1 Kings 21:1
Some time later, Naboth the Jezreelite happened to own a vineyard in Jezreel next to the palace of Ahab king of Samaria.
Sermons
CovetousnessJ.A. Macdonald 1 Kings 21:1-4
First Steps in the Path of CrimeJ. Urquhart 1 Kings 21:1-4
The Progress of SinA. Rowland 1 Kings 21:1-24
Amongst the arguments used by Samuel to discourage the people of Israel from desiring a king, he said, "He will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your olive yards, even the best of them." We have in the verses before us a notable example of the truth of this forecast, understanding covetousness in a bad sense.

I. DESIRE, IN THE ABSTRACT, IS NOT COVETOUSNESS.

1. It is the principle of exchanges.

(1) If persons had no desire to possess anything beyond what they have acquired, there would be no motive to trade. Of the virtuous woman it is said, "She considereth a field and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard" (Proverbs 31:16).

(2) All commerce is founded upon the desire to make exchanges.

2. But commerce is fruitful in blessings.

(1) There are evils connected with trading, viz., where dishonest practices come into it. But these are intrusions; and they are denounced as "illegitimate" and "uncommercial."

(2) Genuine commerce gives profitable employment to thought and labour.

(3) It brings the countries and peoples of the wide world into correspondence. Thereby it enlarges our knowledge of those countries, their peoples and products, and other. wise stimulates science.

(4) It encourages philanthropy. Relief is afforded for distresses through famines, floods, fires, earthquakes; and religious missions are organized.

3. Desire, well directed, should be encouraged.

(1) To be absolutely without desire for things evil would be a happy state. Therefore this state should be earnestly desired.

(2) There is also the positive desire to be Christ like. This can scarcely be too vehement.

(3) Ahab does not seem to have signalized himself in either of these directions.

II. ILLICIT DESIRE IS COVETOUSNESS.

1. We should not desire what God has forbidden.

(1) Herein Ahab was wrong in desiring the vineyard of Naboth. It was the "inheritance of his fathers," transmitted in the family of Naboth, from the days of Joshua, and it would have been unlawful for him to part with it (Leviticus 25:23; Numbers 36:7).

(2) Ahab was wrong in tempting Naboth to trangress the commandment of the Lord. He should never have encouraged a desire, the gratification of which would involve such a consequence.

(3) It was a pious act in Naboth, who, doubtless in things lawful would be pleased to gratify the king, to have indignantly refused to gratify him here. "The Lord forbid it me that I should give the inheritance of my fathers unto thee." He had his tenure from the Lord. He looked upon his earthly inheritance as a pledge of a heavenly.

2. This rule requires the study of God's word.

(1) It is of the utmost moment to us to be acquainted with the will of God. This he has revealed in the Scriptures.

(2) In cases of transgression we cannot plead ignorance when we have the Bible in our hands. Neither can we shift now our responsibility on to our teachers.

(3) Do we make proper use of our Bibles? Do we study them? Do we read them prayerfully? We must not sell the moral inheritance we have received from the past.

III. INORDINATE DESIRE IS COVETOUSNESS. Some things are lawful without limit. Such are the direct claims of God.

(1) The love of God. We may love Him with all our heart. We cannot love Him too much, or too much desire His love.

(2) The service of God. This, indeed, is another form of love; for love expresses itself in service (John 14:15, 23; Romans 13:10; Galatians 5:14; 1 John 5:3).

(3) The knowledge of God. To love and serve God perfectly we must have a perfect knowledge of Him according to our capacity. We cannot too ardently desire this knowledge.

(4) If Ahab had loved, served, and known God with perfect desire, he would have found such satisfaction as to have rendered it impossible for him to have sulked as he did because he could not obtain Naboth's vineyard. When God is absent there is a restless void; nothing can satisfy an unholy spirit.

2. Other things are lawful in measure.

(1) Otherwise they would interfere with the direct claims of God. The creature must not be put into competition with the Creator. "Thou shalt have none other gods beside me."

(2) Desire for sensible and temporal things must not displace the desire for things spiritual and eternal. To love the inferior preferably to the superior is to deprave the affections.

(3) It would have been lawful for Ahab to have purchased a lease of the vineyard of Naboth at a fair price, leaving it in the power of Naboth to have redeemed it; and for it to revert to Naboth or his heirs in the jubilee (Leviticus 25:23-28). But this desire to possess it, even under these conditions, could not be justified if a refusal should lead him to go home "heavy and displeased" and sicken with chagrin. Ahab's discontent brought its own punishment. He was a king, yet discontented. Discontent is a disease of the soul rather than of the circumstances. - J.A.M.







As thy servant was busy here and there, he was gone.
Ahab had a chance of doing God's will; he neglected to use it, and judgment descended upon him.

I. WE HAVE EACH AND ALL SOMETHING TO DO FOR GOD'S GLORY.

1. In the case before us Ahab should have destroyed Ben-hadad. We ought to outlive all evil — to overthrow all that opposes the spread of truth and righteousness.

2. God's glory would have been manifest in the destruction of the Syrian king. That glory is revealed in a yet greater degree when souls are saved, and in this we may be instrumental.

3. What, "Am I my brother's keeper?" Even so, it devolves upon you to do all you can to save those who are unsaved. This work for God's glory, can only be performed by adaptability in teaching — the exercise of a loving spirit — earnest prayer — a humble dependence on the Divine power.

II. WE TOO OFTEN NEGLECT TO EMBRACE THE OPPORTUNITIES PRESENTED. The prophet, in his parable, said, that while he was busy here and there, his prisoner had escaped; that was the excuse he made. Christian people often make excuses for not doing their duty, here is one.

1. I am too timid. I can't speak to my children, to my servants, to strangers about their souls, and their duty to the Great Creator. Why can't you? You can talk to them about their bodies and temporal things. Why not about Divine?

2. It is not my business. Whose then? Ministers are paid to do this work, and they ought not to trouble us. So, then, if you knew a man had poisoned himself, you would not try to save him (although you knew well enough what to do), all you would say would be "Go to the doctor."

3. I am too much engaged. And, perhaps, there never was an age in which men are so busy as they are to-day. "Express speed" is far too slow. Men must beat the lightning, or at least equal it. They are "too busy" to give a little time to the consideration of the best means for spiritual work; too busy to engage in that work themselves; and what does it all mean?

III. OPPORTUNITIES ONCE LOST NEVER RETURN. "Opportunity for doing good is like a favouring breeze springing up around a sailing vessel. If the sails be all set, the ship is wafted onward to its port; but if the sailors are not there, the breeze may die away; and when they would go they cannot, and their vessel stands as idle as a painted ship upon a painted ocean." Think for a moment of the opportunities each has neglected; let the thought stimulate you to improve the present.

IV. ALL SUCH NEGLECTED OPPORTUNITIES WILL HAVE TO BE ACCOUNTED FOR.

(A. F. Barfield.)

This story was originally told in order to tough the conscience of King Ahab, who had allowed Ben-hadad, King of Syria, to escape when Providence had put the cruel monarch into his hand on purpose that he might receive his doom. Ahab is no more, but this Scripture is not, therefore, like a spent shell — there is truth and power in it yet. Its teaching is applicable to us also.

I. THE OBLIGATION which the text suggests, that we may solemnly own that we are under a higher obligation still. This man being engaged in warfare, was bound to obey the orders of his superior officer; that officer put into his custody a prisoner, saying, "Keep this man," and from that moment he was under an obligation from which nothing could free him.

1. That we are bound to serve God is dear, because we derive our being from Him.

2. It was for this end that the Almighty made us, and for nothing short of this, that we might glorify God and enjoy him for ever.

3. To the service of God a thousand voices call us all

4. A great argument for our obligation to glorify God is found in the fact that in this service men find their highest honour and their truest happiness.

5. Let this, also, never be far from our memories, that there is a day coming when we must all of us give an account of our fives, and the account will be based upon this inquiry — How have we served and glorified God?

II. A CONFESSION: "He was gone." The man was under obligation to take care of his prisoner, but he had to confess that he was gone.

1. We have lost many opportunities for serving God which arise out of the periods of fife. I hope you will not have to say, "My childhood is gone; I cannot praise Jesus with a girl's voice or a boy's tongue now, for my childhood passed away in disobedience and folly." You cannot talk to your son now, as you might have done when you could take the fair-haired boy upon your knee and kiss him and tell him of Jesus.

2. Another form of regret may arise out, of the changes of our circumstances. A man had once considerable wealth, but a turn of Providence has made him poor: it is a very unhappy thing if he has to confess, "I did not use my substance for God when I had it. I was an unfaithful steward, and wasted my Master's goods, and now I am no longer trusted by Him, my property is gone." Another may have possessed considerable ability of mind, but through sickness or declining vigour he may not be able now to do what he once did.

3. As time has gone so also have many persons gone to whom we might have been useful.

4. Sometimes, however, the confession of the thing gone concerns noble ideas and resolves. You had great conceptions, and if they had but been embodied in action something good would have come of them; but where are the ideas now? Were they not smothered in their birth?

5. And there may be some from whom a vast wealth of opportunity has passed away. They have been blessed with great means and large substance, and if these had been laid out for Jesus Christ year after year many a lagging agency would have been quickened, and many a holy enterprise which has had to be suspended for want of means might have gone on gloriously.

III. THE EXCUSE which was made — "As thy servant was busy here and there, he was gone."

1. The excuse is, "I was so busy"; which, first of all, is no excuse, because a soldier has no business to have any business but that which his commander allots to him.

2. When the man said he was "busy here and there," he cut away the only excuse he could have had, because that showed he had ability.

3. Then, again, what he had done was evidently done to please himself. He was "busy here and there."

IV. THE UNALTERABLE FACT. "While I was busy here and there, he was gone." Could you not seize him again? "No, he is gone." Is there no making-up for past neglect? No recapturing the missing one? No, he is gone, clean gone.

1. With the time, remember, your life has gone, and there is no living it over again.

2. Remember, also, that future diligence will not be able to recover wasted time. I suppose Luther was past forty before he began his life-work, and yet he accomplished a splendid result for Christ; but even Luther could not get back his years of unregeneracy and superstition. Time is on the wing; use it now. Do not loiter, for thou canst pluck no feather from the wing of time to make it loiter too. It flies, and if thou wouldst use it, use it now. Arouse thyself, and sleep no longer. If thou wouldst indeed be true to God who made thee and to Christ who bought thee with His precious blood, use thyself now to the fullest conceivable extent for the glory of thy Lord and Master. What shall we do? Let us all fly to Jesus, who can forgive the guilt of the past.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)

Arab had been faithless to his trust. He had had the opportunity to crush out the enemy of Israel, but he had let him live for his own selfish purpose, and in sentencing the pretended soldier who had been faithless he was in reality uttering sentence against himself. It is my purpose to compare the opportunities of life to a prisoner given to us to keep, in which if we are faithful to our trust we shall secure eternal promotion and blessing;. and if we are careless and indifferent and neglectful, our opportunities will all escape and leave us poverty-stricken indeed. Every period of life has its special opportunity, which if not used at that time escapes for ever. It can never be recaptured. Youth has opportunities peculiar to itself; it is like the spring-time in nature. If a farmer lets spring-time escape him, and leave his fields unploughed and his gardens unplanted, however remorseful he may be about it he cannot capture that opportunity after spring-time has passed. Youth is like that — a time for sowing, a time when the mind readily grasps its lessons, and seizes with firm hold upon new truths; it is the time when we make most of our friends, and when the affections have the strong grip that hold for ever. It is a terrible thing to let youth go by and not become a Christian. To return to the parable of which our text is a part, one would suppose that a man having been put in charge of a prisoner to keep, with so terrible a warning that his life depended upon his being faithful to his trust, would have seen to it that the man did not escape. But when we compare it to our own lives, we can see how easy it was for the man to become careless, and to be taken up with other things which may have amounted to very little indeed, but which took his mind off the matter of greatest importance to him and thus endangered his life. The story is told of Henry IV. of France, that he asked the Duke of Alva if he had observed the eclipses happening in that year. He replied that he had so much business on earth that he had no leisure to look up to heaven. What sad folly it is for men born with the possibility of immortal Joy to so bend themselves towards the earth and so set their hearts on the things of this world as scarcely to cast a look to the things belonging to the world to come. How much wiser was Zeuxis, the famous painter of his day, who, when somebody observed that he was very slow at his work, and let no painting of his go abroad into the world to be seen of men until he had tried it in every light and given it long consideration to see if he could find any fault in it, replied to an inquiry as to his conduct, "I am long in doing what I take in hand because what I paint I paint for eternity." So what we do has to stand the test of eternity. If it is rubbish, it will be burned up in the judgment fires. An old historian tells us that Alexander the Great, being much taken with the witty answers of Diogenes, bade him ask what he would and he should have it. The philosopher demanded the least proportion of immortality. "That is not my gift," said Alexander. "No?" asked Diogenes. "Then why doth Alexander take such pains to conquer the world, when he cannot assure himself of one moment to enjoy it?" What the cynic said to this great conqueror might well be said to every man who is giving himself so earnestly to the business of this world that he is running the risk of losing the infinitely greater values of eternity. Comparatively few men and women deliberately set out to make great fortunes, or to win for themselves great worldly triumph at the cost of their spiritual welfare. The great majority who are fatally deceived by the enemy of their souls are seduced into evil ways and into fatal neglect by the desire for the simplest physical pleasures and adornment. There is only one way to make sure of your salvation, and that is to improve the present opportunity and thus make certain that it will not escape. A friend of mine overheard one young girl saying to another in the saddest tone, thinking about her friend: "I think she regretted it afterwards; she said it should be different next time. But then," with a little sigh, "so many things haven't any next time." If it should happen to be that way with you that there should be no "next time." with the offer of mercy to your soul, I want to so speak and so do my duty by you that I shall not be responsible for your failure to gain heaven.

(L A. Banks, D. D.)

The parables of the New Testament are so speakingly real, so beautiful in their conception, and so manifestly the touches of a Master-hand, that we are liable to overlook — if not, indeed, to neglect — the minor parables of the Old Testament. And yet these minor parables, like the minor prophets and poets, possess — especially for the student of literature — a charm and fascination peculiarly their own. They are not wanting either in colour or finish, but are, in fact, bits of beautiful workmanship well worth framing and hanging up in honoured places of the mind and memory. Amusingly quaint, touchingly tender, they belong in a conspicuous degree to the hoary past, more so even than do the allegories of the Great Teacher Himself. In one particular, however, they closely resemble His, they never fail to hit the target of their aim. Now, our text is taken from one of these minor parables and in its aim it resembles Nathan's. The teaching here is that Ahab had a fine opportunity of serving God and his country, but he threw it away and it did not return. Let us discuss together this subject of opportunities — more especially lost opportunities.

1. And, first, this word opportunity springs from an old root signifying "at port," or "in the harbour," suggestive of the welt-known and oft-repeated lines: —

There is a tide in the affairs of men,

Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.

Thus we think of the trader watching the market, ready to pounce upon every opportunity that presents itself, so that he may turn it to gold; ready to snatch every chance of striking a good bargain, and thereby winning success. Indeed, it would appear — as a suggestive writer has remarked — "as though it were a part of the Divine discipline to put large opportunities in men's way, and leave it with themselves whether they will use or neglect them. There is no coercion to compel us to turn them to account, and the wheels of time shall not be reversed to bring them back once they are gone. If we neglect them we shall be permanent losers in this life; how much more in the next we cannot say." True it is, however, that thousands fail in life through neglect of such chances, and through want of energy and enterprise, so that when the Blucher of opportunity presents itself, they have not "pluck" enough to arise and charge, and so win their Waterloo. There are great national opportunities which present themselves once or twice in the lifetime of a country or community and never come again. Such an opportunity the Church of Rome had when some of her most noble and faithful sons and servants pointed out, before it was too late, the sins and excesses which led to the Reformation. Such an opportunity old Jerusalem had nineteen centuries ago; but she spurned it, rejected it, and finally quenched it in the blood of the innocent. "And when He drew nigh, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known in this day, even thou, the things which belong unto peace, but now they are hid from thine eyes."

2. But, in the second place, there are opportunities which belong to certain periods of life. Saith Seneca: "Time is the only thing in which it is a virtue to be covetous, and for this reason, that it is the only thing that can never be recovered. Lost riches may be regained by patience and industry; forgotten knowledge may by hard work be conjured back again into the brain; departed health may return through the skill of the healer; the consistency of many years may blanch again the sullied snow of character; but time once gone is gone for ever." Now if this be true with regard to the physical and mental — how much more with regard to the moral and the spiritual? Says the poet: "Heaven lies near us in our infancy." The heart has not become stained and soiled; the conscience has not become seared and hardened through the deceitfulness of sin; the moral faculties have not become blunted and atrophied through bad habits, but on the contrary, the whole being is fresh and hopeful and buoyant.

3. Let us consider next our opportunities of usefulness. Take the home, for example; what a splendid chance it presents to Christian parents of influencing their children goodwards at the very gateway of life! If you have neglected to do this, then you have missed a great opportunity, and one that will never again present itself under the same favourable conditions. So, again, with regard to servants. Now, as a Christian master or mistress, God has placed within your reach a fine opportunity of doing real home mission work, and so cause your servants for ever to bless the day when they came to reside under your roof. And to a certain extent the same thing holds good with regard to visitors. When Lord Peterborough lodged with Fenelon for a season, he said, on leaving, "After this I shall be a Christian in spite of myself." Oh, there is a day coming when these lost opportunities will appear in a clearer light, and with more terrible and startling distinctness; when the opportunity of years ago — calling us to the service of others, and to the service of our Master, Christ, will again reappear, and, like the Hebrew seer, take up its parable against us. "Because I have called, and ye refused," etc. "Consequences are unpitying." So, then, as we have opportunity, let us work that which is good toward all men, and especially toward them that are of the household of the faith.

(J. Dymond.)

In this parable we find a man busy about everything, but at the cost of neglecting his duty. There are plenty of men who are very busy in the world, but who never do their duty. They are not idle: some people are too idle to do anything; but those of whom I now speak are not idle. They are always on the move, and are busily engaged at different things; but they never keep to the same things long. They do not seem to have any aim in life. It is not enough for us to be always doing. What God requires of us is, just to do what He wants us to do. We have to learn, first of all, what God would have us do, and then do it. Now here is one man who attaches the greatest importance to making his fortune, to heaping together money. He makes provision for the,few years that he has to spend here; but for meeting his God, and for rendering an account of the way in which he has lived and served his Lord and Master, he has made no provision. Well, that is a man who is busy here and there, but who nevertheless misses the one great duty which, above every other, he has to perform. Now I want you children, not only to be busy, but always to have an aim in life, and that aim to glorify God. We glorify Him by living just as He would have us live. Christ Himself has given us an example. The great thing is to give Jesus the first place in our hearts and lives, and never do anything that is not well-pleasing to Him.

(D. Davies.)

I. THE TRUST OF OUR TIME. Each new day that dawns upon us, each hour that rests with us in its rapid flight, each of the moments which together make up the sum total of our existence, each of these is a trust, not to be used at our mere caprice, not to be cherished or lost just as the passing fancy takes us. Each day, each hour is golden with possibilities of good; of good for ourselves, of self-discipline, of self-culture, of deepening spirituality, of a nearer vision of God; of good for others, of gentle words and kindly deeds, of some task begun for the blessing of our fellows, of some seed sown which shaft ripen at last to a harvest of beneficent achievement. And if the parts of our life are thus a trust, what shall we say of life itself in its entirety? What tremendous possibilities of weal or woe are bound up in the small compass of a single life! But if this be true, as it is, of the life that is bound within the two shores of birth and death, what shall we say of the trust of the soul itself — the soul whose unending life reaches far on into the unknown eternity beyond the grave — the soul, that spark flashed forth from the fire of Eternal Being, ray of light let down to earth from the Central Sun of Universal Existence? Oh, what a trust is this!

II. THE FAILURE OF THE TRUST. "As thy servant was busy here and there, and he was gone." "He was gone," what a sad story these words suggest; a charge neglected, a duty unfulfilled, a bitter loss sustained, a dire doom incurred. "It is gone," what a suggestion of inconsolable regret there is in these words, Some trusts once gone may be recovered: lost health may be restored, friends alienated may be won back again: but in life there are some utterly irreparable failures. A young man grieves the fond heart of a loving mother by carelessness or sin; he wanders away, perhaps, into other lands, and by silence and neglect breaks the tender heart he has so deeply shadowed; and then, perhaps, he comes to himself, and he says, "I'll go home, and make up for my hard neglect by special tenderness and care"; and when he gets home he finds that she is gone; that there is now no chance for his late atonement.

III. THE EXCUSE FOR FAILURE. "Thy servant was busy here and there, and it was gone." Now, mark you, the excuse was not, "Thy servant was busy." That would have been in one sense a justifiable plea, and not a lame excuse. For life, for the best and the noblest, is always a busy thing. We are in a busy world. Around us we hear on every side the breaking of the unresting waves of human industry and human toil It is plain that the having been busy is not the excuse that we have to consider. Now notice what the excuse really was, "Thy servant was busy here and there." I think that this being busy here and there may fairly be taken to mean that desultory and utterly unsatisfactory kind of being busy in which so many waste their days and miss their chances of good; the busy idleness of the restless child, not the busy industry of the thoughtful and high-purposed man. Now is it not. Just this serious trifling, this spending of our energies on lesser and lower objects, and so withdrawing them from higher and truer and more lasting occupations — is it not just this that will account for half the failures of life? The two great wants in this habit of life are the want of a continuous purpose and of a true and worthy object — a purpose that shall bind all our multiplied actions into one, and so give to our energies and our life that true unity in which alone lies strength; an object great enough and good enough to lend inspiration to flagging energies, and attractiveness to the most trivial tasks needed for its achievement. And this, in the saddest sense of all, is the excuse that will make thousands at the last miss utterly their chances of eternal life. Of those who make what Dante calls "the great refusal"; of those who fail to accept the offers of salvation held out to them in the Gospel of Christ, there are not many, I fancy, who do so deliberately and of set purpose.

(Canon O'Meare.)

t: — How much wisdom was there in the charge of Pythagoras to his disciples: "Be mindful of opportunities"! We live in a world where all are busy. Many busy for themselves; many for the Church. All around us in nature is busy — full of action. All in commerce and life says — "Do something, do it." And in one sense all mankind do something, but many are busy without an object, a rule, or a motive, and consequently without a beneficial result. Their actions are made up by a collection of shreds and patches; they move in a circle, busy in moving, but arrive at the point whence they started — no progress, no attainment, no benefit is visible. Activity is the law or the habit, of the human mind, and never is mind easy but as it is in action; but without a suitable motive, rule, and end, can no degree of activity be of real benefit.

I. OPPORTUNITIES GENERALLY.

1. Opportunity is in some cases unmistakable; it presents itself and presses on us so plainly, that we must be blind if we will not see it, deaf if we will not hear it, dead if we will not regard it. It lies in our path, and we must push it out of our way, or pass over it to escape. If, however, it is not in our way, we should seek it. If the door is not open, we must open it. Where opportunity cannot be found, it must be made. What must be done can be done. Impossibilities are not insurmountable in real duties to God, to ourselves, or for others. It is admirable to see how a persevering mind creates opportunities, and lamentable to see how the timid pass them by.

II. I shall now give these remarks A PRACTICAL BEARING:. It is important to inquire — For what purpose did God create me? What is life? It is not a dream of pleasure, or it would not be a passage through a vale of tears. It is not a whirl of business, or it would have been lengthened and not doomed to loss and disappoinment, to the most devoted men of trade. God's end is more worthy of Himself; He has blessed you with such faculties for a great end, or, as John Howe says, "It would be like clothing a man in purple to send him to feed swine." Are all our faculties given to us to be employed on the wisdom which is "earthly, sensual, devilish," or for business or pleasure, or the honour which cometh from man? No, but for God, for gaining and enjoying heaven. Let us notice a few causes which operate to the neglect of what would ensure man's everlasting salvation.

1. Actual idleness — some are literally slumberers, nothing rouses them — "A little more sleep, a little more slumber," is all they utter.

2. Inconsiderateness is another cause — such are not careful or wise to use the power or cultivate the habit of reflection.

3. Frivolity of mind. Many are turned away from seeking salvation by what is as insignificant as the chirping of a grasshopper.

4. But not less fatal than these is that ruiner of thousands — procrastination. There is a world of importance in the monosyllable "now." Fortunes, blessings, and souls without number have been lost for want of minding this word "now." Duties cannot clash. God does not require two things which are opposed to each other of any man, at any time; but the language of God to you at this moment is this — "Now is THE accepted time," that is, the best opportunity. Some continue during the whole of life, from the dawn of reason to the feebleness and inactivity of its closing hours "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do," oh, living man! "do it with thy might" — do it, "for there is no device in the grave" — do it, for thither thou goest, and all your opportunity is confined to this world. True, there may be posthumous good, as seen in legacies and founded institutions, and books which survivors may not suffer to be lost when we are gone; but these things, so far as we are concerned in them, are done in this world.

2. Youth is the prime and flower of opportunity. Youth! Many of you hear and feel it to be the season of joy. Yes, it is best for piety too. Unencumbered by the cares of a master or father, your time is at your own disposal. Oh, now seek salvation. Suffer not the season of youth to pass, lest you in age say, I have lost my opportunity and cannot seek salvation now. Seek it with earnestness.

3. Health is an important opportunity to do good to others. What can an invalid do compared with the healthy? Such may do something. I would not add to their affliction by suggesting they cannot. God does not add to their sorrow by discharging them from all opportunity to do good.

(J. A. James.)

Outlines from Sermons by a London Minister.
I. THE VERY REMARKABLE CONDITION NECESSARY TO THIS PARABLE.

II. THE SIGNIFICATION OF THE PARABLE. It is not very clear in all its details, but "so much is indisputable. that the young man who had gone out into the battle is the representative of Ahab, and the man entrusted to his keeping, but allowed to escape through carelessness, is the representative of Ben-hadad." "Israel had just endured a hard, bloody fight, and had carried off the promised victory; but now, in the person of Ben-hadad, it had let the arch-enemy, whom God had given into their hands, go free and unpunished." It is especially to be noted that as the man in the parable is represented as having a prisoner entrusted to his care by another, so Ben-hadad had been given into Ahab's hand by god as His prisoner. God was captain, Ahab only keeper.

1. The overthrow of kings and rulers proceeds from the Divine hand, and is often necessary for the preservation of those whom they rule.

2. That when God gives men power over others, it is at their peril if they do not use it according to His will. For man to deliver where God condemns is to affect to be more merciful than God. To question the decision of a human judge is to cast a doubt upon either his ability or his character. "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" Shall criminal reverse the sentence of another with impunity?

3. Weakness of purpose and lack of character may be mistaken for generosity: A man who uses money for the benefit of others which has been entrusted to his care by his master, is not generous, but dishonest. God gave Ahab place and power to use in His service; to employ them for other purposes was to rob God.

4. Those who are displeased at the truth of God are on the high road to ruin. The sentence which Ahab passed Upon the man of God was soon executed upon himself. Those who reject the remedy which would heal their disease must not complain if they have to suffer from the consequences. The truth is intended to lead to repentance.

5. Those who are ruled by the Word of God will sometimes have to suffer temporal pain for obeying it. The servant of God will sometimes find himself, like the prophet who spoke the parable, wounded "by" or "in the Word of the Lord."

(Outlines from Sermons by a London Minister.)

The parable which touched the heart of the discontented king was meant for us. We are anxious about too many things, and while we are busy here and there, lo, the principal thing is gone. We live in a hurrying age. We ask questions, and are in too much of a hurry to wait for an answer. In religious service from soul to soul nothing counts like personality. A Christ undertakes the reformation of a planet. It is a task to quail the stoutest heart, but He never hurries. His calm is ever unruffled. And when we come to think it over and count it up, we find that Jesus Christ did more work than any man who ever lived upon this earth. Science is not the enemy, but the ally of religion. Theologians are beginning to apply the methods of science to their department of knowledge. Beyond science and beyond theology is the heart of consecration for his fellow-man, which he who would do the work assigned him must have; without which, like the man who was "busy here and there," one will lose the whole object of his life. We ought, moreover, to see that the things that we do are worth the doing. The man in our story missed the relative importance of the things he had to do. What is the one thing we are to do above all others? To him who is busy in money-getting, to the lawyer, whose sole thought in this world is the law, to the doctor, who thinks little beyond his patients and their medicines, to each one wholly absorbed in his worldly occupation comes the voice while he is "busy here and there," and the man, like the king, is heavy and displeased.

(G. Hedges, D. D.)

Homilist.
We are so "busy here and there" — busy in commerce, in letters, in politics, in domestic, social, and ecclesiastical matters, that things, oftentimes invaluable, pass away from us without our knowing it.

I. MEANS OF IMPROVEMENT PASS AWAY FROM MEN IN THIS WAY. "Whilst men are busy here and there,"

(1)religious services have come and gone,

(2)Christian ministers have appeared and departed,

(3)soul-rousing books are come from the press, and run through their edition unobserved; they are dead to everything but their business.

II. OPPORTUNITIES FOR USEFULNESS PASS AWAY PROM MEN IN THIS WAY. The father is so absorbed in his business, that he neglects the spiritual culture of his children, and they reach a stage of depravity without his knowing it. Whilst men are busy, those around them who need their instruction drop into their graves, and pass beyond their reach. How many merchants in London, professing Christianity, carry on their daily avocations in the city with a soul so absorbed in their business, that they are unconscious of the thousand sinning, wretched, and dying spirits that teem around their warehouse.

III. THE DAYS OF GRACE PASS AWAY FROM MEN IN THIS WAY. Through this absorbing spirit of business, men lose their years without knowing it, — feel themselves old and grey-headed before they are aware. This subject serves to impress us.

1. With the fact that man has evidently fallen. It can never be that the human soul, with its moral sensibilities, its noble faculties, its fountain of affection, was made to be thus engrossed with the material concerns of a few short years. No, we have fallen. This subject serves to impress us:

2. With the fact that change is a resistless law of life. It matters not whether we are busy or asleep, change proceeds in its resistless march. While we are "busy here and there," men are dying, the outward scenes of life are changing, our own life is decaying, our end is approaching. We may be so busy on the shore as to think of nothing but the few shells we are gathering, but the billows are rolling on, and will bury us and our business soon. This subject serves to impress us:

3. With the fact that a religious life is a wise life. A religious life is a life that subordinates the body to the soul, matter to mind, business to virtue, time to eternity, all to God. "Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all to the glory of God."

(Homilist.).

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