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Ordinary to Extraordinary – Elijah
6 – Payday is Coming
1 Kings 21:17-29
If you would, please take out the word of God and turn in it to the book of 1 Kings and chapter number 21. If you don’t have a Bible, there should be one under a chair in front of you. You can take that Bible, turn to page 269, and you would be at 1 Kings 21.
In 1985 to 1989 there was a TV series, and then in 2014 there was a movie along the same theme. The title of both of those was, ‘The Equalizer.’ In The Equalizer there is a fictional character by the name of Robert McCall. On TV it was played by an actor named Edward Woodward. In the movie it was Denzel Washington. What happens in this setting, this fictional setting, is Robert McCall is someone who is attracted to people who are mistreated, who are victims of crime, who have experienced hostility and violence, and he becomes their protector, their defender, their revenger.
Whether you personally experience it or you observe someone else experience it, when someone is a victim of wrong and they are mistreated, when they experience hostility and violence, deep inside all of us there is this innate sense of justice. You know what I’m talking about? This righteous indignation that we have that these people who perpetrated this should be held accountable. There needs to be judgment for sin, rebellion and evil.
I remember having to talk about that a lot when I first went to Latvia in 1990 because there was a lot of anger and indignation that people had because of the mistreatments under the Soviets. They would bring that up and they would say, ‘What do you have to say about that?’ One of the things I would say is, ‘Well, one thing I know from the Bible is that payday is coming.’ One of the passages I pointed them to was Psalm 73 which looks at the prosperity of the wicked. I want to just read some of the verses from that psalm [from the New Living Translation]. The psalmist says, as he looks at the wicked,
“They seem to live such a painless life; their bodies are so healthy and strong. They don’t have troubles like other people. They’re not plagued with problems like everyone else. They wear pride like a jeweled necklace and clothe themselves with cruelty. These fat cats have everything their hearts could ever wish for! They scoff and speak only evil. In their pride they seek to crush others. They boast against the very heavens, and their words strut throughout the earth. Does the most High even know what is happening? Look at these arrogant people—enjoying a life of ease while their riches multiply.” Then, I like the way it is put in the New American Standard, it says “When I pondered to understand this, it was troublesome in my sight until I came into the sanctuary of God. Then I finally understood the destiny of the wicked. [back to the NLT] Truly, God, You put them on a slippery path and sent them sliding over the cliff to destruction. In an instant they are destroyed completely swept away by terrors.” In other words, he saw afresh that payday is coming.
Men and women, I really believe that God Himself is the Equalizer. In fact, He is called, in the New Testament, the Avenger. Today, as we continue our series entitled, ‘Ordinary to Extraordinary,’ we now come to a topic that many would say is an inappropriate topic. We don’t really want to talk about this topic. It’s not a hip topic for the flock to hear, it’s just too stark, it’s just too stern. That topic ultimately is judgment day is coming. We have a real-life illustration of that in 1 Kings, chapter number 21, which I have entitled, “Payday is Coming.”
As we come to chapter 21, we are going to see five characters that are involved. We have a guy by the name of Naboth, who is a righteous man, one of the 7,000 that God told Elijah had not bowed his knee to Baal, who owns a vineyard.
Then, we are going to have Ahab, the guy who has been in the story all along, the most evil king in the northern kingdom of Israel, who, it says in chapter 16, verse 33, did more to provoke the Lord God than every king before him.
Then, we have the character of Jezebel, his diabolical wife.
Then, of course, we have Elijah, who was our hero, the representative of the living God.
Of course, we also have, as a character in this, God Himself, who is the Equalizer.
I’ve broken the chapter into three sections.
*We have The Sinister Plot, in the first sixteen verses.
*We have The Ultimate Equalizer in verses 17-26.
*Then, we have The Encouraging Hope in the last three verses, 27-29.
So, let’s dive right in. Let’s begin by looking at The Sinister Plot. Remember, we had him seeing the 450 prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. Remember that? Then, we had his big run that he took to go all the way down to Mount Sinai to try to get an answer from God about what was going on. What we see happening in chapter 21 is maybe three to four years after those events. During that time Israel had been involved in some military battles with the country of Syria. So, we come to verse 1,
“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.”
Now, Jezreel was where King Ahab had his summer palace. It was in those days like a Camp David [A country retreat location often used by the President of the United States]. He spent a lot of time there. This guy, Naboth, has a vineyard right next to it. So, in verse 2 he says to Naboth, ‘Hey, give me your vineyard. I want it for a vegetable garden. It is so close to my house. I’ll trade you out a better vineyard in its place or I’ll even give you the price of it.’ In other words, I want to raise some organic herbs and I’m going to be very reasonable about this. I’ll either trade you out for something better or I will pay you whatever price that you say is fair.
In verse 3, look at verse 3, “Naboth said to Ahab, ‘The LORD forbid me that I should give you the inheritance of my fathers.” Naboth has a deep faith in Yahweh God and he had a commitment to be careful to do what the word of Yahweh said. And in Numbers 36:7 and in Leviticus 25:23-28, God says that you are not to sell the land that you been given by Me. It is to be handed down in your family, all the way down, but don’t sell it. So, he says, ‘I’m not going to do that.’
What happens? Look at verse 4, this is always amazing to me, this is the King of Israel, “So Ahab came in his house sullen and vexed because of the word which Naboth had spoken to him…and he lay down on his bed and turned away his face and ate no food.” This the king, you know, who is in a funk. He is sulking and pouting and just staring at the wall, ‘I’m not gonna eat, I’m not gonna eat.’ One thing I think we learn about Ahab is he was a very passive person. Here is what I think he is actually doing. Why is he doing these things? Ultimately, I think he is doing these things to get attention. And that is exactly what he gets.
Verse 5, “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?’” I mean, what’s going on? So he relates to her, he says, ‘This is what happened. I went to Naboth. I asked about the vineyard and he just said, ‘I’m not going to give you my vineyard.’’ One thing again about Ahab, he is very passive-aggressive. He leaves out a lot of the details. He doesn’t say,’ Well, he was talking about the word of the Lord and he didn’t want to violate the word of the Lord.’ No, he kind of spins this, I think, so Miss Action Pants would be activated. That is exactly what happens.
Verse 7, she says, ‘Are you king or not?’ Well, who was really the de facto ruler? It’s her. And, she says to him, ‘Hey, get up, go eat your lunch, I will give you the vineyard of Naboth.’ What do you think was really the reaction of Ahab? I think the passive boy was smiling on the inside, ‘Yeah, I figured it would work just this way.’
She is very sinister and she kind of feigns concern for doing things in a godly way. You know God’s directives say you should always have two witnesses if there is a court situation. So, she gets a sinister plan going, verse 8, “She wrote letters in Ahab’s name and sealed them with his seal and sent letters to the elders and to the nobles who were living with Naboth in his city. She wrote in the letters, saying, ‘Proclaim a fast 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.’ Then take him out and stone him to death.” I mean, this is the ultimate set-up. The spiritual leaders of the community are willing co-conspirators in it.
So, what happens? Well, the men of the city, verse 11, they do just as she had sent word and they proclaim a fast, they seat Naboth at the head of the table, verse 12 Then the two worthless men come in and sit before him, they testify against him before the people and say, ‘Naboth cursed God and the king.’ So, they took him outside the city and stoned him to death with stones.”
We learn from 2 Kings, chapter 9, verse 26, that they also killed Naboth’s sons. Why did they do that? Well, they didn’t want family inheritance issues coming up. She had the whole thing planned out. In verse 14 they basically send the message to Jezebel, ‘It is done. It is done.’
Verse 15, “When Jezebel heard that Naboth had been stoned and was dead, Jezebel said to Ahab, ‘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.’” When Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, he began to inquire of her, ‘How did this happen…what happened??? How could this possibly have occurred?’ No, it doesn’t say that, does it? When he heard that Naboth was dead, what did he do? “He arose to go down to the vineyard of Naboth to take possession of it.” No questions, because this happened just as he hoped it was going to happen.
I want to hit “pause” right there, for a moment. Where was God when this wicked woman was allowed to have her plan unfold? Where is God when the wicked are allowed to flourish? Where is God when the wicked get away with murder? Where is God when people are wronged? Where is God when people are mistreated? A legitimate question to ask. Proverbs 15:3 says this, “The eyes of the LORD are in every place, watching the evil and the good.”
That was true in Latvia during the Stalin and post-Stalin years, that the eyes of the LORD were in every place, watching the evil and the good. It’s been true throughout history.
It was true in Rowanda, in 1994, when a seventeen-year-old girl by the name of Clementine had militia troops come to her village. She and her family decided to take refuge in a church, but that didn’t stop them. The troops stepped into the church and began to gun down people right before her eyes; their blood flooded the floor. She tried to run, but the soldiers grabbed her. They drove her out into the bush for torture and rape and left her there to die.
After a number of hours a compassionate soul found her, took her to a hospital that was understaffed. Then a Belgian doctor flew Clementine to Europe where she had surgery. There the doctors discovered she’d only endured part of the legacy of this horror because the soldiers had left her HIV positive.
After a little while she had full-blown AIDS. Along the way a Christian worker had shared the gospel with her and she had trusted Christ and yet, here is a young woman with full-blown AIDS, who is going to die. Where is the Lord in all of these things? Well, the eyes of the LORD are in every place, watching the evil and the good.
Where was God a week ago in Sutherland Springs, Texas, in the First Baptist Church when a man came in and there was a mass shooting? The eyes of the LORD are in every place, watching the evil and the good.
There is mystery in this. I don’t understand all of this. I don’t think anybody does. Only when we get to heaven will we see the full picture, but here is what we know: Payday is coming and God Himself is the Equalizer and the Avenger.
This is illustrated in the next section, 17-26, we want to look at The Ultimate Equalizer. Notice verse 17, it says, “The word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, ‘Here is what I want you to do. I want you to go down and meet Ahab. He is in the vineyard of Naboth where he has gone down to take possession of it.’” Verse 19, ‘Here is what I want you to say, a message from Me, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Have you murdered and taken possession? Then, say, ‘Thus says the LORD, In the place where the dogs licked up the blood of Naboth the dogs, Ahab, will lick up your blood.’”
And as they actually meet that is the message he was primed with. “Ahab says to Elijah, ‘Have you found me, O my enemy?’ And Elijah answered, ‘I have found you, because you have sold yourself to do evil in the sight of the LORD. Behold,” here is the message of the Lord, “I will bring evil upon you, and will utterly sweep you away, and will cut off from Ahab every male. I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam, and the house of Baasha, because of the provocation with which you have provoked Me to anger, and because you have made Israel sin. Of Jezebel, the LORD says, ‘The dogs will eat Jezebel in the district of Jezreel.’” The dogs are going to eat her for what she has done.
There are basically three consequences that are mentioned here, verse 19:
— the dogs where they licked Naboth’s blood, they are going to lick up yours.
–the family dynasty, verse 21, is going to cease, all the male descendants are going to be gone.
–then, verse 23, the dogs are going to eat Jezebel’s body.
What God declared, God did.
How about the dogs licking up Naboth’s blood? When we go to chapter 22, and we won’t go into this in detail, and that is three years after this pronouncement that is given to Ahab—Ahab resumes war with Syria and you can read about it in chapter 22, verses 29-38, but here is what happens. In that battle, instead of being arrayed as the king of Israel he decides to disguise himself as a regular soldier. ‘I’m going to go into battle incognito, that way they can’t target me.’
Then, I want you to notice chapter 22, verse 34, what actually happens then in battle. It says, “A certain man drew his bow at random,” you know…”random.”“And struck the king of Israel in the joint of the armor.” So, Ahab said to the driver of his chariot, “Turn around take me out of the fight; for I am severely wounded.”
Then, in verse 35, what happens is he is in that chariot, the blood is pouring out of him on the floor of the chariot and after he dies, in verse 38, they say, ‘You know, we’ve got a messy chariot here. Let’s go to the chariot wash. The chariot wash was, it says, near where the harlots bathed. That tells us it was outside of the city; it was in a very seedy district. So, they go and they are washing out the floor of that chariot and guess what happens? The dogs are there licking up the blood as had been stated according to the word of the Lord.
Part of the judgment was, the family dynasty would cease, all male descendants would die. In 2 Kings, chapter 10, verses 7-11, some ten years later a guy by the name of Jehu beheads, literally cuts off, all the male descendants heads, all seventy sons of Ahab.
Then, the prediction that the dogs would eat Jezebel’s body. Again, about ten years after this, this same guy, Jehu, a very rough, uncouth guy. In 2 Kings, chapter 9, he rolls up to where Jezebel is staying and even though she is ten years older, she is dolling herself up, like, ‘I’m going to use my feminine wiles on Jehu.’
She is up in a second-floor window and she looks down on him and says, ‘Have you come in peace?’ He shouts back up to her attendants, ‘Throw her down.’ You can imagine how welcome they were with that little command—so they actually take Jezebel, they toss her out of the window, her body kind of hits the building on the way down, she slams into the ground. Then, Jehu gets into his chariot and proceeds to run over her repeatedly with his chariot. Then, he goes away for a little while. Meanwhile, while that is happening, the dogs are munching on what is left of Jezebel.
Eventually, they say, ‘You know what? We probably should bury her; I mean she was the queen.’ So, they go out to get her body and all that is left is her skull, her feet, and the palms of her hands. The dogs are going to eat Jezebel’s body!!
Now, all of that leads us to the encouraging hope, in verses 27 and 29. I want you to know something though, this is not the encouraging hope you might expect knowing everything that’s proceeded it. Sort of a curve ball.
Look at verse 27 of chapter 21. “It came about,” when this communication was given to Ahab by Elijah, “that he [Ahab] tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and fasted, and he lay in sackcloth and went about despondently.” He is basically saying, ‘I am repenting. I am just repenting before God. I am broken over what I’ve done and the ramifications that are coming to me.’
I want you to know, friends, I didn’t expect that to be there. You know the depths of God’s mercy and forgiveness is startling! Look at what happens. It says, verse 28, “Then the word of the LORD came to Elijah again and He says to Elijah, “Do you see how Ahab has humbled himself before Me? Because he has humbled himself before Me, I will not bring this evil (that will happen to his family) in his days, but I will bring the evil upon his house in his son’s days.”
God recognizes Ahab’s repentance and He says, ‘I’m going to delay the consequences of his behavior.’ God’s mercy and forgiveness, it is startling to me.
You not only have the worst king in the northern kingdom of Israel, you also have the worst king in the southern kingdom of Judah. He was a guy by the name of Manasseh, the most evil king who ever existed in the southern kingdom. You can read about him in 2 Chronicles, chapter 33. It is worth a read to go there. God judges him, and he actually begins to feel some of that judgment and what happens? He repents from the interior of his heart and God forgives Manasseh.
Forgiveness is available even for evil people. It is startling. It is startling!!!
I want to draw out, from everything we’ve seen, three lessons. The first lesson is for those who actually suffer mistreatment and injustice. The lesson for those who suffer these things is this: no one gets away with anything. Everybody is held accountable. We see this mentioned in the New Testament In 1 Peter, chapter 4, verse 5, Peter writes, of these kinds of people, “They will give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.” They will give an account. No one gets away with anything. They will be held accountable.
Jude, verse 15, talks about the coming of the Lord, it says, “The Lord is coming to execute judgment upon all, and to convict all the ungodly of all their ungodly deeds which they have done in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.” No one gets away with anything. They will be held accountable. So, that is a lesson for those who suffer mistreatment and injustice, even though I don’t understand the mystery of how all that works.
The second lesson is for those who actually are the ones rebelling against God and rejecting God. You know, God is patient and God is compassionate and God is merciful, but He is also a God who is just and a God who is righteous. And there comes a time when God says, ‘Enough. I’ve hit My divine limit.’ So often, people who are rebelling against God and rejecting God, they have this idea, ‘I just think God is just a good God. He’s just sort of this wonderful, little soft Father, up there. He really wouldn’t judge anybody. I really don’t have anything to worry about.’
I want to share with you the words of A.W. Tozer, very insightful. He says this, “The vague and tenuous hope that God is too kind to punish the ungodly has become a deadly opiate for the consciences of millions. It hushes their fears and allows them to practice all forms of iniquity while death draws every day nearer and the command to repent goes unregarded. As responsible moral beings we dare not so trifle with our eternal future.”
Those who rebel against God and reject God, yes, He is patient, but He also is a Judge, and at any time He can say, ‘Enough.’ God’s patience doesn’t last forever. He will judge: payday is coming. The New Testament, Romans, chapter 2, verse 5, Paul writes to those who were in rebellion before God and he says, “Because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.” He eventually will say, ‘Enough.’
2 Thessalonians, chapter 1, verse 8, about His second coming, “He is going to deal out retribution to those who do not know God. [To whom?] To those who do not know God, to those who do not obey the gospel of the Lord, Jesus Christ.” To those who reject the message, He is going to say, ‘Enough.’
So, there is a lesson there for those who suffer mistreatment and injustice, for those who rebel against God and reject God. Then, there is a lesson that is so important, thirdly, for any who are willing to repent.
Again, God…the depth of His mercy—it is just so startling. This is the message of the cross, right? Forgiveness is available to all. That doesn’t preclude consequences that someone may experience in their life due to the choices of their life, but forgiveness is available to all.
I mean, think about the cross again, you remember that Jesus had two people crucified beside Him. They were what we would call in today’s vocabulary terrorists. That is what they were. They were more than a thief, they were terrorists. Think of some of the bad things that both of them probably had done. Yet, one of them said to Jesus, ‘I’m sinful, show me mercy.’ And, Jesus says, ‘You got it.’
In John 6:37, Jesus says, “No one who comes to Me, will I cast out, will I reject.” There is hope for everyone. It doesn’t make any difference how evil someone has been, or the choices that they’ve made. You may feel like: ‘I’ve done things I could never, ever be forgiven for.’ Not true. Terrorist on the cross. King Ahab in the northern kingdom of Israel. King Manasseh in the southern kingdom of Judah. There’s hope for everyone.
I think as followers of Jesus sometimes we look at people who do evil things and mistreat people, and victimize people—we tend to view them, the people that are so immersed in sin, we tend to view them as our enemies. Those are our enemies. You know what the Bible says? It says we are to view them as captives.
2 Timothy, chapter 2, verses 25 and 26 says, “The Lord’s servants,” that’s you and me, who know Him, “should gently teach those who oppose the truth, perhaps God will change those people’s hearts and they will believe the truth. Then they will come to their senses and escape from the devil’s trap.” They’re captives. Then, just this last phrase, “for they have been held captive by him to do whatever he wants (NLT)” They are actually captives. And they need to hear the message that they could be freed. It is so important.
There was a recent U.S.A. Today survey that went around to Americans and they were asked, ‘If you could ask a supreme being any question, what would it be?’ Think about it for a moment. Think about anybody on the street out there being asked that question. If you could ask a supreme being any question, what would it be?
What do you think, maybe, they would ask? Well, 16% of them said, ‘I would ask, ‘Why do bad things happen?’’ 19% said, ‘Well, I would ask, ‘What happens after death? I want to know that.’’ But here is what is interesting—neither of those were the most popular answer. The most popular answer was this: ‘What is the purpose of my life? What is the meaning of all of this?’ The only one who can answer the “Why am I here?” question is the one who put you here, which is the King of the Universe.
As followers of Jesus, we need to realize that there are captives out there and we have the message of hope that they need. Sometimes, when we look at some of these evil things, this mistreatment stuff, we lose the fact that God can use us to free captives.
I want to challenge each one of us to, maybe in the next month, regularly practice what is called the “3 Open Prayer.” It means praying three things.
Number one: God open a door. That means open an opportunity. It may even be with someone I dislike, but would You open a door?
Then secondly, the prayer is: Open their heart. You never know what God is doing inside of somebody. He is always at work.
The third prayer is: Open my mouth so that I actually can say something. Maybe I can share some of my own testimony. Or, I can bounce some of the experience I’ve had with God off of somebody and see whether they have any interest of going further in discussion.
So, it’s the 3 Open Prayer. Open a door. Open their heart, and God, open my mouth. He really wants to use us.
Let’s pray together. Father, we thank You for this passage. It is an unusual one, but it is in Your word and we are grateful for the truth that it conveys, the truth that You, God, are the Equalizer. No one gets away with anything. Everyone is going to be held accountable.
Then, for those who may be rejecting You and rebelling against You, Father, may they remember that payday is coming. There is going to come a time when God says, ‘Enough, enough, enough…enough!!’ May they realize that forgiveness is available, that mercy is calling them.
Father, I love the words of Ray Pritchard, where he wrote, “Only when a man comes to the end of himself is he ready to think about Jesus Christ. But, when that moment of emptiness comes, when he finally faces the God shaped vacuum inside, when he discovers that disobedience only leads to pain, when he reaps the bitter harvest of his own sin, then and only then has he become a candidate for the grace of God.” He goes on to write, “Unfortunately, some people never figure it out in time. They die without realizing the folly of their own behavior. But others come to the end and finally, after many mistakes, they begin to look up. When they do, they find God is waiting there for them.”
If that is describing you, in any way, when that happens, you should acknowledge, ‘God, I can’t fix this on my own.’ Then, you fall at the feet of Jesus and you say to Him, ‘Be merciful to me, a sinner.’ We would pray that all who do not know Him would do that. And we pray it in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Questions for Reflection
1 Kings 21:1 – 29
1. Where were you a week ago when you first heard about the mass shooting at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas? Share some of your immediate thoughts.
2. Deep inside all of us when instances of mistreatment, hostility, or violence occur, we have an innate sense of injustice and righteous indignation. Why is that?
3. The Bible has much to say about how God is the judge, and that judgment day/payday is coming. Why are we often reluctant to recognize it and discuss it openly?
4. What truth is underscored in the account of 1 Kings 22:35 where a random arrow hits Ahab between the gaps in his armor?
5. Bruce stated that the depth of God’s mercy and forgiveness is startling. Two examples mentioned were Ahab’s repentance and the repentance of Judah’s evil king Manasseh (see 2 Chronicles 33:6-7, 9, 10-13). What is your first response to that?
6. During the message 2 Timothy 2:25-26 was cited. How should those verses influence the way we look at others around us, even those who display evil tendencies?
7. Practice right now the 3 OPEN Prayer as we relate to those without Christ around us:
1. Open door (opportunity)
2. Open their heart
3. Open my mouth
The eyes of the Lord are in every place watching the good and the evil. Proverbs 15:3