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Watch 2022 online sermons » Dr. David Jeremiah » David Jeremiah - Vengeance

David Jeremiah - Vengeance

David Jeremiah - Vengeance (Someone Like You)
David Jeremiah - Vengeance (Someone Like You)
TOPICS: Someone Like You, Elijah, Vengeance, Justice

Have you ever seen a movie or read a book or witnessed a play where one of the characters was getting away with such grave injustice that you could hardly wait for the conclusion so that the evil character would get what was coming to him? Some injustices really stir our emotions. They create momentary knee-jerk reactions to what has been done. Some injustices are premeditated, and they are pure evil. And when we see something like that unfold, whether it's on the screen or in real life, we discover the kind of anger of which we are capable. Such was the case when a crazed coward of a man filled with ideological hatred drove a rental truck down a bicycle path and killed eight people who were simply out on a beautiful afternoon in New York City enjoying the bike path.

Now, I'll be honest with you folks. I know we're supposed to hate the crime and not the criminal, the deed and not the person, but in events like this, I struggle with that big-time. The biblical writers also struggled with it. If you read the Psalms, you will constantly run into places where David is crying out to God against the injustices of the world. In one place, he said, "Arise, O Lord, confront him, cast him down and deliver my life from the wicked with Your sword". In other words, "God, take him out". Today's story from the life of Elijah makes me long for justice. It makes me angry, so angry that I wish I could go back in time to personally witness the perpetrators getting what they deserve.

The story unfolds in a place called the Valley of Jezreel. That's a pretty famous place in the Bible. That's where Gideon fought the great battle with 300 of his mighty men against the Midianites. That's where Saul visited the witch of Endor. That's where both Saul and his son Jonathan were killed. And interestingly enough, in more recent history, the Valley of Jezreel was the place where modern-day Israel defeated a military coalition of Arab states back in 1948, the Valley of Jezreel. And if you know your Bible, you know it's in that valley in the future where the battle of Armageddon will be engaged in. I've been to Israel many times, and every time I go, I stand upon this precipice that looks out over the Valley of Jezreel, and most people say it is the most perfect battleground in all of the world.

Well, it's also a very important place in the life of Elijah. It was there he went after his great victory on Mount Carmel, and that's where Jezebel made her pronouncement that she would kill him if it was the last deed she did on planet Earth. On the southern edge of the Valley of Jezreel, Ahab, the wicked king of Israel, had built his palace. And next to the royal palace lived a simple, humble and godly farmer whose name was Naboth. The story that unfolds between Ahab the mighty king and Naboth the humble farmer is one of the real tragedies of the Old Testament. It is a tragedy that is presented in four different acts. Each of these acts involves Ahab and one other person, and it begins at the beginning of the 21st chapter with Ahab and the farmer. "And it came to pass after these things that Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard which was in Jezreel, next to the palace of Ahab king of Samaria. So Ahab spoke to Naboth, saying, 'Give me your vineyard that I may have it for a vegetable garden, because it is near, next to my house; and I will give you a vineyard better than that. Or, if it seems good to you, I will give you its worth in money.'"

In the first act, Ahab approached Naboth, his neighbor, and he says, "Listen, guy, your land's next to mine, and I'd really like to annex your property and create a vegetable garden. It'd really just be wonderful if we could trade property. Why don't you let me take your land, and I'll give you a vineyard better than the one you have. And if you don't want to do that, let me just pay you for it, and I'll give you way more than it's worth". Ahab's request sounds reasonable, and the kind of a thing a king might do. But when the king presented the deal to Naboth, this is what he heard. "Naboth said to Ahab, 'The Lord forbid that I should give the inheritance of my fathers to you!'"

Naboth wasn't holding out for a better price. He wasn't trying to upstage Ahab. He wasn't simply a stubborn old miser who was standing his ground. Naboth's firmness was based on his commitment to the Word of God. He knew that the children of Israel were not permitted to sell land to one another because their property did not belong to them. It belonged to the Lord. Leviticus says, "The land shall not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine; for you are strangers and sojourners with Me". And in the book of Numbers, we discover the same principle. "So the inheritance of the children of Israel shall not change hands from tribe to tribe, for every one of the children of Israel shall keep the inheritance of the tribe of his fathers". So, according to the law, Naboth was technically not the owner of his land, but a steward, and he knew that if he allowed Ahab to have the vineyard, he would be in violation of God's will. And so he said "no" to the king.

I can see this humble farmer shuddering at the thought of his meeting with Ahab and telling the king, "I can't do it, and I will not do it because it's forbidden, according to the law of God". Act one ends with one of the most pitiful and sickening scenes in all of the Bible. Let the Word of God speak for itself, verse 4, "So Ahab went into his house sullen and displeased because of the word which Naboth the Jezreelite had spoken to him; for he said, 'I will not give you the inheritance of my fathers.' And Ahab lay down on his bed, and turned his face toward the wall, and would eat no food". What a sorry sight. The most powerful man in Israel moping around the palace like a disconsolate spoiled child.

Do you remember when you were a little child and you got in trouble, or something didn't go your way? And you get in your bed and turn your face to the wall and pout; come on, now. You aren't that old. You'll remember. King Ahab is a man who can have anything that his heart desires. He's the king. He's living in his palace. And historians tell us this was some palace. It was overlaid with ivory. But we see him now in his bedroom, pouting because he can't have a little postage-stamp-sized parcel of ground that belongs to a humble neighbor. Ahab and the farmer, act two. Ahab and Jezebel.

"But Jezebel," verse 5, "his wife came to him and said to him, 'Why is your spirit so solemn that you eat no food?' And he said to her," my interpretation, "Because I spoke to Naboth the Jezreelite, and said to him, 'Give me your vineyard for money; or else, if it pleases you, I will give you another vineyard.' And he answered, 'I will not give you my vineyard.'" It had to be something like that. "And Jezebel his wife said to him, 'You now exercise authority over Israel! Arise, eat food, let your heart be cheerful. Never mind, I'll get the vineyard myself". I mean, that's not in the Bible, but that's what I think happened. She was disgusted with her husband and rightly so. Here's the man who she was supposed to look up to and respect. He's the king over all the land, and he's pouting in his bedroom because he can't have this little piece of property. So, Jezebel says to him, "Look, let me get it for you". Here is a strong woman married to a weak man. In fact, here is a strong, wicked woman married to a weak, wicked man.

Now that is big-time trouble right there. Let me tell you a little bit about this woman, Jezebel. One author gives us this profile. She is the prototype of the evil woman. She's the harlot queen, the shameless fornicator, the scheming seductress enticing the innocent into the depths of wickedness. She was the mother of all malice, violence, and monstrous, disgusting vice. She despised God, trampled underfoot a host of human and divine laws, and breathed her brand of falsehood into Israel's courts, schools, homes, and bedrooms. She corrupted five kings and two kingdoms. And although the Bible never gives her the title of queen, she was really a queen, because she married Ahab. Her father was a man by the name of Ethbaal, who was the king of the Phoenician city-state called Sidon. Ethbaal was also a priest, a priest of their goddess Ashtaroth.

Now let me just give you one little quick sentence about some gods. The Phoenician Ashtaroth was like the Greek Aphrodite and like the Roman Venus. All of these gods, goddesses were evil, wicked, immoral gods. Under Ashtaroth, sexual immorality was not forbidden; it was actually made a part of their worship. And when Jezebel married Ahab, she brought her wicked religion with her, and she persuaded her husband, Ahab, to build a temple and altar to her false god in Samaria. Ahab didn't have the spiritual courage, as we've learned, to stop Jezebel. So, little by little, he let her take over until she controlled the very heart and soul of his government. If Jezebel could corrupt an entire nation, it's not surprising that she also made her husband, who was already a wicked man, far worse than he would have been without her.

1 Kings 21:25 says, "But there was no one like Ahab who sold himself to do wickedness in the sight of the Lord, because Jezebel his wife stirred him up". Jezebel is about to stir up her husband to do one of the most wicked things I have read about in all of literature. Listen to her plan. Verse 8, "And she wrote letters in Ahab's name and sealed them with his seal, and sent the letters to the elders and the nobles who were dwelling in the city where Naboth was. She wrote in the letters, saying," quote, "Proclaim a fast, and seat Naboth with high honor among the people, and seat two men", did you ever know this word was in the Bible? "Scoundrels before him to bear witness against him, saying, 'You have blasphemed God and the king.' Then take him out, and stone him, that he may die.'"

Notice all the crimes this wicked woman committed. First of all, forgery. She wrote letters in Ahab's name and sealed them with his seal. She used her husbands signet ring to send orders that he didn't know anything about. Now, don't get all upset about that, 'cause if he had known something about it, he didn't have enough guts to do anything about it anyway. But she forged his name. Blasphemy. She said, "Proclaim a fast". She used a religious celebration to carry out her evil plan. She proclaimed a religious fast as a cloak to cover up her dastardly deed. This was nothing other than blasphemy of God. Perjury. "Seat two men, scoundrels, before him to bear witness against him". Jezebel recruited two scoundrels and probably paid them a bunch of money to testify against Naboth. They brought charges against him that were not true. They said that he had blasphemed God and the king, which he had never done. And then murder. "Take him out and stone him that he may die".

Now, all of this was to end in the murder of Naboth. He was to be taken outside of the city and stoned to death, and everything went according to Jezebel's plan. The elders and the nobles did the queen's dirty work. Everything happened as she said. And if you read 2 Kings 9:26, you will discover that not only did they kill Naboth, but they also killed all of his sons so that the inheritance could never be traced back to his property that Ahab had stolen. That night, if you had come to the edge of the Valley of Jezreel and walked by the house, on the little vineyard where Naboth had lived, you would've heard a woman wailing for her husband and her sons, who had been murdered by a wicked queen and her wicked, cowardly husband. When Jezebel received the news that Naboth was dead, she relayed the news to Ahab and said to the king, verse 15:

"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". And I'm sure that when Ahab and Jezebel got word that Naboth was dead, they thought they were home free. But not so fast. Act three, Ahab and Elijah. What Ahab and Jezebel had forgotten in all of this is that "There is no creature hidden from God's sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give an account". Elijah's assignment, once again, the Word of the Lord comes to him. "The word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, 'Arise, go down to meet Ahab king of Israel, who lives in Samaria. There he is, in the vineyard of Naboth, where he has gone down to take possession of it. You shall speak to him and say, "Thus says the Lord: Have you murdered and also taken possession"? And you shall speak to him, saying, "Thus says the Lord: In the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth, dogs shall lick your blood, even yours".' So Ahab said to Elijah, 'Have you found me, O my enemy?' And he said, 'I have found you, because you have sold yourself to do evil in the sight of the Lord.'"

Now get this picture in your mind. While Ahab is checking out his new piece of real estate and trying to figure out how he's gonna plant his beautiful garden in this new place, the last person in the world he ever wanted to see was the preacher. Have you ever been in a situation (don't answer me), have you ever been in a situation where the last person you ever wanted to see was the preacher? Here he is in the midst of his crime, and Elijah the preacher shows up. And Elijah's assignment is followed by his announcement. Verse 21, "'Behold, I will bring calamity on you. I will take away your posterity, and will cut off from Ahab every male in Israel, both bond and free. I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah, because of the provocation with which you have provoked me to anger, and made Israel sin.' And concerning Jezebel the Lord also spoke, saying, 'The dogs shall eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel.' The dogs shall eat whoever belongs to Ahab and dies in the city, and the birds of the air shall eat whoever dies in the field.'"

Now, in some versions of the Bible, the next two verses, verse 25 and 26, are set off in a parentheses as if the author wants us to know just how evil Ahab and Jezebel were. Here's what those verses say. "But there was no one like Ahab who sold himself to do wickedness in the sight of the Lord, because Jezebel his wife stirred him up. And he behaved very abominably in following idols, according to all that the Amorites had done, whom the Lord had cast out before the children of Israel". Ahab and the farmer, Ahab and Jezebel, Ahab and Elijah, and now the last act, Ahab and God. "So it was, when Ahab heard those words from Elijah, that he tore his clothes and put sackcloth on his body, and fasted and lay in sackcloth, and went about mourning".

Now, folks, listen to this. Instead of going home to pout like he did before, Ahab repented. He repented. I feel like Jonah when the Ninevites repented. I don't want Ahab to repent. I want him to be destroyed. I want him to get what's coming to him. I'm almost as much of a problem with him repenting as I do with what he did in the first place. How could that happen? Verse 28, "And the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, 'See how Ahab has humbled himself before Me? Because he has humbled himself before Me, I will not bring the calamity in his days. In the days of his son I will bring the calamity on his house.'" Even with a brief show of humility and repentance, Almighty God was willing to reach out to this wicked man and show him mercy. Here's the heart of God spoken by the prophet Ezekiel. "'As I live,' says the Lord God, 'I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn away from his way and live. Turn, turn from your evil ways! For why should you die, O house of Israel?'"

So that's the story, almost. But here are four things we need to learn from this tragic story. First of all, let's don't forget where courage can take us. The story of Naboth's vineyard teaches us the heights to which courage can take us. We don't know very much about Naboth. We're not given anything at all about him as a person. He wasn't very important, apparently, but he had courage and conviction, and Naboth was willing to die rather than to violate the Word of God in which he had put his trust. And Elijah was the same way. He stood up to the king. He pointed his finger at him and delivered the Word of God to the king. In our world today, men and women, we need to fan the flame of the courageous heart among God's people. It's pretty easy to just fit in anymore with society, just to go along to get along. But we need people like Naboth who will stand on the Word of God, and we need people like Elijah who are not ashamed of God and will willingly declare God's truth.

Where courage can take us; we also learned where covetousness can lead us. Ahab, listen to me, was willing to sacrifice his own integrity and destroy an innocent family so that he'd have one little thing that his heart coveted. It's exactly the same thing that happened to another one of Israel's kings. King David coveted Bathsheba; and when all else failed, he was willing to kill her husband to get what he wanted. I hear a lot of people, when we talk about the Ten Commandments, sort of say that covetousness is not on the top level of "do nots," that it's sort of like almost an afterthought, "Do not covet". But I tell you, I've watched this now over the years, and I've seen what happens when people want something that is not theirs and they begin to do everything they can to get it. Whether it's another person or another possession, do not let covetous get the root in your heart. The Bible tells us of its great complications. It is the green sickness; and if you allow it to take root in your heart, it will destroy you. It will literally destroy you.

Third, we learn where compassion can reach us. It is amazing that God would show compassion to a man as wicked as Ahab. When eternity tells its final story, and we all get to heaven, we're going to look around and think, "How did he get here"? And then we're going to realize, listen to me, as wicked as what we have read, God wanted to forgive Ahab. There is no sin so wicked that God cannot forgive it. And we must never, ever forget the compassion. Maybe you're here today and you think, "Well, I would like to be a Christian, but Pastor Jeremiah, you have no idea what I've done". No, I don't, and it really doesn't make any difference, because the God that I know is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. And if you're willing to come to him, he will come to you.

Finally, and this is kind of the rest of the story, we learn where condemnation can leave us. I want to tell you the rest of this story, and I must tell you, this is somewhat gross. This is not the kind of a story you always want to talk about in church, but I believe I need to tell you this story 'cause it's in the Bible and I want you to know exactly what happened. Everything that Elijah said would happen eventually did come to pass. For example, Elijah predicted that dogs would lick the blood of Ahab's descendants in the very place that dogs had licked the blood of Naboth. So, listen to this. 2 Kings chapter 9, "Now Jehu drew his bow with full strength and shot Jehoram," Ahab and Jezebel's son, "between his arms, and the arrow came out at his heart, and he sank down in his chariot. And Jehu said to Bidkar his captain, 'Pick him up, and throw him into the tract of the field of Naboth the Jezreelite.'"

Wow, that is an incidental thing that happens to be the fulfillment of a prophecy that Elijah had made. Through Elijah, the Lord also promised that dogs would eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel. Here's how the Bible describes Jezebel's end. "Now when Jehu had come to Jezreel, Jezebel heard of it, and she put paint on her eyes and adorned her head, and looked through a window. And as Jehu entered at the gate, she said, 'Is it peace, Zimri, murderer of your master?' And he looked up at the window, and said, 'Who is on my side? Who?' So two or three eunuchs looked out at him. And he said, 'Throw her down.' So they threw her down, and some of her blood spattered on the wall and on the horses; and he trampled her underfoot. And when he had gone in and ate and drank, then he said, 'Go now, see to this accursed woman, and bury her, for she was a king's daughter.' So they went to bury her, but they found no more of her than the skull and the feet and the palms of her hands".

Wow. Finally, Elijah announced to Ahab that the Lord would bring disaster on him and destroy every one of his male descendants. That too came true. 2 Kings chapter 10, "So it was when the letter came to them that they took the king's sons and slaughtered seventy persons, put their heads in baskets and sent them to Jezreel". Whew. That's heavy. These verses record the slaying of 70 sons of Ahab. Now read with me the conclusion of the story in 2 Kings 10, verses 10 and 11. "'Know now that nothing shall fall to the earth of the word of the Lord which the Lord spoke concerning the house of Ahab, for the Lord has done what He spoke by His servant Elijah.' So Jehu killed all who remained of the house of Ahab in Jezreel, and all his great men and his close acquaintances and his priests, until he left him none remaining".

In his book, "Why I Am Not a Christian," the skeptic Bertrand Russell admitted that the primary reason he could not be a Christian was because Jesus believed in hell and taught about it in one verse after another again and again. Russell called Christ's belief in the wrath of God the one serious defect in Christ's moral character. I cannot tell you how many people I have read about who have said they could not be Christians because of the doctrine of God's wrath. But let me give you the other side of the story.

Miroslav Volf is a survivor of the oppression and genocide in Croatia, and he said, "I used to think that wrath was unworthy of God. Isn't God supposed to be love? Shouldn't divine love be beyond wrath? My last resistance to the idea of God's wrath," he said, "was a casualty of the war in the former Yugoslavia, the region from which I came. According to some estimates, 200,000 people were killed, over 3 million were displaced. My village and cities were destroyed, my people shelled day in and day out, some of them brutalized beyond imagination. And I could not imagine God not being angry about that. Though I used to complain about the indecency of the idea of God's wrath, I came to understand that I would have to rebel against a God who wasn't wrathful at the sight of the world's evil. God isn't wrathful in spite of being loving. God is wrathful because God is loving".

He went on to say, "When you watch family and friends murdered in front of you, the only way to keep from going insane is to know that there is a God who is angry at what is happening and who will one day restore justice. If your God doesn't possess the ability to feel wrath, you will seethe with an insatiable desire for vengeance yourself. Only when you believe that God has the sword in his hand can you lay it down from your hand". And that is what Paul was saying when he wrote to the Romans. "Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath. For it is written, 'Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.'" When we look at what's happening in our world today, I'm reminded often that evil is rampant, and sometimes I know you're like me.

You're saying, "God, why don't you do something about this, how can we let this happen"? And I'm reminded that in the New Testament, in the book of Revelation, the martyrs, they're in heaven and they're crying out, "Lord, how long is it gonna be before you avenge our souls"? And I don't know the answer to that nor do I know any of the details about it, but one thing I can tell you: God will repay, and one day the injustice of this world will meet its Master, and God will have control. In the meantime, I must allow God to do his work and not take it on myself. For when we allow the spirit of vengeance to get into our hearts, it can destroy our lives and keep us from the joy of the Lord. "Vengeance is mine," saith the Lord. "I will repay".

This story has another main character whose name is not mentioned and whose presence looms large between every line. If we only have eyes to see him, he is there. Naboth was falsely accused of offending God and the king. Powerful rulers plotted against him. They produced false witnesses and charged him with blasphemy. He was taken outside the city and killed for a crime he did not commit. Once he was dead, another could take possession of his inheritance. "Naboth is not alive but dead," said Jezebel. Does any part of that story sound familiar? Except that Jesus, as both innocent man and true king died willingly, but he didn't remain in his tomb. "He is not here, he is risen," the angel said.

And think of King Ahab, whose every action in this story serves as a counterpoint to the glory of King Jesus. Ahab was a wicked king who stole an inheritance that was not rightfully his. Jesus is the righteous King who gave away his own inheritance to those who do not rightly deserve it. Ahab humbled himself in a superficial way. And as a result, disaster came not upon him, but upon his descendants. Jesus humbled himself to the point of death. And as a result, disaster came upon him so that it would not come upon you. Jesus not mentioned in this story, but like most of the Bible, he's in between every line. When I open my eyes, I see him so clearly. And then I'm reminded that we live in between two very important periods of time.

If we are here today, and we do not know Jesus Christ, we're in church, and we're living in the time of compassion. The very fact that you're here, the very fact that you're listening to the Word of God, the very fact that you have interest in knowing more is a demonstration of the fact that God wants to be compassionate toward you. Let me encourage you to take advantage of the grace of God during this season of compassion, for there is coming a day when the season of wrath will arise. Do not wait until it's too late. Do not judge yourself able to make sure that you get in just at the end of compassion before the wrath of God comes. Hear the voice of compassion, the love of God, who would forgive an Ahab. If he will forgive an Ahab, he will forgive you. There's nothing you could ever do that will keep him from forgiving you, if you would just ask.
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