A Lost Reprieve
1st Kings Chapter 21
"A LOST REPRIEVE"
By Elie Nessim
15t Kings, Chapter 21: We are dealing with this incident where Ahab coveted the vineyard of Naboth, the Jezreelite. He wanted it, he pouted, he sulked when Naboth told him he could not have it. Doesn't it remind us of that man Haman in the Book of Esther? After Queen Esther had had him for a banquet of wine, he went home glad and joyful of heart, until he saw Mordecai in the gate and Mordecai wouldn't budge for him, wouldn't even acknowledge his existence. When he got home he told his wife and his friends whom he had gathered for the occasion, told them all about his greatness and his glory and he said, "And moreover, Queen Esther didn't invite anybody else, apart from her husband, King Xerxes, only me," and then he went on to say, "yet all this doesn't avail me a thing as long as I see Mordecai sitting in the city gate." And the gallows that he prepared for Mordecai was later used against him.
The lesson we learned from the evil example of Ahab, whose wife Jezebel got him the vineyard is that you can have what you ask for, if you ask hard enough and long enough, but if it is not what GOD wants for you, it comes with a curse. And that's what happened to Ahab. It happened to our people too. They lusted in the desert. They wanted meat, and the Bible says GOD “gave them their request, but sent leanness into their soul. "
How important it is for us to say, "Not my will, but Thine be done." And our Saviour Himself prayed that prayer in Gethsemane. We must beware of insisting on having our way to such an extent that in the end GOD gives it to us and it is the worst thing that could have happened, that He should say, "Alright, have it your way."
Very important here, and we find, now, in 15t Kings, Chapter 21, verse 17, after Ahab had gone about to take that vineyard, (verse 17): "Then the Word of the LORD came to Elijah, the Tishbite saying, "Arise, go down to meet Ahab, King of Israel, who lives in Samaria. There he is in the vineyard of Naboth where he has gone
down to take possession of it. 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 dogs licked the blood of Naboth, dogs shall lick your blood – even yours!’”
GOD's response to the atrocity; why didn't GOD act sooner to save Naboth? This is one of the mysteries in GOD's dealings with sinners that He lets them have a lot of rope, later than we could have wished. In fact, the Book of Ecclesiastes tells us, "Sentence against an evil work is not speedily executed, and therefore, the hearts of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil" They think they are getting away with it, but they are not. The LORD says to the sinner, "I will reprove you and I will set all your sins in order before your eyes." We don't get away with a thing.
"Go and meet Ahab." This was the third confrontation. And yet, in the very summons to go and meet Ahab, there was mercy. There was an opportunity for Ahab to repent. If GOD had given over Ahab, as He later on did, He would not have bothered to send such an eminent servant such as Elijah to denounce Ahab. It worked up to a point; we'll see that. "Go and meet Ahab." The first time was when Elijah told him there would be no rain. The second time was when Elijah told him there will be rain again. And now he was being confronted the third time. "Have you killed and taken possession?" Well Ahab had not done a thing. His wife had written a letter and she framed Naboth, and it was others who had stoned him; there were others who were false witnesses. Ahab was sitting at home, waiting for the outcome. He hadn't done a thing, but GOD said, ‘You killed Naboth.’ Because, although it was by the hands of others, he was the initiator of it; he was the one that allowed it to go ahead. And therefore, his blood would be shed in the same place where Naboth's blood was shed.
Remember how Jacob tricked his father, took advantage of his father's blindness? So Laban, his father-in-law, tricked him by giving him Leah instead of Rachel, and because she had a veil and because it was at night, he had no idea that it wasn't Rachel. We don't get away with a thing.
This is how Ahab responds, (verse 20): "So 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. Behold, I will bring calamity on you. I will take away your posterity and will cut off from Ahab every male in Israel, both bond and free. I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, and like Baasha, the son of Ahijah, because of the provocation with which you have provoked me to anger and made Israel sin." And concerning Jezebel, the LORD also spoke saying; "The dogs shall eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel. The dogs shall eat whoever belongs to Ahab and dies in the city, and the birds of the air shall eat whoever dies in the field." But there was no one like Ahab who sold himself to do wickedness in the sight of the LORD, because Jezebel, his wife,
stirred him up, and he behaved very abominably in following idols according to all that the Amorites had done whom the LORD had cast out before the children of Israel.
So it was, when Ahab heard those words, that he tore his clothes and put sackcloth on his body and fasted and lay in sackcloth and went about mourning. And now the Word of the LORD came to Elijah, the Tishbite, saying, "See how Ahab has humbled himself before Me? Because he has humbled himself before Me, I will not bring the calamity in his days. In the days of his son, I will bring the calamity on his house. ""
Ahab's response to Elijah in verse 20 is, "Have you found me, O my enemy?" There was never a more unkind word said. Elijah was a faithful reprover. He was the best friend. The Bible says, "Faithful are the wounds of a friend. " He was the one trying to bring Ahab back to GOD. There is no greater kindness that you and I can give to anybody than to seek to bring them to GOD, to point them to GOD, to introduce them to Him, to save their souls, in that sense. He addressed his faithful reprover like that, and that's, I'm afraid, the treatment you and I will get, also, when we stand up and when we seek to proclaim the Gospel.
"Yes," said Elijah, "I have found you, because you have sold yourself to do evil in the sight of the LORD." He had traded his soul; he had traded his integrity; he had traded his future; he had mortgaged the happiness of his family. And he learned from what Elijah said that no man lives to himself; no man dies to himself. What you and I are; what you and I do directly affects countless other people, even though we may not realize it. If there had been found ten righteous men in Sodom and Gomorrah, even though they had not known it, their very presence in those wicked cities would have meant that GOD would have spared the whole city for their sakes. And the same thing happens today. It is for the sake of GOD's people that GOD tolerates so much sin, so much evil, so much wickedness in our society. And that's why we have a measure still of peace and tranquility in this country. It's for the sake of the saints. And it behooves the saints to be what they should be, because if we are not, if we fail GOD, we are also failing our country. We're failing our fellow men; we are betraying them. You see our responsibility as Believers, as fellow Believers? We must try our very best to be what we should be, and we should always be praying that GOD will pour out His Holy Spirit on His people. So much depends on it. So much depends on it.
He says, "You have sold yourself in the sight of the LORD." He was not even trying to hide it, he was not doing it in a corner or in the dark or in secret. He was openly, brazenly practicing his wickedness, and GOD said, 'Very well, then I will bring the consequences of your wickedness upon you. You shall reap what you have sown.'
In Isaiah, Chapter 33, GOD said the same to the Assyrian king. This passage in Isaiah 33 was written at the time when the king of Assyria invaded the kingdom of Judah. In a time context later than the one we are looking at, it was in the days of Hezekiah, the good king. The king of Assyria had laid tribute on Hezekiah, and Hezekiah had paid up. But that didn't deter the king of Assyria, he betrayed the trust, and he went ahead anyway for his plans for war. This is what GOD has to say to him, (Isaiah, Chapter 33, verse 1): "Woe to you who plunder, though you have not been plundered! And you who deal treacherously, though they have not dealt treacherously with you. When you cease plundering, you will be plundered. When you make an end of dealing treacherously, they will deal treacherously with you. "
Have any of us here been cheated? Short-changed, badly dealt with, and we have tried our best to maintain integrity, to be sincere with our betrayer, but they have betrayed us anyway. You know what GOD says? Their time is coming; they will reap what they have sown. "When you have made an end of dealing treacherously, they will deal treacherously with you.” and they will find that they have not got away with a thing.
And that's what Elijah was saying here to Ahab as well. “I will bring evil upon you, you will reap what you have sown, and dogs.... " Dogs in those days were wild, like wolves or jackals. They were wild animals. When they were puppies, they were allowed into the house, but once they were grown, they were turned out and they used to roam the countryside in packs and they could be a menace. They were carnivores; they were scavengers. And GOD says here, ''And dogs shall eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel." Indeed, that's what did happen, she was thrown out of the palace window at Jehu's orders, (the general), and when they came to bury her after awhile, they found that the scavengers had completely devoured her. There was only her skull left and some other pieces of her bones.
Chapter 21 verse 25: "There was no one like Ahab who sold himself to do wickedness in the sight of the LORD, because Jezebel, his wife, stirred him up.” She was a wicked idolatrous woman, and temptation is no excuse to the sinner, as some old writer put it. That's when he should have stood up and said, 'No, this is not what we do in Israel.' Well, Ahab did show some signs of contrition. It worked up to a point, but it wasn't deep-seated enough. There are lots of people who say they are sorry, but they go back to doing the same thing again.
Verse 27, "When Ahab heard those words, he tore his clothes, and put sackcloth on his body and fasted, and lay in sackcloth and went about mourning." He rends his garments, but as the prophet Joel says, "Rend your heart and not your garments, and turn to the LORD your GOD." This was his last reprieve. It seemed to work, but it was a temporary goodness. GOD says to His people, Israel, "Your goodness is as the morning cloud and as the early dew, it goes away." In Israel, in the summertime, we need the dew to help the crops from being burned up by the sun.
Very early in the morning there is dew, but once the sun rises it all evaporates. And if there is any morning mist, it soon gets burned up by the hot sun. Ahab's repentance was like this. It was no true repentance. It was a false repentance and that further hardened his heart, and this time, it was the last time. He got no reprieve after this. After this, there was no more address made to him to reclaim him. Just a message of doom in the 22nd Chapter, a message telling him that now his doom was sure.
May I just add a little word of personal testimony here? My mind goes back to June the 30th 1955. That makes me almost as old as Methuselah, doesn't it? It was an evening meeting in Paignton in the County of Devon, in the southwest of England, and the evangelist, whose meeting I was attending was giving an appeal, and that night I felt it was my night to decide. But I was scared of putting up my hand, making an exhibition of myself. Three times he made his appeal and three times I sweated it out. Then after the meeting as we were going to the door, the thought came to me like a hammer blow, "This may have been your last chance, and you've thrown it away!" I was desperate. Thank GOD, He saw my despair. The preacher was at the door, and he greeted me and I grabbed him. I said, "I'd like to talk to you." So he took me into a side room and I told him I really did want to take JESUS as my Saviour tonight. "Can I still do it?"
What wonderful words I heard from him! He said, "Yes, there's still time." But if GOD had not given me that reprieve, He would still have been perfectly just. I had three opportunities. The evangelist must have seen me sweating it out. GOD had mercy on me. But we don't' know if we are going to have another chance. The rabbis say, "Repent one day before your death." One famous rabbi said that. "Repent the day before you die." His disciples said, "But rabbi, we don't know the day when we're going to die." He said, "Exactly! Do it now!"
I'm afraid with Ahab it was contrition, but it was not true repentance. How can we gauge true repentance? Well with true repentance there's always an attempt made to repair the damage. There's always a move made for restitution. He did nothing of the sort. He still had that vineyard in his pocket, so to speak. He was not going to return it; he was going to hang on to it. He was someone who wanted to have his cake and to eat it. And yet, GOD gives him a reprieve. GOD Who can read the hearts and the thoughts. He says to Elijah, He doesn't say to Ahab, because from now on He's not going to speak to Ahab anymore.
He says (in verse 29), "See how Ahab has humbled himself before Me. Because he has humbled himself before Me, I will not bring the calamity in his days. In the days of his son, I will bring the calamity on his house." There was no true repentance, no restitution, just a show of it, and yet the Bible, which tells us "GOD is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to the knowledge of the truth," gave him time to think about it again, to reconsider. GOD is so good, and
even when we are insincere, even when we make a show, He will encourage us and draw us and give us every incentive to keep on in that good direction that we've begun to go in, even though He knows we are going to turn back.
There are people who, for a while, follow GOD and then they turn their backs on Him forever. Like those disciples in Capernaum in John, Chapter 6, after the LORD YESHUA explained to them that He was the Bread of Life and that we have to, spiritually meant, partake of His Body and of His Blood. “From that time many of His disciples went back and walked no more with Him.” But as long as they walked with Him, He blessed them, He fed them, He honoured them, He gave them responsibilities. So we can't always tell who is a true Believer by their activity, or by their accomplishments. The LORD says, "Many will come to Me in that day and say, "LORD, we have prophesied in Your Name, You have taught in our streets, we have done many wonderful works in Your Name." And then He will say, "I never knew you." 'You never were Mine.' It needs more than that. True repentance means we turn to GOD with all our hearts and we 'tear' our hearts, not just our clothes, as our brother, Mike, was describing.
Why does GOD say, 'I will bring the evil, the calamity on his house in the days of his son'? Suppose his son was a good one. Suppose that the son did not do what his father had done. Well GOD would have reconsidered the sentence.
If we look at Ezekiel, Chapter 18, we find that this is how GOD proceeds. We hear much abut repenting for the sins of our fathers. Well, we cannot repent for their sins, but what we can do is to repent of the way that they've been leading us, and then, the evil does not come upon us.