1 Kings 21:17-29
Psalm 51:3-6, 11, 16
King Ahab was a weak and wicked man married to a very wicked woman. They have persecuted those who serve the Lord, they introduced all sorts of horrible religious practices into Israel, and they just killed a man so that he could have a vegetable garden nearer to his house. When Elijah arrives with the prophecy of destruction and doom, it is a relief for us; finally he will get his due. Then Ahab goes around in sackcloth and ashes and God pulls back. Ahab did not become a good man after this. He is perhaps not quite as evil until the day he dies in battle, but his conversion is not very strong.
That is no way to run a universe. Every parent knows that you have to follow through when you threaten punishment. God is such a softie. It takes forever before he starts making threats and then he so rarely does what he threatens. People are always saying that the Old Testament God is cruel and angry, but for every Sodom destroyed by fire or plagues in Egypt there are far more examples of his mercy and forbearance.
Sometimes we might wish that God was a bit more vindictive. He makes the rain fall on the just and the unjust, but would it not be better if he did withhold the rain from the unjust? Would it not be better if he did strike the wicked with lightening to prevent their evil deeds? It is what we would do if we had the power to. Stop evil with violence seems right to us, but God does not. Evil happens all through the world, even though he could stop it with a little smiting. And when he threatens to smite, he relents at the sign of a little repentance.
God’s problem is that he loves us. All of us. We are quick to divide the world between good and bad, but God looks at us and all he sees are his children whom he loves. He does not look at anyone and think that they are hopeless. He just sees potential. He sees the image of himself that he put within us. His will for us is to love him forever in perfect happiness. It is not how we would run the universe, but then we are not perfect like he is perfect.