Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Prophets And Kings, Day 51. Naboth's Vineyard, Part 2

Prophets And Kings
Day 51
Naboth's Vineyard
Part 2

Yesserday Jezebel hads Naboth killed so King Ahab coulds take hims vineyard. Today the Lord sends the prophet Elijah to Ahab wif a message.

1 KINGS 21:17-29
"The the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite: '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. 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!'" (1 Kings 21:17-19) Jezebel is the one who had Naboth murdered but the Lord holds Ahab primarily responsible for it because he willingly gave his power over to her. He gave her the signet ring off his hand, the ring with his royal seal that she used to send out the letters that sealed Naboth's fate. Ahab was happy to hand the problem over to Jezebel and let her handle it any way she pleased. He knew what a wicked woman she was and that her plot would likely end in the death of an innocent man but he didn't care so long as he got what he wanted.

"Ahab said to Elijah, 'So you have found me, my enemy!'" (1 Kings 21:20a) Ahab counts Elijah as an enemy because he tells him the truth. King David repented when the prophet Nathan came and confronted him with his sins. David counted Nathan his friend because he told him the truth. The Apostle Paul was a man who told people the truth because he was their friend, but when the Galatians seemed to be turning from the grace of the new covenant to the laws of the old covenant, Paul confronted them with their errors and mourned, "Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?" (Galatians 4:16) The condition of our hearts is made clear by how we react to the loving truth told to us by someone who cares.

"'I have found you,' he answered, 'because you have sold yourself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord. 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. 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 caused Israel to sin.' And also concerning Jezebel the Lord says: 'Dogs will devour Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel.' Dogs will eat those belonging to Ahab in the city, and the birds will feed on those who die in the country." (1 Kings 21:20b-24) This is a dire prophecy. For a king to have no descendants to sit on his throne is a judgment of God, plus it was horrifying for anyone to think of their body remaining unburied and being eaten by animals. 

"(There was never anyone like Ahab, who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord, urged on by Jezebel his wife. He behaved in the vilest manner by going after idols, like the Amorites the Lord drove out before Israel.)" (1 Kings 21:25-26) One commentary I consulted states that in comparing the ten northern tribes of Israel to the Amorites, God is setting the stage for the future expulsion of the northern kingdom from the land. Just as He drove the Amorites out of the promised land for their idolatry, He will allow the idolatrous northern kingdom to lose her territory.

Suddenly, something new happens. Elijah's words get through to Ahab. In his heart, I think Ahab is still not very excited about the idea of fellowship with the Lord, but he is interested in escaping the fulfillment of this awful prophecy. "When Ahab heard these words, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and fasted. He lay in sackcloth and went around meekly." (1 Kings 21:27) The sackcloth and the meek spirit are intended as an outward symbol of what's happening on the inside. They indicate Ahab's sorrow. 

"Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite: '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.'" (1 Kings 21:28-29) Ahab's repentance has more to do with fear that with love for the Lord, but because he is now setting a better example for the people, the Lord grants a reprieve on the house of Ahab. In going about dressed in sackcloth and with a humble spirit, Ahab is telling the nation he has been in the wrong. He is telling the nation He believes the word of the Lord that came through the prophet Elijah. He is admitting there is a judgment for disobeying the God of Israel. This attitude honors the Lord and so the Lord holds off on bringing Ahab's house down while he reigns on the throne. 

However, Ahab doesn't have long to live, because as we continue on in the next chapter we find him dying in battle about three years later. Because he was sorrowful for his sins, he will be buried at Samaria with all the funeral rites of a king. But the remainder of Elijah's prophecy begins to come true upon Ahab's death. As his blood from the battle is rinsed from his chariot, dogs will come and lick up the blood, just as Elijah foretold. The prophecy about cutting off Ahab's descendants will also come true. His son will be so wicked he will only reign two years, and he will die without a son to succeed him as king. Jezebel doesn't escape the prophecy about her either: she meets her end in 2 Kings 9 when she is thrown from her own window and is eaten by dogs beside the wall, just as Elijah foretold. 

We find in today's passage both the grace and the judgment of God: grace for the sinner who repents, judgment for the sinner who does not repent. Ahab was sorry for his sins and the consequences of them and so the Lord had mercy on him, allowing Ahab to die honorably in battle, allowing him to be buried in a tomb with all the glory of a king of Israel. Jezebel never repents and so the prophecy about her wretched end comes true. She perishes in disgrace, with no regal funeral as the queen of Israel, with not enough left of her to even bury. Her name becomes synonymous with idolatry, harlotry, and pride. The apostate church of Revelation is called Jezebel because she is unfaithful to the one true God. She is called Jezebel because she scorns the One who died to purchase her soul back from death, and so the apostate church will also meet a disgraceful end.

If only we could go back and undo some of our mistakes! I can think of several I would like to undo. But our God is so gracious. He gives us a brand new future. He takes us off the dead end road to destruction and places us on the path of life. When we come to the Lord in repentance, we find no condemnation, only grace. He doesn't bombard us with a list of our sins before accepting us into His presence. Instead He says, "Yesterday is gone. I'm making you a brand new tomorrow."

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