Elijah and the Humbling of Ahab
1 Kings 21:1-29
January 8-9, 2022
1 King 21 is the story of the despicable, but more than that, it's the fact that even the despicable live before the eyes of God. This backstory is this, Israel is divided now, north and south. In the north, there is a king who is the worst of Kings, at this point in their history, Ahab. He was the most evilest king. At this point, he had followed the gods of the world, Baal, Asherah and then if that wasn't enough, he then went and served them and worshiped them.
Then it says, and if that was a trivial thing, he went and married that woman, that wicked woman. You got to say it like that. He married that woman Jezebel. Now, when people hear the name Jezebel, they immediately recognize the essence of evil, even in the name. I used to think that no one would actually name their daughter Jezebel, but I've then looked it up. There are some people who named their daughters Jezebel. On the list of most popular baby names for girls, it's listed 3843rd.
The percentage of people who named their daughters Jezebel is something like 0.000666%.
I added that last part, but you know what I'm saying. The story is not just about the nature of evil, but it's about how God responds. That's the key to the story, reveals a great truth that Paul spoke of to the philosophers in Athens. When he said this, this we find is in Acts 17, "God made the world and all things in it. He Himself gives to all people, life and breath, and all things that they might seek God. Though He is not far from each of us, for in Him we live and move and have our being. There is a great truth.
Everyone lives before the eyes of the Lord. 1 Kings 21 is a story centered on a vineyard in the Northern Kingdom of Israel. The story is that King Ahab had a palace there. Next to his palace was a vineyard. It was owned by a man named Naboth. Ahab would see this beautiful vineyard there next to the palace. Every day he would see it and he wanted it. It would be such a wonderful place for a vegetable garden, he said, and he wanted that vineyard. Ahab offered to exchange to give him another plot of land, another vineyard in exchange for, or if he preferred, he would give him the value of it in money.
Now so far, no problem. This is all good. It's reasonable. It's fair, but what Ahab had not counted on was that Naboth was a man of principle, biblical principle. There were few left that followed the way of Jehovah, the God of Israel. In the north, there were few left, but Naboth was one of them, a man of integrity, man of character, a man of faith who would not sell the land on principle. God gave this land to me, to my family and I will not sell the inheritance of God. What happens next? When Ahab here's the refusal, what happens next in the story is nothing short of deplorable despicable.
I. Discontent is the Root of Unhappiness
It's a story that's filled with life lessons. There are many who must hear the lessons that God would reveal in the story. Let's read it. We can read the whole of the chapter because the plot is thick and we want to reveal what God does in the story. Chapter 21:1, Came about after these things that Naboth, the Jezreelite had a vineyard, which was in Jezreel beside the palace of Ahab king of Samaria. Ahab spoke to Naboth and he said, "Give me your vineyard that I may have it for a vegetable garden because it is close beside my house.
I would give you a better vineyard, and not it, or if you prefer, if you like, I will give you the price of it in money," but Naboth said to Ahab, "God forbid." Now actually he uses the name of the God of Israel here, Jehovah. "The Lord Jehovah forbid me that I should give you the inheritance of my fathers." He refuses on principle. Now when Naboth hears this, says Ahab came into his house sullen and vexed because of the word which Naboth the Jezreelite has spoken to him for he said, "I will not give you the inheritance of my fathers."
He laid down on his bed. He turned his face to the wall and he ate no food. In other words, he is soaking. He is pouting, we might say. Then, Jezebel, his wife came to him and he says, "How is it that your spirit is so sullen that you're not eating any food, what is going on with you?" Still pouting, he said to her, "It's because I spoke to Naboth the Jezreelite. I said to him, 'Give me your vineyard for money, or if it pleases you I'll give you a vineyard in its place,' but he said, 'No.' He said, no, he won't do it. 'I will give you my vineyard.' I want that vineyard."
Jezebel his wife said to him, "Really?"
That's in the Hebrew there somewhere. I'm sure. "Really, are you still the king of Israel? Get up, stop your whining." That's the idea. "Get up, stop your pouting, eat some bread. Let your heart be joyful. I'll get you that vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite. What next follows is nothing short of evil. She wrote letters in Ahab's name, sealed them with his seal, sent letters to the elders and the nobles. I say so-called Nobles who were living in Naboth in his city. She wrote in his letters and she said, "Proclaim a fast, seat Naboth at the head of the people.
Seat two worthless men-- In the Hebrew, it's Belial. Two men of Belial, which is a tremendous spiritual, dark word. "Two worthless men before him, let them testify against him saying, 'You cursed God in the king, man.' Then take him out and stone him to death." The men of the city, elders and the nobles who lived in that city did it. They did as Jezebel had sent word to them in the letter. They proclaimed a fast. Verse 12, "They seated Naboth at the head of the people. Then the two worthless fellows came in, sat before him and the two worthless men testified against him, even against Naboth before the people.
They said, 'Naboth cursed both God and the king.' They took him outside the city, stone him with stones to death. Then they sent word to Jezebel saying Naboth has been stoned and he's dead. It came about that when Jezebel heard that Naboth had been stoned and was dead, that Jezebel said to Ahab, 'Get up, take possession of the vineyard of Naboth, the Jezreelite, which he refused to give you for money for Naboth is not alive, he is dead.' It came about that when Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, that Ahab arose went down to the vineyard of Naboth, the Jezreelite to take possession of it."
You can see here. Imagine here's Ahab standing in his vineyard, looking at his new possession that he obtained by evil. Then it says that the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite, one of the greatest prophets of the Old Testament. The word of the Lord came to Elijah, "Arise and go down and meet Ahab king of Israel who is in Samaria. Behold, he is even now in the vineyard of Naboth where he has gone to take possession of it. You shall speak thusly to him. You say, "Thus says the Lord have you murdered and also taken possession?"
You shall say to him, "Thus says the Lord in the place where the dogs licked up, the blood of Naboth, the dogs will lick up your blood, even yours." Now, Ahab, there he is in the vineyard. You can see. Imagine now, here He sees Elijah approaching him. He knows Elijah. He's a man of power. He can call down fire from heaven. He sees Elijah coming. Notice it's says-- Ahab, Verse 20, said to Elijah, "Oh, have you found me, oh my enemy?" Elijah answered, "I have found you because you have sold yourself to do evil in the sight of the Lord."
This is powerful. I have found you because you have sold yourself to do evil in the sight of the Lord. Behold, I will bring evil upon you and will utterly sweep you away. We'll cut you off. Cut off from Ahab every male, both bond and free in Israel. I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam, son of Nebat," which is powerful word against him. "I will make your house like the house of Baasha, son of Ahijah because of the provocation with which you have provoked me to anger."
To provoke God is a deep word. You have made Israel to sin and of Jezebel. It's like, I'm not done and of Jezebel, the Lord has spoken thus, 'The dogs will eat Jezebel in the district of Jezreel.' The one belonging to Ahab, who dies in the city, the dogs will eat. The one who dies in the field, the birds of heaven will eat. Surely-- Now a commentary is added. Surely there was no one like Ahab who sold himself to do evil in the side of the Lord. Here is that phrase again, "because Jezebel his wife incited him". She was the inciter.
She was the instigator of evil, but I tell you that God holds him responsible for his action and he holds her responsible. He acted very abominably in following these idols according to all that the Amorites had done whom the Lord had cast out before the sons of Israel. Now, verse 27, the story takes a most unexpected turn. It's quite interesting and surprising what then comes. It says in verse 27, "It came about that when Ahab heard these words, it struck him." Something happened there. He tore his clothes, which is a demonstration of tremendous grief.
If someone hears word that their son had died, for example, he would take hold of his clothes and carry them. He took hold of his clothes and he tore them then he put on sackcloth which is a demonstration of humility. Sackcloth is literally the material from which sacks were made. You would cut a hole for the neck and for the arms and pull it over as a demonstration of complete humility. For a king to do such, is quite something. Then it says, "and then he fasted. Then he lay in his sackcloth and he went about despondently.
Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah, the Tishbite, and said, 'Do you see this? Do see how Ahab has humbled himself before Me?' Before the eyes of the Lord, Ahab has humbled himself. This is quite an amazing thing. An evil man, such as this, and because he has humbled himself before me I will not bring the evil in his days. I will bring the evil upon his house in his son's days, who will do plenty of evil on their own. It's a tremendous story with tremendous insight and tremendous application.
Here's Naboth who wants this vineyard and he can't have it and he is vexed it says, discontented, conflicted. Therefore there's a great lesson, discontent is the root of much unhappiness, discontent. He won't sell his vineyard becomes vexed, sullen, and pouting. Do you know what's worse than a spoiled child? A spoiled adult. Anybody agree with me? He didn't get what he wanted and he's most unhappy. I want what I want and I want it now. This is the thing, many people have this very same perspective. They want what they want.
They don't care who pays the price. They don't care of the consequences; they want what they want. It touches on the very core of a person's being. Life lessons from seeing what's happening in Ahab and Jezebel, but before we look at Ahab and Jezebel, I want us to look at Naboth. There are great lessons from a man like this. A principle of character of integrity. He refused to sell his inheritance because his inheritance came from God. This is tremendous. I tell you that there is a modern equivalent today for you have an inheritance in Christ to recognize the value of what you have in Christ is very important.
A. You have an inheritance in Christ
He refused to sell his property on principle. God gave us this land, "and it should not be sold," God said to his people. Now there were not many in Israel that still took God at His word, who would hold onto biblical principles. There were not many left in the Northern kingdom, but wouldn't you know it, but that God would place someone like Naboth right next to Ahab. He was a good man, a man of faith and integrity. He valued the land, but I suggest to you that it wasn't just the land, it was the favor of God that came with the land.
It was the blessing of God in the inheritance that he valued, and it had everything to do with, then how you live on that land. There's the blessing that God brings. Notice Leviticus 25, He speaks to it. Verses 17 and 19, where God says and He's going to connect it to the land, He says, "You shall not wrong one another," like how you treat the people around you. How you relate to the people. Don't wrong people, but fear the Lord, your God for I am the Lord, your God. Then the land, see, it's not just the land. It's how you live on the land.
It's not just the land, it's the favor of God within it. Then the land will yield its produce and then you will eat your fill and live securely on it. Naboth was content because God gave it to him. Ahab promised him a better vineyard. There's nothing better than the inheritance of God. I'll tell you there's a great example for believers. The inheritance that we have in Christ is of inestimable value if only you could see it. In fact, Ephesians 1:18-19, Ephesians you know has several amazing powerful prayers, but there's one of them.
It has everything to do with the inheritance of God that He gives to those who believe. Notice Ephesians 1, "I pray that the eyes of your heart would be enlightened." It means open the eyes, your spiritual eyes to see that you would know the hope of His calling and the riches of His inheritance in the saints. Oh, the riches, the depth of the riches of the inheritance that you have in Christ. That's what He wants you to see. Know this, see this, open your eyes to the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe in accordance with the working of the strength of his might.
B. Coveting is the root of being discontent
In other words, do who you are? Do what you have? I suggest to you that many do not. If they could only see the value you of what God would give them in Christ, they would value it greatly. Great life lessons from Naboth, but I want us to now look at the nature of Ahab and Jezebel and see great life lessons. He's discontented, there's conflict within him. If discontent is the root of unhappiness, then coveting is the root of being discontent. Seeing what someone else has and being discontented because you want what they have.
In other words, it was like the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. By the way, did you know, side note, it's scientifically proven that the grass is actually greener on the other side of the fence? I will give you the scientific proof for it right now. It's scientifically proven the grass is greener on the other side of the fence because when you look at the grass on the other side of the fence you are looking at the grass from an angle. You are seeing all the blades of the grass line up next to each other and therefore it's all green.
When you're looking at your grass, you're looking straight down on it and you're seeing all the flaws and the dirt and the clods and all the problems, but when you look at your neighbor's grass it's all green. Scientifically proven that grass is greener on the other side. I call it the Facebook grass problem of life-because you look at other people's life on Facebook and you say, "Look at their life it's greener than mine. Their children are always happy. Their children are always behaving. Look at there. They're always taking wonderful adventures and their life is exciting. My life is dull and boring because you're looking straight down in your life. You're looking at their life from the side and you're discontented because you see your flaws, but you don't see theirs. I suggest to you that if you went over there and looked straight down on their flaws, you'd see they got problems too.
Anybody agree with me? See this, He says it wasn't as if Ahab didn't have enough. He certainly had more than Naboth. In fact, it tells us in Chronicles that he had palaces of ivory. He had hundreds of servants. He had storehouses of silver and gold. He's the king of Israel, but he didn't have that vineyard. See, he wasn't enough to have all those things. It comes from the nature of flesh. There's never enough because the flesh is never satisfied. In fact, the modern world of advertising is based entirely upon that notion.
The modern world of advertising is based entirely upon the notion that the flesh is never satisfied. I remember reading the story of the construction of the Panama Canal. I enjoy reading history. There was an interesting dilemma that came early on in the project. They had hired many of the locals to work in the project. The problem came when they received their first paycheck, and it was more than most of them had earned in a year. They thought, "Well, why do we need to keep working for--" and they all summarily quit.
The construction managers are like, what are we going to do about this? Somebody came up with the idea, I know what let's do. They ordered a boxcar full of Sears and Roebucks catalogs. Now, if you don't know what Sears and Roebuck's catalogs are, ask your parents. I know all about it. I read about it in history books. They ordered these thousands and thousands of Sears and Roebucks catalogs and distributed them to all the workers. As soon as they saw all of the stuff in the catalogs, then they all decided we got to go back to work so that we can get the stuff.
To quote from the famous American philosopher Dennis the Menace, this catalog's got toys I didn't even know I wanted. It's the nature of the flesh he's speaking to. In fact, Jesus spoke directly to it in the book of Luke 12:15, where Jesus said to them, beware. Be on your guard. Be careful. Beware of every form of creed for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions? Life does not come from possessions. You may have an abundance of possessions. There's no life that comes from possessions.
Ecclesiastes 5 speaks to it also verses 10 to 11. Whoever loves money, never has enough money. Whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. It's never enough. This too is meaningless. Whereas goods increase, so do those who consume them. What benefit are they to the owner except to feast his eyes upon them? He's discontented. He's unhappy. He's conflicted. I suggest to you then unhappiness comes from the condition of the heart. It comes from the heart. It's interesting that God spoke directly to this in the commandments that He gave to Israel through Moses.
C. Unhappiness comes from the heart
He gave this command. He said, "Do not covet. Don't covet your neighbor's wife. Don't covet your neighbor's house, your neighbor's field, your neighbor's servants, your neighbor's ox, your neighbor's Audi. I added that part there, but that's the idea. Nothing. Now the law is spiritual. It speaks to the heart. Righteousness is not about what a person does, it's about what they are in their heart that makes them do what they do. It's the condition of the heart. Many in Jesus' day, many teachers in Jesus' day tried to express that the law, they said, only has to do with the outward action.
Only has to do with the outward, what happens inside does not matter. Jesus said, "Oh, no, this is not so." He taught that the heart, what happens in the soul is the most important part of a man. Matthew 12:33-35, Jesus is teaching. The tree is known by its fruit and life is known by its fruit, for the mouth speaks. In other words, the life is lived from that which fills the heart. The good man out of the good treasure of his heart will bring forth what is good. In other words, this is how to live. Jesus is giving us a principle of how to live, do this, this is right, desire this.
Out of the good treasure of your heart, bring forth what's good. Live this way. It's good, but have good treasure in your heart and then live out of that good treasure. Then He warns, the evil man brings out of the evil treasure that which is evil. The condition of the soul within is very, very important. There are many people who take into their soul that which is poison. There are many people who are sick within themselves, and they bring forth out of that great troubles in their life. Jesus in another place said, "You have heard it said, you shall not murder, but I say to you don't even have anger in your heart towards your brother."
The Apostle Paul wrote this in Roman 7:7-8, I would not have known about coveting if the law had said, you shall not covet, but then sin taking opportunity through the commandment produced in me, coveting of every kind. In other words, when the flesh is told that it can't have something, that becomes the very thing it wants the most. That's the nature of the flesh within. As soon as it's told it can't have something, that's the very thing it wants the most. All you get to do is diet and you'll know exactly what I mean.
Here's the thing. Here we are at the January of the beginning of the year. Many people make new year's resolutions that have to do with dieting. We're going to eat better. Here's the problem about dieting in January. You've been eating Christmas stuff all December. Cookies, pie, apple pie, all that whipped cream, and everything. Then all of a sudden January, "I'm going to go on a diet," and the flesh goes, "No, me wants cookies." The very thing it wants. It's interesting because in Roman 7, later in the chapter, Paul gives this insight.
I would like us to consider it for it is a deep word that touches on the very aspect of the human soul. Roman chapter 7, Paul is representing a conflict and he says, what am I doing? I don't understand. For I am doing the very thing that I hate now. Many relate to this. I don't understand this. There is a conflict within me. I don't understand it. I'm doing the very thing that I hate. The good that I want to do, I don't do. I practice the very evil that I don't want. I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law at working the members of my body.
Waging war against the law of my mind, making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members, in my flesh. He culminates it by saying, "wretched man that I am, who will set me free from this body of death?" Then he gives the answer. "Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord," which brings him right to Roman 8, perhaps one of the greatest chapters of the Bible. There is, therefore, no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus for the law of the spirit of life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do weak as it was to the flesh God did by sending his own son.
Thanks be to God; Jesus is the answer. There is victory and it's found in his name. Amen.
II. When God Finds You, it’s Always Good
Back to the story then of Ahab. I would like to take hold of a great life lesson. When God finds you, it's always good. "Have you found me, oh my enemy?" When God finds you, it's always good. Elijah answered, "I have found you because you sold yourself to do evil in the sight of the Lord." Two parts of that I would like us to take hold of. You sold yourself in the sight of the Lord. The beginning, you sold yourself. Well, what did you gain? See, this speaks directly to the nature of men. It speaks to the value of the soul.
A. Know the value of your soul
To know the value of the soul is tremendously important. "Have you found me?" "I've found you because you sold yourself." "Have you found me, oh my enemy?" He's the enemy. He's the prophet of God. God is the enemy. Ahab could not have been more wrong. I submit that Elijah was the only one there that was for him. Clearly, Jezebel wasn't for him, she's inciting him to do evil. The elders and the nobles who went along with his evil plot, they weren't for him. These two sons of Belial who lied against Naboth, they went for him.
I submit that Elijah was the only one that was for him because if God has found you, it's always good because God is for you. Permit me to give a deep illustration. I was asked one time, many years ago to confront a man who was having an affair. I had gathered the evidence and confronted him with the evidence. We had long conversations. He denied all of it, but in the course of the conversation at one point, he said, "What would you do if it turns out that all of this is false?"
I said, "Then I am for you in every way." He said, "Thank you." Then he said, "I got one more question. What will you do if it turns out to be true?" To which I said, "Then I will be for you in every way. I am for you, and if you would humble yourself and take hold of this great opportunity to turn your life around, God will do good things." If God has found you, it's always good. When a person comes to the point where they come to their senses, and they see it, and they turn their life around, that is a good day. We have a word for it. It's called repentance.
I don't know why some people don't like the word repentance. It's a great word. It's a wonderful word. For the day that someone turns their life and starts walking towards the things of God, that's a good day. Can we give the Lord praise?
Amen. You sold yourself. At what gain? What did he gain? Only gained a vineyard. At what price? What did it cost? By all appearances, it costs nothing. He didn't have to even pay for it now. He got an even better deal. I submit to you that he paid a great price. He sold his soul. He sold his integrity. He sold his character. These are of great value. Character is worth your soul. What is it worth? What is the value of integrity? The gain is little the price is high. Reminds me of what Paul wrote in Romans 6 where he said, "What benefit did I gain from the things that which I am now ashamed?"
I remember when I was a young man and I was memorizing chapters in the Bible, and I was memorizing Roman 6. When you memorize verses, you say it over and over and over in your mind. I was repeating this. When you're just trying to memorize it, you're just doing the words. What benefit did I gain, what benefit did I gain from the things that which I am now ashamed? What benefit did I gain? Then at some point, you stop repeating the words and the point of it hits you. What benefit did I gain from the things of which I am now ashamed? I gained nothing.
As a matter of fact, it cost me, tremendously. Jesus said this in Matthew 16: 26, "What would it profit a man if he gained the whole world and forfeited his soul?" Do you not know the value of your soul if you were offered the whole world in exchange? It would not be a right exchange what a man give in exchange for a soul? In other words, what's the value? Many people do not understand their value, and they discount themselves. They discount their lives. If you could only see the value.
B. Live before the eyes of God
God says, "I made you in My image. You are precious in My sight. I call you son. I call you My daughter. I sent My own Son to die on the cross that you might have redemption, forgiveness of sin. That you might be drawn into a relationship with Me as your everlasting Father. Do you not see how much I value you? You are precious," He says. Now, what's interesting is that when Ahab saw the price was high, higher than he could ever imagine, he humbled himself. Oh, you going to love this part of the story.
When he saw it, when he came to the realization, he opened his eyes. Ah, it's a beautiful thing, and you see the tremendous grace of God. You see the tremendous grace. God sent His Son to find sinners and to bring them home. When those sinners recognize the condition of their soul and accept that offer of life, it's a beautiful thing. Then lastly, we'll close with this. Live before the eyes of God. You sold yourself to do evil before the eyes of the Lord. It reveals a great truth. Before God, we all live and move and have our being.
In other words, one day, we'll all give an accounting of our lives. All of us, we'll give an accounting of our lives. What did you do with the life I gave you? God gave you life. That's what Paul was saying to the philosophers there in Athens. God breathed life. God gave men their life. God gave all things that they might seek God, though he's not far. For in Him, we live and move and have our being. God gave you life. It's a gift. It's precious and valuable. The question is, what do you do with the life that He gave?
I suggest that the best way to spend your life is by having your soul satisfied in God by living in Him. In Him, you live. In Him, you move. In Him, you have your being, your life. It has everything to do with how you spend your life. When you see the value of your soul, how do you spend it? How do you sow it, you might say. How do you spend it because how you spend it has everything to do with what you reap from it. I want you to have life and life to the full. It reminds me of Galatians 6:8, "The Principle of the Harvest.
He actually begins that section by saying, "Do not be deceived. God is not mocked." That's a powerful introduction to any verse. "Do not be deceived. God is not mocked." Then he continues, "That which a man sows, he'll also reap. For the one who sows to his flesh, will from the flesh reap." What do you reap? If you sow to the flesh, what is it you are going to reap? You're sowing to the flesh, so you're going to reap from the flesh corruption because it is corrupt. Then He adds this tremendous promise, "Those who sow to the Spirit, will from the Spirit reap life."
This is what God wants for you. I want you to have life. I want you to have life to the full, life abundantly. How are you going to live? It has everything to do with how you spend it. In Him, you live. In Him, you move. In Him, you have your being. How many would say, "Here I am, Lord, you found me"? He sent His son to seek and to save that which was lost. That He would go and pursue, find sinners, bring them home, to give them life, to give them hope. To give them a relationship with the Living God. There's where life is found.
How many would say, "Here I am Lord? You found me. I choose to follow you. I choose to find my life in you, to move in you, to have my being in you"? It's like this. This is what Paul said in Philippians 4: 11-13, "I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along in humble means. Also, how to live in prosperity. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of being filled or going hungry, of having abundance or suffering need. It's this, I do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
Has to do with how you live your life. In Him, you live. In Him, you move. In Him, you have your being. Here I am Lord. You found me. I choose to follow you. Let's pray. Lord, we are very thankful for this tremendous powerful word that You give to us through this story. You show us the value of the soul and how we must live. Church, how many today would say to the Lord, "Here I am, here I am Lord, You found me. I choose You. I choose to follow You. I want to live my life in You. In You, I will live and move. In You, I have my being. I want a soul, I want to spend my life in you. choose to follow you"?
Church, how many would say that to the Lord? Make that declaration to the Lord by simply just raising your hand to Him. Be bold in the Lord. Would you just say it to the Lord, "Here I am. You found me. I want to live my life in You. In You, I find the life that my soul desires"? Just raise your hand to the Lord. Would you do that? God bless you. Make God truly meet you here in this place and pour His life upon you. Oh Lord, we thank you so much for how You move by your spirit and how You show us your very heart.
We honor You for it now in Jesus' powerful name and everyone said-- Can we give the Lord praise and glory and honor?