Then word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying: Go down to meet King Ahab of Israel, who rules in Samaria; he is now in the vineyard of Naboth, where he has gone to take possession. You shall say to him, "Thus says the Lord: Have you killed, and also taken possession?" You shall say to him, "Thus says the Lord: In the place where dogs licked up the blood of Naboth, dogs will also lick up your blood."
Ahab said to Elijah, "Have you found me, O my enemy?" He answered, "I have found you. Because you have sold yourself to do what is evil in the sight of the Lord, I will bring disaster on you; I will consume you, and will cut off from Ahab every male, bond or free, in Israel; and I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha son of Ahijah, because you have provoked me to anger and have caused Israel to sin. Also concerning Jezebel the Lord said, 'The dogs shall eat Jezebel within the bounds of Jezreel.' Anyone belonging to Ahab who dies in the city the dogs shall eat; and anyone of his who dies in the open country the birds of the air shall eat."
(Indeed, there was no one like Ahab, who sold himself to do what was evil in the sight of the Lord, urged on by his wife Jezebel. He acted most abominably in going after idols, as the Amorites had done, whom the Lord drove out before the Israelites.)
When Ahab heard those words, he tore his clothes and put sackcloth over his bare flesh; he fasted, lay in the sackcloth, and went about dejectedly. Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite: "Have you seen how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself before me, I will not bring the disaster in his days; but in his son's days I will bring the disaster on his house."
Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness;
in your great compassion wipe out my offense.
Wash me thoroughly from my guilt
and cleanse me of my sin. (R./)
For I acknowledge my offense,
and my sin is always before me:
Against you alone have I sinned,
and done what is evil in your sight. (R./)
A clean heart create for me, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Cast me not out from your presence,
and do not take your Holy Spirit from me. (R./)
Give me again the joy of your salvation,
and preserve in me a willing spirit.
O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth shall proclaim your praise. (R./)
Jesus said, "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?
Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect."
The Book of Kings reports the divine punishment that was predicted for Queen Jezebel, for contriving the murder of an innocent man. Elijah declared, "The Lord said, 'The dogs shall eat Jezebel within the bounds of Jezreel.'" On the other hand, King Ahab wins a reprieve of his sentence, for acknowledging his guilt in the matter, and humbly asking God for pardon.
In marked contrast to the abuse of power by Ahab and Jezebel, the Gospel calls on people to develope the spirit of forgiveness. We need to swallow our pride and refrain from any harshly judging others. If even King Ahab repented, it shows how hearts can change. Illustrating the gospel command to love our enemies and to pray for our persecutors, is Jesus' heroic example. Saint Luke quotes him praying for his executioners, as he was being nailed to the cross (Lk 22:34).No matter how justified our anger at a wrong that has been done, like Elijah we can pray to God to forgive the sinner. How well Shakespeare understood this blend of justice and mercy when, in the Merchant of Venice the young lawyer, Portia, says:
"The quality of mercy is not strained;
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes...
And earthly power doth then show likest God's
When mercy seasons justice.."
This is a fine echo of the ideal proposed by our Lord at the end of the Sermon on the Mount, that we seek to be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect.
The natural, human tendency is to be generous to people with whom we personal feelings of warmth and affection. This is natural, but not exceptional. Jesus urges us to go beyond our comfort zone and show signs of good will to people outside the circle of those we personally like. This is one of his teachings that stretch our generosity to the limit.
Our Good Shepherd wants us to show, by our way of relating to others, some inkling of God, whose love makes the sun to shine for bad people as well as good, and the rain to fall on honest and dishonest alike. This lifestyle option taught by Jesus could only be possible with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives among us and within us.