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Monday, August 26, 2013

Naboth's Vineyard

        God has given Ahab and the faithful remnant of Israel victory over the Syrians and their king because Ahab was obedient to the Word of the Lord. Unfortunately, Ahab didn't fully obey and compromised by letting Ben-Hadad and his officials live. God sends a prophet who speaks a parable to Ahab. The prophet says to Ahab, “You have set free a man I had determined to die. Therefore it is your life for his life, your people for his people.” 1 Kings 20:42 Because Ahab allowed king Ben-Hadad and his officials to live and even signed a peace treaty with the enemy, God pronounced a death sentence upon him.
        The extent of Ahab's immaturity and wickedness will now be shown in his coveting of his neighbor's vineyard in direct disobedience of the 10th commandment. Exodus 20:17 The degeneration of Ahab is reaching its lowest level until God has no choice but to exercise judgment. Even though the Bible says that Ahab was the most wicked of all the kings over God's people, God was slow to exercise His judgment. God wanted to give Ahab all the time He could to change from his wicked ways and turn back to God. This is God's love, grace and mercy toward even the wicked! After much tolerance, God who is all-knowing saw that Ahab was never going to turn to Him, so judgment had to come.
            God does not want His people to be spiritually immature.  Ahab made bad judgments and choices because of his immature ways.  Spiritually immature Christians will also make bad choices and judgments.  The Bible tells us that we are to "do away with childish things" (1 Corinthians 13:11); "be mature in our thinking" (1 Corinthians 14:20) and use our maturity in the Word to "overcome the evil one."  (1 John 2:14)  The writer of Hebrews warned against immaturity and being slow to learn the Truth.  Hebrews continues by saying that "solid meat (deeper truths) is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil." (Hebrews 5:11-14)  Being matured in the Word will help us discern between good and evil, flesh from Spirit and truth from untruth.

Naboth's Vineyard – 1 Kings 21:1-28

        Naboth, a faithful believer in God, had a vineyard next to or near Ahab's palace in Jezreel. How do I know that Naboth was faithful and a believer? Naboth knew that God gave the Land to his ancestors, and he was not about to dishonor God's gift by giving it up or selling it. (Deuteronomy 4:21)  Naboth cherished his spiritual inheritance. He would not treat the gift of God lightly. He would pass it on to his sons. In the New Testament, a man named Simon in Acts 8:18-20-23 tried to buy the gift of the Holy Spirit. Peter said to him, “May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money! You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right. Repent of this wickedness and pray to the Lord. Perhaps He will forgive you for having such a thought in your heart.”   Naboth would not sell his gift from God.
        Wicked Ahab who is never satisfied wants Naboth's inheritance from God. Ahab has a palace in Jezreel and in Samaria, and is king over all 10 tribes of Israel but he is still not satisfied and wants what belongs to another. It is the devil's goal to also steal a believer's inheritance from God – eternal life. When we fall into the lusts of the flesh, it is the devil himself at work in us. 
        Naboth will be faithful to God and His inheritance even though it will cost him his life. Jesus also made it clear that there will be a cost to following Him. In Jesus' commendations and instructions to the seven churches, He told them what they needed to correct to overcome. (Revelation 2:1 - 3:1-22)   Sin and our fleshly ways cannot defeat the devil.  Jesus told us to take up our cross daily and follow Him. Being faithful to Jesus is not an easy task. But, He has assured us that He and the power of His Holy Spirit will be with us to make us overcomers over the devil and his trickery and wickedness.
        Naboth means “fruits” and Jezreel means “that which God has sown or planted.” Naboth knew that God had sown this vineyard and placed it in his hands. Naboth was thankful for what he had, but Ahab coveted his neighbor's vineyard.

Symbolism of Vineyard

        A vineyard in scripture symbolizes God's people – in the Older Testament Israel ( Isaiah 5:1-7), and in the New Testament the Body of Christ (Matthew 20:1-16) made up of both Jews and Gentiles, males and females, bond servants and free. In the Older Testament, women, gentiles and servants were separated in the Temple. Jesus is all-inclusive. All can come to His throne of grace. What was excluded in the Older Testament, Jesus includes. Why? He is God and God is Lord over all.  Perhaps God chose Israel and gave them the Law to test them to see if they would be prideful of being set apart for God. Pride in any fashion is the root of all evil (sin).  The Law showed what mankind can do, but grace shows what only God can do.  Jesus would come and illustrate the Perfect Man in the flesh who had the fullness of God and the Holy Spirit.  Jesus was both fully God and fully Man--perfect.  Only God who is perfect can live up to His high, holy standard. As fully God, Jesus had the fullness of Truth, the fullness of the Father and the fullness of the Holy Spirit because He was the Seed of God not Man and was without sin -- pure.   Jesus was also fully Man. He walked as Man in fullness because He had no sin--perfect Man.  By God sending His pure, perfect Son to earth to atone for the sin of the world, only God would get the glory.  It is the nature of mankind or even a nation to want to take some of the glory that belongs to God/Jesus/Holy Spirit alone!

Double-edge of Vineyard

        A vineyard is also double-edged in scripture. In John 15:2, Jesus is speaking a parable about the Vine and the branches. Jesus says that He is the True Vine and His followers are the branches. Then He says that He “cuts off every branch in Him that bears no fruit!” v2. In other words, if we are not bearing any fruit for His Kingdom, we are worthless to Him. Jesus saves us for a purpose. He has a kingdom to be established on earth as it is in heaven. Those who do bear fruit, Jesus will prune so they will produce even more fruit. Growing spiritually is a process so patience with ourselves and others is a necessity.  Jesus illustrated this also in the fruitless tree that He cursed. This is the only time Jesus cursed in the gospels.  A tree without fruit is worthless to the hungry. The tree that Jesus cursed withered and died. Matthew 21:19-21
      Because Ahab, even though an Israelite, was not bearing any fruit for God's Kingdom and continued to practice evil, God cut him off. When his son Ahaziah was killed, Ahab had no more seed and his line was cut off. God at some point has to cut off the wicked or they will eventually infiltrate and draw every human into their web of evil and deception. As wickedness grows it becomes more powerful.  When we set aside God and His ways and values, the only result can be more wickedness.  One only has to look at the world today to see this happening!

        Ahab's Request – 1 Kings 21:2

               Ahab went to Naboth and asked him to let Ahab have his vineyard for an herb garden since it is close to his land and palace. Ahab told Naboth that he would exchange the vineyard for a better vineyard of Naboth's choice if that is what Naboth preferred. He would also be willing to pay whatever it is worth if Naboth didn't like the other offer.

       Naboth's Response – 1 Kings 21:3

          But Naboth replied, “The Lord forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my fathers.” 1 Kings 21:3 Naboth cherished his gift from God and his forefathers. He would not give it away or sell it to wicked Ahab.

       Ahab's Reaction 1 Kings 21:4

            Like a spoiled child, Ahab went back to his palace pouting, angry and resentful because he didn't get what he wanted. He sulked and refused to eat.

       Jezebel's Rebuke and Plot – 1 Kings 21:5-15

           Soon his wicked wife Jezebel came in and noticed his countenance. She asks Ahab why he is so sullen and wouldn't eat. Ahab tells her what had happened.....like a child crying to his mommy because he didn't get what he wanted. The New Testament says now that we are adults, we are to put away our childish ways. (1 Corinthians 13:11)

Look at how Jezebel responded:
  • First, she belittled her husband the king. “Are you not the king of Israel?” v 7  In other words, “Is this how the king of Israel should act? Can you not get anything you want as the king?”
  • Then she orders her husband to get up and eat. She disrespected and belittled him, usurped his authority and ordered him around.
  • Next she tells him to cheer up because she will get him the land of Naboth the Jezreelite. In other words, “don't worry, if you are too weak to do it, I'll do it for you!”

          Ahab who is supposed to be head of his household never questioned Jezebel as to how she was going to get the property nor did he ever question her when she did get it. It didn't matter to him because he wanted it! And he probably felt that what he didn't know wouldn't hurt him. This is not the case with God! It will hurt him because God sees and knows all things. God will not only hold Jezebel accountable, He will hold Ahab accountable because he is to be the head of his household. It will cost Ahab and Jezebel their lives. Ahab was not the head of his household nor was he the head of Israel – Jezebel, his domineering, wicked wife was!
             God will also hold the devil and his harlot bride responsible for possessing His property by bringing people into his wicked ways and eternal death.  The devil and his harlot bride will reap what they sowed -- eternal death.
The Plot and Proclamation

       To further illustrate how Jezebel usurped her husband the king's authority, she took his royal signet ring that is used to stamp royal documents as coming from the king, wrote letters in Ahab's name, placed his signet ring's seal on them and sent them to the elders and nobles who lived in Naboth's city. The letter said, “Proclaim a day of fasting and seat Naboth in the honored place among the people. But seat two scoundrels opposite him and have them testify that he has cursed both God and the king. Then take him out and stone him to death.” 1 Kings 21:9-10
        The whole system is corrupt from the top down. Jezebel is so powerful that even the nobles and the elders bowed down to her demands. One cannot help but see that this is happening on earth today also. The whole system is getting corrupt! The elders and the nobles would be Jezebel's co-conspirators against God's righteous one.  Christianity is being attacked today from the top down. There is nothing new under the sun!
       Nobles and elders are to judge righteously but these are corrupt. In Deuteronomy 18:18-20, God tells Moses to appoint judges and officials from each tribe in every town the Lord gave them. These judges are to judge fairly and are not to pervert justice or show partiality. They are also not to accept bribes but are to follow justice and justice alone. Obviously, this was not happening in the Northern Kingdom with Ahab and Jezebel as the king and queen.
        When God sees that wickedness is reaching its peak as it was in the days of Noah and Lot, God will take action. He will also take action against Ahab and Jezebel.
      Jezebel under the letter sealed by her husband the king tells the elders and nobles to seat Naboth at the head of the table in the prominent place. This was to be the place of honor but it became Naboth's place of judgment. The letter further instructed the elders and nobles to seat two scoundrels – wicked, worthless, good-for-nothing men – on each side of Naboth. These two false witnesses are to testify that Naboth has cursed both God and the king. According to the Law, every word must be established  by two witnesses.
      Naboth is accused of blaspheming God and the king because he refused the wicked king's request. The penalty for this is death by stoning. (see Deuteronomy 13:10; 17:5)  In the New Testament, the teachers of the Law and the high priest falsely accused Jesus of blasphemy,(Matthew 9:3; Matthew 26:65)  Jesus also had two criminals placed on each side of Him when He was hanging on the cross. As the righteous Naboth is to be counted among the criminals, so too was Jesus who was innocent.  Jesus paid the price of Naboth's penalty also.  These nobles and elders found Naboth guilty. They stoned him to death in his own land, just as Jesus was crucified in His own Land.
       Jezebel didn't commit the murder of Naboth herself. She manipulated and schemed so the nobles and elders of Jezreel would carry it out. That's how the devil works. He plots, manipulates and schemes to get his way. All he needs is a heart that is not surrendered to God to carry out his plan.
        If a man died without heirs, the land would be given to the king, similar to the way it is given to the State today.  Jezebel told Ahab that Naboth was dead and that he should go and take possession of righteous Naboth's cherished vineyard. Notice that Jezebel didn't say anything about how Naboth died and Ahab didn't ask. All Ahab wanted to know is that he got the vineyard that he wanted. Without guilt or shame, Ahab took possession of Naboth's vineyard.

The Devil and Our Flesh

       The devil still works the same way today. He is looking for hearts that aren't surrendered to God and His ways so he can infiltrate and take away God's cherished possessions – people. Believers must first of all know that there is an enemy who wants to scheme, manipulate, steal, kill and destroy, just as he tried to do with Jesus.  The devil worked through those who were against Jesus and didn't believe that He was the Messiah prophesied to come.  What the devil thought was his victory at the cross actually became his defeat. The same is true with followers of Christ. As we allow Jesus, the Word and the Holy Spirit to put our fleshly ways to death, we too become the overcomers and the victors over the enemy.
     Satan will use our weak, fleshly nature to accomplish his goal. It is imperative that we understand that our flesh is weak and can be tricked into believing the lie of the devil at any given moment. David among others is a perfect example of this when he coveted another man's wife and put her husband in harm's way so he could be killed. Satan will work through people who are close to us and even those who are not. He will also work in our own minds and hearts if we let him. If we don't believe this, we are deceived already.   The Body of Christ is called to help others as well as ourselves to overcome the works of the enemy of peoples' souls.
       The apostle Peter told his disciples to clothe themselves with humility toward one another, be self-controlled and “watch, your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” 1 Peter 5:4 Every believer must war with his flesh that is controlled by the devil because the flesh is contrary to the Spirit of God. Even though God has given us power over Satan, he remains a threat to believers and seeks to destroy them. David, the anointed one of God and a man after God's own heart wrote in Psalm 22:12-13, “many bulls surround me; strong bulls of Bashan encircle me. Roaring lions tearing their prey open their mouths wide against me.” David, the anointed one of God, was surrounded by bulls ready to gore him and roaring lions ready to tear into his flesh but David put his faith in his God to rescue him. David knew he was not warring with flesh and blood but with spiritual principalities in the heavenly realm. David knew the power of His God, so he bravely came against the Giant Goliath.  David has his faith in His God, a smooth stone and a sling.  God would direct David's stone to hit its target.  It is the Living Rock Jesus Christ whom God sent to earth who defeated Satan and his demons.  God knew the target!  It wasn't humans.  It was the spiritual principality of Satan and his followers.  The story of David and Goliath was a foreshadowing of this.
         God's anointed ones in this earthly life will have those who will tear at them like bulls and lions, but God has His heart and hand upon us so we need not fear.  God will bring us the victory if we obey Him.  We are surrounded by the wicked as David was, but like David, we too have the power – the Holy Spirit – within us to resist the devil so he will flee. We need not fear. We must first war in the Spirit within ourselves and then for others. Since God is all-powerful, walking in His ways by the power of the Holy Spirit is also powerful.  We are to stand firm in the faith and love of God because He who is within us is greater than the ruler of the world.
        God sees and knows where we are and loves us right where we are. He is a prayer away and will never walk away from us. He will love us, help us, teach and train us to be all that He wants us to be. What a wonderful God we serve. We are His vineyard—His fruitful ones. Amen

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