13 June 2021

Do you now govern ‘Israel’?

Speaker:  Zebedee Lee
Sermon Title: Do you now govern ‘Israel’?
Scripture Text:1 Kings 21–22

Introduction: Eulogy (Men’s perspective)

Who is the boss? What kind of boss is he/He?

Men’s perspective

The Lord’s perspective

Conclusion: Eulogy (The Lord’s perspective)


Reflection Questions:

  1. If you are to die today, what would be men’s eulogy for you?
  2. If you are to die today, what would be Jesus’ eulogy for you?
  3. In the light that the Almighty Lord is just, merciful, and faithful how would you respond to Him?
Scripture: 1 Kings 21 - 22 (ESV)

21 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. 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.

17 Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, 18 “Arise, go down to meet Ahab king of Israel, who is in Samaria; behold, he is in the vineyard of Naboth, where he has gone to take possession. 19 And you shall say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord, “Have you killed and also taken possession?”’ And you shall say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord: “In the place where dogs licked up the blood of Naboth shall dogs lick your own blood.”’”

20 Ahab said to Elijah, “Have you found me, O my enemy?” He answered, “I have found you, because you have sold yourself to do what is evil in the sight of the Lord. 21 Behold, I will bring disaster upon you. I will utterly burn you up, and will cut off from Ahab every male, bond or free, in Israel. 22 And I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah, for the anger to which you have provoked me, and because you have made Israel to sin. 23 And of Jezebel the Lord also said, ‘The dogs shall eat Jezebel within the walls of Jezreel.’ 24 Anyone belonging to Ahab who dies in the city the dogs shall eat, and anyone of his who dies in the open country the birds of the heavens shall eat.”

25 (There was none who sold himself to do what was evil in the sight of the Lord like Ahab, whom Jezebel his wife incited. 26 He acted very abominably in going after idols, as the Amorites had done, whom the Lord cast out before the people of Israel.)

27 And when Ahab heard those words, he tore his clothes and put sackcloth on his flesh and fasted and lay in sackcloth and went about dejectedly. 28 And the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, 29 “Have you seen how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself before me, I will not bring the disaster in his days; but in his son’s days I will bring the disaster upon his house.”

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Introduction: Eulogy (Man’s perspective)
Ong Pang Boon’s perspective
On Mr Lee’s foresight and capability as a politician: “He was a consummate and farsighted politician, maximising every opportunity to advance his political advantage and the PAP’s interests. Although English educated, Mr Lee understood that power rested with the pro-communist students from Chinese schools and the trade unions.”
Let me start off with a eulogy by Former Cabinet Minister Ong Pang Boon of Mr Lee Kuan Yu.
The Eulogy of King Ahab & King Jehoshaphat
 22:39 Now the rest of the acts of Ahab and all that he did, and the ivory house that he built and all the cities that he built, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel? 22:45 Now the rest of the acts of Jehoshaphat, and his might that he showed, and how he warred, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah? 
In these two chapters we have the eulogies of the King of Israel, Ahab and the King of Judah, Jehoshaphat. The Book of Chronicles represents man’s perspective. Now … The above verses show the perspective of man on King Ahab and King Jehoshaphat. First, let us pray. Dear Father in heaven. Please let me be your mouthpiece today and prepare us to respond to you. In Jesus’ name. Context from Chapter 20 – Ahab was moody and unhappy because he was rebuked by the LORD for going against His will, keeping Benhadad alive. Very quickly, the next event highlights the king, more than moody and unhappy – he was a spoilt kid, throwing tantrum! Today’s sermon will be based on 1 King 21 and 22. We will divide today’s sermon content into 4 sections. We will look at chapter 21 – man’s perspective, then followed by the LORD’s perspective. Then we will look at chapter 22 which also started with man’s perspective, and then the LORD’s perspective. Let us dive into chapter 21:1-16 and look first at man’s perspective. Let us look at Jezebel, the men of the city, the elders, the leaders, the two worthless men and Naboth’s perspective of Ahab, the king of Israel and their perspective of the LORD. It all started when Ahab coveted his neighbour’s vineyard for convenient’s sake. Ahab seemed to be a good king who offered a better deal for Naboth. In fact he gave Naboth two good reasons to consider – “Your land is just beside my palace” and “I will give you a better place for replacement or pay you for it”. Reasonable right? However, Naboth, being righteous, rejected his offer because of the greater Boss of Heaven (the boss of Naboth and Ahab), the covenantal LORD for the LORD forbade him to do so. Ahab should have known better and not even considered asking for the deal because the Boss of heaven forbade it – It is a no, no deal from the start. Ahab, as Israel’s king, was to know the law and rule by it as Deut 17. Naboth’s perspective was that Ahab did not govern Israel righteously. Naboth, like Daniel and his three friends in Babylon, were willing to stick their necks out to be faithful to their LORD. To them, He was the One they were to be all in for. He was still governing, and they therefore aligned themselves to His purposes. Instead, Ahab threw tantrum like a child in front of his wife Jezebel, the unequally yoked wife. Jezebel commanded him to rise and eat and she would give him what he wanted. She spoke like she was the LORD. To her, Ahab was no king of Israel, he was but a little boy/a wimp. In her worldview as a Phoenician princess, her father ruled with an iron fist, lording over his people. He was above law. He is ‘god’/he was the boss. With sarcasm, she asked Ahad, “Do you now govern Israel?” – Look at you, pathetic! A wimp… Let me show you now how to govern Israel”. So, in Jezebel’s perspective, she was the boss of Israel and Ahab was just a puppet king. She used Ahab’s authority (His seal) to write a letter to the elders and leaders of Israel and to get them to stone innocent Naboth legally (with two witnesses) and religiously (fasting). She seemed to know the LORD’s law well but had no regard to Him the Law-giver. To her, the LORD of Israel was not god/boss. In conspiracy with her, the men of the city, the elders and the leaders of Israel were no better – they feared her than the LORD in putting innocent Naboth to death. Let’s remember that the men of the city, the elders and the leaders were people of authority, and they misused their authority to save their own lives at the expense of a righteous fellow man. Jezebel, the tyrant, was their boss, not the covenantal LORD, surely not Ahab. They were all at her mercy. Who were “worthless”? Obviously, Ahab, Jezebel and her gang of accomplices were the culprits – they were supposed be the one to be stoned to death. Of all the people, only Naboth saw the LORD as boss, and Ahab was not ruling as he ought to be. Only Naboth was all in for the LORD. Only Naboth really listened and obeyed. Ahab saw himself as all-important – what he thought of was his own desires. He could ignore the LORD for his own evil desires. Who was ruling Israel now? Ahab? Jezebel? The LORD? What kind of ruler was he? Tyrant? Let’s explore further. What really matter was how the LORD saw Ahad. Let us now look at the perspective of the LORD in chapter 21:17-29 The LORD now showed that He was still the boss. He now commanded Elijah his police to charge Ahab. “Ahab, you are guilty and the verdict is all your male household will die – no posterity/no family line/ no dynasty”. Jezebel had commanded Ahab to rise and now the LORD commanded Elijah to rise to CHARGE Ahab. The LORD charged Ahab for killing Naboth and taking possession of his vineyard, selling himself to do what was evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking Him, making Israel to sin and going after idols (very abominable act incited by Jezebel). The LORD was just and He acted now to judge Ahab and Jezebel. He was the real boss of Israel. Was He not musing, or was He relieving himself, or was He on a journey, or perhaps was He asleep and must be awaken? Ahab should have had known very well from the Carmel incident where the LORD had shown Himself otherwise. What kind of king was Ahab to the Lord? An infaithful king? What kind of God is the Lord? Faithful to judge. Ahab heard all those charged from Elijah and he responded to the LORD’s words in humility. “He heard, he tore his clothes and put sackcloth on his flesh and fasted and lay in sackcloth and went about dejected…because he has humbled himself before me, I will not bring the disaster in his days; but in his son’s days I will bring the disaster upon his house.” The LORD showed mercy by delaying the extermination of all the male in his household male during his lifetime, but eventually He would . The people of Israel were guilty of killing an innocent righteous man – they were heading towards judgment sure to come (Assyria). Ahab was given authority to rule Israel, but he failed miserably. He was childish, worthless, manipulative, influenced by an unequally yoke wife and totally ignored God’s words. He abused his power for his own gain.
 Be like Jesus, not Ahab
Philippians 2:4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,  who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
He was not like King Jesus who being the Creator, did not take advantage of His position and power but gave himself even unto death on the cross for our sake. You and I are encouraged to be like-minded, having this mind of Christ, for the sake of others. Being loving, we do not take advantage of other when we are given authority to rule/supervise/manage/teach. Like Ahab, we might abuse our authority in a manner that is not loving to God and our neighbour. In the LORD’s perspective, He is still governing Israel by His words/covenant. Naboth obeyed God’s word, was not greedy for a better deal, was willing to stick his head out and was not submitting to Ahab but the LORD. Ahab totally ignored the LORD’s words written down in Scripture. Yet the LORD, in His mercy, even sent the prophet Elijah to confront him. Jezebel, who did not believe in the LORD, could even use His law for her advantage to get rid of Naboth. The men of the city, the elders and the leaders, guarding their own life and fearing Jezebel, listened to her than to the LORD’s clear command to love your neighbour and not to bear false witnesses. The important thing to take note is that Ahab heard the LORD’s words and humbled himself before Him. The LORD responded by being merciful to him. Who is Jesus? Equal with God? What type of Lord is He? Loving and humble. Hermon is to be like Naboth and Jesus, not Ahab. Now look at 1 Kings 22:(1-29) for a new setting and look at man’s perspective. The king of Israel was inviting Jehoshaphat to get back Ramoth-gilead (an economically advantageous strategic town) from the king of Syria. Jehoshaphat agreed but would like to inquire from the Boss above first. The King of Israel then gathered 400 ‘Yes’ men prophets which prophesized according to his want. Jehoshaphat somehow knew they were all false prophets and he asked for at least one true prophet of the LORD. There was one – Micaiah, whom the king of Israel had blacklisted because he always spoke truth against him. Jehoshaphat asked that at least Micaiah was given a chance to prophecy. Jehoshaphat knew from the start that Ahab had no intention to hear from the LORD. To Ahab the LORD’s perspective was not important. The throne ‘room’: The king of Judah and Israel were discerning/judging the LORD’s words through His prophet. Their robes were emphasized (“We are the boss”). Zedekiah, through his visual horns of iron, might have interpreted Deut 33:17 to fit the king’s desire for this battle. To them,, the LORD had promised that the ten thousands of Manasseh and the ten thousands of Ephraim would gore their enemies to the end of the earth. This is called sugar coding the Scripture. Aren’t we guilty of this, too? Zedekiah thought, “I am like Moses, Jeremiah and Ezekiel – all these big true prophets came with visual aids too. So I am in charge not you Micaiah.” All the rest of the prophets in unison proclaimed the same verdict. All of them, except Micaiah, saw themselves in charge but not the LORD. Micaiah said in v 14 “As the LORD lives, what the LORD says to me, that I will speak. To Ahab, he was in charge. He had no need to seek or submit to the Lord. Micaiah played along with them, and the king of Israel asked him to be serious and speak the truth. Ironically, the LORD also sat on His throne and the vision was revealed to Micaiah to speak/reveal to the kings and his prophets and to remind them that He was still sitting on the throne and was ruling still. The LORD, in his mercy, was revealing that He was going to use the false prophets to bring judgement to the king of Israel. The readers are to see God as playing along with the king of Israel as Micaiah when He said that He put a lying spirit on the king of Israel’s prophets. What a joke! The LORD has no intention to deceive but, in His mercy, to reveal/warn of sure coming judgement. “You should have humbled yourself as you did?” The LORD reminded Ahab through Micaiah that He was the one who is in charge. In v17 and 23, the LORD made make sure that Israel would have no master, no shepherd. In another words, there would be no more Ahab. He, the sovereign LORD, had declared disaster, meaning it would surely come to pass. Therefore, in v 19 Micaiah called for Ahab to hear and to humble himself before the LORD. Instead, Micaiah was persecuted for speaking the truth. All those involved had rebelled against the LORD To Zedekiah and the 400 false prophets, Ahab was a king who wanted to only hear what he desired, and they were willing to sugar-code Yahweh’s words in Scripture just to please him. To Jehoshaphat, Ahab had no intension to seek the LORD’s will. Jehoshaphat seemed to want to seek His will but the last sentence in v 29 tells us all – that he blatantly ignored the LORD’s word. He had unequally yoked with Ahab. To Ahab, he thought he was in charge. V29 tells it all, that all (Ahab, Jehoshaphat, Zedekiah and the 400 false prophets had sinned and had rebelled against the LORD. They all thought that they were in charge, not the LORD). (v29 “So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat the king of Judah went up to Ramoth-gilead”). In v28 Micaiah now called all the people to hear. Ahab still thought he was in charge. The Lord, in his mercy, was calling his people to humble themselves before him. Now let us look at the LORD’s perspective in chapter 22:30-50. “I am still the LORD of Ahab. What I declare, I will execute now. No one can stop it, not you Ahab; try to disguise as you wish – play high and seek with me, the All-powerful and All- knowing LORD”. The LORD sent a missile/arrow to kill Ahab. There was no way to run. Naboth was vindicated by the LORD. Let me how the writer brought out this point with a sense of humour. The sovereign LORD is faithful to judge. He is in charge, not Ahab and the rest. Let us now look at the LORD’s perspective – The LORD’s eulogy for Jehoshaphat God is more concerned for Jehoshaphat submitting to His rules – doing what is right in His sight than his military ability. That is what really matters. To the LORD, Jehoshaphat pleased Him. Let look at verses 43b – 44. But, but…in the sight of the Lord, Jehosphabat was not consistent. Ultimately the Lord was in charge thus what He thought was what mattered. Don’t you agree? Now let’s look at the Lord’s at Ahaziah, the son of Ahab and Jehoram, the son of Jehosphabat. 2 Kings seemed to end with only negative note. Ahaziah and Jehoram, what were their future? The LORD had shown that He is still reigning and being merciful. Ahab’s son Ahaziah was still surviving though he should have been wiped out together with the rest of Ahab’s male household. Looking forward, Ahad’s household including Ahaziah would be doomed because the LORD was still reigning. He was faithful to judge. Shouldn’t we be thankful that our just Lord is also merciful? Jehoram/Joram would have posterity. God would continue to be merciful to the Davidic line till the promise of a king who will rule forever be fulfilled. In 2 Kings 21, Manasseh would be introduced as the king of Judah that was worse than Ahab but the male in his household males were spared like Ahab. All this was because the LORD is faithful with His promise to David. In His faithfulness, he exercises mercy until the forever King Jesus is born. Arent we also thankful that our just God is also faithful to His promises? Conclusion: The book of Kings was written to the exile to accept the just judgement of the LORD – sending them to exile to Babylon as His just judgement on their unfaithfulness to His covenant, and to look forward for the perfect king that will come from the line of David, who will rule forevermore faithfully, justly, and mercifully. In Matthew 1:1-16, Jechoniah/Jehoiachin surviving the Babylon exile was no coincidence, but due to the faithful hand of the LORD. V12 And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel. See v 16 and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ. The LORD’s people are to continue to humble themselves before the LORD and to come under His rules.
2.     Jesus is the promise King. Therefore, come under His rule
Philippians 2:8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father
The church is to bow her knee to Jesus as the promised King. What would Jesus’ eulogy for Mr Lee Kuan Yew be? “In the sight of the LORD, Mr Lee …” If God would send a prophet to speak to Mr Lee, would there be rebuke or compliment? Has Mr Lee bow his knee to Jesus? What would Jesus’ eulogy for Hermon … “In the sight of the LORD, Mt Hermon …” If God would send a prophet to speak to Hermon, would there be rebuke or warning or compliment? Has Hermon bow her knee to Jesus? What would Jesus’ eulogy for You, Zebedee “In the sight of the LORD, Zebedee …” If God would send a prophet to speak to Zebedee, would there be rebuke or warning or compliment? Has Zebedee bowed his knee to Jesus? Have You?