Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Thursday, 10 November 2022:
1 Kings 21:4: 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.
Envy makes you feel resentment, anger or sorrow because God has given someone something He hasn’t given you; envy makes you want the other person to lose what they have that you might obtain it. Envy is the product of pride and discontentment, both great sins against God. Pride, as opposed to humility, competes to place self above others, the exact opposite of what God commands – “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3) As C. S. Lewis said, “Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. We say people are proud of being rich, or clever, or good-looking, but they are not. They are proud of being richer, or cleverer, or better-looking than others.”
Envy occurs when pride is wounded. While the apparent target of envy is the other person, the dissatisfaction is really with self and with God – I am not good enough, and God did not provide. Envy can cause you to forget all that you have for sake of the one thing you don’t have. In Ahab’s case, he was a king who lacked a vineyard. Despite everything he had, he was obsessed with the one thing he didn’t have.
Envy exposes the idols in your heart. Few emotions are more dangerous than envy – there is no petty envy. Envy destroys and kills. Envy is what motivated the religious leaders of the day to have Jesus wrongly accused and crucified – “For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up.” (Matthew 27:18) Compare Ahab’s story with James 4:1-3 — “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” If you feel envy in your heart, repent, and pray that God will give you a grateful, thankful heart of abundance that can truly celebrate the blessings received by others.
Note: The Bible does reveal a positive form of pride – Pride in Christ and in the sanctification of others in Christ (rejoicing rather than haughtiness):
- Romans 15:17 — In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to be proud of my work for God.
- Philippians 2:16 — …holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.
- 1 Corinthians 15:31 — I protest, brothers, by my pride in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day!
- 2 Corinthians 7:4 — I am acting with great boldness toward you; I have great pride in you; I am filled with comfort. In all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy.
1 Kings 21:7 — And Jezebel his wife said to him, “Do you now govern Israel?”
Power does not corrupt. Power enables the behavior of those who already have a corrupt heart. Both positive stress (success) and negative stress (failure) magnify what is already in the heart.
1 Kings 21:9-13 — Political leaders and others will often use religion as a way to legitimize their sinful behavior – “This is for God….”
1 Kings 21:15, 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.
Naboth’s land should have gone to his relatives after his death, but Ahab defied God’s laws and, apparently, no one spoke out against his actions in order to demand justice but Elijah. Are you willing to speak out against injustice and sin when no one else will?
Ahab wanted Naboth’s vineyard and turned to Jezebel and the murderous ways of the world to get what he could not get through righteous ways, thereby cursing himself and his family – “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.” Even after Ahab’s genuine repentance, the consequences of his sin were not removed by God – “…in his son’s days I will bring the disaster upon his house.”
1 Kings 21:17-19 – …In the place where dogs licked up the blood of Naboth shall dogs lick your own blood.
Ahab king of Israel thought he had gotten away with something, but you cannot hide from God’s discipline and judgment. Ahab received condemnation from God for his actions. It is a terrible thing to position yourself against the will of God.
Sin may begin as envy and greed and then proceed to theft and murder.
1 Kings 21:20 – 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.”
Elijah was Ahab’s enemy because Ahab had become God’s enemy. Everyone takes a side in the war against good and evil. Those who side with evil usually claim that evil is, in fact, good. However, God sets the standard. A person either obeys God and stands with Him, or they don’t. You either act as a servant to evil or to God. James 4:4 has the answer: “You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” Do you see how certain themes run throughout the entire Bible?
1 Kings 21:29 – Because he has humbled himself before me, I will not bring the disaster in his days….
God showed mercy to Ahab because Ahab repented. However, the consequences of Ahab’s actions were not completely removed; his family suffered because of his sin.
John 7:6, 7, 18, 19 — Jesus said to them…. “The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil…. The one who speaks on his own authority seeks his own glory; but the one who seeks the glory of him who sent him is true, and in him there is no falsehood. Has not Moses given you the law? Yet none of you keeps the law. Why do you seek to kill me?” The crowd answered, “You have a demon! Who is seeking to kill you?”
The false prophet or teacher seeks to validate the wicked deeds of the rebellious, calling them good and acceptable before God, moral, just, and true. Whereas God’s true messenger exposes evil for what it is, calls for repentance, and proclaims grace to those who turn to Jesus. The world praises the false prophet which God condemns, and the world hates God’s true messenger who God commends. Today, Jesus points out that the false prophet or teacher has no real moral authority, seeks his own glory, and appeals to those who also seek their own glory, while God’s messenger speaks under God’s authority and seeks to glorify God alone. Not only did the world hate Jesus because He exposed the truth of sin, called for repentance, and preached no other way for salvation but through Him, they called Him evil, possessed, crazy, paranoid, and dangerous.
What is your testimony to those around you, and how is it being received? Will you seek to influence others by your own authority and with your own message, or will you serve as Christ’s ambassador and remain faithful to the Gospel, the message of reconciliation through Him alone? Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:10-16) Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves.” (Luke 10:3) “And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” (Mark 13:13) “Blessed are you when people hate you and when they exclude you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man!” (Luke 6:22) “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
- Luke 14:27-33 — Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’ Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.
It is an incredible honor and blessing to be used by God as His messenger as He leads someone to Christ. However, Jesus explained that to receive such an honor, you must be prepared to be reviled, persecuted, maligned, hated, excluded, and spurned. Metaphorically, we must be ready to be crucified daily – “Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.” Also, Jesus tells us how we should feel about such mistreatment: “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven.” Afterall, this was Jesus’ example when He endured the Cross on your behalf – “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2) Consider the Apostle Paul – He was beaten multiple times, stoned, shipwrecked, imprisoned, and finally executed for sake of the Gospel, and through it all, he said he had learned the secret of contentment and joy, desiring nothing greater than more opportunities to share the Gospel with more of his persecutors (read Philippians 1-4). For example, in Acts 21 and 22, we read that when Paul was being beaten by a mob intent on killing him and rescued at the last minute by Roman soldiers (all this after he had already been stoned and left for dead by a different crowd), Paul’s request to the Roman soldiers taking him away for his own safety was, “I beg you, permit me to speak to the people.” (Acts 21:39) When people mistreat you because of your Gospel message, showing nothing but contempt for you and your faith, do you respond by seeking even more time to talk with them, even if it means more mistreatment? Pray that God will give you the same heart for sinners He has for them which is willing to selflessly suffer for sake of their salvation – “For the love of Christ controls us….” (2 Corinthians 5:14)
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 10 November 2022: Proclaim the Gospel today at all costs. “Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9:16)