The Inheritance

By Joyce Yearsley,

Lately, I’ve been considering the Biblical account of Naboth and his adorable vineyard. It must have been wonderful, because the wicked king of Israel, Ahab, really, really wanted Naboth’s vineyard. He asked Naboth to either trade it to him for a better vineyard or sell it to him. (1 Kings 21). Naboth, being a godly man and wanting to keep the Law, refused to sell his family inheritance, the vineyard. Naboth was doing the right thing. What follows has always bothered me a lot.  Because Ahab’s wife, Jezebel got involved and she conspired to have righteous Naboth stoned to death. Now that is the part of the account where I would want the Lord to miraculously rescue Naboth and not allow him to be murdered. But that didn’t happen. The men of the town obeyed Jezebel and Naboth was stoned to death. It’s a hard read.

Immediately afterward, Ahab happily went over to take possession of the lovely vineyard.  I picture him joyously standing there in its midst, planning where to put the tomatoes, the peach tree and the zucchini. But his happy afternoon was shattered when Elijah showed up with a word from the Lord. Ahab called Elijah “my enemy”.  Elijah proceeded to reveal that Ahab’s murder of Naboth and taking unlawful possession of his vineyard was so awful, that he, his wife and all his sons (70 of them) would all be killed in violent ways. (Who has 70 sons? I’m pretty sure Jezzie wasn’t the mother of most of those kids!) Ahab became despondent and humbled himself before the Lord!  He fasted and wore sackcloth. The Lord took notice and delayed Ahab’s death for a time.

I saw some things that I hadn’t noticed in previous readings of this passage:

First, this really wasn’t about a vineyard. That was just the thing that Ahab coveted.  The big problem was that Naboth was a godly man, living in a very
ungodly culture. He stood out for desiring to keep the Law. The other “nobles”
in his town carried out the evil plot of the queen. He was apparently one of only a few men who actually worshipped the Lord. And Jezebel hated the Lord. She put to death people who followed God. Naboth’s “crime” wasn’t about his vine- yard.  It was about his God. And in that particular story, Naboth wasn’t rescued. He was martyred.  He was martyred in his own country, for honoring the God of his fathers. This narrative reads almost identically to Jesus’ parable of The Murder of the Landowner’s Son in Matthew 21:33-39.

Second, though he wasn’t at the site of Naboth’s murder, the Lord charged Ahab with Naboth’s murder. When Elijah came to pronounce judgment, he came to Ahab. Jezebel had told Ahab she would “get him the vineyard”, and he knew how she would do it.  It would be in some evil, scheming way, because that was Jezebel’s character.  He didn’t try to stop her, therefore he was guilty.  Ahab coveted, he wanted, he lusted, then he sat back and waited for Jezebel to get him what he wanted. The Lord held Ahab responsible for the murder of Naboth.
Still nagging at me is why the Lord allowed Naboth to be killed. Where was God’s justice? Where was Elijah to proclaim the vile nature of what the town’s
people were about to do? The answer is, “I don’t know.”  Neither do you. But it’s still important for us to be like Naboth. To be like Stephen, who was stoned for preaching the gospel.  We live in an increasingly godless culture, which might someday cost us our financial stability, our friends or even our very lives.  We are still charged with clinging to our “inheritance”. And our inheritance is infinitely more precious than a vineyard. The Apostle Peter describes it like this:

          Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who
          according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a
          living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
          to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and 
          will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected
          by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be
          revealed in the last time.  In this you greatly rejoice, even though
          now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by
          various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious
          than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be
          found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of
          Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him,
          and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly
          rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the 
          outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
          -1 Peter 1:3-9

May the Lord be with you as you both share and celebrate your Inheritance.