Thursday, December 28, 2017

Year 7, Day 362: 1 Kings 21

Theological Commentary: Click Here

Naboth’s Vineyard is an interesting story.  Here is a clear-cut case of anger, selfishness, manipulation, abuse of power, and ultimately murder.  There are few stories in the Bible so ripe with clearly sinful behavior as this story.

We should make sure that we understand where the power resides in this story.  Ahab does go out and speak to Naboth.  Ahab even makes a legitimate offer for the vineyard.  His logic is even reasonable.  He tells Naboth that he wants the vineyard because it is closer to his home.  Ahab even volunteers to give Naboth a different garden – a better garden, even – so long and Naboth agrees.  Naboth disagrees and the sale falls apart.  Ahab goes home and sulks.

Up until now, Ahab hasn’t done anything wrong.  A person is welcome to make an offer for another’s property.  Naboth has the right to refuse the offer.  Ahab has the right to go home and be disappointed.  There isn’t any sinfulness done here.

Jezebel, however, takes matters into her own hands.  Whether to please her husband, to pay Naboth back for having the gall to refuse the request of a king, or to gain the sheer enjoyment of wielding enough power to have a man killed we’ll never know.  What we do know is that Jezebel sets forth a plan in Ahab’s name to have a man killed.  Jezebel is the source of evil in this story.  It is Jezebel who sets the story on the dark path.

Naboth is invited, set at a place of honor, accused falsely, and killed.  Jezebel’s plan goes off without a hitch.  She remains guilty.

Ahab’s guilt comes into play when we discover his reaction.  There is no grief or mourning when he learns that Naboth has been killed.  Ahab does not question Jezebel’s use of his name or power.  Ahab simply goes out, claims the land for himself, and continues on with his life.

Ahab cannot hide from God.  God sends Elijah and condemns the act.  He tells Ahab that he and his whole household will die.  Those who die in the city will be eaten by dogs; those who die outside the city will be eaten by birds.

Up until now, this sounds like a very straightforward story with straightforward justice.  Then, Ahab does something remarkable.  Ahab repents.  We aren’t told that Ahab relinquishes the land, but he does repent and dress in sackcloth.

This is where the story turns fascinating.  God forgives.  Remember, this is a story with incredibly clear-cut sin.  This is a story where a man is murdered simply because he stands up for what is rightfully his.  This is a story where his passing isn’t mourned.  What is mourned is that Ahab got caught by God!  Yet, God forgives even this.

What makes this story so interesting is that it is a great story to demonstrate the scope of God’s forgiveness.  God is willing to forgive us even after we have been judged by Him and the consequences of our actions are already laid out. It is never too late to come to God.  It is never too late to know God’s compassion.