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Wednesday Lent 2B (1 Kings 21:1-16 / Seventh Commandment)

March 7, 2012

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Wednesday of Lent 2

7 March 2012

 

Seventh Commandment:  You Shall Not Steal

Bible Narrative: 

 

1 Kings 21:1-16

 

MF Global!  Bankrupt!  $1.2 billion of investments just goes missing!  Everyone knows it’s been stolen!  But John Corzine, the head of it all, would only say before a Senate hearing on the matter: “I simply do not know where the money is, or why the accounts have not been reconciled to date.”  I.E. that’s legalese for:  “Don’t you know who I am?  I’m the great John Corzine!  Former United States senator and New Jersey governor!  I can do whatever I want.  I am above the law!  Now let’s get this sham over with so that I can carry on with my billions and steal more billions from someone else!”

 

Sinners do not fear and love God.  And so they brazenly rob their neighbor’s money and possessions.  And they’ll do it in any dishonest way that they can!  Even if it means that they have to rig the legal system by making robbery permissible – through legislation.  Or by greasing judges’ palms or buying off lawmakers!  Whatever it takes!

 

Help folks improve and protect their possessions and income?   Look out for your neighbor?  Do what is best for him?  For her? You’ve got to be kidding!  Yeah right! John Corzine.  $1.2 billion! Gone-di!  Pulls a Bernie Madoff and gets away with it!

 

Oh, and by the way, there was another incident!  Did you hear about it?  It didn’t get any headlines on CNN or Fox News.  You didn’t read about it in the Lincoln Star or the Omaha World Herald.  But it is recorded in 1 Kings!  Yes, that’s right, it’s in the Bible!  And it involves another bigwig politician!  This time it implicates the king of the northern kingdom – Samaria – his majesty – Ahab! 

 

And what a piece of work Ahab is! “Did evil in the eyes of the LORD” 24-7-365!  Out-eviled every previous Samarian king before him!  Didn’t fear, love, or trust in God above all things!  Didn’t fear, love or trust in God at all!  For starters, he married a non-Israelite, Phoenecian unbeliever, and fanatic worshiper of idols – Jezebel!  That was strictly forbidden by the LORD! 

 

Then Ahab not only introduced but also endorsed the liturgy of Tyre into his kingdom.[1] He was very contemporary!  Very up to date!  Very relevant!  On the cutting edge!  Quite ecumenical!  Tolerant!  After all, liturgy is neutral!  Especially the foreign liturgies that bring in the crowds and cash!  

 

So Jezebel’s beloved national idol, Melkart, the Phoenician Baal, became the officially endorsed god and Baalism became the protected religion of the land of his majesty king Ahab!  Syncretism – the mixing together of different religions like a salad and calling it Food Network good — was the rage!  Still is!   “We’re all going to the same place Reverend!  We all believe in the same God!  Doesn’t really matter what religion you choose!  Just choose!  Just be sincere!  Now that’s authentic!”  

 

That sure floated Ahab’s boat!  And so all things religious were tolerated – except the worship of the one true God – the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses who brought the Israelites out of Egypt and redeemed them!  That God?  Yahweh?   The great I AM? Intolerable!  Watch out for the all-things-tolerant -crowd!  They are the most intolerant, the most tyrannical people you’ll ever meet!

 

But his majesty isn’t done yet!  He also makes an Asherah pole!  Asherah, of course, was the female consort of Baal, the female queen idol.  Can’t just have male gods!  Got to go the whole nine yards!  When it came to idolatry, his highness Ahab made the northern kingdom eat the whole enchilada of pagan delicacies! 

 

And then his majesty made political alliances that the LORD strictly had forbidden![2]  Apostasy – idolatry – spiritual adultery – the cause of Israel’s fall and her exile a century later reached a new high during Ahab’s reign!   

 

But now his majesty has his eye on a vineyard!  A vineyard he doesn’t own. It belongs to citizen and fellow countryman Naboth, his next-door neighbor.  Therefore it’s a vineyard that not even the king can have![3] 

 

But Ahab’s into vegetables.  Vegetable gardening.  And we all know the benefit of veggies!  Got to watch your cholesterol!  Need more fiber.  Less red meat.  Can’t let our children become obese!  Got to set an example for the children of Samaria!  The first family needs more land for royal veggies!  It’s all the rage!  Let’s move!

 

“So I’ll make Naboth an offer he can’t refuse!  Hey, Naboth! I’m on a veggie kick these days!  Give me your vineyard!  I want to use it to raise my carrots, peas, potatoes, spinach, and green beans.  I’ll pay you top dollar for it!  And I’ll even give you a better vineyard.  You have nothing to lose!  So much to gain!” 

 

Except the land of his forefathers.  So even though the offer was extremely sweet and outrageously generous, Naboth refuses his majesty!    “The LORD forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my fathers.” 

 

King Ahab is chagrined.  Peeved.  Irked.  He goes home and pouts.  However, even as he sulks on his bed he won’t let a private citizen keep his ancestral vineyard.  He will deprive Naboth of his inalienable right to keep his land.  He will let wifey queen cohort in crime Jezebel steal it by the most unscrupulous of maneuvers! 

 

First she taunts him.  “Honey, is this how you act as king over Israel?  Do I have to do everything?  I guess so!  We know who wears the pants in this arranged marriage don’t we?  I’ll get the vineyard for you!”  Very quick witted!  In a matter of moments she puts a plan into place.  Foolproof!  Brilliant!

 

She puts out a royal proclamation from his majesty King Ahab.  With his own seal!  Declares a fast!  For an entire day!  Everyone has to go without food!  Gather all the people!  The nobles and elders too!  Court will be in session!  For a very serious matter has come to the king’s attention!  And everyone should know about it!  There are witnesses to this capital crime!  And the perpetrator must be punished! 

 

The charge?  Oh, yes, the charge!  Blasphemy and treason!  Citizen Naboth has cursed God!  And He has cursed his majesty Ahab! Got to get rid of the sinner Naboth!  Otherwise God’s judgment would be unleashed on the whole country. 

 

So let us all humble ourselves with our day of fasting!  And let us put notorious Naboth and his boys to death!  We’ll show God that we don’t tolerate such sinning here!  And God will be most pleased with us!  So gather all the rocks you can everyone — the size of tennis balls, volleyballs, and basketballs outside the city gate!  It will be death!  Death by stoning! 

 

As soon as Jezebel received word that the grisly affair was over, she drew up the proper paperwork, contacted the appropriate attorneys and sent his majesty to take possession of Naboth’s vineyard.  “Now be a good little boy Ahab!  Naboth’s dead.  And so are his heirs.[4]  The vineyard’s all yours!  It reverts back to you!  Aren’t I brilliant?  I sometime surprise myself with my genius!” 

 

And humanly speaking who would object?  After all, you can’t go around cursing God and the king!  That’s just not right.  So go ahead your majesty!  Confiscate the vineyard!  Naboth and his boys got what they deserved.

 

Except that the testimony was completely false.  The witnesses were liars.  Paid off.  Bribed.  Just so that Ahab could get what he wanted!

 

But this horrific crime did not go unpunished.  The LORD dealt with the king through Elijah the prophet.  Elijah had a Word from the Lord.  And it was this:  DOOM!  Doom of extinction on the royal husband and wife for the unparalleled wickedness!  Right as Ahab was taking possession of the stolen vineyard Pastor Elijah showed up with a sermon in his mouth.  And the sermon was this:  “This is what the LORD says:  ‘Have you not murdered a man and seized his property?’ … ‘In the place where dogs licked up Naboth’s blood, dogs will lick up your blood – yes yours!’”[5]    

 

This story serves as an example and warning to all of us!  God is serious when he forbids stealing!  From petty to grand!  Any kind of stealing displeases the Lord.  Seriously!  This is no joke! 

 

What have you stolen?  You worked 30 hours but got paid for 40!  The cashier mistakenly gave you $10.00 in change when you only should have received $5.00.  And you kept the extra $5.00!  You promised to do a job using topnotch materials.  But instead you installed shoddy, worthless stuff.  You failed to report your proper income to the IRS. 

 

And then the biggest theft of all!  And the most common!  You even try to steal divinity for yourself!  Yes, that’s right.  Divinity doesn’t belong to you!  Yet you want it for yourself.  As if you own it!   You act like you’re God Almighty Himself!  “I shall be as God” is your mantra.  Your M O!  Dethrone the one true God and replace Him with yourself!  Even if that means taking the God-man in the flesh Jesus and killing Him!  To take what we want as our own — deity! 

 

Oh, the Idolatry!  You, me, Ahab, Jezebel – the sin is equally shared by all of us!  We’re all guilty as sin!     

 

And it’s all sin that needs to be repented of!  Before it’s too late. Hellaciuosly too late!

 

So it’s time to repent and believe.  To turn away from your sin!  Die to it!  And turn to Jesus “who being in very nature God did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but MADE HIMSELF NOTHING, TAKING ON THE VERY NATURE OF A SERVANT, BEING MADE IN HUMAN LIKENESS.  And being found in appearance as a man he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!”[6]

 

Death on the cross as THE SIN-BEARER!  The bearer of your sin!  Every last bit of it!  

 

Dead-on-the-Cross Jesus is the only sacrifice that turns away God’s wrath from you as a sinner!  On that Good Friday He, and He alone, endured God’s eternal wrath that you deserved because of your sin.  “He who knew no sin was made to be sin” – FOR YOU!  On the cross Jesus took and absorbed all your sin in His Body!  He endured all its punishment:  death and damnation!  His blood, His divine blood, spilled and shed on the cross purifies you from all sin!

 

Forgiven and redeemed by His death, Jesus gives you back your humanity!  He has good use for you.  You are now His instruments in this world for good.  The good of your neighbor.  Helping folks to improve and protect their possessions and income! 

 

In the name of Jesus.    

 


     [1]1 Kings 16:29-34.

     [2]1 Kings 20:31-34.

     [3]Deuteronomy 17:14-20; 1 Samuel 10:25; Leviticus 25:23-28; Number 26:7ff.

     [4]2 Kings 9:26

     [5]1 Kings 21:19.

     [6]Philippians 2:6-8.

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