“Let not him who girds on his armor boast like him who takes it off.”

Reflections on I Kings 20:1-21 —

King Ahab of Israel was as treacherous, foolish, fickle, and vain as they come.  Pretty much everything about him was not good.  But this quote of his is priceless.

His arch-enemy Ben-Hadad had just claimed victory…even though the battle with Ahab had yet to begin.  He was already laying claim on the booty, calling out to Ahab boastfully,

“Your silver and your gold are mine; your most beautiful wives and children are also mine.”

True, Ben-Hadad had an overwhelming advantage in numbers.  He had the armies of 32 kings with him.  He had chariots.  Ahab has just 7,232 guys on foot. Ben-Hadad had every reason to believe he would win.  Yet, there is Ahab, making a statement for the ages.

I’m not sure why Ahab was so cocky.  Yes, he was an Israelite, and yes, the God of Israel had already demonstrated His irrefutable power by parting the Red Sea, destroying Jericho, and causing the sun to stand still.  But Ahab wasn’t on God’s good side.  There is absolutely nothing in his character that was worth God’s support.

Thankfully for Ahab, our merciful God sometimes goes out of His way to bless His people–even when they don’t deserve it–and wins amazing battles on their behalf.  God is so cool in this story!  When Ahab contemplates his scant force and the long odds facing him, he asks God’s prophet who should start the battle.  God’s reply (“YOU!”) is both hilarious and magnificent. I love God’s sense of humor.

Ahab’s army comes out at noon and finds Ben-Hadad drinking himself drunk in his shelter.  Big Ben continues his boastful blustering with the fourth priceless quote found in this passage:

“If they have come out for peace, take them alive; or if they have come out for war, take them alive.”

But the boasting stops at this point.  Lowly Israel fought savagely that day.  Aided by Almighty God, they killed the Arameans with a great slaughter.

It’s easy to pat each other on the back before the big fight when odds seem to be in your favor…or after delivering what seems like a winning proposal…or to act cocky before the big game.  But Ahab is right: Win the battle first.  Win the contract first. Win the game first.  Then you can celebrate.

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