Naboth's Death 

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Naboth’s Death

“So they took him outside the city and stoned him to death.”

              1 Kings 21:13

 

The official news was that Naboth had been stoned to death because of his blasphemy. The common people, who had no idea of the truth, might have been indifferent about the whole thing, believing that the man deserved to die.

Did Naboth have any regrets while stones who falling on him from above? Did the man wish he had done otherwise and yielded to Ahab before he took his last breath? This we will never know, but one thing we know was the man must have pondered about the possible consequences before he made such a decision.

If the cause was truly worthy, it was worth dying for.

He could easily have found justification for selling his land, since he could use the money from the sale to buy another lot. His ancestors would have consented about the selling since the potential buyer was the king who would do him harm if the transaction failed to materialize.

Naboth wasn’t a man who could easily be persuaded to compromise his long-held principles. Not only was the land the inheritance from his fathers, it was also the symbol of God’s blessing upon his family. From this point of view, giving up the land would have been a form of betrayal, both against the Lord and his forefathers. Naboth must have thought about it long and hard before he made up his mind, and he wouldn’t budge an inch after the conclusion had been reached.

It was out of his fear of the Lord and respect for his forefathers that Naboth made such a critical decision and it ended up costing him his life. Had we been placed in his position, would we have reached the same conclusion? A good question to ponder, isn’t it?

I am afraid some important decisions we have made were made on the basis of expediency for the most part, for I have seen so many Christians who seemed to have a cavalier attitude toward their decision-making. They often left God out of the equation and they always made perfect justifications for their decisions after they had been made. What we should do is to put our intention and prejudice aside and seek the Lord first and hear the voice from above before making a final decision. I believe Naboth must have gone through this process in his decision-making, and his resolution was God-honoring.

Humanly speaking, the consequence for Naboth was tragic indeed and we may conclude that he had made a wrong choice; yet from a divine point of view, Naboth was a man of honor, courage, and integrity who held onto what he believed to be God’s will and was willing to die for his belief if it became necessary. Some of us may deem him foolish, but the man was really quite admirable.   

        

Posted by Robert Sea Monday, November 25, 2013 6:53:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Justice Abused 

MTS-3629

Justice Abused

“They proclaimed a fast and seated Naboth in a prominent place among the people.”         1 Kings 21:12

 

We have no inkling whether the elders and leaders of Naboth’s city knew the incident that occurred between Ahab and Naboth or not. They might have heard something about it, since it was not an everyday occurrence that the king desired to purchase a lot from one of his subjects. More extraordinary than that, the one who owned the land had the audacity to turn it down. The matter could have easily made a great stir in the otherwise tranquil town. Perhaps people were eagerly waiting to see how the event would transpire. Well, they didn’t have to wait too long. A fast was called and Naboth was the one who was targeted.

Why did they call a fast before they gathered together to determine how they were going to handle the issue concerning Naboth? Indeed they had been told what to do by the queen and the process of carrying out Jezebel’s order was mere formality. They had decided to stone Naboth, who was innocent, but it was necessary to bring God into the equation to legitimatize the evil they were going to do. To kill the innocent they must; but they must kill in God’s name to soothe their guilty consciences. Therefore they called a fast, an occasion to seek God’s will concerning the impending issue, which was the judgment and execution of Naboth.

What would the Lord have told the elders and nobles while they were fasting, if they were truly fasting at all? How could they, both the religious and civic leaders of the city, proclaim a fast, a solemn occasion for people to confess their sins and to seek God’s guidance, to justify the great evil they were about to commit?

The fast was entirely void of any spiritual significance; it was merely a religious activity that people routinely attended, an outward form with no spiritual essence at all. It wasn’t their intention to plead for God’s mercy or to seek God’s will through their fast; they merely sought God’s stamp of approval on what they had determined to do.

Some of the elders and nobles must have known Naboth, who might have been their neighbor and friend, and were convinced that he was indeed innocent; but it mattered very little to them. Had they failed to carry out the queen’s wishes, they themselves might have been in big trouble; therefore, without the slightest hesitance, they all decided that Naboth had to die, albeit the man was totally innocent.

Did the elders and nobles of Naboth’s city have absolutely no sense of justice? Not so at all. They would feel bad after it was all over and a guilty conscience would vex them the rest of their lives. Their self-protective mechanism kicked in during the critical moment when they were called on to stand up for justice, and they would forever be labeled as cowards and abusers of justice.         

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, November 22, 2013 6:05:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Being a King 

MTS-3628

Being a King

“Is this how you act as king over Israel?”

              1 Kings 21:7

 

How is a king supposed to act? Queen Jezebel obviously had a clear idea how Ahab should act under such circumstances as Naboth and his vineyard. She was, in fact, scolding her husband for being a weakling who didn’t have the courage to exercise his kingly authority. It was quite simple for her, really, for what a king couldn’t obtain with words he should take by force.

If that was the case, why was Ahab so reluctant to do what he was entitled to?

Unlike the evil queen, Ahab seemed to possess a little of a redeeming quality in him that appeared to have kept him from doing something he really wanted to do. The king was corrupt, but he was not as corrupt as he could possibly have been. He was the king, yet he still had some trouble believing that he owned the entire nation and could take whatever he wanted away from his subjects.

Jezebel seemed to believe so, however, and her idea was in line with all the other eastern tyrants in her time. In fact, her perception of kingship was likely derived from her father, who was probably a ruthless tyrant himself.

Indeed, if all the bells and whistles were taken away from the throne, many people would lose the motivation to risk his or her own life fighting for the position. What makes absolute power so seductive to people is that the ones who possess such power can do absolutely anything, without having to be held accountable by anyone. Chinese emperors throughout history were esteemed as “sons of heaven,” for they were deified and were endowed with an absolute power which enabled them to take as many wives and accumulate as much gold as they desired.

What Ahab was doing was laughable to Jezebel and with a stroke of a pen, she quickly got what Ahab wanted, the land and all. Could the king then enjoy his vegetable garden fully, even though the lot was purchased by Naboth’s blood? Would the blood of the innocent cry out from the ground, causing the king to turn pale and to tremble with terror?

Ahab had committed many evil deeds, and with his wife’s help, he added yet another to his long list of iniquities. In King Ahab’s case, possessing absolute power and having a beautiful princess as his wife was actually a curse rather than a blessing, for both equipped him to commit more sins than he normally would have.

Surely we all have cause to be grateful for being ordinary, because we have very little idea to what extent power and wealth would corrupt us.      

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, November 21, 2013 6:34:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Naboth 

MTS-3627

Naboth

“The Lord forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my ancestors.”

              1 Kings 21:3

 

Had Naboth thought more about the consequence of not consenting to Ahab’s request, he would have yielded. Obviously he knew who Ahab was and what he was capable of doing. The king was a tyrant who had shed much innocent blood in Israel, and it wouldn’t have been all that difficult to do the same to Naboth, a man with neither social standing nor military might. He was merely a landowner who happened to own a lot that Ahab desired to possess.

Naboth, however, was a man of principle and integrity who feared the Lord and strived to do what was right. His understanding of the law was that he must keep the land he had inherited from his ancestors. It would have been a form of betrayal had he sold to the highest bidder, no matter who the person was. Besides, the land was a visible sign of God’s invisible blessing toward his family and in his family it should have remained forever.

It was preposterous for Ahab to make such an unreasonable request, knowing all the ramifications that might be incurred, and it put Naboth in an awkward situation. The man had no choice but to turn down the request, albeit the decision might be rather costly.

We may be called to make such a difficult decision from time to time in our daily walk with the Lord, and the decision we make or fail to make may determine what sort of persons we are and how committed we are to Christ. The decision may be quite small concerning our daily activities, but it may be a big one, like whether to make an expensive purchase or not.

Years ago we were moved by the Spirit to buy a house in a rundown neighborhood near the church we were going to build. Although I was quite reluctant to do it at the time, for I had grown emotionally attached to our previous house, we ended up buying the old house, for we believed it was a God-honoring thing to do. Buying and selling of property is something people do so routinely that they hardly turn to the Lord for advice which, I believe, is a serious oversight. The house or land we buy does reflect who we are to a certain extent.

It wasn’t capricious at all that Naboth refused to sell his vineyard to Ahab; it was out of his fear of the Lord that he declined the king’s proposal. And it didn’t end well for him. Had Naboth known what price he would have to pay for his decision, would he still have done the same thing? I wonder. It might not have had made any difference to Naboth, since we know upon what ground he was making such a decision. If something is truly right, it may be worth dying for.        

  

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, November 20, 2013 6:16:00 AM Categories: Devotional

A Vineyard 

MTS-3626

A Vineyard

“Some time later there was an incident involving a vineyard belonging to Naboth the Jezreelite.”       1 Kings 21:1

 

This wasn’t a life and death issue for Ahab, really. It was just so strange that the king was bothered by not being able to acquire a vineyard that belonged to one of his subjects, considering he had just dealt with a strong army which had sought to take over the entire nation not long before. In the scheme of things, a vineyard would have meant very little to the king if Ben-Hadad was about to occupy his country.

Fortunately for the king, and with the Lord’s help, things quieted down and Ahab was able to switch his attention to something else. His country was preserved and the king started to entertain himself with smaller issues - a luxury here and there that gave him pleasure in his otherwise monotonous life after the war.

Was the king into organic gardening at the time? Possibly, for he was contemplating starting a vegetable garden in the vineyard that was close to his palace, but the lot belonged to Naboth the Jezreelite.

When it looked like the project would fail, for Naboth refused to sell the land, the king became depressed. Why was the incident so devastating that it turned the king’s emotions into a tailspin? Being the king of a nation, Ahab could have done a lot of things to occupy his mind and he could have focused his attention on many other projects if one thing failed to materialize. The more wealthy and powerful people are, the more options they possess. Evidently, Ahab’s options at the time were inexhaustible, yet for some strange reasons, his thoughts were totally occupied by Naboth’s vineyard and his failure to acquire it.

It might not have been the failure of purchasing the vineyard that truly bothered the king; it was his wounded self-esteem and injured pride that caused the king to become utterly dejected and depressed. How was it possible for a king’s request to be spurned by his subject? How embarrassing and disheartening! “What is the use of being a king if a mere man can bring such a great insult on my head,” the king lamented. 

Obviously Ahab had entertained the option that his evil wife suggested subsequently but, being a soft-hearted person, he was incapable of committing such cruelty against an innocent man totally on his own. He needed help to become something that he wasn’t, and Jezebel was just the woman he needed. Ahab wouldn’t have become a tyrant had Jezebel been absent from his life. There were still some redeeming qualities in the man, albeit they rarely surfaced.

Jezebel was the one who turned Ahab into what he was. Unfortunately a man’s destiny can easily be swayed and shaped by a

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, November 19, 2013 6:18:00 AM Categories: Devotional

God's Justice 

MTS-3625

God’s Justice

“And after the man went away, a lion found him and killed him.”

         1 Kings 20:36

 

The man was innocent, wasn’t he? He refused to do something he considered inappropriate, yet he was punished severely for it. One of his fellow prophets asked the man to strike him for no reason and he was subsequently killed by a lion. This is one of those irrational things that puzzles us when we read the Scriptures and causes us to question whether something like that actually took place; or even if it did, the interpretation given by the narrator must have been a little off. Surely the prophet had a message for Ahab, but was it necessary that a man had to perish for the mission to get accomplished.

In so many incidents, the prophets in the Old Testament era seemed to have gone through extra measures to get their messages across, and some of the measures appear to be so outlandish from our point of view. I suppose there was perfectly good reason for the prophet to lay on one side for months and then the other side for the same length of time in order to deliver his message from the Lord. I guess it only goes to prove that the Lord truly had told his prophets to do those things, for they seem so unbelievable to human understanding. Hosea could have delivered the Lord’s message straightforwardly, yet he was told to go through the trouble and agony of taking an adulterer to be his wife.

I suppose these unusual acts were parts of the “body-language” the prophets learned to speak in the old era, which was something John the Baptist spoke as well. All the seemingly strange things the prophets preformed in public did, in fact, have a special effect on the prophetic message they were going to preach, didn’t they?

The prophet who was killed by a lion might have refused to cooperate with his fellow prophet in carrying out the mission the Lord had assigned them to do, and he suffered the consequences of his disobedience. We may be quick to judge when we encounter something in the Scriptures that eludes our understanding or goes beyond our rationality, not realizing that some details of the Biblical narrative might have been deemed too superfluous to be included or such commonly-accepted knowledge demanded no further elaboration.

The prophet did something wrong and he was killed. Evidently this was how the incident was understood for thousands of years by Jewish readers, and not until quite recently have readers started to raise questions.

Who are we to question the sovereign God who does all things according to his will? Everything he has done is just and good by his perfect standard. We can mourn the prophet’s untimely death, but to label it as unjust is to bring judgment on our heads, for by doing so we deem ourselves more just than God.         

Posted by Robert Sea Monday, November 18, 2013 6:57:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Desperation 

MTS-3624

Desperation

“Wearing sackcloth around their waists and ropes around their heads, they went to the king of Israel…”         1 Kings 20:32

 

Ben-Hadad, king of the Arameans, was pompous and full of confidence that he would succeed in defeating the Israelites, for his troops were well-equipped after a year-long preparation for the campaign. Not only had he replaced all the kings that participated in the previous battle, he had also taken the spiritual element into consideration by deciding to fight the war on the plains, because he thought the God of Israel was the God of hills.

Despite all the king had done, the end result was the same as before. Ben-Hadad suffered a disastrous defeat, in which he lost most of his troops and found himself running for his life. After all hope was lost, the king was at the mercy of Ahab.

What could the king have done except to do what was necessary to save his hide? Gone was his powerful kingdom and vanished was his arrogance and confidence; his life was hanging by a thread.

What else could the man rely on in such a critical moment? He couldn’t have summoned his generals and his troops to protect him for all of them had perished. His gods remained deathly silent and he couldn’t even muster enough faith to utter a prayer to them. The mercy of Ahab remained his only hope of survival and he would have done anything to appease the king of Israel. 

O how the tables had turned! A mere year before, Ahab was willing to give up his wives and children to appease Ben-Hadad, yet now it was the Aramean king who was pleading for his life. “Wearing sackcloth around their waists and ropes around their heads, they went to the king of Israel,” we read.

No one can afford to be arrogant when they face the distinct possibility of death, be they king or queens, tyrants or peasants. Death makes cowards of us all. “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” Indeed no one can extend his life for a single second, even with an entire world, if it’s the time for him to go.

Ben-Hadad did what was his last resort - he did what he could to show his humbleness to persuade Ahab to show mercy and to spare his life. This might have been a cause for celebration, but in only a matter of years he would encounter the same situation and that would be the end of him.

Prolonging our earthly days isn’t the ultimate solution for us at all, for we will find ourselves facing the same dilemma years later. Therefore, instead of humbling ourselves before men and seeking for their help, we might as well bow down before God and ask for real healing and the true life that comes with it.

Ben-Hadad’s life was spared temporarily out of Ahab’s mercy, but his life would eventually be destroyed eternally, for he failed to plead for mercy before the Almighty.       

Posted by Robert Sea Friday, November 15, 2013 6:16:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Seven Days 

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Seven Days

“For seven days they camped opposite each other, and on the seventh day the battle was joined.”         1 Kings 20:29

 

The troops weren’t doing a lot of things during those seven days while they were waiting for the bugle to sound to launch their attack, yet they were undoubtedly doing a lot of contemplating. Impending danger or death heightens people’s senses and causes them to become more alert and therefore to think more clearly. I suppose that was what the Israelites were doing - thinking about their past and contemplating about their future beyond the seven days.

They did not have the luxury of thinking about what they would be doing after the war. Had they done so, there would have always been an “if” clause placed before all their contemplation. “I would do such and such if I survive this war.” Some might have held onto the hope of survival, albeit the chances were extremely slim.

We don’t let ourselves go there, even though our situation is not necessarily better than the Israelites camping opposite a formidable enemy, for seven days and seven years are essentially the same if death is inevitable. We may have more time to prepare for that fateful moment, yet the length of time may cause us to become more complacent and lose a sense of urgency.

“Well, I still have a lot of time left and I will start to consider the issue when I am old.” Why entertain such a morbid issue if we can put it off?

The issue is so important that we should not wait until we lie on our death beds to entertain the topic of eternal destiny, when our minds become so foggy that we can hardly think straight. I have done a few death bed baptisms in the past twenty years, but I always felt ill at ease every time I did them, for I wasn’t quite sure the gravely-ill persons knew exactly what they were doing. Foxhole confessions may be quite genuine, but they are nonetheless driven by danger and imminent death.

The issue of death becomes less morbid if it is still pretty far off, therefore we can think about it in a more objective fashion. Besides, we don’t prepare ourselves for death by accepting Jesus as our Savior; we prepare ourselves for life instead when we turn to Christ, for eternal life starts from here and now, not in the distant future.

What do we do if we only have seven days left on earth? What if we find ourselves unable to receive Christ’s redemption during that short period of time, because we are overcome by the sorrow of departing from the world we love and leaving our loved ones behind?  It becomes terrifying both to meet our Maker and to encounter the immensity of eternal nothingness, which we are equipped to face neither.      

Posted by Robert Sea Thursday, November 14, 2013 6:09:00 AM Categories: Devotional

War 

MTS-3622

War

“The Israelites camped opposite them like two small flocks of goats, while the Arameans covered the countryside.”        1 Kings 20:27

 

Yes, there seemed to be no escape for the Israelites this time. The threat was overwhelming and defeat was a distinct possibility. Everyone with eyes could see the vast difference between the troops from both sides and come to a conclusion which side was going to prevail at the end.

The most difficult moment was the moment before arrows started to fly and spears and swords start to clash and ear-piercing war cries were heard. Waiting for the critical moment seemed like eternity and the anticipation became increasing unbearable. They were alert like all who were facing death and could hardly wait for the fateful moment to arrive and bring everything to an end.

They were going to perish and they knew it too. The Arameans were going to be victorious at the end of the day since they outnumbered the Israelites by so much. “The Israelites camped opposite them like two small flocks of goats, while the Arameans covered the countryside.” Indeed the Israelites were merely “two small flocks of goats,” waiting to be swallowed up and to be slaughtered.

What entered into their minds as they were holding their position on the hill, waiting for the horn to sound, beckoning them to charge against their enemies, to rush full speed toward the inevitable, with their spears and swords raised high and their veins bursting with a sudden explosion of blood.

Every little detail of their young lives must have fleshed right in front of their eyes as they were running toward their death, and their minds seemed to be crowded with so many images that they were unable to focus on one single thing. They must have said their good-byes to their loved ones in their minds numerous times, which didn’t seem to make it any easier for them to say their farewell for the very last time.

Finally finality had arrived and, ready or not, they must move forward and meet the shape point of a spear with their bare chest. Death, the inevitable and the undefeatable, was there, blinking at them and sneering at them with a sinister face.

Why was death, a premature death, necessary for them, the ones whose lives were yet to reach their peak and whose immense potential was yet to be realized? There were maidens yet to be taken and marriages yet to be celebrated, children yet to be brought into the world and families yet to be formed; there were songs to be sung and poetry to be composed and, O so much joy yet to be discovered and fully appreciated.

War is hell, no doubt, but who are the ones to be held responsible for its constant rage? Who are the tyrants, the greedy, the ambitious, and the generals who have paved their path of success with other people’s flesh and cemented their career with the blood of other people’s sons and daughters?

Posted by Robert Sea Wednesday, November 13, 2013 6:40:00 AM Categories: Devotional

Misperception 

MTS-3621

Misperception

“Their gods are gods of the hills. That is why they were too strong for us.”

               1 Kings 20:23

 

“Well, we weren’t well-prepared for the battle. That was why we were defeated so soundly,” some of the more rational Aramean generals might have remarked.

“No, no, you are totally off. We were just overly confident and didn’t take our enemies seriously. That was the key to our failure,” a few others commented.

“You guys are all wrong,” argued others, who were looking at things from a supernatural perspective. “Their gods are gods of the hills.”

Everybody became quiet after they heard this. How could they argue against the ones who seemed to be in tune with the spiritual? Indeed it was a conversation stopper when the gods were brought up. Yes, they all agreed that the gods of the Israelites were to blame.

This was the issue: they had absolutely no idea who the God of the Israelites was and how he operated in the world. They seemed to assume that the Israelites embraced more than one deity.

“We will fight them on the plains to render their God ineffective,” some of them made the proposal.

“Agreed! We would have defeated them had we fought the battle elsewhere,” others exclaimed.

Naturally the Arameans perceived the gods according to human reasoning and understanding. Since the gods were created according to their own image, their creations were endowed with human weaknesses as well. Their gods were gods of various locations and had different deficiencies, just like they themselves.

“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?” wrote the Psalmist.

Whether they fought on the plains or upon the hills, the outcome would have been the same. The Lord was sovereign over all and no one could have altered what God had preordained.

So the Arameans continued to formulate their strategy and tried to figure out an air-tight plan that would guarantee their success. After they discovered the reason for their failure and rooted it out, they were fully assured that victory would be theirs.

Yet they got it all wrong. The God of the Israelites was an omnipresent God who was on the plains as well as in the hills, and their misperception of the Lord would lead to another devastating destruction. This only goes to show how important it is for us to have a correct view of the Lord, for our failure or success as a person totally hinges on how we perceive the Almighty.

 

 

Posted by Robert Sea Tuesday, November 12, 2013 6:42:00 AM Categories: Devotional
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