A Bible Study on Ahab and Jezebel
Introduction: The book, Shantung Compound, describes the lives of the people detained in a camp in China by the Japanese during World War II. One particular chapter talks about the development of a black market within the camp. Because of the black market precious commodities like eggs, sugar, and milk that were not known to be available in the camp, became regular items on the menu. When the Japanese found out about the black market operation they shot the people involved. Ironically, this was not done not to put and end to the black market, but rather to take over the illegal business themselves and make and keep the money for themselves. (Option 2: Ask the class to name characters in the Bible who abused power. Examples: Saul, Absalom, Herod the Great, Judas, Pilate, David)
Study: Imagine having total, complete control of everybody and everything. How far would you go in using your power? What would be your limit, the line you wouldn’t cross? Would a good motive justify a dictatorial use of power?
Thanks to sin, life is filled with strife and Job-moments of tests of faith. And every time we are tested with difficulties, we brace ourselves by saying it is a time of testing, and look forward to the future when life will take a more favorable turn. But in reality, the greatest tests of spiritual fortitude occur not during difficult times but during the good times.
Take Joseph for instance. He probably thought being gagged and sold by his own brothers and sent to a foreign land was his greatest test. But it wasn’t. His greatest test came when he had control, had power, had authority to get back at his brothers. It is one thing to be tested when you are powerless and have no options; it is another to be tested when given the opportunity to get revenge and have self-satisfying options at your disposal.
While poverty, suffering, or injustice may be tests that come our way from time to time, like Joseph we are tested most by the power that is ours and the way that we use it. Our lesson this week shows how power is abused (specifically by Ahab and Jezebel). Compare this with the way Joseph used the power he had.
The use of power is an act of stewardship. True, legitimate power is a gift from God. Like money, power in itself in not evil; the love of it is evil.
Consider the following texts that speak of power as stewardship:
1 Corinthians 4:7
Power is not to be sought for self-gain, but used to serve others. Ezekiel charged Israel’s leaders with having lost sight of the purpose for their power (Ezekiel 34:1-4). The same evil use of power was evident during Jesus’ time (Matthew 23:1-12). So it was no surprise when the disciples looked out for themselves (Mark 9:34, 10:35-45; Luke 9:33, 22:24). Yet the truth is that greatness cannot be measured in terms of power, but in terms of service (Mark 10:45).
Discuss: Have the class independently explore the different types of powers and how they may be abused in our society. Below are some kinds of power to start the discussion.
Power of position. This is the power that comes with office. A sergeant in the army has authority over a private; A manager or supervisor has authority over those under him or her. A parent has certain authority over his child; etc (Example: Ahab and Jezebel ruled as tyrant for 22 years simply because they had the title and clout to do what they wanted)
Power of situation. While positional power is the formal mechanism for allocating power, circumstances also have a way of putting power into our hands. (Example: Jacob and Esua—Jacob used Esau’s hunger gave Jacob situational power to get the birthright he wanted)
The Old Testament Law made it extremely difficult for a person to take advantage of someone else. Study the following texts:
Power of competence. In a situation that demands expertise, we tend to defer to someone with education and experience in that particular field. And the expert can either aid or exploit the situation with his power. (Example: For centuries people believed that Aristotle was right when he said that the heavier an object, the faster it would fall to earth. Aristotle was regarded as the greatest thinker of all time, and surely he would not be wrong.
Anyone, of course, could have taken two objects, one heavy and one light, and dropped them from a great height to see whether or not the heavier object landed first. But no one did until nearly 2,000 years after Aristotle’s death. Bits & Pieces, January 9, 1992, pp. 22, 23. (Source:http://www.bible.org/illus.asp?topic_id=100)
Power of personality and character. There are many ways that one can have the upper hand in a situation by playing to the psyche of another. It could be using physical attractiveness as a lure, tears for sympathy, body language for assertiveness, empty threats to get results, pretending to be helpless to get someone else to do the job, etc.(Example: Delilah used her hold on Samson as power to bring down a nation)
Conclusion:While Ahab and Jezebel are examples of how we should not use power, Joseph is an example of how we can use power: While Joseph’s feigned harshness produced fear, it was his graciousness that resulted in spiritual awareness and the beginnings of repentance. The gruff accusations of Joseph did produce the facts he sought about his father and brother (42:8-13), but it was grace that caused his brothers to consider their circumstances as coming from the hand of God. It was only after Joseph released his brothers from prison and relaxed his demands and offered hope and life by assuring them that he, too, feared God (42:18) that they began to consider God’s hand in their dilemma (42:21-22). And it was after they realized that their money was given back to them in the grain sack that they said, “What is this that God has done to us?” (42:28).
What are some of the selfish gain that result from abuse of power (money, influence, prestige, control) in every day situations? How can we exercise the power which is at our disposal? Do we use it to serve others or to seek our own selfish ends?
You can make the Bible say anything you want and sometimes the Word of God is manipulated from the pulpit to justify a personal agenda. What can you as a church member do about this?
What Christlike characteristics do you think help combat the temptation to abuse power? What can you do to cultivate these characteristics?
In the Old Testament, many kings—like Ahab—abused power and reigned as tyrants for years. Yet God’s chosen people prevailed. What lessons can we learn from this to encourage us when church leaders abuse power at the expense of church?
Contemplation: Often it is difficult for us to objectively identify the areas of power we struggle with. Power has a way of sneaking up on you and taking over your ego. How can we deal with this problem?
Consider appointing someone whose opinion you trust and value to be your accountability partner. Give this person the authority to set you straight when you abuse power. Think of other ways you can protect yourself from caving into the lure of power and authority?
Application: Power of any kind can be a temptation, a test of a Christian’s stewardship. And how you combat the temptation of power is the same way you fight any other kind of temptation. Rick Warren in his book Purpose Driven Life gives four ways to defeat temptation:
- Refocus your attention on something else.
- Reveal your struggle to a godly friend or support group.
- Resist the Devil.
- Realize your vulnerability.
(Details in Purpose Driven Life, by Rick Warren [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan], pp 209 –216)
Consider the following activities to help you from abusing power:
- When you find yourself in the middle of a disagreement or conflict, deliberately take time out to pray and then look at the situation from the other person’s perspective. Deliberately fight your natural instinct to justify your point of view. Practice humility with the help of the Holy Spirit.
- Take the time to read the Beatitudes in an easy version of the Bible. Meditate on Jesus’ counsel in the Beatitudes about attitude and behavior.
- Develop the habit to begin each day by turning over your life into God’s control. Remind yourself that with God in control, there will be no temptation to abuse power.
- When you read or hear of people in the world who abuse power, set aside time to specifically mediate for them in prayer.