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God's Joy

Date: Mar. 15, 2015

Author: Bob Henkins

1 Kings 21:1-29

Key Verse: 1 Kings 21:29

“Have you noticed how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself, I will not bring this disaster in his day, but I will bring it on his house in the days of his son.”

Have you ever thought about what makes you happy? Watching your baby sleep, attending your kid’s graduation, attending your own graduation. Maybe it’s no school, getting married, someone remembers your birthday. What makes you happy? A good meal, delicious steak. I love an exciting football game, or an intense movie. We are made in the image of God and joy is one of those character traits that we’ve inherited from God. But I wonder if you have ever wondered what makes God happy, what brings God joy? We’ll find out from today’s passage.

Our passage today takes place in a small town called Jezreel. The Hebrew word Jezreel, means “God will sow.” It was a northern city in Israel which was allotted by God to the tribe of Issachar when the Israelites entered the promised land. Jezreel marked the boundary between Samaria to the south and Galilee to the north. Ahab’s main palace was in Samaria which is the capital of Israel. Therefore, Jezreel must have been like their palace in the country, away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Let’s take a look at verses 1-2 and see what happens in their quiet country get away. “Some time later there was an incident involving a vineyard belonging to Naboth the Jezreelite. The vineyard was in Jezreel, close to the palace of Ahab king of Samaria. Ahab said to Naboth, “Let me have your vineyard to use for a vegetable garden, since it is close to my palace. In exchange I will give you a better vineyard or, if you prefer, I will pay you whatever it is worth.”” For a while Naboth was pleased that he had a vineyard so close to the royal palace. Maybe he thought he was someone special to live so close to the king however in the end it proved fatal to him. Maybe if he didn’t have a vineyard, or if it had been in an out of the way location, he would still be alive. But that wasn’t the case, as the story begins, we see Ahab coveting his neighbor’s property breaking the tenth commandment. Naboth’s vineyard was so convenient, close and perfect for a kitchen garden. Ahab could enjoy fresh vegetable salad, watermelon, tomatoes ripe on the vine, cucumbers, carrots etc if only Naboth would sell his vineyard to him. To Ahab’s credit, he actually offers to pay Naboth for his land or give him some other location. This kind of reminds me of the parable of the hidden treasure “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.” (Mt 13:44) except that Ahab is not as noble as the man in the parable, he is pretty selfish.

So what was Naboth’s response? It can be found in verses 3-4. “But Naboth replied, “The Lord forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my ancestors.” So Ahab went home, sullen and angry because Naboth the Jezreelite had said, “I will not give you the inheritance of my ancestors.” He lay on his bed sulking and refused to eat.” Unlike Ahab, Naboth stood on the word of the Lord which governed the transfer of property in Israel (Lev. 25:23–28; Num 36:7; Eze 46:18). Based on the word of God, he refused even the king’s command. Naboth must have known the danger of refusing the king. But he decided to obey God at the risk of his life. When he feared the Lord, he did not fear the king. Finally, he was indeed murdered. His death was that of a righteous man. Surely, he was one of the 7,000 in Israel who did not bow the knee to Baal. Naboth’s refusal revealed the Lord’s sovereign rule over Israel through his word. It hurt Ahab’s pride as a king. Ahab responds to Naboth’s refusal in a spoiled, immature fashion. He runs off to his room slams the door, throws himself on his bed and grumbles under his breath. Ahab knows Israelite kings are supposed to be merciful to foreigners (cf. 1 Kgs 20:31) and to their own subjects (Deut 17:14–20). They are supposed to be different from the other nation’s kings. This knowledge, coupled with his spineless attitude, plus the fact that he couldn’t have his vegetable garden, drives Ahab to despair.

Jezebel is different than Ahab, she doesn’t have any scruples. Take a look at verses 5-7. “His wife Jezebel came in and asked him, “Why are you so sullen? Why won’t you eat?” He answered her, “Because I said to Naboth the Jezreelite, ‘Sell me your vineyard; or if you prefer, I will give you another vineyard in its place.’ But he said, ‘I will not give you my vineyard.’” Jezebel his wife said, “Is this how you act as king over Israel? Get up and eat! Cheer up. I’ll get you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.”” Jezebel finds Ahab’s sulking despicable and to her he seems like a weakling. Jezebel tells her husband to be a man and act like a king. Then she promises to show Ahab how a real king gets what he wants. Jezebel had grown up in a culture that was different than Ahab’s, where the rights of individuals were not honored as they were in Israel. It seemed incredible to her that Ahab would not just take what he wanted. That was how a king should act, according to her way of thinking. If he wasn’t going to do what was necessary, then she would do it and without hesitation. And it’s this part of the movie where the ominous music starts playing…..

Jezebel devised an evil plan to kill Naboth and take his vineyard. Take a look at verses 8-10. “So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name, placed his seal on them, and sent them to the elders and nobles who lived in Naboth’s city with him. In those letters she wrote: “Proclaim a day of fasting and seat Naboth in a prominent place among the people. 10 But seat two scoundrels opposite him and have them bring charges that he has cursed both God and the king. Then take him out and stone him to death.”” This is the part that’s scary to me. Knowing how to use the laws of Israel to get what she wants, Jezebel sent letters to leaders in Naboth’s town, asking them to declare a fast and to have two scoundrels accuse Naboth of cursing God and Ahab so that the people would stone Naboth. At least two witnesses were required to condemn a person in Israel (Deut. 17:6–7). Cursing God was a crime punishable by stoning (Lev. 24:16). Cursing the king was not punishable in that way. But she added it to plant fear of her husband into the people’s hearts. In effect, Jezebel now assumes Ahab’s role, his authority and even his name. She concocts a plot against Naboth’s life by ordering “a day of fasting,” then commanding the city’s elders to seat two men who are willing to lie about Naboth next to him. At the right moment these two men do indeed say he has cursed God (blasphemy) and the king (treason). Thus, the people take the innocent man and stone him to death. Having executed Naboth and his family (2 Ki 9:26), his property is now forfeited to the crown, not by law, but traditionary usage (see 2 Sa 16:4). All these things occur while Ahab does nothing to check his wife’s scheming or even to express disapproval of her deed. Once she hears Naboth is dead, Jezebel commands Ahab to go and “take possession” of the murdered man’s land. He dutifully follows her orders and doesn’t ask how she got the land for him. He acts like a spoiled rich kid, whose parents get them everything. Ahab and his queen have added murder, stealing, and oppression to their already-serious religious sins.

Take a look at verses 17-19. “17 Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite: 18 ”Go down to meet Ahab king of Israel, who rules in Samaria. He is now in Naboth’s vineyard, where he has gone to take possession of it. 19 Say to him, ‘This is what the Lord says: Have you not murdered a man and seized his property?’ Then say to him, ‘This is what the Lord says: In the place where dogs licked up Naboth’s blood, dogs will lick up your blood—yes, yours!’”” The Lord reveals to Elijah the prophet what the royal couple have done (cf. Amos 3:7). God instructs the prophet to expose Ahab’s sins of murder and stealing and to announce to the king that dogs will lick up his blood where dogs had drunk Naboth’s blood. God knows everything, so Ahab has nowhere to hide, no excuse to make. Dogs licking up one’s blood was a disgraceful death, especially for a king whose body would normally be carefully guarded and buried with great respect. Elijah left no doubt in Ahab’s mind concerning whose blood he referred to: yes, yours! “Ahab said to Elijah, “So you have found me, my enemy!” “I have found you,” he answered, “because you have sold yourself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord. 21 He says, ‘I am going to bring disaster on you. I will wipe out your descendants and cut off from Ahab every last male in Israel—slave or free. 22 I will make your house like that of Jeroboam son of Nebat and that of Baasha son of Ahijah, because you have aroused my anger and have caused Israel to sin.’ 23 ”And also concerning Jezebel the Lord says: ‘Dogs will devour Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel.’ 24 ”Dogs will eat those belonging to Ahab who die in the city, and the birds will feed on those who die in the country.” 25 (There was never anyone like Ahab, who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord, urged on by Jezebel his wife. 26 He behaved in the vilest manner by going after idols, like the Amorites the Lord drove out before Israel.)” Ahab greets Elijah much like he does in 1 Kgs 18:17, where he called the prophet the “troubler of Israel.” Now Ahab calls him, his “enemy,” a defensive posture that emerges again in 1 Kgs 22:8 and one that demonstrates his self-centeredness. Elijah was not now the “troubler of Israel” (18:17), but the king’s “enemy.” Ahab had made himself the enemy of the Lord and His people by doing evil in the eyes of the LORD (cf. 21:25) When Elijah said the king had sold himself, he meant the king had sacrificed his principles to obtain what he wanted, which included a comparatively worthless vineyard. Even though this was a tough message to deliver, Elijah delivers it without fear.

Although Ahab was the passive player in this evil deed, he was held responsible for failing to stop his wicked wife. Because of his ongoing wickedness Ahab will die and his dynasty will cease. His wife will die for her sins. In fact, dogs will eat her, which “was a fate worse than Ahab’s, for it implied denial of a decent burial.” Wild dogs lived off the garbage in cities such as Jezreel. Ahab’s descendants would not receive honorable burials either but would be consumed by dogs and birds. This second announcement intensifies the earlier prediction of death made by the unnamed prophet in 20:41–43. At this point in the narrative the author repeats the denunciation of Ahab first stated in 1 Kgs 16:30–33. Ahab’s actions have validated that first negative assessment.

Take a look at what happened after Elijah rebuked Ahab in verses 27-29. “When Ahab heard these words, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and fasted. He lay in sackcloth and went around meekly. 28 Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite: 29 ”Have you noticed how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself, I will not bring this disaster in his day, but I will bring it on his house in the days of his son.”” When Ahab heard God’s judgment pronounced upon him, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and fasted which is what people did when they sincerely repented. Quite unexpectedly, Ahab actually humbles himself, which is his most positive thing he’s done in the book. At first I was skeptical, is Ahab for real could he actually repent? I didn’t think that it was possible but it was and the Lord noticed Ahab’s change of mind and behavior. Ahab’s life was deep-dyed with sin, but in response to his self-humbling, God showed him some mercy. The destruction to come on Ahab’s house would not be carried out in his own days but in those of his son Joram (2 Kings 9:24–26; 10:17). Jezebel, however, did not repent. She suffered all that God promised she would without mercy (2 Kings 9:30–37).

From this we learn that God is merciful to those who repent, even if they are very evil. The bottom line is, and all God ever wants is for us to realize our sins and repent, sincerely. Then we can receive God’s mercy. God told Ezekiel the prophet, “Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declares the sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?’“ (Ez 33:11) This is God’s heart. He doesn’t take pleasure in the death of the wicked he loves all people as if they were his own children. All he wants is for us to turn away from sin and turn back to him, this is real repentance. Acts 3:19 tells us, “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord” “Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?” (Ro 2:4)

My title for today’s message was “God’s Joy,” and you may wonder why is this the title because there doesn’t seem to be very much joy in this passage. God is happy when we turn back to him. Jesus gave us a couple of examples of what it’s like for God when a person comes back to him. Suppose one of you lost your wallet and in it was the cash from your paycheck, all your credit cards, identification, social security card, everything you had. Not only are you worried about identity theft, but everything you need to survive is in there. How are you going to feel? You’re going to be anxious and worried until you find it. And you’re going to do everything you can to find it. Right? What are you going to do when you find it, celebrate right. You’ll call those closest to you and say, “Rejoice with me; I have found my (wallet) lost coin.’ 10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Lk 15:9-10) “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.” (Lk 15:7)And lastly is the parable of the lost son. You may remember the story, the youngest son takes his share of his father’s inheritance and leaves home. And while he is away using up all his money on wild living his father is at home worrying about him and longing for his return. Finally the son comes to his senses and returns home with a humble repentant attitude. His father sees him while he was still a long way off and run to his son, throws his arms around him and kisses him. The father shouts to his household, “Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” (Lk 15:23-24) This is how our heavenly Father rejoices when one of his precious children come back to him. He is full of joy and celebration. His blessings overflow. Our repentance brings the utmost joy to our heavenly father. Some may think, “I have done to many bad things to come back to God,” but look at Ahab, God was ready to accept him. This reminds me of Chuck Colson who went to prison for being involved in the Watergate scandal. He come to believe in Jesus while in prison, repented of his sins and turned back to God. He started prison ministries and dedicated his life to serving God. God promises through his servant Jeremiah, “Therefore this is what the Lord says: “If you repent, I will restore you that you may serve me;” (Jer 15:19) God is willing, the only question is, are we?

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Amos 6:1-14

Key Verse: 6:8b

The Lord GOD has sworn by himself, declares the LORD, the God of hosts:

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