A Daily Dose of Good News
Tuesday, June 30, 2020
At 10:30 today, this devotional will be offered online at https://youtu.be/VSCGuTY5zkM
and will remain available throughout the day and the week.
For a printer-friendly version of today’s devotion, please click DDGN 20200630
Good morning! It’s June 30 and it’s time for our Daily Dose of Good News. Today we’re going to read from 1 Kings. So, for any of you who may not be familiar with that context, 1 Kings starts with the kingship of King Solomon, and it was all unified as one kingdom, until his death. Then it split into two kingdoms- the kingdom of Israel and the kingdom of Judah. We’re going to be reading about the kingdom of Judah today, with King Ahab. So, starting in chapter 21, I’m going to give you a little bit of backstory, and then jump in with our verses from 21:17-29. So, starting in 1 Kings, 21.
Later the following events took place: Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard in Jezreel, beside the palace of King Ahab of Samaria. 2 And Ahab said to Naboth, “Give me your vineyard, so that I may have it for a vegetable garden, because it is near my house; I will give you a better vineyard for it; or, if it seems good to you, I will give you its value in money.” 3 But Naboth said to Ahab, “The Lord forbid that I should give you my ancestral inheritance.” 4 Ahab went home resentful and sullen because of what Naboth the Jezreelite had said to him; for he had said, “I will not give you my ancestral inheritance.” He lay down on his bed, turned away his face, and would not eat.
5 His wife Jezebel came to him and said, “Why are you so depressed that you will not eat?” 6 He said to her, “Because I spoke to Naboth the Jezreelite and said to him, ‘Give me your vineyard for money; or else, if you prefer, I will give you another vineyard for it’; but he answered, ‘I will not give you my vineyard.’” 7 His wife Jezebel said to him, “Do you now govern Israel? Get up, eat some food, and be cheerful; I will give you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.”
As soon as Jezebel heard that Naboth had been stoned and was dead, Jezebel said to Ahab, “Go, take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, which he refused to give you for money; for Naboth is not alive, but dead.” 16 As soon as Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, Ahab set out to go down to the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, to take possession of it.
Elijah Pronounces God’s Sentence
17 Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying: 18 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. 19 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, 21 I will bring disaster on you; I will consume you, and will cut off from Ahab every male, bond or free, in Israel; 22 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. 23 Also concerning Jezebel the Lord said, ‘The dogs shall eat Jezebel within the bounds of Jezreel.’ 24 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.”
25 (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. 26 He acted most abominably in going after idols, as the Amorites had done, whom the Lord drove out before the Israelites.)
27 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. 28 Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite: 29 “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.”
Here ends the reading.
That reads like an exciting novel or story which is full of intensity, gore and drama. As we look at this text, it’s easy to get caught up in the initial reading particularly, about the dogs eating the flesh. That’s just gory and horrific to think about. I want to help us think about that symbolically, because the point is: it’s not going to be a death of honor. It’s not going to be something where people are grieved at the death and there is ceremony, pomp, and honor. It’s a very dishonorable death. And remember this is a place where honor means alot. So the idea that no-one is going to care when you die, people aren’t going to be grieving, you’re just going to be there and the dogs are going to consume you. It’s a reflection of honor in that. And that basically was the sin of Ahab: he thinks too highly of himself. He comes to this neighbor who has built an entire vineyard (and imagine all the time, effort and labor in that)! And King Ahab says ‘Give me that piece of property because I want to demolish it and make it into a vegetable garden for me, because it’s close and convenient to my house.’ It’s an insulting request for someone who has done years and years of work on it. And, it’s his ancestral inheritance, it’s his family’s land from generation to generation. King Ahab is treating it very dishonorably and in that, treating Naboth very much as if Naboth is insignificant. Because, this is King Ahab and he wants it for his vegetable garden! So, his wife takes matters in her own hands and Ahab allows that- doesn’t stop her, doesn’t try to change her mind in that. And as soon as she says, ‘he’s dead, the land is yours, if you want to go take it’, he hustles down there to go put his stakes in the ground and claim it. So, he doesn’t have a problem with what she did and he’s sprinting out the door to take advantage of the opportunity. Then, Elijah comes and confronts him on his actions. God says “You have brought sin on Israel. What you have done is dishonorable and you’re going to be dishonored in that”.
And the Good News in this text, (finally, finally!) is at the very end, when Ahab heard the words of the Lord. He really heard them, right? There are times when all of us hear, but don’t listen. Or we put our walls up, or have a hard time hearing something said to us. But in this moment, Ahab heard the words that Elijah said, which were from the Lord, and his reaction was intense. His reaction is: that really grievous, ‘I’m really sorry’ reaction. And very much, Ahab humbles himself. He tears his clothes, puts on sackcloth, is fasting and laying in the sackcloth, and going about dejectedly. Ahab has gone from viewing himself as: King Ahab who can do anything and can come demolish somebody’s vineyard if he feels like it, on a whim; to recognizing ‘I have done evil and I’m really not following what God wants there, and I’m not being a good person in that, and I’m so sorry and I feel so badly about myself.’ This is not a token apology. This is not saying ‘I’m sorry’ in a superficial way to smooth it over. This is a heartfelt grieving by King Ahab, which is why God said “do you see he changed his heart?” God says, “I see he changed his heart, so I’m not going to bring disaster on him, during his lifetime. I am going to bring it in his son’s lifetime.” (And if you continued to read 1 Kings, you’d learn that his son was even worse. So, it makes sense why he’s eventually going to get consequences for his own actions. God seems to have a sense of that ahead of time).
But, I think the portion for us to hold on to, is the idea of: God wants us to listen. God wants us to really hear things, even when they’re difficult, and take them to heart. To recognize our own sinfulness and bring that to God. To very humbly and genuinely, recognize our sin and admit that. So, while that’s difficult, intense, heavy and sad, it’s worth it. Because it restores our relationships with God. God loves us all. God wants the best for us. And that’s Good News! Enjoy the day, everybody. Bye-bye.