Ahab is known for being a wicked king. He was also the husband of the Bible's most wicked woman, Jezebel. In 1 Kings 21 he reveals his depravity by taking a poor man's life just so he can have the poor man's vinyard! He's the kind of man who God would never save, right? No. When Ahab repents before God, God responds to him in the same way He responds to you and I: He forgives him.
“STEALING YOUR FUTURE”
(I Kings 21)
There once lived a man named Emanuel Nenger. The year is 1887. The scene is a small neighborhood grocery store. A middle-aged gentleman named Emanuel Nenger is in the store buying some turnip greens. He gives the clerk a $20 bill and she starts to put the $20 bill in the cash drawer to give him his change. Then the clerk looks down at her fingers and she notices some of the ink from the $20 bill is coming off on her fingers which are wet because she's been wrapping those turnip greens. And she looked up at Mr. Nenger. Here's a man she's known for years. She looks down at the $20 bill. She's shocked. She wonders to herself, "Is this man giving me a counterfeit $20 bill?" And then she discounts it almost immediately because Emanuel Nenger is an old and trusted friend. So she says, "No, he wouldn't do that." So she gives him his change and he goes on his way. But $20 is an awful lot of money in 1887 and so she decides to contact the authorities. They got a search warrant and went to look through Emanuel Nenger's home. Up in his attic they found the facilities for reproducing $20 bills. Now these facilities were very simple. The priniting press being rarely available to the ordinary person. No, his counterfeit operation included an artist's easel and the paint brushes and the paints because Emanuel Nenger was laboriously, stroke by stroke, hand-painting those $20 bills. You see, he was in fact, a master artist. He was arrested and found guilty and spent the remainder of his best years in prison. But . . . when his estate was auctioned off to cover legal expenses, three portraits that Emanuel Nenger had painted were also in that attic. They sold at a public auction for a little over $16,000. That's over $5,000 per portrait. But here's the irony -- it took him almost the same length of time to paint a $20 bill that it took him to paint a $5,000 portrait. Yes, Emanuel Nenger was quite a thief, wasn't he? He was a thief who was stealing from himself.
I want to introduce you this morning to another foolish thief - a man who stole from himself, his kingdom, his future and his family. His prize was a few acres of vines and some clusters of grapes - the price he paid for it was his own life.
His name was Ahab.
And the total stupidity of his actions is that he was the King of an empire, yet he killed to get another man’s small garden; a mere 20 dollar bill vineyard.
He coveted and stole a few acres of vines and some clusters of grapes - and he lost his dynasty, his kingdom, his future.
The terrible incident occurs in I Kings 21.
Before we begin to study what happened, I want to warn you that I will not finish our discussion until I take that leap from what happened then, to what is happening now.
Our creator God knows every one of us very well. In fact, he knows our nature so infinitely well that of all the things he could warn us about, of all the hundreds of things He could command us to do, He chose 10 specific prohibitions.
And the 8th and 10th commandments related to the He emphasises ten things and one of those ten is a monstor called coveteousness; and his companion named theft.
Coveteousness begins in the heart - stealing is the heart involving the hands.
Part of our challenge today is being desensitized by a culture that is shot through with coveteousness - Madison Avenue depends upon it - and Christians are prone to be lured by the siren song - get more, buy newer so work longer - whatever it takes, own the latest.
A New Yorker cartoon seems to depict our current state well - it pictured two clean-shaven, middle aged men sitting together in a jail cell. They are politicians. One is saying to the other, “All along, I thought our lives of corruption fell well within community standards.”
The standards of today’s community are not the standard for the Christian community. What is considered politiacally correct may not be Biblically correct and what is socially acceptable behavior may not be spritually accepteble behavior.
We’re here to take a hard look at Ahab and the crime he committed - but we are here to take a harder look at ourselves - and I simply want to hold up before you the mirror of the Word - so that we can see a reflection of ourselves.
For the past ten years, Elijah has been absent from the record of scripture. Since the events surrounding Mount Carmel, and Jezebel’s threat, Elijah has evidently been involved with Elisha in building the schools of the prophets.
Ahab, on the other hand has been immersed in the Aramean wars - we’re going to dig some nuggets from those wars in our next session together.
He has just returned successfully from his second campaign, successsful proud.
AHAB’S CURRENT PASSION
JEZEBEL’S CONIVING PLOT
ELIJAH’s COURAGEOUS PRONOUNCEMENT
It was indeed, genuine humility and remorse. Imagine how it must have infuriated Jezebel - it was nothing less than an admission that Naboth had been murdered by Jezebel’s puppets.
God responded with great grace . . . I’m so glad He did.
The difference between repentance and remorse
-short-lived vs life-changing
-involves emotions & will vs involves the emotions only
-makes vague resolutions vs makes firm restitution
-external display vs internal development
WHAT ABOUT US?!
I’ve never stolen a vineyard - so I’m safe in this sermon!
One pastor I read recently said he was greeting people after a service and a young boy came up with his father on their way out - the boy said, “That was a great sermon Pastor - it made my Dad slump way down.”
You can take what does not belong to you three ways:
There are at least three ways to steal:
By outright theft - “taking something for yourself that belongs to someone else”
-you can steal time from your employer
-you can steal money through padded expense accounts
-you can steal taxes from the government
-you can steal affection from a married man or woman
-you can steal answers from another person’s exam
you can steal worship from God and give it to something else.
Secondly, by means of deception - “to mislead or misrepresent for the purpose of junjust gain.”
typical of unbelievers - Paul says the wayward person “keeps on decieving” in Romans 3.
it is a characteristic of the false teacher - he or she is a slick liar
deception, don’t forget is essential to Satan’s strategy. (In Rev. 20 he’s referred to as the deciever of the nations)
self-deception is the characteristic of disobedient believers (In James 1 we are implored to look into the mirror of the word and see ourselves for what we are and for where we need to change - if we listen and don’t change, we decieve ourselves.”
There is another way to steal - not only through deception but through defrauding. “To withold something from someone to whom it is rightfully due.”
The Bible talks about withholding honest pay from honest workers; witholding support from aged parents; witholding physical intimacy from a spouse; witholding honest settlements from believers who have been financially wronged.
What about a parent defrauding time from his children - while it might be socially acceptable for you to take your day off and spend it on the golf course or on the tennis court, or invovled in some personal private activity - it may not be spiritually acceptable - some boy or girl or wife or husband may be defrauded of their daddy, or their mommy.
Imagine the children who are handed to someone else to literally raise and care for - there are good reasons for some - especially the single mom or Dad. But I fear the marjority are doing it in order to afford a standard of living they feel they have to have. At what price?!
You will never hear a dying man or woman say, “I wish I had made more money; I wish our house had been featured in Southern Living or our car imported from Europe, or our clothes custom made.”
No one’s dying breath ever utters, “I wish I had spent more time at work.”
I believe it was Robert Louis Stevenson who often referred to the day his busy father finally took him fishing as the wonderful day in his boyhood. He later discovered his father’s diary long after his father had died. He went to the journal entry from that day and to his great surprise and sadness read the words, “Gone fishing today with my son . . . a day wasted.”
Had he only realized, in his sons eyes, that was priceless time - that was the best day.
There are voices from this vineyard that I can hear today . . .
1) Be aware: make sure the things you pursue are really worth the price.
2) Be warned: you can’t sew seeds of sin and then hope for a crop failure in the future
3) Be discerning: pleasure gained by sin is just a distraction from coming disaster.
Mark it down: every act of integrity, every time you say “No”; every time you refuse to cheat or lie, every time you stand for what is godly and pure - you are depositing a little more into your bank account of life - the account is clearly marked - Life worth living” - personal satisfiaction; a good night’s sleep; a clear conscience; fellowship with God.
In closing - I want you to know that as long as the N.T. church has been around, the believer has struggled with selfishness, coveteousness, and theft.
But did it ever occur to you that God is comitted to transforming you from being a person who steals, whether it is time or loyalty or money - into becoming a person who shares.
Listen to Ephesians 4:28.