The Review and Herald

1804/1902

August 7, 1913

National Apostasy

EGW

Two years before the death of Asa, Ahab began to rule in the kingdom of Israel. From the beginning, his reign was marked by terrible apostasy. His father, Omri, the founder of Samaria, “wrought evil in the eyes of the Lord, and did worse than all that were before him,” but the sins of Ahab were even greater. He “did more to provoke the Lord God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before him,” acting “as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat.” Not content with encouraging strange forms of religious service, he boldly led the people into the grossest heathenism by setting aside the worship of Jehovah for Baal-worship. RH August 7, 1913, Art. A, par. 1

Taking to wife “Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Zidonians” and high priest of Baal, Ahab “served Baal, and worshiped him. And he reared up an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he had built in Samaria.” RH August 7, 1913, Art. A, par. 2

Not only did Ahab introduce Baal-worship at the capital city, but under the leadership of Jezebel he erected heathen altars in many high places, where in the shelter of surrounding groves the priests and others connected with this seductive form of idolatry exerted their baleful influence, until well-nigh all Israel were following after Baal. “There was none like unto Ahab,” the record reads, who “did sell himself to work wickedness in the sight of the Lord, whom Jezebel his wife stirred up. And he did very abominably in following idols, according to all things as did the Amorites, whom the Lord cast out before the children of Israel.” RH August 7, 1913, Art. A, par. 3

Ahab was weak in moral power. His union by marriage with an idolatrous woman of decided character and positive temperament, resulted disastrously both to himself and to the nation. Unprincipled, and with no high standard of right-doing, his character was easily molded by the determined spirit of Jezebel. Because of his selfish nature, he was incapable of appreciating the mercies of God to Israel, and his own obligations as the guardian and leader of a chosen people. RH August 7, 1913, Art. A, par. 4

Under the blighting influence of Ahab's rule, Israel wandered far from the living God, and corrupted their ways before him. For many years they had been losing their sense of reverence and godly fear; and now it seemed as if there were none who dared expose their lives by openly standing forth in opposition to the prevailing blasphemy of everything sacred. The dark shadow of apostasy covered the whole land, and images of Baal and Ashtoreth were everywhere to be seen. Idolatrous temples and consecrated groves, wherein the works of men's hands were placed to be worshiped, were multiplied. The air was polluted with the smoke of the sacrifices offered to false gods. Hill and vale resounded with the drunken cries of a heathen priesthood who sacrificed to the sun, and moon, and stars. Guided and urged on by king and priests, the people drank iniquity like water, and sported in shameful riot. RH August 7, 1913, Art. A, par. 5

Through the influence of Jezebel and her impious priests, the people were taught that the idol gods that had been set up were deities, ruling the elements of earth, fire and water, by their mystic power. All the bounties of heaven,—the running brooks, the streams of living water, the gentle dew, the showers of rain which refreshed the earth and caused the fields to bring forth abundantly,—all these were ascribed to the favor of Baal and Ashtoreth. The people forgot that the hills and valleys, the streams and fountains, were in the hand of the living God; that he controlled the sun, the clouds of heaven, and all the elements of nature. They forgot that in the wilderness, in the day of Israel's need, he had listened to the prayers of Moses, and that in obedience to his word living waters gushed from the smitten rock. The benefits which God gave to his people called forth from them no gratitude to the Giver. RH August 7, 1913, Art. A, par. 6

Through faithful messengers the Lord sent the apostate king and people repeated warnings; but in vain were these words of reproof uttered. In vain did the inspired messengers assert Jehovah's right to be the only God in Israel. In vain did they exalt the laws he had entrusted to them. Captivated by the gorgeous display and the fascinating rites of idol-worship, the people followed the example of the king and his court, and gave themselves up to the intoxicating, degrading pleasures of a sensual worship. In their blind folly they chose to reject God and his worship. The light so graciously given them, despised and rejected, had indeed become darkness. The fine gold had become dim. RH August 7, 1913, Art. A, par. 7

Alas! how had the glory of Israel departed! Never before had the chosen people of God fallen so low in apostasy. Of the prophets of Baal there were “four hundred and fifty,” besides four hundred “prophets of the groves,” all of whom were supported by Jezebel. Nothing short of the miracle-working power of God could preserve the nation from utter destruction. Israel had voluntarily separated herself from Jehovah, yet the Lord in compassion still yearned after those who have been led into sin, and he was about to send to them one of the mightiest of his prophets, through whom many were to be led back to their allegiance to the God of their fathers. RH August 7, 1913, Art. A, par. 8