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1 Kings 21 by Robert Dean
Series:Kings (2007)
Duration:46 mins 17 secs

God's Love Brings Both Blessing and Discipline - 1 Kings 21


Scripture clearly teaches that God's love comes to the believer in two ways: in the form of blessing but also in the form of discipline. A picture that we have of this for the church age believer comes out of the Old Testament. Any time we study any passage of Scripture we need to think of it in terms of one of two broad ways of application. One is salvation or justification. Are the principles in the passage we are reading teaching us basic principles about how to have eternal life, how to be justified, how to experience the perfect forgiveness that God has for every single unbeliever. Aside from those passages everything else in the Scripture has to do with our spiritual life; it has something to do with our advance, our sanctification.


For most of the study we have been engaged in recently, starting in 1 Kings 12 and the split into the two kingdoms, we have spent most of that time dealing with the northern kingdom. If we step back and get the broad picture what we see is the deterioration of the northern kingdom as their spiritual life fades. Because of negative volition they move from one stage of idolatry to a worse stage and as they go through these successive stages of idolatry and rebellion against God then there are successive stages of divine discipline. This pattern is also true in our lives and so we can learn from this in terms of warning.


We should be reminded that the way in which we are to look at the Old Testament in terms of Israel and learning lessons from the nation Israel and applying them to our life individually is to look at Israel as a people of God in the Old Testament. They are the people of God in the Old Testament and are secured in that relationship with God by means of the Abrahamic covenant. They are pictured as a people, as a nation, as having a special relationship with God. That doesn't mean that by birth they are justified or saved but that their position as a nation is secured and can never be lost because of God's unconditional promise in the Abrahamic covenant. The same thing is true for every church age believer. Our position in Christ is guaranteed by the same faithful promise of God that if we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ we have eternal life. We did nothing to earn that or deserve it and so we can do nothing to lose that; that is our secure position in the Lord Jesus Christ. But once we are saved/justified and have eternal life, then the next question is: what are we going to do with our new spiritual life. Are we going to just say we are saved and can do whatever we want to, or are we going to realize that as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ it is now our responsibility to grow as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, to mature as believers, in order to glorify Him in our life and in order to experience all of the many blessings that are ours potentially in Christ. When we were saved God gave us a blessing package. This is true for every single believer but we only receive those blessings when we reach maturity in order to be able to handle those blessings. Post-salvation life is what we refer to as the spiritual life.


When we compare the spiritual life of the church age believer with the spiritual life of the nation Israel that is where the spiritual lessons come into play. The Old Testament nation Israel was secured in the plan of God because of the Abrahamic covenant; the believer in the church age is secure in his position in Christ because of what Christ did on the cross and our faith in Him and the promise of God.  In the Old Testament the Mosaic covenant was given to Israel not as a means of salvation but as the plan of God for a saved people, and God would bless them if they were obedient or discipline and judge them if they were disobedient. The same principle is true for the church age believer. Our security in God's plan is already there because of our faith in Christ and our adoption into God's family, but our experience of God's blessings is dependent on our obedience. So in both the Old and New Testaments we have the same emphasis. The Christian life in the church age and the spiritual life in the Old Testament is basically pretty simple. We can boil it down to those two words in that hymn: Trust and Obey. But we have to know what to obey; we have to be able to think more precisely about all of the issues in life and how the Word of God affects all of those issues. We can't go running around in life thinking that somehow we can solve the problems we face in the energy of our own flesh, our own ability, when God has provided both the way to handle all those problems and the means to implementing all of that way. So we have to study the Word and to learn it, and that includes the full counsel of God, everything in the Old Testament as well as the New Testament. We don't just cut out the Old Testament; there are many principles there that apply to us.    


What we see in the northern kingdom of Israel is a pattern that is true for every believer who turns his back on God and implements just basic human viewpoint techniques of trying to face life and handle problems. In Israel prior to the split there were two kings who walked with God for the most part of their life: David, and Solomon up to a point. Under their reigns, when they trusted God and were obedient to God, the nation experienced unprecedented blessing. Under Solomon God gave them an extraordinary amount of blessing and the nation expended. They were one of the wealthiest nations in the world and one of the greatest empires of the world. But then when Solomon began to trust in himself rather than God, and as he turned his back on God and began to assimilate the thinking of the world system around him, as he began to synthesize various religious viewpoints, syncretize his religion and no longer walked exclusively with God, then the nation came under increasing divine discipline. So at the end of his reign Solomon is not characterized as a good king but as an evil king because he led the people astray, and this is seen especially in the way in which he allowed for the building of various idols and places of worship in the high places.  


After his death, because of his disobedience to God, the kingdom was split. The ten tribes were taken away from the house of David and the northern kingdom was established. We have traced the degradation and deterioration that occurred there, and this is what happens in our lives through carnality and sin; we just don't start off as bad as we can be. We start off in small steps into letting the sin nature control our lives and then as we seem to think we are getting away with this but that is because God in His grace often gives us many opportunities to turn back to Him and recover. We go through this process of increasing deterioration and disobedience in our life. We saw that with Israel, starting off with Jeroboam and the construction of the idols in Bethel and in Dan. He dedicated those idols and said: "This is the God who brought you up out of slavery in Egypt." He was assigning to the idol the identity of God and so there is this way of syncretism and mixing the elements of truth with elements of untruth and religious lies. As he led the people into idolatry his dynasty, his house, came under divine discipline. Ahab and Jezebel brought in even more idolatry and an even worse form of religion into the nation, so there is the continued degradation that occurs and people ask: why isn't God doing anything? God is doing something, He is bringing increasing calamity upon the nation and we see this tremendous instability that has developed in the northern kingdom.

But God is still dealing with them in grace and in chapter 20 we saw that He gave Ahab victory over the Syrians. Ben-hadad failed to take over the nation but he failed, not because Ahab is so great and God is blessing Ahab by giving him victory; it has to do with God's purpose for the nation that has nothing to do with Ahab. He is going to put Ahab under judgment but God is still going to treat the nation in grace to fulfill His plan. That happens many times in history. By the end of chapter 20 we saw that Ahab was condemned because when he finally does capture Ben-hadad he doesn't kill him as he should have, he bargains with him and releases him to go back to Damascus. God sent one of the prophets to Ahab and announces his judgment. 1 Kings 20:42, 43 NASB "He said to him, 'Thus says the LORD, 'Because you have let go out of {your} hand the man whom I had devoted to destruction, therefore your life shall go for his life, and your people for his people.' So the king of Israel went to his house sullen and vexed, and came to Samaria."

This introduces us to Ahab's mental attitude. He is not happy. God has brought this judgment upon him and he knows that his days are numbered. He is angry and depressed and it just gets worse. This often happens in life. When we feel down and depressed and discouraged we need to take a good hard look at what is going on in our life spiritually and where our focus is. If we continue in that state without realizing the promises of God and what He has supplied us then it is just going to get even worse. That is what happens with Ahab. Rather than utilizing that announcement of judgment as a way of bringing him back under the authority of God he continues to be rebellious toward God; yet God continues to be gracious toward him.

1 Kings 21:1 NASB "Now it came about after these things that Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard which {was} in Jezreel beside the palace of Ahab king of Samaria." This must have really been a piece of prime real estate because the king would take the best spot for the palace, Naboth took the land right next to it and it is part of his inheritance. Property and private ownership of property is at the core of all national economy and prosperity. When people don't have land and the right of ownership of land then there is no personal right to ownership of the means of production. What happens when there are other systems of economics come in such as socialism or communism that take away the right of private ownership of land or where the means of production comes under the control of the government it destroys the ability of a people to secure their own future and to make decisions with regard to their own future destiny. It wipes out the first divine institution which is individual responsibility and this always leads ultimately to a collapse. No nation has ever reached a level of prosperity and success without recognizing the right of ownership and ownership of the means of production.

Ahab looks on this land and he is jealous. 1 Kings 21:2 NASB "Ahab spoke to Naboth, saying, 'Give me your vineyard, that I may have it for a vegetable garden because it is close beside my house, and I will give you a better vineyard than it in its place; if you like, I will give you the price of it in money.'" This is a principle known imminent domain. How current is this! It is recognized in our nation that if there is real estate that someone owns and it is deemed necessary for the good of the whole for the land to be used for some significant purpose that the state has the right to come in and take that land as theirs, but to pay the going market price for that land. But for Ahab there was a little problem called the Constitution. Naboth is one who wants to live his life on the basis of what the Constitution said, which in that case was the Mosaic Law. According to the Mosaic Law no family could sell their inheritance. If they were to sell their inheritance then on the year of Jubilee that land ownership would revert back to the family, so they could never permanently get rid of the land. [3] "But Naboth said to Ahab, 'The LORD forbid me that I should give you the inheritance of my fathers.'"

1 Kings 21:4 "So Ahab came into his house sullen and vexed because of the word which Naboth the Jezreelite had spoken to him; for he said, 'I will not give you the inheritance of my fathers.' And he lay down on his bed and turned away his face and ate no food." He has his own little pity party; he is totally self-absorbed and acts like a spoiled brat because he can't get what he wants. Ultimately God won't let him have it. [5] "But Jezebel his wife came to him and said to him, 'How is it that your spirit is so sullen that you are not eating food?' [6] "So he said to her, 'Because I spoke to Naboth the Jezreelite and said to him, 'Give me your vineyard for money; or else, if it pleases you, I will give you a vineyard in its place.' But he said, 'I will not give you my vineyard.'" Jezebel is going to come up with an insidious plan. She is going to ignore the Mosaic Law and get involved in some dirty deeds in order to set up Naboth. She arranges a banquet where she will put a couple of thugs next to Naboth at dinner who are then going to suddenly feign anger against him, accusing him of blaspheming God and slandering the king—using him, following the law. You always have to watch people who use the law to destroy the law, and you have to be very perceptive; people use the law in order to pervert the law. Jezebel is going to follow the appearance of the law—two witnesses to accuse Naboth of blasphemy—to trump up what appears to have a legitimate justification for executing him. There is no recourse for him under this kind of tyranny, no court of appeal, no way that he can defend himself, and so he is hauled out and execute him.

1 Kings 21:16 NASB "When Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, Ahab arose to go down to the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, to take possession of it." It seems like he has got it, but God is the one who reigns in the affairs of men. Cf. 1 Samuel 8:11-14, Samuel's warning. The danger of big government: it destroys the ability of the private sector to function to it fullest extent. See also Ezekiel 46:18 NASB "The prince shall not take from the people's inheritance, thrusting them out of their possession; he shall give his sons inheritance from his own possession so that My people will not be scattered, anyone from his possession." The context of this verse is the Millennium, so there will be private property in the period of perfect environment. Here, with Naboth out of the way the vineyard come into the possession of Jezebel and Ahab and he is going to come under divine discipline. Something we have to remember is that believers don't get away with it; judgment is inevitable. Hosea 8:5-7 NASB "He has rejected your [idolatrous] calf, O Samaria, {saying,} 'My anger burns against them!' How long will they be incapable of innocence? For from Israel is even this! A craftsman made it, so it is not God; Surely the calf of Samaria will be broken to pieces. For they sow the wind And they reap the whirlwind. The standing grain has no heads; It yields no grain. Should it yield, strangers would swallow it up." 2 Peter 3:9 states the principle.

Now God is going to send to Ahab Ahab's favorite person: Elijah! 1 Kings 21:17 NASB "Then the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, [18] 'Arise, go down to meet Ahab king of Israel, who is in Samaria; behold, he is in the vineyard of Naboth where he has gone down to take possession of it. [19] You shall speak to him, saying, 'Thus says the LORD, "Have you murdered and also taken possession?" 'And you shall speak to him, saying, 'Thus says the LORD, "In the place where the dogs licked up the blood of Naboth the dogs will lick up your blood, even yours." [20] Ahab said to Elijah, 'Have you found me, O my enemy?' And he answered, 'I have found {you,} because you have sold yourself to do evil in the sight of the LORD.'" It was Jezebel who had the plan and who brought it to completion but Ahab, when he finds out about it, goes right along with it, and so he is just as guilty as if he had been involved from the very beginning. He did nothing to punish Jezebel. [21] "Behold, I will bring evil upon you, and will utterly sweep you away, and will cut off from Ahab every male, both bond and free in Israel; [22] and I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah, because of the provocation with which you have provoked {Me} to anger, and {because} you have made Israel sin. [23] Of Jezebel also has the LORD spoken, saying, 'The dogs will eat Jezebel in the district of Jezreel.'" Nothing will be left of Jezebel, they are not going to be able to bury her or find her. [24] "The one belonging to Ahab, who dies in the city, the dogs will eat, and the one who dies in the field the birds of heaven will eat. [25] Surely there was no one like Ahab who sold himself to do evil in the sight of the LORD, because Jezebel his wife incited him. [26] It came about when Ahab heard these words, that he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and fasted, and he lay in sackcloth and went about despondently."

All of that is his condemnation, his indictment. He is guilty of the worst sins in the northern kingdom, he has led them into the worst forms of idolatry including child sacrifice, and God is bringing this judgment upon him. But look at how he responds. 1 Kings 21:27 NASB "It came about when Ahab heard these words, that he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and fasted, and he lay in sackcloth and went about despondently." This is a sign of repentance, of the fact that he recognizes that God has the right to judge him in this way, and he is expressing his sorrow—not just his sorrow of getting caught but a true internal change of heart towards God. He recognizes the horror of his own sins. This is not saying that this is when he was saved, or that Ahab was saved; the text doesn't address the issue of his salvation a all. But as the king of Israel he is under the authority of God to obey God, and he has been disobedient. Now he is admitting that and is in genuine repentance. The Lord who looks on the heart knows what is truly going on with Ahab and recognizes it is legitimate.

1 Kings 21:29 NASB "Do you see how Ahab has humbled himself before Me? Because he has humbled himself before Me, I will not bring the evil in his days, {but} I will bring the evil upon his house in his son's days." So even in judgment, because of the way in which Ahab humbled himself in obedience to God and changed his mind, God relents on some of the harshness of the judgment. The doctrine here is that God is in control of history and no matter what happens, no matter how evil or wicked government powers may be, no matter how evil we may be, God's grace extends to us. When God disciplines us, and he will because of our disobedience, it always comes with His grace. This is seen in Hebrews 12:5-7 NASB "and you have forgotten the exhortation which is addressed to you as sons, 'MY SON, DO NOT REGARD LIGHTLY THE DISCIPLINE OF THE LORD, NOR FAINT WHEN YOU ARE REPROVED BY HIM; FOR THOSE WHOM THE LORD LOVES HE DISCIPLINES, AND HE SCOURGES EVERY SON WHOM HE RECEIVES.' It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom {his} father does not discipline?"

The lesson in this is that just as in the northern kingdom we can become disobedient children. We don't lose our salvation but we can lose the privilege and opportunity of blessing from God. Though God treat us is grace after grace after grace in trying to woo us back into obedience, at some point He will lower the boom in terms of discipline. Some of that discipline can be quite harsh, some of it can be lessened, and some of it won't be lessened very much; and if we continue in carnality then we can end up in the sin unto death. The message of Hebrews is to not take lightly the discipline of the Lord; don't get in that position where through ongoing disobedience, ongoing carnality, that we get in the position of divine discipline.