1 Kings 21:1-24
And it came to pass after these things, that Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard, which was in Jezreel…
This chapter describes one of the blackest crimes which ever blotted the page of history. The description is so graphic that we seem eyewitnesses of the tragedy, and so suggestive that we can understand the motives and feelings of the principal actors. Naboth has been blamed sometimes for refusing what appeared a reasonable request that he would sell a piece of land to his rightful king at a fair price. It is evident, however, that he was not only acting within his right, but that he could not have assented to the proposal without breaking the Divine law given by Moses. The paternal inheritance might only be sold in extreme poverty, and then on the condition that it might be redeemed at any time; and, if not previously redeemed by purchase, it reverted to the original owner at the year of jubilee (Leviticus 25:13-28). With Naboth it was not the dictate of churlishness, but of conscience, to refuse the proposal of the king. Nor was Ahab's guilt the less because the crime was suggested by Jezebel He might be deficient in nerve and inventiveness, but he was not in iniquity. Let us trace him in this his hideous downfall, that none of us may be "hardened by the deceitfulness of sin." Our subject is the PROGRESS OF SIN. We see here -
I. POSSESSIONS LEADING TO COVETOUSNESS. His stately palace and park at Jezreel did not content him. With greedy eye he looked on this tiny plot of freehold, and resolved to have it. It is not in the power of material possessions to satisfy man. The rich man must be richer still; the large kingdom must extend itself yet further; the great business must crush the small competitors, etc. How often this leads to wrongs wrought on the poorer and weaker! "The love of money is the root of all evil." "Take heed and beware of covetousness, for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of things that he possesseth."
II. COVETOUSNESS LEADING TO DISCONTENT. "He laid himself down upon his bed, and turned away his face, and would eat no bread." Disappointed of that which he coveted he could find no pleasure in that which he already possessed. Show how easily a discontented habit of mind may be formed, and how it embitters everything. Thankfulness, gladness, and hope are strangled by this serpent sin. The necessity of watching against the rise of this in our children.
III. DISCONTENT LEADING TO EVIL COUNSEL (ver. 7). Ahab was just in the right condition to welcome anything bad. On an ordinary occasion he might have repelled this hideous suggestion. Satan watches his opportunity. His temptations are adapted to our age, our social position, our mood of mind. What would fail today may succeed tomorrow. What the youth would spurn the old man may welcome, etc. "Watch and pray, lest ye enter into temptation." It is an evil thing to have a bad counsellor always near you. Let that thought guard us against unholy associates.
IV. EVIL COUNSEL LEADING TO LIES (ver. 10). The fast was a hypocritical device to prepare the minds of the people for the death of Naboth. Its appointment presupposed that there was a grievous offence committed by some one, which the community was to mourn. Their suspicions would be ready to fasten on any man who was suddenly and boldly accused by two independent witnesses. The scheme was as subtle as it was sinful. Give examples of the use of deceit and lies in modern life for the purpose of making money, advancing social interests, etc. Show the sinfulness of this.
V. LIES LEADING TO MURDER (ver. 18). Not only was Naboth killed, but his children also (2 Kings 9:26). Hence the property would revert to the king. It was a cold-blooded murder. Few worse are recorded in history. Seldom is this most heinous crime committed until the way has been paved for it, as here, by lesser sins. Exemplify this.
VI. MURDER LEADING TO RETRIBUTION. Read Elijah's bold and terrible denunciation of the crime on the very soil of the coveted vineyard (vers. 20-24). Retribution may linger long, but it comes at last. In the light of many a startling discovery we read the words, "Be sure your sin will find you out."
CONCLUSION. - "Cleanse thou me from secret faults: keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins," etc. - A.R.
Parallel VersesKJV: And it came to pass after these things, that Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard, which was in Jezreel, hard by the palace of Ahab king of Samaria.