Partial script for the May 6th episode of the “Enjoying the Bible” podcast.
Welcome to the May 6th episode of the “Enjoying the Bible” podcast. I’m Matt Ellis and I’m the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Polk City, Florida.
Today’s reading is in 1 Kings 21-22. Hopefully, you’ve already spent time in God’s Word so let’s get started.
1 Kings 21
As we begin reading 1 Kings 21, we have arrived at a story where a horrible injustice takes place. But, as the reader looks back on the story, we have the ability to realize that God is a good and righteous God and will not let injustice go unnoticed. Within the next few chapters, punishment is dished out by the Heavenly Judge.
One other thing I will mention before jumping into the story. You may have heard of the late Pastor Adrian Rogers who led Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis, Tennessee for a few decades and his radio ministry “Love Worth Finding.” In his sermons, he periodically spoke of a previous pastor at Bellevue named Dr. R. G. Lee. Well, Pastor R.G. Lee was well known for preaching a sermon on the story we’re going to look at today. He titled the sermon, “Pay Day Someday,” and it was so popular that he was asked to preach it more than 1,200 times in churches across the United States. I will provide a link to this sermon in the show notes. It’s delivered in a different style than sermons today but it is a classic and worthy of your time.
Now, let’s get to the story. At the beginning of 1 Kings 21, we are introduced to someone we have not yet met. His name is Naboth.
1 Kings 21:1 (CSB): “Some time passed after these events. Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard; it was in Jezreel next to the palace of King Ahab of Samaria.”
As we read further, we realize that king Ahab wanted this plot of land. It was conveniently located next to his palace and he desired to plant a garden in it. So, he approached Naboth and asked for the land. He told Naboth he would either give him a better plot of land or would give him the property’s worth in silver.
Naboth refused. Why?
1 Kings 21:3 (CSB): “But Naboth said to Ahab, ‘As the Lord is my witness, I will never give my ancestors’ inheritance to you.’”
When we read passages like Leviticus 25:23-28 and Numbers 36:7, we realize that the Lord had forbidden the selling of one’s ancestral property. It was to remain in the possession of the Israel family and certainly never to be transferred from one tribe to another. So, Naboth was obeying the Mosaic Law.
But while Naboth was being ruled by the Law, Ahab was being ruled by his passions. He went to the palace “resentful and angry.” When he arrived, “He lay on his bed, turned his face away, and didn’t eat any food.” My goodness! He’s pouting like a little child!
When his wife, who acted like his mom, heard about what Naboth had done, she vowed to get that field no matter what. She was wicked and valued power. She cared nothing for the peasants and Naboth would pay dearly for denying his king what had been requested.
This really is a pitiful, wicked scene that we are looking at. The king is pouting in his bed while the queen is about to plan to have an innocent man killed so her husband can have a field to grow his vegetables.
1 Kings 21:8-10 (CSB): “8 So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name and sealed them with his seal. She sent the letters to the elders and nobles who lived with Naboth in his city. 9 In the letters, she wrote: Proclaim a fast and seat Naboth at the head of the people. 10 Then seat two wicked men opposite him and have them testify against him, saying, ‘You have cursed God and the king!’ Then take him out and stone him to death.”
As we read verses 11-14, we observe that these instructions were carried out. Naboth is falsely accused and in shock, he is thrown to the ground as his enemies threw rocks at him until he died.
When Jezebel heard about it, she told her husband … who was still pouting in bed. He got up and went down to look at his new piece of property.
Everything in us is crying out for justice. An innocent man, a man who was merely obeying God’s Law, is murdered. And the evil woman, who orchestrated his death, and the pouting man who was completely unmoved by the injustice are alive and well. Where is justice?!
My friend, God is a good God. He is also just. The Bible makes this abundantly clear. Sometimes He chooses not to administer justice until after a person steps through death’s door and stands before Him to be judged. But, there are plenty of times when He makes things right in the here and now. This story shows us what it looks like when God administers justice in a timely manner.
1 Kings 21:17 (CSB): “17 Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite: 18 ‘Get up and go to meet King Ahab of Israel, who is in Samaria. He’s in Naboth’s vineyard, where he has gone to take possession of it. 19 Tell him, “This is what the Lord says: Have you murdered and also taken possession?” Then tell him, “This is what the Lord says: In the place where the dogs licked up Naboth’s blood, the dogs will also lick up your blood!” ’ ”
So, the Lord spoke through Elijah to pronounce judgment upon Ahab. But what about Jezebel? She’s actually the one who conspired to kill Naboth. Just listen as Elijah speaks to Ahab.
1 Kings 21:23 (CSB): “The Lord also speaks of Jezebel: ‘The dogs will eat Jezebel in the plot of land at Jezreel:’”
The Lord also pronounced judgment upon Ahab’s family. They would be wiped out like the family of Jeroboam because of all his evil.
Then, we observe something spectacular. We can’t help but see how wicked Ahab is but we get a deeper understanding of just how gracious God is. When Ahab hears all of this, we’re told that “he tore his clothes, put sackcloth over his body, and fasted. He lay down in sackcloth and walked around subdued” (v.27).
If I were in God’s place, I would have been unmoved. Ahab is so utterly wicked that his repentance would mean nothing to me. But, friend, God is not like us. He is moved when He sees broken people. So, the Lord sent one more message to Ahab.
1 Kings 21:28-29 (CSB): “28 Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite: 29 ‘Have you seen how Ahab has humbled himself before me? I will not bring the disaster during his lifetime, because he has humbled himself before me. I will bring the disaster on his house during his son’s lifetime.’”
Do you want to get God’s attention? Then just humble yourself before Him. Cry out to Him. Be broken before Him. Weep over your sin or your desperate need. He is attracted to broken people.
Just listen to what Isaiah said about how our God is attracted to those who humble themselves before Him…
Isaiah 57:15 (CSB): “For the High and Exalted One, who lives forever, whose name is holy, says this: ‘I live in a high and holy place, and with the oppressed and lowly of spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly and revive the heart of the oppressed.’”
1 Kings 22
1 Kings 22:1-4 (CSB): “1 There was a lull of three years without war between Aram and Israel. 2 However, in the third year, King Jehoshaphat of Judah went to visit the king of Israel.”
Everything within us wants to reach into the pages of Scripture, grab Jehoshaphat by the collar, give him a good shaking, and ask him why in the world he would visit with such a wicked king. It’s only going to mess him up!
1 Corinthians 15:33 (CSB): “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals.’”
King Ahab asked King Jehoshaphat if he would go to war with him against Aram. Aram had claimed a city that belonged to Israel and Ahab wanted it back.
At least we read in verse 5 that Jehoshaphat asked Ahab, “First, please ask what the Lord’s will is.”
This should be our moment-by-moment heart’s desire. We shouldn’t make any decisions without desiring to know if we are acting in accordance with the Lord’s desires. How can we get to that place? Follow the instruction of 1 Thessalonians 5:17 where we are told to be in a state of continual prayer with the Lord.
Ahab gathered about 400 “yes-men” prophets who told Ahab to march against the king of Aram and the Lord would hand them over. Jehoshaphat could see right through this and asked in a way that immediately discredited the 400 prophets and Ahab for assuming that the Lord for speaking through them.
1 Kings 22:7 (CSB): “But Jehoshaphat asked, ‘Isn’t there a prophet of the Lord here anymore? Let’s ask him.’”
The prophet, Micaiah, was called but Ahab had made it clear that he hated him because Micaiah never prophesied anything good about him.
As Ahab and Jehoshaphat waited for Micaiah to come, the other phony prophets continued to say that the kings of Israel and Judah should go into battle against Aram because they would win.
1 Kings 22:11-12 (CSB): “11 Then Zedekiah son of Chenaanah made iron horns and said, ‘This is what the Lord says: “You will gore the Arameans with these until they are finished off.” ’ 12 And all the prophets were prophesying the same: ‘March up to Ramoth-gilead and succeed, for the Lord will hand it over to the king.’”
So, imagine that you are Jehoshaphat. You see right through this. You observe prophets that are acting stupid and promising the king success in what he does. Then, you observe Ahab, who may or may not realize that they are frauds, to still act like they are credible.
With a pastor’s eyes, I see this situation and I cannot help but see the similarities in the sort of preaching that takes place in places of worship across our land and around the world. It’s the sort of preaching that never deals with sin. It never seeks to bring about the harsh feelings of conviction in those who show up. Instead, it’s the kind of preaching that wants to tell people what they want to hear, regardless of what the truth is. It really doesn’t care about the people enough to give them the truth; it is simply an act of self-preservation so that the congregation will like the pastor and keep coming back.
While we cannot affirm Jehoshaphat’s desire to get into an alliance with King Ahab, we can certainly admire the fact that he saw through all of this and wanted to actually hear a true message from a true man of God.
When we look back to 1 Kings 22, we observe that the messenger who went to get Micaiah encouraged him to simply agree with the other prophets. “Just tell the king the Lord approves of you going into battle and you will be victorious.”
1 Kings 22:15-16 (CSB): “15 So he went to the king, and the king asked him, ‘Micaiah, should we go to Ramoth-gilead for war, or should we refrain?’ Micaiah told him, ‘March up and succeed. The Lord will hand it over to the king.’”
Apparently, Micaiah was saying this with obvious sarcasm or something of the sort because Ahab tells him to stop and say exactly what the Lord has said.
1 Kings 22:17 (CSB): “So Micaiah said: I saw all Israel scattered on the hills like sheep without a shepherd. And the Lord said, ‘They have no master; let everyone return home in peace.’”
Wow! In so many words, Micaiah just said that Israel would be defeated and scattered in the battle. He also, in so many words, said that Israel’s master, king Ahab, would die.
This was really bad news. Ahab wouldn’t want to hear it. But was it the truth? Judging by what we read in the rest of this church, Micaiah was completely truthful. Listen to this: Micaiah didn’t speak the Lord’s word because it was easy. Instead, he spoke the Lord’s Word because it was right and true.
Friends, don’t go to a church where the pastor and teachers simply tell you things you want to hear because they are pleasant and positive. Instead, go to a church that speaks the positive but also isn’t afraid to speak of the negative. If they are preaching and teaching the whole counsel of God, they will tell you the bad news (that we are sinners and need to repent) but then tell us the Good News (Jesus died so that we can be forgiven and assisted to live a godly life).
A former pastor of mine used to say: “The good news without the bad news makes the good news no news at all. But the bad news makes the good news great news.”
Back to our story, Micaiah continues to speak. He tells Ahab that the Lord, Himself, had allowed the prophets to lie to the king so that he would die in battle.
King Ahab had heard enough. He wasn’t going to listen to Micaiah anymore.
1 Kings 22:26-28 (CSB): “26 Then the king of Israel ordered, ‘Take Micaiah and return him to Amon, the governor of the city, and to Joash, the king’s son, 27 and say, “This is what the king says: Put this guy in prison and feed him only a little bread and water until I come back safely.” ’ 28 But Micaiah said, ‘If you ever return safely, the Lord has not spoken through me.’ Then he said, ‘Listen, all you people!’ ”
As Ahab and Jehoshaphat headed off to war, Ahab had a great idea – at least as far as he was concerned. He said that he would wear a disguise so that he looked like any other soldier on the field but he encouraged Jehoshaphat to wear his royal attire. In others words, Ahab was concerned that Micaiah’s prophecy would come true and he would die. So, he thought he’d mix things up a bit and get the army of Aram to think Jehoshaphat was him with his kingly garments. He would be safe, would get back home, and stick his tongue out at Micaiah.
The battle raged and Jehoshaphat almost got killed when the army of Aram thought he was Ahab. But when they realized he wasn’t they let him go.
Then we read about a nameless soldier. This soldier’s actions teach us that regardless of what we do, if God has willed for something to happen, it cannot be stopped. Applied to this story, God had willed that Ahab wouldn’t survive but king Ahab had disguised himself so that none of the enemy soldiers would know who he was. Yet, God’s will was done.
1 Kings 22:34-35 (CSB): “34 But a man drew his bow without taking special aim and struck the king of Israel (Ahab) through the joints of his armor. So he said to his charioteer, ‘Turn around and take me out of the battle, for I am badly wounded!’ 35 The battle raged throughout that day, and the king (Ahab) was propped up in his chariot facing the Arameans. He died that evening, and blood from his wound flowed into the bottom of the chariot.”
So, the army of Israel was now without its king. So they scattered as Micaiah had said. But there was more.
In the previous chapter, Elijah had uttered a prophecy about Ahab after he had wrongfully confiscated Naboth’s vineyard after his wife had Naboth unjustly killed.
1 Kings 21:19 (CSB): “… ‘This is what the Lord says: Have you murdered and also taken possession?’ Then tell him, ‘This is what the Lord says: In the place where the dogs licked up Naboth’s blood, the dogs will also lick up your blood!’ ”
Ahab has now died and he has bled in his chariot. But Elijah’s prophecy hadn’t happened yet.
1 Kings 22:37-38 (CSB): “37 So the king died and was brought to Samaria. They buried the king in Samaria. 38 Then someone washed the chariot at the pool of Samaria. The dogs licked up his blood, and the prostitutes bathed in it, according to the word of the Lord that he had spoken.”
Ahab has now died and his son Ahaziah becomes king over Israel. We’ll read more about him later.
The spotlight now aims at Judah’s king, Jehoshaphat, who we have already observed in battle with Ahab.
Verse 42 tells us that he reigned for 25 years in Jerusalem. It also tells us that he was a godly man which we have already come to suspect since he had requested that Ahab actually seek a legitimate prophet of the Lord. Listen to how he is described.
1 Kings 22:43-44 (CSB): “43 He walked in all the ways of his father Asa; he did not turn away from them but did what was right in the Lord’s sight. However, the high places were not taken away; the people still sacrificed and burned incense on the high places. 44 Jehoshaphat also made peace with the king of Israel.”
So he was a pretty good guy but definitely had some blind spots. Eventually, he would die and his son, Jehoram, would become king of Judah.
Now, the spotlight moves back north to King Ahaziah of Israel. He only reigned for two years and lived such a godless life that we are told in the very last verse of this chapter…
1 Kings 22:53 (CSB): “… He served Baal and bowed in worship to him. He angered the Lord God of Israel just as his father had done.”
As we are reading through all of these chapters, we can’t help but see the brevity of life. We learn something about a king and then he’s dead only to be replaced by another king who lives his life and he dies.
We know all too well that life is a vapor. Before we know it, we’re old and wondering where the time went. So, we need to make the most of our time. We need to determine, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to live a life of obedience to God’s Word. Sooner than we realize, we’re going to be standing before Him as He judges our life. Let’s live in such a way that He will look at us, smile, raise His hands and applaud, as He says, “Well done, faithful servant! Well done!”