November 5th, 1961 @ 7:30 PM
1 Kings 21:1-29
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Kings 21:1-29
11-5-61 7:30 p.m.
Turn to 1 Kings chapter 21, 1 Kings chapter 21; we shall read from verse 9 through verse 16. First Kings 21, verses 9-16, the twenty-first chapter of 1 Kings, and this "she" refers to Jezebel. First Kings chapter 21, verses 9-16; now let us all read it together:
And she wrote in the letters, saying, Proclaim a fast, and set Naboth on high among the people:
And set two men, sons of Belial, before him, to bear witness against him, saying, Thou didst blaspheme God and the king. And then carry him out, and stone him, that he may die.
And the men of his city, even the elders and the nobles who were the inhabitants in his city, did as Jezebel had sent unto them, and as it was written in the letters which she had sent unto them.
They proclaimed a fast, and set Naboth on high among the people.
And there came in two men, children of Belial, and sat before him: and the men of Belial witnessed against him, even against Naboth, in the presence of all the people, saying, Naboth did blaspheme God and the king. Then they carried him forth out of the city, and stoned him with stones, that he died.
Then they sent to Jezebel, saying, Naboth is stoned, and is dead.
And it came to pass, when Jezebel heard that Naboth was stoned, and was dead, that Jezebel said to Ahab, Arise, take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, which he refused to give thee for money; for Naboth is not alive, but dead.
And it came to pass, when Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, that Ahab rose up to go down to the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, to take possession of it.
[1 Kings 21:9-16]
We have just read the center section of this twenty-first chapter of 1 Kings.
This is the story. In a room in the palace in Samaria, King Ahab is lying on his couch with his face to the wall, refusing to eat. Surely, something dire and dreadful has overtaken the kingdom of Israel for the king thus to lie down with his face toward the wall, refusing to eat bread. Surely, something terrible, something with dire consequence, has overwhelmed his kingdom. Maybe the armies of Israel have been defeated in battle and they face the ruthless tide of a merciless enemy – no, it is not that, for the soldiers of Israel are flushed with victories they have just won over their age-old enemies, the Syrians of Damascus.
Well then, if it isn’t that, it must be that the prophets of Baal have been massacred again. No, it’s not that, for Baal worship has recovered from the disastrous blow inflicted upon it on top of Mount Carmel [1 Kings 18:20-40]. Well then, surely, the royal family has fallen into disease and death, and the children of the king are no more. No, it is not that. Then it must be, in this twentieth chapter of 1 Kings, Ahab was rebuked by the man of God for letting Ben-hadad, the king of Damascus, escape from his hand [1 Kings 20:42-43]. And he is dejected because of the stern rebuke of the prophet of God. No, it is not that. It is not that.
Well, what is it? He lies there on the couch with his face to the wall, and he wont eat. What is the matter with the king? Well, Jezebel wanted to know too. She sat there by the side of the couch and she asked, and he wouldn’t say. There he was in a pout. And there he was, in a sulk, and he wouldn’t turn his face toward Jezebel; he just kept it toward the wall. And he wouldn’t eat anything brought to him, of the most delicious viands. He just looked at the wall. And of all of the things that could be wrong, Jezebel named every one that she could think of, and it wasn’t that.
So finally, she thought that she would just humor him out of his pout. And she tickled him under the chin, "Coochie, coochie, coochie, what’s the matter with you?"
Then she tickled his ribs. "Tickle, tickle, tickle, tickle, what’s the matter with you? Why don’t you tell your baby what’s the matter with you?"
And in his sulk and in his pout, he said, "I’m just mad."
"Well, what’s my baby mad about?" And that low-down, stinking skunk, he had a method in it, because that woman was beautiful, and she was as cruel as she was gorgeous. And there was something that Ahab wanted done that he himself didn’t dare to do, but he knew she would.
So finally the story comes out. And the king tells Jezebel what it is. He was at their winter palace in the vale of Jezreel, the favorite home of the king. And while he walked around over his grounds, his eye happened to fall upon a little vineyard hard by the palace walls.
Now Ahab had everything. That is, he had everything but that little vineyard. And when he looked upon it, "Ah," he said, "what an addition to the estate and how we can use it as a garden of herbs, ah!" So, he said, "To whom does that belong?" And they said, "to the family of Naboth, for generations, the Jezreelites." So he sent for Naboth, and he said, "Let me have thy vineyard, and I will give thee a fair price for it. Or, if you had rather, I will get thee another vineyard and exchange it for this which is by the royal palace." And Naboth said to Ahab, "The Lord forbid it that I should give the inheritance of my fathers unto thee" [1 Kings 21:3]. And when Ahab could not dissuade Naboth, he jumped in his chariot, and in a pout and in a sulk, drove to Samaria, turned the chariot and the horses over to a servant, stomped into the room, laid down on the bed, turned his face to the wall and wouldn’t move, wouldn’t move.
Well, when you look at that thing, the answer of Naboth does seem rather discourteous and churlish. Surely, if the king wanted the vineyard and offered him a fair price or another in exchange for it, surely, he should have been nice, and gracious, and courteous, and genteel, and have done what the king asked.
Well, why didn’t Naboth do it? Because he was interdicted by the law of God. I will not read it, but if you will turn to Numbers 36 and verse 7, you will find that in the law of Moses. God said, "The land is Mine" [Leviticus 25:23]. It doesn’t belong to the Jew, doesn’t belong to the Arab; it belongs to God! And God allotted the land to the tribes and the families of the children of Israel. And God, in that law, said that the land and the lot are not to be exchanged from one to the other. "And if," said God, "in the condition and the extremity of a dire necessity, an Israelite were forced to sell his land, a close kinsman can redeem it." That was first. And second, in the year of the Jubilee – every fifty years – in the year of the Jubilee, it must turn back to the original family [Leviticus 25:24-28].
So Naboth invoked the name of the eternal God, "The Lord forbids it! I cannot give thee the inheritance of my fathers." You know, you can just listen to the meaning of that word: "the inheritance of my fathers." For generations, the family of Naboth had sat under those trees, and had eaten off of those vines, and every tender memory of childhood brought to life again in every shrub, and every vine, and every tree and every part of that sacred parcel of ground. So, Naboth said, "God forbids it. I cannot give thee the inheritance of my fathers" [1 Kings 21:3].
Then it was that he told Jezebel all of these things that had come to pass, and when Jezebel heard it, she said, "There, there, my baby. Don’t you pout, and don’t you sulk, and don’t you worry. Your mama will get that vineyard for you. Your baby won’t let you down. I will do it." Like Lady Macbeth: "Give me the dagger," and she will show the Thane how to be a king.
Well, she was shrewd. She borrowed the seal from off of his finger, and she wrote letters in the name of the king and sealed them with the royal seal. And those letters said to the people of Jezreel, "Proclaim a fast" [1 Kings 21:9], as though something terrible, and horrible, and indescribable, and awesome, and awful had happened. Proclaim a fast: nobody to eat bread, nobody to drink water in this awful hour of exigency. Proclaim a fast: something terrible and awful has come to pass!
So they proclaimed a fast and the people gathered ’round to see what awful, terrible thing that had come to pass! When they gathered ’round in hushed and awed whispers, in dread and in foreboding, in that fast that denied any man or woman or child to eat, then, suddenly, they bring Naboth and set him up in the midst of all the people of the city of Jezreel. And witnesses who are suborned and paid, they point to Naboth as he is set up there on high, and they said, "This man cursed God and cursed the king," as though that were anything to Jezebel one way or another.
Of course, as you know, the law of Moses for blasphemy is stoning. So they took Naboth out and stoned him until he was dead. And then a messenger ran to Jezebel and said, "Naboth is stoned and is dead!" And the messenger ran to Naboth’s wife and said, "Naboth is stoned and is dead." And a messenger ran to Naboth’s children and said, "Naboth is stoned and is dead."
And it came to pass, when Jezebel heard that Naboth was stoned and was dead, that Jezebel said to Ahab, "Arise. Arise. Arise. Possess the vineyard, for Naboth is not alive, he is dead! He is dead." So Ahab arose to take possession of the vineyard [1 Kings 21:10-16]. You know, it’s a strange thing about this possession business. Lots of times there is a curse in it. Lots of times there is a damnation in it. A lot of times there is a judgment in it.
And Lot looked upon the well-watered plains of the Jordan and pitched his tent toward Sodom and became mayor of the city and sat in the gate, a great man in Sodom! [Genesis 19:1-38]. And Achan saw those wedges of gold and those weights of silver and those beautiful Babylonish garments, and he coveted them, and he took them and hid them under the floor of his tent [Joshua 7:20-26]. And Judas said, "Give me thirty pieces of silver [Matthew 26:14-16]. Count them out, weigh them out, thirty pieces of silver, and I will deliver Him into your hands tonight, tonight, because I know where He goes to pray." And Ananias and Sapphira said, "We have sold all of our farm, and this is all that it brought, and we lay it at the feet of the apostles" [Acts 5:1-10]. Oh, you know, lots of times there is a damnation in things and in possessions.
Ahab rose up to take possession of the vineyard. And the Word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, "Arise!" [1 Kings 21:17-18].
My soul! I thought only the devil could say "Arise." I thought only a Jezebel could say "Arise!" But don’t you ever forget that there is a Lord God Almighty that sits on the throne of this universe, and when Jezebel said, "Arise!" the Lord God says, "Arise!" to one of His prophets.
And Jezebel said to Ahab, "Arise," and the word of the Lord came to Elijah, the Tishbite, saying, "Arise. Arise." And Elijah went down to Jezreel and stood in the vineyard of Naboth, and stood and stood. And when Ahab drove his chariot into the vineyard, followed by those two ruthless captains, Jehu and Bidkar, there stood the prophet of God, grim like an incarnate judgment, stern like a living conscience, rugged, fearless, his eyes like a flame of fire! And he stood, and he stood, and he did but look and he looked! And when finally he spake, Elijah the Tishbite, looked at Ahab and said, "Thus saith the Lord, hast thou killed and taken possession? Thou?
What an affront to Ahab, as though he were a murderer. He hadn’t killed anybody. "Hast thou killed, and taken possession, Ahab?" All he knew was that Jezebel had borrowed his signet ring and that she had affixed it to some letters she had written in his name, but he didn’t know what was in those letters. All he knew was that Naboth was dead, and what a pity. But there is no use weeping over Naboth, he is already gone. So he is come down to take possession of the vineyard.
"I haven’t killed anybody."
But the Lord God said to Elijah, "Stand in the garden and say, ‘Hast thou killed?’" And Ahab looked at Elijah, and he says, "Hast thou found me, O mine enemy?" [1 Kings 21:19-20]. Isn’t that a strange thing how men are put together? The Egyptians hated the pillar of cloud and of fire. And the Philistines sent away that covenant of the Lord. And those people in the temple cried, saying, "It is not fit for Paul that he live in the earth." And they said about Jesus, "Take Him away and crucify Him." And Ahab looked at Elijah and said, "Hast thou found me, O mine enemy?" Mine enemy? What an unbelievable tragedy when the very presence of the Spirit of God is looked upon as a curse.
Lots of people don’t come to church because when they come to church and listen to the preacher their souls are hurt to the quick and their conscience stricken. And they feel damned in their souls, and they don’t want to feel that way. So they stay away. Stay away. That doesn’t hide a man from God.
Of all of the times that Elijah should be there now, aye, now, that he should be just there in that spot at that time; "Hast thou found me, O my enemy?" When God becomes the enemy of a man, oh, what an eternity of fruitless fighting lies ahead for that man, when the very Judge is against him and when the very heavens war against him and when all of the future of life is one of despair and damnation and perdition; "Hast thou found me, oh, mine enemy?"
That’s the tragedy of a lost man; God is his enemy, and the Holy Spirit is his enemy, and the blood of the cross is his enemy. The church is his enemy. The preacher is his enemy. Righteousness is his enemy. The Spirit of appeal is his enemy. The very stars of God’s creation are his enemies. All the future is his enemy. He faces nothing but the blackness of damnation, and the darkness of perdition, and the fires and the fury of the wrath and judgment of Almighty God.
"Hast thou found me, oh, mine enemy?" And Elijah said to Ahab, "Thus saith the Lord: in the place where the dogs licked the blood of Naboth shall dogs lick thy blood, even thine" [1 Kings 21:19].
Ah! See, the dogs couldn’t get at the body of Naboth to devour it, for it was covered with a heap of stones that stole his life. But the blood trickled down between the rocks, and as the blood of Naboth trickled out from under those rocks, those voracious and terrible dogs licked it up! And the Lord God looked down from heaven as that crimson stained the earth, as God looked down when Cain slew his brother Abel and said, "The voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto Me from the ground!" [Genesis 4:10]. And God heard the voice of the cry of the blood that stained the ground that flowed from the heart of righteous Naboth.
And the Lord said to Ahab, "Where the dogs have licked up Naboth’s blood, in that same place shall dogs lick up thy blood." And the Lord said, "And the dogs shall eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel, where you placed Naboth high, and accused him of blasphemy, and sentenced him to death, and took him out, that he might not live in the earth. In that same place, shall the dogs eat the body of Jezebel" [1 Kings 21:23].
I haven’t time tonight. We are going to follow this judgment of God next Sunday night. But when Jehu said, "Go find her, for she is the daughter of a king. Go find her." And when they went to the gate of the city of Jezreel to find the body of Jezebel, all that they found were her feet and her skull and the palms of the hands, for the voracious dogs had eaten her up [2 Kings 9:35-36].
Ah, for a while a man can flaunt the face of God. And for a while a man can curse God. And for a while a man can be disobedient to the overtures of the love and mercy of God. But the same God that made this world a heaven for those who love Him also made this world capable of being a hell for those who despise Him!
Do you think it pleases God for our world to be enmeshed in fear and in dread and in foreboding? Do you think it pleases God for this world to be dotted with penitentiaries? Do you think it pleases God for this world to live in fear? Do you think it pleases God for this world to be filled with sin? Do you think it pleases God for this world to be dark in its mind and iniquitous in its soul and in its heart?
The Lord God says it is an intruder. It is an interloper, and someday God shall purge it as by fire, and there shall be no unrighteous thing in it. And when God purges it by fire, those who have loved unrighteousness, give their hearts and their lives to unbelief, these are drowned in the flood of the fury and the flame [2 Peter 3:7].
Why would a man who can think and why would a soul that can name the name of God, created in the image of the Almighty, why would a man identify himself with the certain and inevitable judgment of the Almighty that shall some day fall inevitably upon this world and upon every human soul that gives himself to rejection and to unbelief? Not forever shall God see sin in the world.
Someday, there shall be a new heaven a new earth [Revelation 21:1]. The old earth and the old heaven purged by the flaming fury of the fire of the judgment of God, and only that shall remain and live that love Jesus, that walk in the glory of the light of the Lamb, who in repentance and in faith has sought forgiveness in His blessed name.
Why would a man choose to die? Why would a man say, "I would rather spend my eternity in the fires of perdition than to walk with the redeemed in the glory of the Lamb of God?"
Oh, why will ye die, when the crimson cross is so nearby?
Oh, why will ye die, as the ancient prophet cried?
["The Sheltering Rock"; William E. Penn, 1887]
Thus saith the Lord, "I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his evil way and live: turn ye, turn ye, from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel" [Ezekiel 33:11], when God is so nearby, when forgiveness is so full and free, when the love of Jesus who died for our sins is so abundantly bestowed?
Why would a man choose to die? That is the appeal of God’s Spirit to your heart. And if you are made in the image of God – and you are [Genesis 1:27] – there is a quickening in your soul when the Holy Spirit bids us come, come to Jesus, in repentance in forgiveness, in faith, in the grace and mercy of God, to turn and be saved. We are going to sing tonight:
Pass me not, O gentle Savior.
Hear my humble cry!
While on others Thou art calling,
Do not pass me by.
["Pass Me Not"; Fanny Crosby,]
And while we sing that hymn of appeal, coming tonight in faith and repentance, asking God for the forgiveness of our sins and the saving of our souls, while we sing this hymn of appeal, make it tonight. The great throng in the balcony, there’s time and to spare, come down one of those stairways and to the front, on this lower floor from side to side, somebody you, giving his heart to Christ, following the will of the Spirit of Jesus. Redeeming love, forgiving grace, the saving appeal of Jesus: that is the good news, that He died for our sins, and to those who will turn in faith to Him, God keeps us and saves us forever. Make it tonight. Make it tonight, and, "Here I come, preacher, and here I am," while we stand and while we sing.
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Kings 21:1-29
Ahab wants Naboth’s vineyard but Naboth will not sell it
Ahab is sullen, mopes over Naboth’s refusal to sell
Jezebel plots to kill Naboth
When Naboth is dead, Ahab takes the vineyard
Naboth applies God’s promises, Ahab ignores them
Elijah prophesizes Ahab’s death and Jezebel’s death
God judges wickedness but would much rather we turn back to Him