Ahab: a wealthy king of Samaria with an entire kingdom at his disposal. Naboth: stubborn owner of a simple vineyard that happens to border the king’s land. Jezebel: a greedy, entitled wife who will get what she wants at any cost.
1 Kings 21 sets the stage and introduces the cast of a story that will eventually end in disaster and devastation.
Ahab throws an adult temper tantrum over his desired veggie garden. Jezebel, in her entitled, forceful, cunning way, creates a murderous plot to acquire that which was never meant to be Ahab’s. Naboth is framed and stoned to death, leaving Ahab to claim his vineyard. God sends his prophet to proclaim a coming punishment for their evil deeds. Many years later, the punishment comes about just as the Lord has said.
It used to be more simple when I read the Bible: find the protagonist with whom I would most certainly most identify; point the finger, “Tsk, tsk,” at the antagonist; seek to be like the protagonist through the power of the Spirit. However, as I have grown in knowledge of both the gospel and my own heart, the line between protagonist and antagonist has become increasingly blurred. I find myself having kernels of both in my own heart, which is exactly what the gospel tells me I shall find.
Reading the Scripture through a moralistic lens draws a thick, clear line between the good and the bad, the right and the wrong, the protagonist team and the antagonist team. Reading the Scripture through a gospel lens, a clear line is still drawn, but the teams look incredibly different. Christ is protagonist; flesh is antagonist. We can choose to side with Christ against the flesh or with the flesh against Christ.
I have a resident Naboth living in my heart; I also have a resident Ahab and Jezebel living within me in kernel form deep within my soul. On different days, I find myself more closely aligned and identified with different characters.
The resident Ahab in me looks all around until he finds a little parcel of comfort or talent or desire that is not yet ours. Rather than enjoying the thousands of acres of blessings and talents that have been given to us, he pouts and shouts and demands the tiny vineyard neighboring our rolling estate.
The resident Jezebel loves to feed her dear Ahab’s ridiculous demands with her alluring confidence, “Aren’t you the king? Aren’t you in charge? There is no reason you should not have that precious plot.” Quick to promise and ready to do whatever it takes in her own power to acquire our heart’s desire, she says in 1 Kings 21:7, “I will give you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.”
These days when I read the story of Naboth’ s vineyard, rather than pointing a shocked finger at the married partners in crime, I find myself confessing the traces of Ahab and Jezebel I find in my own life and heart.
I find myself begging God to help my inner Ahab walk around on his allotted portion in contentment. I find myself asking God to keep my eyes on all the rich soil and opportunities and talents that He has graciously entrusted to me rather than looking covetously around me at everyone else’s lots and lives.
I find myself needing God’s truth to silence the Jezebel within me, the part of my heart that vows to go fulfill its deep longings rather than trust God’s plan and wait on God’s timing.
Rather than drooling over my neighbors’ portions, I long to cultivate a deep contentment with the potion and lot my Father has lovingly chosen for me.
Meditating on and praying through the the following Scriptures silences my Jezebel and cultivates contentment.
The Lord is the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You support my lot. The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; indeed my heritage is beautiful to me. Psalm 16:5-6
Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your ways to the Lord. Trust also in Him, and He will do it. Psalm 37:3-5
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Psalm 23: 1-3