Israel had become a nation of godless idolaters with a constantly changing series of disconnected rulers. Meanwhile, Asa of David’s lineage ruled “all the people of Judah and Benjamin, along with the people of Ephraim, Manasseh, and Simeon who had settled among them. For many from Israel had moved to Judah during Asa’s reign when they saw that the Lord his God was with him” (II Chronicles 15:9b, NLT).
The one noteworthy thing about Omri’s time as king of Israel is that he “bought the hill now known as Samaria from its owner, Shemer, for 150 pounds of silver. He built a city on it and called the city Samaria in honor of Shemer” (I Kings 16:24), which explains how Israel’s capital changed from Tirzah to Samaria.
But things in Israel were going from bad to worse: “When Omri died, he was buried in Samaria. Then his son Ahab became the next king” (I Kings 16:28).
Talk about a way not to be remembered: “Ahab son of Omri began to rule over Israel in the thirty-eighth year of King Asa’s reign in Judah. He reigned in Samaria twenty-two years. But Ahab son of Omri did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, even more than any of the kings before him. And as though it were not enough to follow the example of Jeroboam, he married Jezebel, the daughter of King Ethbaal of the Sidonians, and he began to bow down in worship of Baal” (I Kings 16:29-31).
The king who “did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, even more than any of the kings before him” married the woman whose very name became synonymous with whoredom. In Ahab’s case, it certainly wasn’t an opposite that attracted him, but one who was very much like himself. Already on a path of evil, the addition of Jezebel into his life moved him farther and faster down the slippery slope.
“First Ahab built a temple and an altar for Baal in Samaria. Then he set up an Asherah pole. He did more to provoke the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel, than any of the other kings of Israel before him” (I Kings 16:32-33).
Stating Ahab “did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, even more than any of the kings before him” was not enough to describe the extent of this man’s sinfulness. The Bible adds a second descriptive paragraph. He not only did more evil than any other king, but “He did more to provoke the anger of the Lord.” It was as though Ahab’s actions were deliberate flaunts in the face of Almighty God.
“Then he set up an Asherah pole.” What had the Lord told His people? “When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are about to enter and occupy, He will clear away many nations ahead of you… When the Lord your God hands these nations over to you and you conquer them, you must completely destroy them. Make no treaties with them and show them no mercy. You must not intermarry with them. …for they will lead your children away from Me to worship other gods. Then the anger of the Lord will burn against you… This is what you must do. You must break down their pagan altars and shatter their sacred pillars. Cut down their Asherah poles and burn their idols. For you are a holy people, who belong to the Lord your God” Deuteronomy 7:1a, 2, 3a, 4a, 5-6a).
It’s back to housecleaning, brothers and sisters. Whatever occupies your heart more than worshiping and serving the Lord – one of which can’t be done without the other – is an idol. Tear it down. Cut it out. Remove it from your heart, mind and sight.
“Idolatry is having any false god – any object, idea, philosophy, habit, occupation, sport, or whatever that has one’s primary concern and loyalty or that to any degree decreases one’s trust in and loyalty to the Lord.” (John MacArthur)