The compounding of evil against the innocent is going on all over the world, so this morning I'm going to tell you the story about Naboth (Naw-bohth), a farmer who lived in the City of Jezreel, in North-central Manasseh in the Land of Israel about 2,860 years ago.
That's a long, long time ago, but it's message is as close as Chapter 21 of the Book of 1 Kings in our Bibles.
We don't know a whole lot about Naboth other than he owned a vineyard, which was beside the Palace of Ahab who was king of the Northern tribes of Israel.
Naboth had inherited this land from his father, who had inherited it from his fathers before him.
The land had deep sentimental and emotional ties to his family and was filled with many memories of his youth and his adult life, even more so than many family homes or farms would be today, because people didn't move around as often as they do today.
In those days families lived generation after generation on their own land, and their land was part of their family heritage.
It was very precious to Naboth and he took very good care of the land and the grape vines that grew upon it.
In fact, he took such good care of the land that King Ahab began to covet what Naboth had.
He wanted what wasn't his.
He wanted what rightfully belonged to Naboth.
2 Ahab said to Naboth, "Let me have your vineyard to use for a vegetable garden, since it is close to my palace. In exchange I will give you a better vineyard or, if you prefer, I will pay you whatever it is worth."
3 But Naboth replied, "The LORD forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my fathers." (NIV)
To Naboth, if he was willing to sell or trade the property, it would have been saying to his father and his whole family that what his father worked for all his life was of very little or of no value.
In those days and even to this very day, many people really cherish what belonged to their family members who have died.
Ahab didn't care about Naboth's feelings or about his family.
Ahab only cared about himself and what he wanted.
He had no sense of community or family.
He had no love for his neighbor.
And, he had no apparent love for God.
4 So Ahab went home, sullen and angry because Naboth the Jezreelite had said, "I will not give you the inheritance of my fathers." He lay on his bed sulking and refused to eat.
5 His wife Jezebel came in and asked him, "Why are you so sullen? Why won't you eat?"
6 He answered her, "Because I said to Naboth the Jezreelite, 'Sell me your vineyard; or if you prefer, I will give you another vineyard in its place.' But he said, 'I will not give you my vineyard.'"
7 Jezebel his wife said, "Is this how you act as king over Israel? Get up and eat! Cheer up. I'll get you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite." (NIV)
It seems that Jezebel was the strong one in the family.
Jezebel was saying that because Ahab was King that he was above the Law, and that he could have anything he pleased no matter who was hurt in the process.
Is this not the same attitude that we all too often encounter, today, coming from big business and big government?
Naboth had every right to keep his property, and no one had a right to take it away from him, particularly for such a shallow reason as Ahab's.
And Ahab never questioned what his wife was going to do to get Naboth's property for him; thus he became a party to her evil actions.
So, what did Jezebel do?
8 So she wrote letters in Ahab's name, placed his seal on them, and sent them to the elders and nobles who lived in Naboth's city with him.
9 In those letters she wrote: "Proclaim a day of fasting and seat Naboth in a prominent place among the people.
10 But seat two scoundrels opposite him and have them testify that he has cursed both God and the king. Then take him out and stone him to death." (NIV)
Ahab had broken the tenth commandment by coveting what belonged to his neighbor.
Now Jezebel is compounding that sin by proposing to break the third, sixth, eighth and ninth commandments as well.
She is proposing to steal Naboth's family inheritance, even though the eighth commandment clearly says, "Thou shall not steal."
She is asking others to bear false witness, to tell lies about Naboth, when the ninth commandment clearly says, "Thou shall not bear false witness against your neighbor".
Now, big business and big government would never tell lies against their neighbors and citizens in order to get what they want, would they?
And Jezebel is also asking other people to murder Naboth, who is innocent, even though the sixth commandment clearly says, "Thou shall not murder".
In addition, by using the ploy of proclaiming a fast to the Lord, she is taking the Lord's name in vane, which is a violation of the third commandment.
What do you think the people are going to do?
Are they going to love God and their neighbor, Naboth?
Are they going to say, "No way, Jezebel!", or are they going to do as she asks, and compound her and Ahab's evil intent?
11 So the elders and nobles who lived in Naboth's city did as Jezebel directed in the letters she had written to them.
12 They proclaimed a fast and seated Naboth in a prominent place among the people.
13 Then two scoundrels came and sat opposite him and brought charges against Naboth before the people, saying, "Naboth has cursed both God and the king." So they took him outside the city and stoned him to death.
14 Then they sent word to Jezebel: "Naboth has been stoned and is dead." (NIV)
Naboth's neighbors have joined in the evil intent of big government, and because they carried it out, their evil was just as bad, if not worse.
According to Hebrew Law, a person could never be condemned unless there were at least two or three people to testify against him or her in perfect agreement, as to what that person had done.
They can no longer excuse their actions by saying, "The Queen made me to do it".
Think about how Naboth must have felt.
He was being asked by those he considered his friends and neighbors to come to the fast to the Lord, only to have them turn on him and falsely accuse him.
And what is even worse, they have tried to make it seem as if God was a party to their evil.
Can you hear Naboth's anguish as he cried out, "Why are you lying about me? Why are you doing this to me?"
These people have no love of God or neighbor.
Their so called religious service was a mockery, the same kind of mockery that allowed the holocaust to take place in Germany during world War II.
We may not have been killed by such actions of others, but I would be very surprised if there weren't at least a few of us who have had similar things happen to us.
And some of us may have gone along with similar evil things and never spoken up against it, or even worse, some even may have participated.
We are to love and protect our neighbors and do good to them.
As we have seen, evil doesn't just come from big anything, it most often is carried out by our neighbors, who we are commanded to love.
We are sold out by our neighbors for a place of supposed honor or for money.
And God became very angry because of what they had done, and removed the House of Ahab from ruling over Israel.
Has anyone ever tried to force something upon this community that the majority of people didn't want?
Has anybody refused you needed healthcare, or anything that was needed for everyday life?
Then as a community of faith, we need to stand up together and be counted, for what is right and honorable and loving.
We are to stand firm against the forces of evil, no matter how strong they may seem, but we are never to take vengeance.
We are to leave such things to the Lord, and I have seen people's evil intent come upon their own heads, when they refused to repent.
Anger and hatred and unforgiveness only hurts us.
And let's not forget about all the horrible and ungodly things that are being inflicted upon innocent animals, for they are God's created living souls just as we are.
Such things divide a community.
Love binds us together.
We are to love one another, and the whole of God's creation, and work together to make this a better world; a world that is more caring about the feeling and needs of others.
A world in which we lovingly work together for the common good, just as Jesus showed us.
Let us pray...
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