Elijah Series: Guarding Our Lives and Communities Against Corruption (1 Kgs 21)



Guarding Our Lives and Communities Against Corruption


After this the following episode took place. Naboth the Jezreelite owned a vineyard in Jezreel adjacent to the palace of King Ahab of Samaria. Ahab said to Naboth, “Give me your vineyard so I can make a vegetable garden out of it, for it is adjacent to my palace. I will give you an even better vineyard in its place, or if you prefer, I will pay you silver for it.” But Naboth replied to Ahab, “The Lord forbid that I should sell you my ancestral inheritance.” So Ahab went into his palace, bitter and angry that Naboth the Jezreelite had said, “I will not sell to you my ancestral inheritance.” He lay down on his bed, pouted, and would not eat. Then his wife Jezebel came in and said to him, “Why do you have a bitter attitude and refuse to eat?” He answered her, “While I was talking to Naboth the Jezreelite, I said to him, ‘Sell me your vineyard for silver, or if you prefer, I will give you another vineyard in its place.’ But he said, ‘I will not sell you my vineyard.’ ” His wife Jezebel said to him, “You are the king of Israel! Get up, eat some food, and have a good time.I will get the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite for you.” She wrote out orders, signed Ahab’s name to them, and sealed them with his seal. She then sent the orders to the leaders and to the nobles who lived in Naboth’s city. This is what she wrote: “Observe a time of fasting and seat Naboth in front of the people. Also seat two villains opposite him and have them testify, ‘You cursed God and the king.’ Then take him out and stone him to death.” The men of the city, the leaders and the nobles who lived there, followed the written orders Jezebel had sent them. They observed a time of fasting and put Naboth in front of the people. The two villains arrived and sat opposite him. Then the villains testified against Naboth right before the people, saying, “Naboth cursed God and the king.” So they dragged him outside the city and stoned him to death. Then they reported to Jezebel, “Naboth has been stoned to death.” When Jezebel heard that Naboth had been stoned to death, she said to Ahab, “Get up, take possession of the vineyard Naboth the Jezreelite refused to sell you for silver, for Naboth is no longer alive; he’s dead.” When Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, he got up and went down to take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite. The Lord told Elijah the Tishbite: “Get up, go down and meet King Ahab of Israel who lives in Samaria. He is at the vineyard of Naboth; he has gone down there to take possession of it. Say to him, ‘This is what the Lord says: “Haven’t you committed murder and taken possession of the property of the deceased?” ’ Then say to him, ‘This is what the Lord says: “In the spot where dogs licked up Naboth’s blood they will also lick up your blood—yes, yours!” ’ ” When Elijah arrived, Ahab said to him, “So, you have found me, my enemy!” Elijah replied, “I have found you, because you are committed to doing evil in the sight of the Lord. The Lord says, ‘Look, I am ready to bring disaster on you. I will destroy you and cut off every last male belonging to Ahab in Israel, including even the weak and incapacitated. I will make your dynasty like those of Jeroboam son of Nebat and Baasha son of Ahijah because you angered me and made Israel sin.’ The Lord says this about Jezebel, ‘Dogs will devour Jezebel by the outer wall of Jezreel.’ As for Ahab’s family, dogs will eat the ones who die in the city, and the birds of the sky will eat the ones who die in the country.” (There had never been anyone like Ahab, who was firmly committed to doing evil in the sight of the Lord, urged on by his wife Jezebel. He was so wicked he worshiped the disgusting idols, just like the Amorites whom the Lord had driven out from before the Israelites.) When Ahab heard these words, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth, and fasted. He slept in sackcloth and walked around dejected. The Lord said to Elijah the Tishbite, “Have you noticed how Ahab shows remorse before me? Because he shows remorse before me, I will not bring disaster on his dynasty during his lifetime, but during the reign of his son.”

1 Kings 21 (NET)



How can we guard against corruption in our families, churches, workplaces, governments, and nations? This is important to consider because Scripture says, “A little leaven leavens the whole lump” (1 Cor 5:9). Sin starts small and then grows until it saturates all parts of a community. We each have a role in stopping the spread of corruption and injustice in the spheres God has called us to. Christ calls believers the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matt 5:13-14) because we stave off spiritual and moral decay and promote righteousness.


In 1 Kings 21, we see not only a corrupt government but also how far the people of God had fallen into corruption. Ahab, the king of Israel, desired Naboth’s plot of land to build himself a vegetable garden next to his castle. When rejected, his wife, Jezebel, hatches an evil plan to have Naboth killed, and apparently his sons as well (2 Kings 9:26). The elders of the land go along with this plot and trump up false witnesses to accuse Naboth of cursing the king and God. For that reason, he was stoned to death, and then Ahab took his plot of land. From this narrative, we can learn principles about guarding against corruption in the various spheres God has placed us as salt and light.


Big Question: In 1 Kings 21, what principles can be discerned about guarding against corruption in the communities God has placed us?


To Guard Against Corruption, We Must Be Careful of Greed and Covetousness


After this the following episode took place. Naboth the Jezreelite owned a vineyard in Jezreel adjacent to the palace of King Ahab of Samaria. Ahab said to Naboth, “Give me your vineyard so I can make a vegetable garden out of it, for it is adjacent to my palace. I will give you an even better vineyard in its place, or if you prefer, I will pay you silver for it.” But Naboth replied to Ahab, “The Lord forbid that I should sell you my ancestral inheritance.” So Ahab went into his palace, bitter and angry that Naboth the Jezreelite had said, “I will not sell to you my ancestral inheritance.” He lay down on his bed, pouted, and would not eat.

1 Kings 21:1-4


As mentioned, this sad story all begins with Ahab coveting his neighbor’s vineyard. Ahab had at least two castles—one in Samaria and one in Jezreel, where Jezebel stayed. Naboth’s field was right next to the castle in Jezreel. Ahab approached Naboth with a good offer—to give him another vineyard or to pay him in silver. However, Naboth refused, saying, “The Lord forbid that I should sell you my ancestral inheritance” (v. 3). Apparently, he didn’t reject simply because it was not a good deal but out of honor for God. In the Mosaic law, God taught Israel that God actually owned the land of Canaan and that they were just tenants of land. God had distributed the land to the various tribes and their families, and because of that, they were not to sell the land permanently. Leviticus 25:23-24 (NLT) says:


The land must never be sold on a permanent basis, for the land belongs to me. You are only foreigners and tenant farmers working for me. “With every purchase of land you must grant the seller the right to buy it back.


Numbers 36:7 says, “In this way the inheritance of the Israelites will not be transferred from tribe to tribe. But every one of the Israelites must retain the ancestral heritage.” The land could only be sold in extreme circumstances when one was poor, but it had to be returned in the year of Jubilee (Lev 25:25-28). Naboth was not in dire circumstances where he needed the money, so he rightly felt that he could not sell the land in good conscience before God. It was God’s land. Not his. Clearly, Naboth was one of the 7,000 faithful Jews who had not bowed his knee to Baal in the land (cf. 1 Kgs 19:18). This made Ahab angry, so like a spoiled child, he began to sulk and refused to eat. When Jezebel saw this, she challenged him to be like a king and then set a plan in motion to get the land (v. 7).


What must stand out is the fact that Naboth’s death happened because of Ahab’s greed and covetousness. Furthermore, Ahab’s family would one day be wiped out because of Ahab’s untamed desires. Though Ahab was over the entire land of Israel and owned two castles, it was not enough. Therefore, his greed led to the destruction of Naboth and his family and Ahab’s family as well.


Often this is the beginning of corruption in our societies as well. It begins when children at a young age are not taught to tame their desires. They don’t have to have every toy, every piece of candy, get to watch every TV show, and stay up late at night. Untamed desires, including coveting, can lead to breaking every one of God’s commands. We blaspheme God because we didn’t get what we want. We lie to get something we don’t have. We steal to get it, and maybe even murder.


It was greed and covetousness, which led the world into sin. God gave Adam and Eve everything in the entire world except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It was coveting the fruit of that tree, which led them to disobey God and therefore suffer the consequences of the fall, which affects all of humanity. Likewise, we must keep ourselves from covetousness and greed if we are going to protect ourselves, our families, and our communities from corruption.


In Luke 12:15, Christ warned of the dangers of greed; he said, “Watch out and guard yourself from all types of greed, because one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” Likewise, in 1 Timothy 6:9-10, Paul said:


Those who long to be rich, however, stumble into temptation and a trap and many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all evils. Some people in reaching for it have strayed from the faith and stabbed themselves with many pains.


The longing for wealth leads many into various temptations and traps—destroying people’s integrity, health, family, and even faith. Proverbs 27:20 says, “As Death and Destruction are never satisfied, so the eyes of a person are never satisfied.”


Contentment


Because our eyes are never satisfied, we must learn the discipline of contentment and teach our children the same to protect ourselves and them from the common consequences of covetousness and greed. In Philippians 4:11-13, Paul said:


I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content in any circumstance. I have experienced times of need and times of abundance. In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of contentment, whether I go satisfied or hungry, have plenty or nothing. I am able to do all things through the one who strengthens me.


Paul had learned the secret of contentment, whether well fed or in lack, and it was through finding strength and satisfaction in Christ. Likewise, in 1 Timothy 6:6-8, Paul challenged Timothy with this discipline:


Now godliness combined with contentment brings great profit. For we have brought nothing into this world and so we cannot take a single thing out either. But if we have food and shelter, we will be satisfied with that.


Again, remember, if Ahab didn’t want the land, it would have preserved him from a curse, his family from destruction, and protected Naboth’s life. Likewise, if David had not longed uncontrollably for Bathsheba, it would have kept him from losing his firstborn son, having his daughter raped, his son kill his brother, and eventually the same son trying to usurp David’s throne and losing his life. Therefore, if we teach ourselves and our children contentment, it will keep us and them from many dangers. Godliness with contentment truly brings great profit (1 Tim 6:6).


Application Question: How can we learn contentment?


1. To learn contentment, we must learn the difference between a need and a want. God promises to provide our needs but not necessarily all our wants (cf. Matt 6:33). As we discern the difference, we must often decide to be content with our needs and choose to not pursue our wants. Since our “eyes … are never satisfied” this will keep us from always grasping after the next thing (Prov 27:20).


2. To learn contentment, we must practice generosity. By giving, we learn how it is truly more blessed to give than receive (Acts 20:35). It delivers us from the grasping, discontent, and idolatrous spirit. Also, we open the door for God to continually pour into us. Luke 6:38 says, “give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”


3. To learn contentment, we must continually practice thanksgiving. In 1 Thessalonians 5:18, Paul said, “in everything give thanks. For this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Being thankful often leads to contentment. It helps keep our eyes from continually wandering and wanting something else.


4. To learn contentment, we must develop a flourishing relationship with God. As we abide in Christ, through time in the Word, prayer, worship, fellowship, and serving, God satisfies us. As Paul said, he could do all things, including being content, through Christ who strengthened him (Phil 4:11-13). If we’re not satisfied in our relationship with God, we’ll never be content, and we’ll continually seek to satisfy our discontent with things, people, or accomplishments. Hebrews 13:5 says, “Your conduct must be free from the love of money and you must be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you and I will never abandon you.’”


Ahab’s greed and covetousness led to government corruption, and we must guard against the same to stop corruption and injustice from spreading in our communities.


Application Question: Why is it so difficult to be content, both with what we have and in our circumstances in general? In what ways are you vulnerable to discontentment, greed, or covetousness? How is God calling you to grow in contentment and get rid of covetousness?


To Guard Against Corruption, We Must Be Careful of Ungodly Relationships


So Ahab went into his palace, bitter and angry that Naboth the Jezreelite had said, “I will not sell to you my ancestral inheritance.” He lay down on his bed, pouted, and would not eat. Then his wife Jezebel came in and said to him, “Why do you have a bitter attitude and refuse to eat?” He answered her, “While I was talking to Naboth the Jezreelite, I said to him, ‘Sell me your vineyard for silver, or if you prefer, I will give you another vineyard in its place.’ But he said, ‘I will not sell you my vineyard.’ ” His wife Jezebel said to him, “You are the king of Israel! Get up, eat some food, and have a good time. I will get the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite for you.” She wrote out orders, signed Ahab’s name to them, and sealed them with his seal. She then sent the orders to the leaders and to the nobles who lived in Naboth’s city. This is what she wrote: “Observe a time of fasting and seat Naboth in front of the people. Also seat two villains opposite him and have them testify, ‘You cursed God and the king.’ Then take him out and stone him to death.”

1 Kings 21:4-10


As mentioned, when Naboth denied Ahab, he went home and began to pout, even choosing to not eat. When his wife, Jezebel, noticed, she said, “Why do you have a bitter attitude and refuse to eat?” (v. 5). He then explained the situation. In response, Jezebel rebukes him, “You are the king of Israel! Get up, eat some food, and have a good time. I will get the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite for you” (v. 7). She essentially says, “You’re the king! You can’t let a Jezreelite deny you!” Jezebel was a daughter of the King of Sidon (1 Kgs 16:31), and in that culture, kings had absolute power—ruling with an iron fist. That’s what she saw from her daddy. Jewish kings were not known for the same leadership style, since they saw themselves as ruling under Yahweh and executing his laws. Therefore, Jezebel took things into her hands. She wrote letters telling the elders to falsely accuse Naboth and have him put to death. She used Ahab’s seal (v. 8), which implies Ahab was complicit in her evil plan.


This is not the first time that Jezebel influenced Ahab to evil. She had done that throughout their marriage. First Kings 16:31 says this about Ahab, “As if following in the sinful footsteps of Jeroboam son of Nebat were not bad enough, he married Jezebel the daughter of King Ethbaal of the Sidonians. Then he worshiped and bowed to Baal.” It was after Ahab married Jezebel that he started to worship Baal. In fact, Jezebel was the power behind the throne. She was the one who was hunting and killing prophets, which made them hide in caves (1 Kgs 18:4). And she was the one who threatened to take Elijah’s life after he took the lives of the false prophets (1 Kgs 19:2). After Elijah took their lives, Ahab simply listened to Elijah. He went to eat because Elijah said the rain was coming, and when it came, he then listened to Elijah again and rode to Jezreel (1 Kgs 18:41-46). It was Jezebel who threatened Elijah’s life and aided in hardening Ahab’s heart.


Certainly, this commonly happens today, not only marriage but also in relationships in general. It is always easier to pull somebody down than to pull somebody up. For this reason, Scripture strongly urges us to stay away from relationships that would encourage us towards spiritual apathy and sin. In 1 Corinthians 15:33, Paul said, “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals.’” In context, the Christians were being tempted to doubt the resurrection, which would nullify their faith. Paul said without the resurrection, our faith is in vain and challenged them to stay away from false teachers. In 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 (ESV), Paul said this to the Corinthians:


Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever? What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.


Being “unequally yoked” was a farming metaphor. Two bulls would be yoked to pull a cart; however, if the bulls weren’t yoked equally in temperament or strength, one bull might harm the other, or pull in the wrong direction, and consequently, they couldn’t be effective in their work. Likewise, Paul says that yoking relationships with the world—whether in marriage, close friendships, or work relationships—can be hazardous. It is always easier to pull somebody in a sinful direction than in a righteous one. Also, by being unequally yoked one would hinder one’s relationship with God. Consider the corresponding promise in 2 Corinthians 6:17-18:


Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.


It’s only by being separate from the world that God promises to “welcome” us and be our “father,” which refers to intimacy. Therefore, by joining with Jezebel, Ahab lost intimacy with God and soon became a worshiper of Baal. This happens to many as they yoke with the world. It may not be by friendships or marriage but by the music they listen to, the books they read, or the TV shows they watch. Since these are so anti-god in their message, they hinder intimacy with God and lead people down the wrong path. People who do this should not be surprised when reading the Bible and listening to sermons becomes dry to them, and they get nothing from corporate worship. They have yoked with the world in some way, and it is his hindering their relationship with God and influencing them negatively. Friendship with the world is enmity with God (Jam 4:4).


With all that said, certainly there is a clear line between being unequally yoked with the world and being a “friend of … sinners,” which Christ was called (Matt 11:19). Christ could be friends with sinners because his relationship with them was an influencing relationship and not one where he was being influenced. It was genuine, but not as intimate as he would desire, because they had not repented of their sins to follow him. We must be salt and light to the world, and therefore be around unbelievers, but we must be careful of reducing our saltiness and dimming our light.


Ahab yoked with the world through marriage to Jezebel, and it led to him being the worst king in Israel’s history (v. 25-26). He was incited to further sin through his wife. In this narrative, apart from her, he would have simply pouted because he did not get the vineyard, but because of Jezebel, he was party to Naboth’s death and the death of his sons.


If we are going to guard against corruption in our lives, we must be careful of ungodly relationships. Instead, we must seek to have our closest relationships with those who zealously love and follow God. In 2 Timothy 2:22, Paul said this to Timothy, “But keep away from youthful passions, and pursue righteousness, faithfulness, love, and peace, in company with others who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” It’s commonly been said that Christ’s relationships could be characterized by several widening circles. In his closest circle were the three—the strongest disciples, James, John, and Peter. Then, there was the twelve; then the seventy-two; then other believers; then the world. Our closest relationships must be with those who are zealous for the Lord as well, so they can inspire us to greater heights. Proverbs 13:20 says, “The one who associates with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.” Certainly, this must be true of those we marry, since they will affect us the most.


Application Question: Why are our relationships so important to our spiritual life? How have you experienced worldly relationships which influenced you negatively and also godly relationships which influenced you positively?


To Guard Against Corruption, We Must Have Righteous Leaders


His wife Jezebel said to him, “You are the king of Israel! Get up, eat some food, and have a good time. I will get the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite for you.” She wrote out orders, signed Ahab’s name to them, and sealed them with his seal. She then sent the orders to the leaders and to the nobles who lived in Naboth’s city. This is what she wrote: “Observe a time of fasting and seat Naboth in front of the people. Also seat two villains opposite him and have them testify, ‘You cursed God and the king.’ Then take him out and stone him to death.” The men of the city, the leaders and the nobles who lived there, followed the written orders Jezebel had sent them. They observed a time of fasting and put Naboth in front of the people. The two villains arrived and sat opposite him. Then the villains testified against Naboth right before the people, saying, “Naboth cursed God and the king.” So they dragged him outside the city and stoned him to death. Then they reported to Jezebel, “Naboth has been stoned to death.”

1 Kings 21:7-14


Another aspect that must stand out about the corruption in this narrative is that it was all propagated by those in authority—the king, queen, and elders. This reminds us of the importance of godly character in our leaders. When God gives qualities of those who can serve as elders and deacons in the church in 1 Timothy 3, they are primarily character traits, like not being given to much wine, not being a brawler (somebody who gets into fights), being hospital (somebody who loves strangers), running one’s household well, etc. When God looks to use somebody for the kingdom, his or her character is the primary quality. He takes a person with godly character, then trains and equips them for greater service.


Unfortunately, with the world, education, skills, experiences, beauty, contacts, and other qualifications are often the most important, which commonly leads to having people with bad character in authority. When our leaders are corrupt, they only exasperate and increase ungodliness in a culture or nation.


Application Question: How should we respond to the importance of having godly leaders to restrain sin and corruption in society?


1. Because of the importance of having godly leadership to restrain sin and promote righteousness in society, believers must support their leaders through prayer and other practical ways.


They should pray that the leadership might be saved, protected from evil, and that they would be wise and righteous (cf. 1 Tim 2:1-4). They should also support them by encouraging them instead of criticizing them, obeying them, lovingly holding them accountable when needed, and serving them in other practical ways. Hebrews 13:7 says, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls and will give an account for their work. Let them do this with joy and not with complaints, for this would be no advantage for you.”


2. Because of the importance of having godly leadership to restrain sin and promote righteousness in society, believers should pray for God to raise up godly leaders and prayerfully consider serving in leadership.


God put Joseph, David, Daniel, Obadiah, and Nehemiah in leadership positions. Both Joseph, Daniel, and Obadiah (who supervised Ahab’s palace and saved the prophets; 1 Kgs 18:3), served in very pagan and ungodly environments and yet remained loyal to God. Proverbs 29:2 (NLT) says, “When the godly are in authority, the people rejoice. But when the wicked are in power, they groan.” Romans 13:1-7 says those in authority are God’s servants meant to reward the righteous and punish wrongdoers. Serving in leadership positions is a tremendous way to honor God and bless people. Those in leadership have an incredible capacity to influence communities negatively or righteously; therefore, we should continually pray for them, support them, and also consider serving in those positions.


Application Question: Why is leadership so important? What makes it so difficult to serve in leadership positions? How can we better support our leaders? Do you feel called to serve your community through leadership, and if so, how?


To Guard Against Corruption, We Must Courageously Confront Sin and Protect the Most Vulnerable


The men of the city, the leaders and the nobles who lived there, followed the written orders Jezebel had sent them. They observed a time of fasting and put Naboth in front of the people. The two villains arrived and sat opposite him. Then the villains testified against Naboth right before the people, saying, “Naboth cursed God and the king.” So they dragged him outside the city and stoned him to death. Then they reported to Jezebel, “Naboth has been stoned to death.” When Jezebel heard that Naboth had been stoned to death, she said to Ahab, “Get up, take possession of the vineyard Naboth the Jezreelite refused to sell you for silver, for Naboth is no longer alive; he’s dead.” When Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, he got up and went down to take possession of the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite. The Lord told Elijah the Tishbite: “Get up, go down and meet King Ahab of Israel who lives in Samaria. He is at the vineyard of Naboth; he has gone down there to take possession of it. Say to him, ‘This is what the Lord says: “Haven’t you committed murder and taken possession of the property of the deceased?”’ Then say to him, ‘This is what the Lord says: “In the spot where dogs licked up Naboth’s blood they will also lick up your blood—yes, yours!”’

1 Kings 21:11-19


Certainly, as mentioned, one of the things that must stand out in this narrative is the willingness of the elders to go along with Jezebel’s evil plan. Maybe, they were afraid of losing their authority and wealth or being killed by Jezebel. Therefore, they simply agreed to her request. They even instituted the evil plan with the veil of religious piety. In obedience to Jezebel, they called for a fast. Most likely, Israel was suffering a famine or plague, and the fast was to seek God’s face and determine why it was happening. After seeking the Lord, two hand-selected villains sitting next to Naboth accused him of cursing God and king. Therefore, Naboth was killed and apparently so were children, so Ahab could confiscate the land.


Again, the spiritual and administrative leaders of Israel said nothing, they just obeyed Jezebel’s plan. However, when God informed Elijah, he met Ahab at the vineyard and rebuked him for his sin—telling him that God was going to judge him and his family (v. 17-24). This must stand out because the previous time we saw Elijah in 1 Kings 19, he ran for his life away from Jezreel because he heard Jezebel was going to kill him. But, now, maybe a few years later, he boldly returns to Jezreel to confront the king outside of his home at the vineyard.


Likewise, if we are going to guard against corruption, we must also be willing to confront sin, even at risk to ourselves. This is what Christ did when he visited the Jewish temple twice (John 2, Matt 21). When religious leaders were allowing the poor and those from far away to be charged exorbitant prices to offer sacrifices at the temple, Christ turned over tables, kicked out the money changers, and rebuked the leaders. At times, we may need to wisely do the same, especially to protect the vulnerable. When corruption abounds, the bullies pick on the weak in society—the widow, the orphan, the poor, the ethnic and religious minorities (including Christians), and the sick. Like Christ (and Elijah in this context), we must stand up for them.


In addition, we must remember that if we are aware of the evil being done in the classroom, at church, in the business, and we do nothing, God will often hold us liable. In Samuel 3, God judges Eli, the priest, because he knew his sons were cheating people at the tabernacle, including being promiscuous with the women, but he did nothing about it. He did warn his sons, but that’s all he did, even when they continued in sin (1 Sam 2:22-26). Consider what God said to Eli through Samuel in 1 Samuel 3:13-14,


You should tell him that I am about to judge his house forever because of the sin that he knew about. For his sons were cursing God, and he did not rebuke them. Therefore I swore an oath to the house of Eli, ‘The sin of the house of Eli can never be forgiven by sacrifice or by grain offering.’


Likewise, Proverbs 24:10-12 says this:


If you faint in the day of trouble, your strength is small! Deliver those being taken away to death, and hold back those slipping to the slaughter. If you say, “But we did not know about this,” does not the one who evaluates hearts consider? Does not the one who guards your life know? Will he not repay each person according to his deeds?


When there is stealing, cheating, abuse of the vulnerable, and other sins happening that we know of and can do something about, but do nothing, God will hold us accountable.


In the church, according to Christ’s teaching in Matthew 18:15-17, that means approaching people one on one to challenge them in love; if they don’t repent, it means bringing a few others to help hold them accountable, and if they still don’t repent, bringing it before the church. If they still don’t repent, removing them from the church, all in love to help them repent. If this is not done, a little leaven leavens the whole lump (1 Cor 5:6). Sin begins to spread throughout the church. Outside the church, similar principles should be followed—approaching a person one on one to confirm and challenge the person, and if that doesn’t work, possibly going to leadership.


This is hard, especially if it might affect our livelihood or when it comes to our friends and family. That’s part of the reason Eli never removed his children from leadership, though he knew they were not morally fit. However, we must do this at times in obedience to God. Otherwise, corruption and sin will flourish, and God will hold us partially responsible for knowing and doing nothing, as Eli did.


Application Question: Who are the most vulnerable in our churches, schools, and/or workplaces and how can we better protect and provide for them? Why is so hard to challenge people who are in sin, especially those we know and love? How can we challenge people wisely?


To Guard Against Corruption, We Must Fear God’s Omniscient and Righteous Judgment


When Elijah arrived, Ahab said to him,“So, you have found me, my enemy!” Elijah replied, “I have found you, because you are committed to doing evil in the sight of the Lord. The Lord says, ‘Look, I am ready to bring disaster on you. I will destroy you and cut off every last male belonging to Ahab in Israel, including even the weak and incapacitated. I will make your dynasty like those of Jeroboam son of Nebat and Baasha son of Ahijah because you angered me and made Israel sin.’ The Lord says this about Jezebel, ‘Dogs will devour Jezebel by the outer wall of Jezreel.’ As for Ahab’s family, dogs will eat the ones who die in the city, and the birds of the sky will eat the ones who die in the country.”1 Kings 21:20-24


One of the great hindrances to sin and corruption is a recognition of God’s omniscience and his judgment. With Ahab’s and Jezebel’s sin, it seemed like a perfectly executed plan. Nobody would tell anybody—not the elders or the paid liars; however, God knew. He immediately told Elijah, including giving Elijah prophetic words of judgment. Proverbs 15:3 says, “The eyes of the Lord are in every place, keeping watch on those who are evil and those who are good.” God knows everything and will one day judge all sin.


When Elijah met with Ahab, he told Ahab that God would destroy all the males in Ahab’s family, effectively ending his dynasty (v. 22). Dogs would devour Jezebel at the wall of Jezreel (v. 23). And, those who died outside the city would be eaten by birds and those who died inside would be eaten by dogs (v. 23). All of this eventually happened. As we’ll see, God had mercy on Ahab, and therefore delayed these judgments until Ahab’s son reigned. Ahab was shot while in his chariot during a battle, and when they brought the chariot back to Samaria, the dogs licked his blood (1 Kgs 22:37-38). Later, Jehu shot Jehoram, Ahab’s son, and had him thrown in Naboth’s field (2 Kgs 9:24-26). Jehu also had Jezebel thrown out of a tower in her castle at Jezreel. When Jehu wanted to bury her, there wasn’t enough of her body left because the dogs got to her. They tore apart her body in Naboth’s field (2 Kgs 9:34-37). After that, Jehu executed seventy of Ahab’s sons who were living in Samaria (2 Kgs 10).


What we can see from this narrative is that God sees and knows all and every account will be paid. They are paid in this life. People always reap what they have sown, even if that is just the regular consequences of sin, which affect us and others. The person who cheats has the memory of their cheating, the lack of satisfaction when they get their grade (because of their cheating); they will have a greater propensity to cheat later on in life, including on bigger issues (like in marriage or at work) which could have drastic consequences. People always reap what they sow, because God made the earth that way. In addition, because God keeps perfect records, one day, he will judge all at Christ’s coming. For believers, that will mean reward or loss of reward, but they will still enter heaven. For unbelievers, that means being separated from God’s blessings eternally in a place of judgment. Though others might not see our sins, we must remember God always sees.


For this reason, when society has lost a fear of God, corruption continues to expand and saturate all aspects of society. Romans 1:28-29, says it this way:


And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what should not be done. They are filled with every kind of unrighteousness, wickedness, covetousness, malice…


A lack of acknowledging God as creator, savior, and judge always leads to various forms of depravity. If the beginning of wisdom is to fear the Lord (Prov 9:10), to not fear God is to live without wisdom, where greater sins continue to abound.


Application Question: How should we respond to the importance of fearing God to stave off corruption?


1. The importance of fearing God to stave off corruption reminds us of our need to be salt and light in the earth. As we live in the fear of the Lord by being obedient to God and loving others, it helps restrain and expel darkness around us. Therefore, when we compromise and become more like the world, the world loses the witness it so desperately needs and becomes more corrupt.


2. The importance of fearing God to stave off corruption reminds us of our need to share the gospel with others. Though creation reflects that there is a powerful God, only Scripture teaches people how to be saved. Consequently, we must zealously share the gospel with others, even if it leads to being accused and mocked like Elijah was. As more people are saved and therefore rightly fear God, it staves off corruption and promotes righteousness.


Application Question: How do you see a lack of fearing God leading to greater sins in people, society, and your nation specifically (Rom 1:18-32)? Why is this happening? How can this be remedied?


To Guard Against Corruption, We Must Understand God’s Great Merciful Character


(There had never been anyone like Ahab, who was firmly committed to doing evil in the sight of the Lord, urged on by his wife Jezebel. He was so wicked he worshiped the disgusting idols, just like the Amorites whom the Lord had driven out from before the Israelites.) When Ahab heard these words, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth, and fasted. He slept in sackcloth and walked around dejected. The Lord said to Elijah the Tishbite, “Have you noticed how Ahab shows remorse before me? Because he shows remorse before me, I will not bring disaster on his dynasty during his lifetime, but during the reign of his son.”

1 Kings 21:25-29


Finally, at the end of the narrative, we see God’s great mercy towards Ahab. After Elijah rebuked Ahab, Ahab mourned before the Lord. He tore his clothes, put on sackcloth, and fasted (v. 27). Because of this, God told Elijah that these terrible things would not happen in Ahab’s lifetime, but in the reign of his son (v. 29). Judgment was postponed for around three years.[1] Certainly, this demonstrates how gracious and merciful God is, especially since Ahab was Israel’s worst king up to that point in their history (v. 25).


Interpretation Question: Was Ahab genuinely repentant?


There is no evidence that Ahab returned Naboth’s field, but since God honored his mourning, it must have been at least temporarily genuine, though not lasting. At the moment, he was truly repentant, but maybe after Jezebel found out and rebuked him, he snapped out of it. However, even that moment of genuine remorse moved God’s heart. God is tremendously gracious and merciful, and his graciousness is meant to draw us to repentance and righteousness. Romans 2:4 says, “Or do you have contempt for the wealth of his kindness, forbearance, and patience, and yet do not know that God’s kindness leads you to repentance?” Furthermore, God’s patience with Ahab and us is always given to allow us more time to repent. First Peter 3:9 says, “The Lord is not slow concerning his promise, as some regard slowness, but is being patient toward you, because he does not wish for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”


Application Question: How should understanding God’s great merciful character towards sinners affect people?


1. Understanding God’s great merciful character should draw people to repent of their sins and accept God’s forgiveness.


First John 1:9 says, “But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous, forgiving us our sins and cleansing us from all unrighteousness.” If God had mercy on Ahab and gave him more time to repent towards salvation, even though he and his wife had killed the prophets and persecuted the righteous, how much more so will God demonstrate mercy towards us and our nations if we genuinely repent?


2. Understanding God’s great merciful character should help us not give up on the most hardened sinners.


Again, if God still gave chances to Ahab to be saved—sending Elijah to rebuke him and withholding judgment, all so there could be true repentance—then, we should not give up on those who are far away from God, including our families, communities, and countries. God mercifully saved Paul who was having Christians jailed and killed. Certainly, there are no sinners so far away from God that the Lord won’t graciously forgive them if they repent. For this reason, we should continue to pray, share the gospel, and not give up. God sent his Son to die on the cross for our sin, and he is still pursuing sinners today. Though God may appear indifferent towards sin, he is just being patient with sinners, so that they might repent and have life. Praise God for his merciful grace.


3. Understanding God’s great merciful character should help us be quick to forgive others, even when their repentance is not sustained.


Ephesians 4:32 says, “Instead, be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you.” Likewise, Matthew 18:21-22 says this in describing Peter’s conversation with Christ over forgiveness: “‘Lord, how many times must I forgive my brother who sins against me? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Not seven times, I tell you, but seventy-seven times!’” Certainly, this is hard, but God’s grace is available to continually help us forgive, as God forgives us.


Application Question: What makes forgiving others as God forgives us difficult? What does this look like practically?


Conclusion


How can we guard against corruption? We can discern principles from considering the great corruption in Israel, as Ahab and Jezebel framed and killed Naboth to take his land.


1. To Guard Against Corruption, We Must Be Careful of Greed and Covetousness

2. To Guard Against Corruption, We Must Be Careful of Ungodly Relationships

3. To Guard Against Corruption, We Must Have Righteous Leaders

4. To Guard Against Corruption, We Must Courageously Confront Sin and Protect the Vulnerable

5. To Guard Against Corruption, We Must Fear God’s Omniscient and Righteous Judgment

6. To Guard Against Corruption, We Must Understand God’s Great Merciful Character



Prayer Prompts


· Pray that God would deliver us from greed, covetousness, and discontent. Pray that God would empower us to be contentment through Christ whether in times of blessing or trial.

· Pray that God would help us cut any cords with the world which negatively influence us (friendships, entertainment, news sources, etc.) and that we would instead yoke ourselves to what is good and righteous.

· Pray that God would guide, protect, and give supernatural wisdom to our leaders so they can lead righteously in government, education, business, the medical field, the church, and the home.

· Pray for God to give his people boldness to confront sin, even at cost to themselves, and that they would fight for the vulnerable. Pray for grace and protection over the oppressed and neglected, including the unborn, orphans, the poor, and the foreigner.

· Pray for God to give grace to the members of our society to fear God and therefore turn away from sin to righteousness. Pray for God to draw the lost to himself, that they would genuinely repentant and be saved.


[1] Meyer, F.B. Elijah and the Secret of His Power (pp. 63-64). Kypros Press. Kindle Edition.

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