Based on Catechetical Sermon Series: The Ten Commandments
by Rev. Brent Kuhlman
1 Kings 21:1-16 / Commandments 9 & 10
1 Kings 21:1-16
Now Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard in Jezreel, beside the palace of Ahab king of Samaria. 2 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.” 3 But Naboth said to Ahab, “The Lord forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my fathers.” 4 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. 5 But Jezebel his wife came to him and said to him, “Why is your spirit so vexed that you eat no food?” 6 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.’” 7 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.” 8 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.9 And she wrote in the letters, “Proclaim a fast, and set Naboth at the head of the people. 10 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.” 11 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, 12 they proclaimed a fast and set Naboth at the head of the people. 13 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. 14 Then they sent to Jezebel, saying, “Naboth has been stoned; he is dead.” 15 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.” 16 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.
His majesty King Ahab craves what he categorically CANNOT have. He flat out covets. His coveting consumes him. He breaks the 9th and 10th commandments. What does his royal heart desire? Ahab desperately covets Naboth’s vineyard. Along the way Ahab will break even more commandments as a result of his cravenous coveting. You’ll see that in a few minutes as we review the story.
King Ahab wants to plow under the vineyard and convert it into a vegetable garden. He’s got a lot of mouths to feed and Naboth’s land is near the palace. Surely his nice neighbor Naboth will agree. Ahab offers Naboth a bargain he can’t refuse: “I’ll give you one of my vineyards that’s better than yours or I’ll buy it from you outright.”
But Naboth said “NO!” Right to the king’s face! “The Lord forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my fathers.” Right. The Lord had given the land to Naboth’s family. It was his to take care of as the Lord’s instruments. Ahab knew that. Naboth was right. The king, even with all his royal power and authority, could not have what did not belong to him. And it was sinful to want it and try to get it even in a way that appeared right.
Naboth says, “No.” Ahab goes home and withdraws to his bedroom. To pray? To repent? Not hardly. Like a spoiled brat he pouts on his bed. A royal temper tantrum! Refuses to eat supper.
Her highness, Queen Jezebel, (watch out for women named Jezebel) gets wind of what has happened and she gets the skinny from Ahab himself. She’s taken aback. But she thinks quickly on her feet. “Aren’t you the King? Get up and eat. Don’t you worry, Honey. I’ll get the Naboth’s vineyard for you.
So Queen Jezebel schemes. Hatches a plan. A plot. It’s brilliant! Jezebel will set up Naboth. Frame him. Trump up false charges. She’ll get Naboth’s inheritance in a way that appears so right! So within the law! And so God-pleasing! And Ahab goes along with the plan. He still covets the vineyard. He’ll take it any way he can get it now.
She writes letters in Ahab’s name. Puts the king’s seal on them. And the letters are sent to the all the big wigs of Naboth’s hometown, Jezreel. The letters from the king say: “Proclaim a day of fasting [fasting -- something must be dreadfully wrong in the kingdom] and seat Naboth in a prominent place among the people. Seat two scoundrels opposite him and have them testify that he [Naboth] has cursed both God and the king. Then take him out and stone him to death.”
You’d think that the elders and nobles of Jezreel would know better. Naboth would never do that! So, there must have been immense corruption, pay offs and bribes going on in that city. The elders and nobles eagerly take part in this wicked, wicked plot.
Royal henchmen and goons! They actually carry out the order! The liars-for-hire passionately and under oath maintain that Naboth has committed unforgiveable crimes. Capital crimes. Punishable by death! “Naboth has cursed God and King Ahab!” they repeat over and over again under examination at the outdoor court.
Everyone in town is outraged. Anyone that curses both God and the king must suffer the consequences! No matter how well liked or respected. Cursing God and the king falls under the zero tolerance policy! Naboth must die! So, the Jezreelites surround Naboth. There’s no escape. Like summer thunderstorm hail they hurl rocks the size of softballs, baseballs, and volleyballs at him until he is graveyard dead. As the law demands. Appeared so God pleasing and so religious! Just as Jezebel planned! Can you imagine her devilish grin?
The huge pool of Naboth’s blood had barely cooled when Ahab took possession of the coveted vineyard. And rightly so – it appeared. After all, Naboth had cursed God and the king! So Ahab had the legal right to take the vineyard now! Right?
No! Absolutely Not! You know the 9th and 10th commandments (say them with me): You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. And the 10th: You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his man servant or maid servant, ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
Ahab coveted big time! Like all sin it’s spiritually deadly before God. Yet coveting also gives birth to sins that cause greater harm to our neighbor. It led Jezebel and Ahab to commit devious and well thought out lies (2nd Commandment). Outrageous slander and fanatical false testimony (8th Commandment). Theft (7th Commandment). Cold-blooded murder (5th Commandment).
He did all this because he did not fear, love and trust in God above all things (1st Commandment)! Let’s not forget that Ahab was into idolatry big time! He was a hardcore false worshipper! He worshipped many false gods and encouraged his people to do the same. No wonder he broke so many of the commandments and didn’t give a rip. It’s no surprise that he lost no sleep over the outrageous set up and brutal murder of Naboth.
What about you? Do you think you’re any better than Ahab? You’re not. Really, you’re not! You’re a sinner too. You covet just like he did. You scheme and plot too to get what you want. And you’d do anything to get what you want. Cheat, lie, steal. Even murder? Yes. Even murder. You may not do it with a gun or a knife but you do it with hate-filled words and jealous heart. And just like Ahab you’d be sure to make it all appear right. God-pleasing or at least excusable!
Ahab’s story is your story. The Holy Spirit put this account is in the Bible in order to interpret you! This Old Testament story of Ahab’s coveting is the Holy Spirit’s attack on you the sinner through this divine Word! With Ahab’s coveting and all the other horrific sin that flowed from it the Holy Spirit leads you to recognize your own sin in your own life.
God emphatically forbids coveting! No ifs, ands or buts! But you do it anyway. You covet like there’s no tomorrow. 24-7-365. Like King Ahab. As if God simply cannot be trusted to take care of you So, tonight is the night to repent. A Lenten repentance. Living in and from your baptism into Christ.
And that means doing opposite of what Ahab did. It’s time to confess that you truly are a sinner and admit that you covet because you do not trust God. Own up to it. Tell the truth.
So that, this Ash Wednesday, this Lenten and Eastertide, as well as all your life YOU HAVE GOOD USE OF … JESUS, the Savior of coveters. I’m here to tell you that Jesus died for you, O Masters of Coveting. Here is the truth: all your coveting and all the other sin that flows from your coveting belongs to Jesus. He wrapped Himself up in all of it so that He was counted as the coveter, slanderer, thief, murderer and idolater, and then He took your punishment and was crushed by it on the cross. He Like Naboth, He was falsely accused in order to take God’s wrath and damnation in your place. That’s Good Friday. GOD FOR YOU! You are forgiven! That’s His divine promise.
And with that – you now desire a gift or a treasure that Jesus says IS YOURS. That He wants you to have and gives to you freely. Tonight. Every Sunday. The rest of your life. What’s that? His Body and Blood. Fruit from the vineyard and fruit from the cross! “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of your sin.” Your heart is content with such a promise! So that now you want to help and be of service to your neighbor in keeping what belongs to him. His Supper strengthens your Faith in God and your Faith at Work in fervent love toward your neighbor.