Elijah and Elisha 11
Elijah and Elisha 11.
Can we please turn to 1 Kings 21? [P] We have been looking at the prophet Elijah; the record of Israel continues on in the Bible but Elijah does not figure until he appears briefly in this chapter. Elijah was the man of God who stood alone for יהוה! Or was he? [P] He, himself maintained: “I am the only one left”: [1 Kings 18:22 Then Elijah said to the people, “I alone am left a prophet of יהוה.] And in: [1 Kings 19:10 He said, “…. I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.” 1 Kings 19:14 Then he said, “…. I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.”] I don’t think Elijah was lying; he was right there in the presence of יהוה, talking to Him face-to-face. You do not lie in His all-seeing, all-revealing, presence. As far as he was aware; he was convinced that he was the only one left. But something happened; we move on in time and there are other prophets around, other men of God. Either they were ones that Elijah was unaware of at the time, or perhaps they were hidden in the woodwork and came out. Or, perhaps, there was a move of God in response to what happened on Mount Carmel and men were raised up for God. The nation as a whole didn’t turn back to יהוה but it seems that individuals may have responded. Hadn’t יהוה Himself said that He would leave 7,000 that would not bow the knee to Baal? But as time moves on we encounter other prophets: [1 Kings 20:13 Now behold, a prophet approached Ahab king of Israel and said, …… 1 Kings 20:22 Then the prophet came near to the king of Israel and said to him, ….. ]. Then in [1 Kings 20:28 Then a man of God came near and spoke to the king of Israel and said, ….. ] Here were men of God speaking up on His behalf. [1 Kings 20:35 Now a certain man of the sons of the prophets said to another by the word of יהוה, “Please strike me.”] The “sons of the prophets” were a school of prophets, men being raised up to have a prophetic ministry. Up to this time prophets have been individuals, now we are seeing an organized scheme for training them. There was a group of them: [1 Kings 20:41 the king of Israel recognized him that he was of the prophets.] plural; there was a recognized group of them. Ahab was contemplating going to war against Syria/Aram with Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, this was the third time he’d fought Aram since we last met him on mount Carmel, so time has moved on: [1 Kings 22:8 The king of Israel said to Jehoshaphat, “There is yet one man by whom we may inquire of יהוה, but I hate him, because he does not prophesy good concerning me, but evil. He is Micaiah son of Imlah.”] Later on, near the end of Elijah’s time: [2 Kings 2:3 Then the sons of the prophets who were at Bethel came out to Elisha and said to him, ….. 2 Kings 2:5 The sons of the prophets who were at Jericho approached Elisha and said to him, …] There was a group at Bethel, and a group at Jericho, and another group: [2 Kings 2:7 Now fifty men of the sons of the prophets went and stood opposite them at a distance, while the two of them stood by the Jordan.] Israel was in a spiritually low state but יהוה was still at work. [P] We can take encouragement! Our nation is in a spiritually low state; godlessness has become the norm. It is respectable now to be irreligious and Christianity carries a stigma. But יהוה is still at work! He has His men, and women, who stand up and speak up on His behalf. We see this in the passage before us: great spiritual declension, but God is still at work. The sorry spiritual state of Israel at this time is akin to the way our nation is now. And it goes right to the top: [P] Idolatry, doing away with יהוה, was rampant: [1 Kings 21:1–29 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. [P] 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, (it was convenient for him) 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.” But Naboth said to Ahab, “יהוה forbid me that I should give you the inheritance of my fathers.” (here was another man who stuck to his principles, he swore in the name of יהוה) [P] 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 felt sorry for himself, had a pity-party) [P] 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?” 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.’ (oh, how reasonable, considerate, rational and humanistic) But he said, ‘I will not give you my vineyard.’” Jezebel his wife said to him, “Do you now reign over Israel? (Who was wearing the pants in that household?) Arise, eat bread, and let your heart be joyful; I will give you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.” (Jezebel took charge. Took the initiative to get what she wanted – it is not an unusual thing! People everywhere are doing it, taking charge to get their own way – selfishness!) [P] So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name (taking her husband’s authority) and sealed them with his seal, and sent letters to the elders and to the nobles who were living with Naboth in his city. Now she wrote in the letters, saying, “Proclaim a feast and seat Naboth at the head of the people; and seat two worthless men before him, and let them testify against him, saying, ‘You cursed God and the king.’ (false witnesses were hired to tell lies, perjure themselves) Then take him out and stone him to death.” (they were going to frame Naboth. Someone gets in your way, you have them killed, tread on others to get your own way) So the men of his city, the elders and the nobles who lived in his city, did as Jezebel had sent word to them, (who was ruling Ahab or Jezebel?) just as it was written in the letters which she had sent them. [P] They proclaimed a feast and seated Naboth at the head of the people. Then the two worthless men came in and sat before him; and the worthless men testified against him, even against Naboth, before the people, saying, “Naboth cursed God and the king.” [P] So they took him outside the city and stoned him to death with stones. (they did exactly as they had planned. They conceived evil and carried it out) Then they sent word to Jezebel, saying, “Naboth has been stoned and is dead.” When Jezebel heard that Naboth had been stoned and was dead, Jezebel said to Ahab, [P] “Arise, take possession of the vineyard of Naboth, the Jezreelite, which he refused to give you for money; for Naboth is not alive, but dead.” (he got what he wanted and he didn’t even have to pay anything for it. He was king and could do as he wanted: dominate and rule over others. Jesus said that this is what the Gentiles do) When Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, [P] Ahab arose to go down to the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, to take possession of it. Then the word of יהוה came to Elijah the Tishbite, (Yes, he is still around, still hearing from יהוה, still His servant, doing what He tells him) saying, “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. (יהוה knew exactly where Ahab was and what he was doing – you cannot hide from יהוה!) “You shall speak to him, saying, ‘Thus says יהוה, “Have you murdered and also taken possession?”’ And you shall speak to him, saying, ‘Thus says יהוה, (twice thus says יהוה!) “In the place where the dogs licked up the blood of Naboth the dogs will lick up your blood, even yours.” ’ ” [P] 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 יהוה. (we use to have a memory verse as kids: “Be sure your sin will find you out” Num 32:23)“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; 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, (the two previous dynasties of Israel that were wiped out) because of the provocation with which you have provoked Me to anger, (it is a dangerous thing, and extremely foolish, to make יהוה angry) and because you have made Israel sin. (it wasn’t just him, his sin had an effect on others, he was leader, others followed his example of sin) “Of Jezebel also has יהוה spoken, saying, ‘The dogs will eat Jezebel in the district of Jezreel.’ “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.” (it was a message of unrelenting judgement. יהוה was not pleased with Ahab!) Surely there was no one like Ahab who sold himself to do evil in the sight of יהוה, because Jezebel his wife incited him. (what we do is done in the sight of יהוה!) He acted very abominably in following idols, according to all that the Amorites had done, whom יהוה cast out before the sons of Israel. (what a diatribe against Ahab! There is the Scripture’s commentary on Ahab! He stands out in the Bible as the most evil of kings. Here was a man who did not please God! They don’t come much worse. But listen to what takes place next! It is a most amazing thing!) [P] It came about when Ahab heard these words, (why did God tell him what He was going to do? To warn him, turn him back) that he tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and fasted, [P] and he lay in sackcloth and went about despondently. (Ahab listened to the word of יהוה through Elijah, he’d never taken any notice previously but what does he do now? He REPENTS! He was miserable, he mourned his sin, realized the consequences of what he had done. And what does יהוה do?) Then the word of יהוה came to Elijah the Tishbite, [P] saying, “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.”] What יהוה said would still happen, but Ahab’s repentance brought a reprieve; he was spared from seeing this evil. It is a long passage, so I am not going to go into a detailed verse by verse exposition; rather, let’s just pick out a few simple points. Here we have Ahab, the king, the leader to the nation; and what do we find? He is like a petulant 2-year-old! Twice he says “give me” [P] (verse 2 &6). Are we “gimme” Christians? Our prayers can be like that: “Gimme this, gimme that”! Ahab saw something that someone else had and he wanted it. There is a word for it: Covetousness! It is the type of thing the prophet Micah denounced: [Micah 2:2 They covet fields and then seize them, and houses, and take them away. They rob a man and his house, A man and his inheritance.] It is a sin! The tenth commandment stated: [Exodus 20:17 “You shall not covet your neighbour’s house; you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife or his male servant or his female servant or his ox or his donkey or anything that belongs to your neighbour.”] It is not just an Old Testament law: [Ephesians 5:5 For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.] It excludes you from the Kingdom of God! It is serious business! But what do we do when we see someone with a flash car or a fine home?: “I wouldn’t mind that!” We see what other people have and we want it! I have a concern over a brand of Christianity extant which seems to think that God exists just to bless you, to heal you, provide for you, prosper you. You come to God for what He is going to give you – at heart, at root, it is SELFISHNESS! Gimme Christianity! And true Christianity is utterly the opposite! It calls for us to deny self, to lay down our lives for others. It is a root of strife: [James 4:1–5 What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust (want things) and do not have; so you commit murder. (that is what Ahab ended up doing) You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel. You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures. (selfishness!) You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God?! Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.] There is great peace in being satisfied with what you have: [1 Timothy 6:6 But godliness with contentment is great gain]. However, Naboth refused to give Ahab what he demanded. I mean Ahab was reasonable: he offered to pay or give him land in exchange; what was the big deal? Naboth held to principle. [P] You cannot get around it, the promised to Israel from God is intimately associated with real estate. God gave them the land. Land was allotted to them from יהוה, it became their inheritance. It wasn’t to be sold, or exchanged, boundary markers were not to be moved. This allotment of land was from God! It was a Divine gift! Are you going to exchange what God has given for cash?! This is how Peter responded to such a suggestion, when Simon wanted to purchase a spiritual gift: [Acts 8:18–23 Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was bestowed through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, saying, “Give me (just what Ahab said) this authority as well, so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have no part or portion in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Therefore repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray the Lord that, if possible, the intention of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bondage of iniquity.”] Naboth held to principle – he was not going to give up his inheritance from יהוה. How unreasonable he seemed! Ahab was going to compensate him, why make a fuss? And if we hold to principle against the reasonable sounding rational of humanism, the world’s values; we are going to appear unreasonable, and we will suffer for it. It is easier to just go with the flow. It takes a determination of character to hold to principle. What happens to those who hold to principle? The ruthless trample all over them. They have their plans and nothing will stand in their way. Jezebel was going to make things happen [P] Naboth’s refusal wouldn’t stand in her way. She had a plan. That is the way of the world – we have our plans. We are exhorted to dream a dream, carpe diem, seize the day, make it happen – assert yourself, realise your dream. I have even heard it preached “dream a dream for God”. It is encouraging us to pursue selfishness! Do you have performance reviews at work? Always you have to set goals. Set your sights on what you want, and then take action to realise it. Things didn’t go Ahab’s way; so, Jezebel was going to make it happen. She conceived a plan and put it into action. She usurped her husband’s authority, wrote orders in his name. What she purposed, she accomplished. She asserted herself and her will. She had a clever plan whereby Naboth would be framed and executed. The impediment to what she wanted would be removed. It involved lies, perjury, murder – but no matter, it accomplished her goal. It was a clever scheme and it worked. Today, there is a worship of pragmatism; if it works, then it must be right! But it is placing my interests above everyone else’s [P] Jezebel got what she wanted, accomplished what she set out to do; but, it was at the cost of Naboth’s life! To get what she wanted she had someone put to death! You can get what you want, realize your goal but at what cost?! To accomplish your will, will always be at the cost of someone else’s! We are encouraged to be ambitious, reach for the stars, to climb the ladder of promotion, to make something of yourself. How do we do it? By trampling on others! I have preached from this book before but essential reading is: “Yertle the turtle” [P] – it tells the story of a turtle who was king of all he could see – but he was ambitious, he wanted his kingdom to be bigger. And, the way to see more, was to be higher; and the way that he got higher was to climb on top of other turtles. And that is the way to the top; trampling on others. Implicit is that my life, my goal is more important than the other person. [Matthew 20:25 But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them.] Now, tell me ….. did the King of glory get to the top by trampling on others? No, [Mark 10:45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”] Not to lord it over, but to give his life. [Philippians 2:6–10 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a slave, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth.] The way up is not to trample on others but to take the lowliest position. Ahab wanted Naboth’s vineyard; it was this desire that led him along the path he and his wife took. Here is the path: desire - temptation - sin - death [P] [James 1:14–15 But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. (his desire) Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.] We all have desires and desires are not wrong but they can lead to temptation, and that can lead to sin, to covetousness. And, ultimately, the consequence of sin is death! We are all different, our desires differ but the pattern is the same – although the desires differ, we need to be aware where they can lead to: the path to temptation, to sin, which ultimately ends in death. This is where it led for Ahab. When He couldn’t get what he wanted, his wife plotted, committed murder to accomplish that desire. The temptation was not resisted, it was fostered and sin was the result. And God announced the inglorious death of Ahab and Jezebel. That was the consequence of sin. It always is, without exception. You see, their sin had not gone unnoticed. God sees and judges [P] Through His servant, His spokesman, Elijah, יהוה announced judgement. יהוה saw – He knew exactly where Ahab was and what He was doing: He told Elijah: “behold, he is in the vineyard of Naboth where he has gone down to take possession of it”. יהוה then gave Elijah a message to announce: “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; 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. Of Jezebel also has יהוה spoken, saying, ‘The dogs will eat Jezebel in the district of Jezreel.’ “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.” It was a message of judgement. And this judgement was carried out: There is a sequel to this story: יהוה had promised that Ahab would not see the judgement that He pronounced, but it came to his son: [2 Kings 9:21–26 Joram king of Israel and Ahaziah king of Judah went out, (both were evil kings, who יהוה was about to put to death through a man He had told Elijah to anoint as king of Israel. In fact, it was much later that Elisha sent a prophet to anoint him king. He was a commander of Israel’s army. When he was anointed, he set out in his chariot with his men to Joram the king. Ahaziah was with Joram, visiting because they had been to war together against Syria, and Joram had been wounded. When they saw Jehu approaching they went out to meet him) each in his chariot, and they went out to meet Jehu and found him in the property of Naboth the Jezreelite. (It remained his property) When Joram saw Jehu, he said, “Is it peace, Jehu?” And he answered, “What peace, so long as the harlotries of your mother Jezebel and her witchcrafts are so many?” So Joram reined about and fled and said to Ahaziah, “There is treachery, O Ahaziah!” And Jehu drew his bow with his full strength and shot Joram between his arms; and the arrow went through his heart and he sank in his chariot. Then Jehu said to Bidkar his officer, “Take him up and cast him into the property of the field of Naboth the Jezreelite, for I remember when you and I were riding together after Ahab his father, that יהוה laid this oracle against him: ‘Surely I have seen yesterday the blood of Naboth and the blood of his sons,’ says יהוה, ‘and I will repay you in this property,’ says יהוה. Now then, take and cast him into the property, according to the word of יהוה.” Judgement came, vengeance, right in the very property of Naboth himself. If God did not judge; then He would not be just! Is not God merciful and loving? Yes, but should sin be just ignored, allowed to be committed without consequence? Is that right? Is that good? No, our souls cry out for justice! But justice requires judgement. And Elijah pronounced the judgement of יהוה. But why did He announce it to the king? He announces beforehand as a warning. You are in danger! There is a consequence for the path you are on! This is what is going to happen! In judgement God remembers mercy – there, in the judgement, is a warning, a hope that the wayward one will turn from his ways, will regret his path and turn to God – that He will repent. God does not delight in the death of man; He gives ample opportunity for men to repent: [P] [2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.] And this, praise God, is what happened: Repentance moves God’s heart [P] Ahab humbled himself, was truly sorrowful; went into mourning. “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.” He took יהוה’s words to heart; he humbled himself. Instead of treading on others; he took the lowly position. And, praise God, יהוה noticed: “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.” Judgement would still come, justice must be carried out; but repentance moved יהוה to have mercy. Here was the most evil king Israel had known; yet he found mercy! Hallelujah! How did he find it? How did he move יהוה’s heart? Through REPENTANCE. It is still the same today. Repentance is what God is looking for. It was the same for Judah: their most evil king was Manasseh: [2 Chronicles 33:12–13 When he was in distress, he entreated יהוה his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. When he prayed to Him, He was moved by his entreaty and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that יהוה was God.] But he left a legacy of evil in the nation; the king who followed was called Josiah. When he read the Scriptures, he was convicted and he too repented and turned to God: [2 Kings 22:19–20 because your heart was tender and you humbled yourself יהוה when you heard what I spoke against this place (he heard and heeded the warning) and against its inhabitants that they should become a desolation and a curse, and you have torn your clothes and wept before Me, I truly have heard you,” declares יהוה. “Therefore, behold, I will gather you to your fathers, and you will be gathered to your grave in peace, and your eyes will not see all the evil which I will bring on this place.”] His repentance also brought a reprieve. Repentance moves יהוה’s heart! Jesus said: [P] [Luke 5:32 I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.”] He also said: [P] [Revelation 3:19 ‘Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent.] What is the conclusion?: therefore repent: [P] [Acts 3:19 Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord;] This is the way of salvation: [P] [Isaiah 30:15 For thus the Lord יהוה, the Holy One of Israel, has said, “In repentance and rest you will be saved.”]