!”

v. 6.  Then the king of Israel gathered the prophets together, about four hundred men, and said to them, “Shall I go against Ramoth-Gilead to battle or shall I refrain?”  And they said, “Go up, for the Lord will give it into the hand of the king.”  7.  But  Jehoshaphat said, “Is there not yet a prophet of the Lord here, that we may inquire of him?”

This is classic discernment!  Perhaps Jehoshaphat noticed that the prophets didn’t begin their words with the phrase, “Thus says the Lord...”  Or perhaps he already is aware that these prophets are religious sounding puppets who allow Ahab’s state policy of tolerance for Baalism.

So he, with a bold rebuke asks, “Um Ahab, is there someone who is not on your payroll who can really speak for God?  Isn’t there a man of God here who's not afraid to tell the truth?”

Well, there is one man - and Ahab knows him well because he’s already put him in prison!  His name is Micaiah.

I think Ahab’s response is hilarious v. 8.   And the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “There is yet one man by whom we may inquire of the Lord, but I hate him, because he does not prophesy good concerning me, but evil.”

He never tells me what I want to hear!  And he’s always raining on my parade.

Jehoshaphat says, “Go get him.”  v. 13.  Then the messenger who went to

summon Micaiah spoke to him saying, (this is classic).  “Look, Behold now, the words of the prophets are uniformly favorable to the king.  Please let your word be like the word of one of them, and speak favorably.”

It’s implied here that this messenger is a friend of Micaiah’s, or at least someone who wants to see him released from prison. . .”   Pleeeease Micaiah, go along with the false prophets, just this once!”

After a little mockery of the false prophets, Micaiah delivers the word of God to Ahab and Jehoshaphat - v. 17.  So he said, “I saw all Israel scattered on the mountains, like sheep which have no shepherd, and the Lord said, “These have no master.  Let each of them return to his house in peace.”

In other words, “Israel is going to lose her king in battle.”

Look at verse 18.  Then the king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “Did I not tell you that he would not prophesy good concerning me, but evil?” HA!  Didn’t I tell you this man’s out to get me?!”

Well, how could 400 prophets be wrong and you be right Micaiah?  Answer in verse 23.  Now therefore, behold, the Lord has put a deceiving spirit in the mouth of all these YOUR prophets; and the Lord has proclaimed disaster against you.”

Notice the emphasis on “your prophets!”.    Ahab, you’re prophets use the name of God, but they don’t know Him - they sound religious - but they’re not righteous.

They’re pseudo-spiritual clerics who wear the robes of religion and practice the forms and rituals of religion but they don’t know God.

This is a replay of Mount Carmel - hundreds of false prophets - only one prophet of God - and the lesson is still the same - the will of religion may not be the will of God.

Ahab - they tell you to go up and succeed!  Then go ahead - but God says, your final act is on - and the curtains are about to fall.

Does Ahab repent?  He did before when Elijah confronted him in the vineyard!  Not this time - God won’t do anything - the wheels of justice have stopped!

v. 26.  Then the king of Israel said, “Take Micaiah and return him to Amon the governor of the city and to Joash the king’s son; and say, “Thus says the king, “Put this man in prison, and feed him sparingly with bread and water until I return safely.”  28.  And Micaiah said, “If you indeed return safely the Lord has not spoken by me.”

Two points to bring to your attention: 

First,  Ahab’s death was sudden, but divinely timed.  v. 34.  Now a certain

man drew his bow at random and struck the king of Israel in a joint of the armor.  So he said to the driver of his chariot, “Turn around, and take me out of the fith; for I am severely wounded.”

A coincidence - it just happened that a Syrian soldier fired his arrow into the air toward Ahab - who was disguised as a common soldier?  it just happened that the arrow penetrated  the small groove between the kings’ breastplate and the flexible scale armor that covered his lower abdomen. 

It just so happened that Ahab, with an arrow in his stomach, is unable to retreat becuase of the pressing battle and where medical attention could have saved him, he can’t get away.

Oh no - the wheels of justice turn slowly, but they do turn!

2)  Ahab’s death was unrepentant, but surrounded by opportunity. 

In fact, the text tells us it took him nearly the entire day to finally die. 

v. 35.  And the battle raged that day, and the king was propped up in his chariot in front of the Arameans, and died at evening, and the blood from the wound ran into the bottom of the chariot.

But did you notice, no word of repentance, no call for a prophet, no prayer of surrender.  It was simply too late to turn the clock back - the day of repentance had come and  gone.

Like Julian the Apostate, the Roman emperor of the first century who vowed to shed the blood of Christians; who out of disgust would refer to Jesus Christ only as the Galilean.  When he was mortally wounded in battle, he raised his hand in bitter hatred and said, “Thou, Oh Galilean hast finally conquered.”

Oh my friend, it is better to be conquered by Christ now - than conquered by him on judgment day.

Sometimes God allows us to experience the judgment of our sin during the years of our wasted lives. . .

Let me read a story from an Ann Landers column - it reveals the tragedy of a wasted life through the foolishness of sin.


How do you protect your life from being wasted?

Let me give you a reference to some verses to pour over, to study - look up the cross references, meditate on them - Colossians 3:15 & 16.


3:15.  Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts - the word rule is the same Greek word used of a first century umpire - he called the shots - he determined what was in bounds and out of bounds.

But that’s so subjective - how do I know if it’s my peace I’m generating or the peace of Christ who rules my heart?

Next verse - and let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom, teaching and admonishing . . .

The peace of Christ dwelling with the word of Christ filling the heart of the believer.

How do you know if your heart is full of His peace and His word?

Well, Dr. White, a British preacher once said, “The surest sign that you are carrying a full bucket is wet feet.”

In other words, when you are full of Christ’s peace and His word, your feet will be affected - so take a look at the way you walk, where you walk, why you walk.

We’ll stop here for now, and next time we meet, Lord willing, we’ll begin the Second Book of Kings.



Jehoshaphat prayed, “Lord, we do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon Thee.”



Theme is Suffering - Movie clips from Shadowlands, the story of C.S. Lewis’s discovery of love and suffering as well as a testimony from our own congregation.  It will be a moving 25 minutes beginning right at 6:00 p.m. - don’t be late!



He writes, “Our B-17 was barraged by flak from Nazi antiaircraft guns.  That was not unusual, but on this particular occasion our gas tanks were hit.  Later, as I reflected on the miracle of a 20 millimeter shell piercing the fuel tank without touching off an explosion.  He talked with Ben Fawkes, the pilot about it and was told what really happened.  On the morning following the raid,  Ben had gone down to ask the crew chief for that shell as a souvenir of unbelievable luck.  The crew chief told Ben that not just one shell but eleven had been found in the gas tanks - eleven unexploded shells where only one was sufficient to blast us out of the sky.  It was as if the sea had parted for us.  Even after 35 years, so awesome an event leaves me shaken, especially after I heard the rest of the story from Ben.  He was told that the shells had been sent to the armorers to be defused.  The armorers told him that Intelligence had picked them up.  They could not say why at the time, but Ben eventually sought out the answer.  Apparently, when the armorers opened each of those shells, they found no explosive charge.  They were clean as a whistle and just as harmless.  Empty?  not all of them.  One contained a carefully rolled piece of paper.  On it was writing in what was determined to be from the hand of a Czechlosovakian.  Intelligence scoured our base for a man who could read Czech.  Eventually they found one to decipher the note and it read, “This is all we can do for you now.”


One woman sent in her story - it went like this:  I met the love of my life when I was 22.  He was 42 and married.  That didn’t matter to me then.  But today I am 64.  He is 84.  His poor sick wife is still with him.  As recently as last night he repeated that familiar line:  "Please wait for me, darling, we will have a life together one of these days.  Just be patient."  Just how much longer does he think he will live? The man is full of arthritis and has a terrible time getting out of a chair. Several months ago when I told him what a fool I had been, he said, "If you want to meet someone else go ahead, but you will never find anyone who loves you more than I do."   Somehow the years have just flown by and before I knew it I was no spring chicken and he was an old man. It's been 40 years now - I'd give anything if I could turn the clock back to when I was 22.

The wheels of justice turn slowly, but they do turn.

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