1 King 21:1-29 (Part 3) – Making the Naboth Choice: Will We Make His Choice?

Posted: March 15, 2019 in 11-1 Kings

1 Kings 21:1-29 (Part 3 of 4)

Naboth’s Vineyard

The thing that you think of when you read this passage from the point of view of Naboth is the question, “why do bad things happen to good people?” Here is a dude minding his own business, literally. He is minding his vineyard, a vineyard that had been in his family for generations as a gift from God. When the Israelites conquered the Promised Land, God directed the division of the land between the twelve tribes and among each family within each tribe. So, the land that Naboth was tending was inherited directly from God, not any king, and it had been in his family for generations. God had strict laws about each family land in the Promised Land, He said “The land must not be sold permanently” (Leviticus 25:23); and “No inheritance in Israel is to pass from one tribe to another, for every Israelite shall keep the tribal inheritance of their ancestors” (Numbers 36:7).

So, here’s this dude, tending the family wine business as his forefathers had done for generations. He was just going about his daily duties. Doing his duty for his family. Working hard. Providing for his family through working the land that God had given him through his father and his father’s father and his father’s father’s father and so on. He apparently was a godly man because he knew God’s Word when Ahab approached him about selling his property. He stood his ground because there was a higher law, God’s Word, than what the king represented. Next thing you know, Ahab is pouting and Jezebel wants to prove the power of the royals and Naboth is dead. This is an ugly episode in the Bible. A good man cut down in his prime for no other reason than greed and to prove power. This is the ultimate in government intervention into the life of an ordinary man trying to obey God and take care of his family.

It kind of reminds of the current state of affairs in our culture today. We as Christians must realize that the days of difficulty for us as believers is coming slowly toward us just as a lava in Hawaii from an active volcano flows inevitably, inexorably toward the sea consuming everything in its path. The times they are a changin’ as the old song goes. No longer are Christian values the dominant values of the culture in which we live. No longer are the biblical values that we believe in the prevailing values of the culture. Slowly but inexorably the lava flow of the values of me-centered humanism are making their way over the ground and consuming our nation. As we move forward from this time, we will see it become less and less easy to be a Christian. It was once an advantage to be a Christ follower in our culture. But now it is may slightly less than neutral. However, as we are beginning to see in our culture, it is slowly becoming a disadvantage to be a Christ follower. Sadly, as the Bible predicts, it is only going to get worse from here. Gone will be the days that holding to your Christian values is easy or at least neutral in its impact on our lives. Gone will be the days when being a Christian causes you to lose nothing by holding on to God’s Word and living it out in the culture in which we live.

That day will come for sure when we will have to make a Naboth choice. What’s a Naboth choice? The day will come when we have very real situations where we have to stand on God’s Word and it cost us dearly or give in to the culture just so we can preserve our two bedroom, two bath homes, our two brand new cars, our toys, our lifestyle to which we have grown accustomed. We are still in a time right now where being a Christian is not a huge advantage in the culture but at least it doesn’t cost us anything in the culture in which we live. We can still operate just as everyone else does in America. We can tend to our lives without much interruption. Sure, we are seeing things that we don’t like in the culture. Things are becoming more and more normal in our culture that were once considered shockingly against God’s will. But, yet, at present, being a Christian in Western culture is still pretty comfortable. We are free to continue going about our lives and our beliefs without much interruption other than occasional ridicule from the beliefs of the dominant culture now. Most of us do not experience any actual persecution other than ridicule.

That’s the chord that struck me when viewing this passage from the perspective of Naboth. Here’s Naboth, a God-fearing family man, just going about his business (like we American Christians do each day) and then he is thrust into a situation where he has to stand on God’s Word or go along with the culture. On the one hand, if he stands on God’s Word, he will suffer greatly. On the other hand, if he goes along with the culture, he will have disobeyed God’s Word but yet he will remain comfortable and be able to continue providing for his family. It may look different from before if he compromises his obedience but he will survive and maybe even thrive to a greater extent. There is a day coming where these choices will be very, very real for us as American Christians? It’s coming like a slow lava flow from an active volcano. Let’s read the passage/chapter and see what happens to Naboth:

21 Now there was a man named Naboth, from Jezreel, who owned a vineyard in Jezreel beside the palace of King Ahab of Samaria. 2 One day Ahab said to Naboth, “Since your vineyard is so convenient to my palace, I would like to buy it to use as a vegetable garden. I will give you a better vineyard in exchange, or if you prefer, I will pay you for it.”

3 But Naboth replied, “The Lord forbid that I should give you the inheritance that was passed down by my ancestors.”

4 So Ahab went home angry and sullen because of Naboth’s answer. The king went to bed with his face to the wall and refused to eat!

5 “What’s the matter?” his wife Jezebel asked him. “What’s made you so upset that you’re not eating?”

6 “I asked Naboth to sell me his vineyard or trade it, but he refused!” Ahab told her.

7 “Are you the king of Israel or not?” Jezebel demanded. “Get up and eat something, and don’t worry about it. I’ll get you Naboth’s vineyard!”

8 So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name, sealed them with his seal, and sent them to the elders and other leaders of the town where Naboth lived. 9 In her letters she commanded: “Call the citizens together for a time of fasting, and give Naboth a place of honor. 10 And then seat two scoundrels across from him who will accuse him of cursing God and the king. Then take him out and stone him to death.”

11 So the elders and other town leaders followed the instructions Jezebel had written in the letters. 12 They called for a fast and put Naboth at a prominent place before the people. 13 Then the two scoundrels came and sat down across from him. And they accused Naboth before all the people, saying, “He cursed God and the king.” So he was dragged outside the town and stoned to death. 14 The town leaders then sent word to Jezebel, “Naboth has been stoned to death.”

15 When Jezebel heard the news, she said to Ahab, “You know the vineyard Naboth wouldn’t sell you? Well, you can have it now! He’s dead!” 16 So Ahab immediately went down to the vineyard of Naboth to claim it.

17 But the Lord said to Elijah,[a] 18 “Go down to meet King Ahab of Israel, who rules in Samaria. He will be at Naboth’s vineyard in Jezreel, claiming it for himself. 19 Give him this message: ‘This is what the Lord says: Wasn’t it enough that you killed Naboth? Must you rob him, too? Because you have done this, dogs will lick your blood at the very place where they licked the blood of Naboth!’”

20 “So, my enemy, you have found me!” Ahab exclaimed to Elijah.

“Yes,” Elijah answered, “I have come because you have sold yourself to what is evil in the Lord’s sight. 21 So now the Lord says,[b] ‘I will bring disaster on you and consume you. I will destroy every one of your male descendants, slave and free alike, anywhere in Israel! 22 I am going to destroy your family as I did the family of Jeroboam son of Nebat and the family of Baasha son of Ahijah, for you have made me very angry and have led Israel into sin.’

23 “And regarding Jezebel, the Lord says, ‘Dogs will eat Jezebel’s body at the plot of land in Jezreel.[c]’

24 “The members of Ahab’s family who die in the city will be eaten by dogs, and those who die in the field will be eaten by vultures.”

25 (No one else so completely sold himself to what was evil in the Lord’s sight as Ahab did under the influence of his wife Jezebel. 26 His worst outrage was worshiping idols[d] just as the Amorites had done—the people whom the Lord had driven out from the land ahead of the Israelites.)

27 But when Ahab heard this message, he tore his clothing, dressed in burlap, and fasted. He even slept in burlap and went about in deep mourning.

28 Then another message from the Lord came to Elijah: 29 “Do you see how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has done this, I will not do what I promised during his lifetime. It will happen to his sons; I will destroy his dynasty.”

In today’s look at this chapter, we see that Naboth does not give in to the culture (as represented by the evil king Ahab). We see that he could have very easily given in to the culture and accepted and went along and survived and maybe even become more wealthy as a result of his compromise. The king may have given him an even more productive vineyard and he would have survived. However, he stood on God’s Word and he paid for it dearly through Jezebel’s evil spirit and her evil plans. He was killed for a piece of land for a vegetable garden. He was killed for a good salad. He was killed to impose the desires of the culture to have the easy way over standing on God’s Word. That’s the striking thing here for us. We are now entering an age where standing on our biblical beliefs will cost us like Naboth. It may not cost us our life (but that day is coming too) but we will have choices of compromising God’s Word and our belief in it just to survive and get along. Do we remain quiet and just go along or do we take the consequences of not compromising our belief in God’s Word?

For followers of Jesus, however, the picture is even more sobering. The Bible actually promises us persecution and suffering for our faith. The world is in rebellion against God. It hates God, and when he came as a man in the person of Jesus Christ, the world responded by murdering him. Jesus promised us that the world would treat us the way it treated him(John 15:20, ESV).

The first followers of Jesus consistently experienced suffering for the sake of Jesus, in Jerusalem (Acts 8:1), Galatia (Gal. 3:4), Philippi (Phil. 1:29), Thessalonica (1 Thess. 2:14), and Asia Minor (1 Peter 4:12), along with the recipients of the letter to the Hebrews (Heb. 10:32). Paul went through horrible suffering (2 Cor. 11:23–29), as did the other apostles (Acts 5–8). Paul was quite explicit in saying this was to be expected by everyone who follows Jesus (2 Tim. 3:12, ESV). In the Bible, suffering and opposition are a normal part of the normal Christian life.

The comfortable experience of Christians in the West has actually been an anomaly in this regard. Because of the Christian heritage of Western civilization, combined with democratic freedoms and historic rule of law, Western Christians have largely been left alone for their faith. Even today, as Western nations become increasingly post-Christian (and even anti-Christian), the opposition experienced by most Christians goes little beyond mockery. However, there are signs that this protected status may be changing. If it continues to do so, it will simply put Western Christians in the same boat as their brothers and sisters all over the world.

Today, in many non-Western cultures of the world, being a follower of Jesus means, at best, losing your job and being rejected by your family. At worst, it can mean imprisonment, beating, and even death. These things are being experienced all over the world right now by our brothers and sisters in Jesus. Our day is coming like the lava flowing toward us. We cannot stop the flow of the lava. It’s coming straight for us. What will you do when it comes time to put your faith, my faith, our faith on the line. Will you be willing to make the choice that Naboth made? He refused the culture’s demand and he was killed for it.

Are you and I ready for that day? Man, this is a tough question. I am asking that deep question of myself as much as I ask it of you. What will you and I do if we are faced with a situation where our belief in Jesus Christ brings us to the point of a real, life altering consequence. What if we get to the point that it is beyond mockery? What if it is beyond ridicule? Those things we can survive but still enjoy our “American dream” lifestyle as a Christian. What will you do? What will I do when it comes down to being a Christian really costing us something – our family, our job, our freedom, or even our life? What will you and I do on that day? Will we make the Naboth choice? Or will we compromise and take the new vineyard, so to speak?

Are you? Am I going to be a Naboth? I am not suggesting that we go out looking for fights to get ourselves into suffering in a real sense, but I am saying that there is a day coming and it is coming to us like a lava flow. There will come a day when it finds us both individually and collectively as Christ followers. The lava flow is coming. As followers of Jesus, we do not rejoice in suffering nor do we look forward to it or even seek it out because we enjoy pain, but because Jesus is so worthy in our eyes and hearts that we delight in being identified with him. All suffering is temporary. It isn’t worth comparing with the glory that awaits us (2 Cor. 4:16). In that place of glory, all pain and suffering will be gone forever (Rev. 21:4). Let us remember, like Naboth, that riches here on earth are meaningless in comparison to the riches that await in glory when we arrive and hear the words we all long to hear “Well done, my good and faithful servant” and we join the holy chorus praising our Savior all the day long.

Amen and Amen.

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