The reign of King Ahab is often described as the “dark ages” of the history of the Israelites. Ahab did more to provoke the Lord to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him, leading the entire nation deep into idolatry (1 Kings 16:33). When Elijah was finally sent to confront the entire Israelite congregation on Mount Carmel, however, he addressed not the king but the Israelites, with a deeper issue at hand. The root cause of their suffering was not solely the blame of faulty leadership; the true cause stemmed from their personal choices.
Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word. (1 Kings 18:21, ESV)
“Limping between two different opinions” is a recurring trend throughout the history of the Israelites . Though God punished them for worshipping idols, they kept being drawn back to idolatry, in a tragic cycle that was repeated throughout the eras of the judges and the kings. Was it really so difficult, we may wonder, to be devoted to God after seeing God’s hand of deliverance time and again? Why did they keep going back to the same mistakes?
Though they knew about God and the power of God, their hearts were also enticed to embrace the world and conform to the trends around them. They were unable to concentrate solely on God. They were also unwilling to bear the consequences of choosing one side because doing so required sacrifice and genuine repentance. Though they were the children of God, they could not experience the grace of God because of their indolence.
The same problems encompass us as believers in the New Testament era. Sometimes, we may link our inadequacies in faith to uncontrollable circumstances—a broken family, perhaps, or weaknesses in church. However, the fundamental problem lies in our personal choices. Are we determined to fix our eyes on Lord Jesus alone? The elder James writes, “Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded” (James 4:4,8b). We may likewise struggle with keeping our hearts completely loyal to the Lord. Is our faith pure? The purity of our devotion to God is critical to our journey of faith. When we humble ourselves completely before the Lord, He will lift us up, granting us a heart that is wholly loyal to Him.
They shall be My people, and I will be their God; then I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me forever, for the good of them and their children after them. And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from doing them good; but I will put My fear in their hearts so that they will not depart from Me. Yes, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will assuredly plant them in this land, with all My heart and with all My soul. (Jer 32:38-41)