Proper 6, Year C – June 12, 2016
1 Kings 21:1-10, 11-14, 15-21a
This is not the first time that Ahab and Elijah meet. At this point in the story, they are more like old rivals than heated enemies. Each time King Ahab transgresses, the prophet Elijah appears and speaks a Word from God before disappearing again into the wilderness.
Ahab develops an unfortunate habit of doing evil, meeting Elijah and hearing God’s voice, experiencing a little remorse, but then eventually running Elijah off again because the things he says and does are so difficult. Over and over it happens, predictably, like the chase of the roadrunner and the coyote. Over time, the pattern becomes a part of Ahab and the sin digs its way deep into his soul.
In this chapter, King Ahab and his wife Jezebel kill a man in order to take his vineyard. Ahab asks to buy the vineyard, and when Naboth refuses, Jezebel springs into action. An innocent man is stoned to death, and when the king hears the news, he doesn’t mourn. He makes his way to the man’s vineyard to take it for himself. And when Elijah appears, he speaks a word from God—judgment on Ahab, “Thus says the Lord: in the place where dogs licked up the blood of Naboth, dogs will also lick up your blood.”
It may not be the first time that the King and the prophet collide, but it is the last. And because it is the last, there is a momentary break in the pattern. Ahab pauses to comment on his situation, and perhaps unwittingly takes stock of his life, all in one profound line. He hears
Elijah’s familiar voice, what has been to Ahab the very voice of God, and he cries out in reply, “Have you found me, O my enemy?”
Wearied by the sin that drags him down time and time again, he points out in himself that which has become obvious. Ahab, through a long life spent in his pattern of sin, has formed himself to be an enemy of God—not simply a momentary transgressor, but a more permanent sort of adversary.
Ahab’s story is a warning. The patterns by which we live form us to be a particular kind of person. The Christian who continually gives in to greed, for instance, will become the kind of person who can no longer be content—the kind of person, like Ahab, who devours the people and things around him. The alternative is to walk in the way of the cross, to live in patterns of sacrifice for the life of the world. The patterns we embrace will change our souls for eternity.
Which of your habits are forming you to be an enemy of God, and which ones are making you more like Christ?
The Rev. Perry Mullins is an Associate Priest at Good Shepherd in Dallas.