BEN-HADAD, THE HUMAN GOD DID NOT WIN.
He was King of Aram (Aramian), modern Syria, headquartered in Damascus. The man had an endless nag for meddling in the affairs of God’s people. He was like a cancer, eating away at others by destroying himself. These were tough times for Israel and Judah and Ben-Hadad made it tougher. He, like so many others, under-estimated God’s involvement with His people. It was not because they were better, but because this man mocked God Almighty. Ben-Hadad saw himself as a son of his god and learned some very severe lessons that ended badly (Galatians 6:7).
He played poker with Israel and Judah in 900 BC. He supported King Baasha of Israel who invaded Judah. To get Israel off his back, Asa King of Judah took all his silver and gold to Ben-Hadad and won him over to his side. Then Ben-Hadad invaded and plundered some towns in Israel (I Kings 15). Israel, at this time, was in turmoil. Between Baasha and Ahab, Elah was king for two years, Zimri seven days, and Omri twelve years. Ahab, son of Omri reigned twenty-two years. He strengthened his position against Ben-Hadad by marrying the Sidonian princess Jezebel. Jezebel converted Israel completely to Baal worship. This was also the time when Elijah and Elisha were defending the God of Israel against Ahab and Jezebel (I Kings 16-19). In addition to all the turmoil, Ben-Hadad decided to take advantage of Israel’s problems. He made an alliance with thirty-two small kings, like himself, and sent a message to Ahab demanding that he give him all his silver, gold, the best of Israel’s wives and their children. Ahab was advised not to yield to such a demand and Ben-Hadad ordered his general to attack (I Kings 20).
King Ahab was more than worried. What could he do with 232 officers and 7000 against a host of Aramians? A messenger of God appeared out of nowhere and instructed Ahab that 232 men shall be needed to confuse and scatter Ben-Hadad’s forces. They were too drunk to fight from celebrating their alliance. When the small group appeared, Ben-Hadad presumed that they were meeting his demands and not a sword. Ben-Hadad managed to escape on a horse and began to analyze his failure. He believed that Israel had many gods and that they were basically gods of the mountain and that was why they were defeated. They regrouped and decided to take on Israel in the valley where their gods would be weaker. Again, Ben-Hadad’s gods did not show. Israel’s small army routed the Arameans at the counseling of another man of God. Ben-Hadad fled and hid in a town. He and his officers dressed in sackcloth and begged for mercy. King Ahab let him live in return for giving back the towns Ben-Hadad had invaded and plundered. Ahab could also open shop in Samaria with a treaty.
King Ahab of Israel made the mistake of regarding Ben-Hadad as a brother. In Baal, they were brothers, but in the eyes of the God of Israel, they were not. God’s instructions were to terminate the enemy so that he would no longer plague God’s people in the future. God sent a third messenger reminding Ahab of his mistake. He paid no attention to the man of God and returned to Samaria (I Kings 20:35-43). One wonders why God put up with Ahab? At that time, there was no difference between the two kings. They both were Baal worshippers and greedy. And both no longer believed in the God of Israel. Ben-Hadad, for instance, did not even know that God existed. He concluded that Ahab’s gods were stronger than his. Neither of the kings understood that it was the God of Israel and not their gods that had sided with the lesser of the two evils at that particular time. God still had Elijah and 7000 people that had not bowed or kissed the idol Baal that needed protection (I Kings 19:18). God will not abandon His own (Psalm 94:14).
In our day, the names of our leaders have changed, but not the ideology of being brothers. Christians, that no longer stand up for Jesu, are doing what Ahab did in his day. They too allow Ben-Hadad’s gods replace the God of Jesus. To a Ben-Hadad mentality all gods and religions are the same. Many nominal Christians entertain similar views. We speak of “all roads lead to Rome” when they lead to Babylon or confusion. There is a world-wide attempt to fit all religions into one basket. We may have to learn a lesson from Muslims that cannot identify Allah with all the other deities. Neither could the Israelites compare their God with the other gods. Christians, of all people, have a God that cannot be compared to anyone. They also have a Savior in Jesus that no one can match. Jesus can provide a place for his followers in eternity where no one else can. Jesus made these promises at a time when his world was falling apart. The same promises are good for us today (Matthew 28:20).
I was nine years old when we were driven from our home. This area of land is the Ukraine today. In Germany, we were treated like outsiders. I was overcome by loneliness and wished I were back with our people in Eastern Poland. To me, they had become the lesser of the two evils that had persecuted us. I fear that this is happening again. Like the Israelites wished to be back in Egypt, we too shall wish we were back in the good old days (Exodus 16:3). Nevertheless, God has always been on the side what is best. “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32).