The good king | Daily Office Devotional 2021/9/13

Now Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard in Jezreel, beside the palace of Ahab king of Samaria. And after this Ahab said to Naboth, “Give me your vineyard, that I may have it for a vegetable garden, because it is near my house, and I will give you a better vineyard for it; or, if it seems good to you, I will give you its value in money.” But Naboth said to Ahab, “The Lord forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my fathers.” And Ahab went into his house vexed and sullen because of what Naboth the Jezreelite had said to him, for he had said, “I will not give you the inheritance of my fathers.” And he lay down on his bed and turned away his face and would eat no food.

But Jezebel his wife came to him and said to him, “Why is your spirit so vexed that you eat no food?” And 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 please you, I will give you another vineyard for it.’ And he answered, ‘I will not give you my vineyard.’” And Jezebel his wife said to him, “Do you now govern Israel? Arise and eat bread and let your heart be cheerful; I will give you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.”

So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name and sealed them with his seal, and she sent the letters to the elders and the leaders who lived with Naboth in his city. And she wrote in the letters, “Proclaim a fast, and set Naboth at the head of the people. And set two worthless men opposite him, and let them bring a charge against him, saying, ‘You have cursed God and the king.’ Then take him out and stone him to death.” And the men of his city, the elders and the leaders who lived in his city, did as Jezebel had sent word to them. As it was written in the letters that she had sent to them, they proclaimed a fast and set Naboth at the head of the people. And the two worthless men came in and sat opposite him. And the worthless men brought a charge against Naboth in the presence of the people, saying, “Naboth cursed God and the king.” So they took him outside the city and stoned him to death with stones. Then they sent to Jezebel, saying, “Naboth has been stoned; he is dead.”

As soon as 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.” And as soon as Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, Ahab arose to go down to the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, to take possession of it.

1 Kings 21:1-16

When the prophet Samuel warned Israel about the perils of having a king (1 Samuel 8:10-22), he may have had a ruler like Ahab in mind. Ahab was a terrible king. He led his people into blinding heights of apostasy and persecuted the prophets of the Lord. He was successful on the battlefield but managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, settling for an uncertain peace in return for economic benefits. And, as Samuel had predicted, he was an oppressive and arbitrary lord, as we read in today’s Old Testament passage.

Naboth had actually acted according to the law when he refused to sell Ahab his ancestral land (Leviticus 25:23), even though it was the king himself seeking to close the property deal. In this story, therefore, we see the man Naboth on the one hand, holding fast a principled stance in the face of power. On the other hand, we see Ahab, a sorry excuse for a king over God’s people, “vexed and sullen” over the rebuff and refusing to eat! And his ‘quick recovery’ upon hearing of Naboth’s untimely death, rushing down in a flurry to reap the fruits of his ill-gotten gain—how pathetic, how shameful.

Ahab’s reign is a damning example of how power corrupts. While some are blessed in their day with good or competent government, many in history have suffered under the yoke of tyrants who rule like Ahab, exploiting their people and abusing their power.

Nevertheless, the rise and fall of rulers in the Old Testament did not quell Israel’s longing for a king; neither did it put an end to the institution of God’s anointed ruler. We now know that Israel’s longing for the good and perfect king did eventually come to fruition in the person of Jesus, the anointed one of God. He came with no cure-all political ideology, no spectacle for the curious masses, no plan to dominate the world (Matthew 4:1-11). Power did not corrupt Him, but He willingly set aside His power to dwell among His subjects for a time. Indeed, the good king did not hand anyone who was innocent over to death like Ahab did, but went to death himself as the innocent one, to atone for the sins of the guilty (Philippians 2:5-8).

We believe that the good king was raised to life, vindicated by God in His justice (vv. 9-11). And we believe that Jesus now gives His eternal life to all who trust in His name. Therefore, let us love and serve this good king, who did not come to steal or kill or destroy, but came to give us life—life to the full (John 10:10).

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