There is something you need to know to understand 1 Kings. It is the god Baal, which many Israelites believed in then. Of course, they also believed in God. That is why Israel, which was so prosperous during Solomon's time, was divided into Northern Israel and Southern Judah. So, knowing who the god Baal is is vital in understanding today’s text.
The Israelites worshiped the god Baal from the beginning of their settlement in Canaan until Israel was destroyed and taken captive in Babylon. From our modern perspective, Baal is nothing more than an idol and a god, but he penetrated deeply into the lives of the Israelites and had a tremendous influence.
You may not readily understand that the Israelites served Baal even though they knew that God was the only true god. It is an ironic situation that they were worshiping a fake god while leaving the real god behind. So I'm curious. Why did the Israelites come to serve Baal along with the God who brought them out of Egypt? There was a book that I found out about. This is the book, ' Dwelling in Canaan’ by Pastor Jinhee Lee. The contents of the book can be summarized as follows.
The reason the Israelites were able to fall to Baal so easily is related to the characteristics of the land of Canaan.
The Israelites who settled in Canaan engaged in farming. What is needed for farming to thrive is rain. However, at that time, people believed that the god who made rain was Baal. Because Baal is the god of rain, wind, thunder, and lightning. So, to live well in Canaan, farming had to be good, and for farming to be successful, there had to be enough rain from the sky, and there was a belief that everything would go smoothly if they showed up to the god Baal, the rain god.
And what the Israelites saw when they entered Canaan after living in the wilderness was the Canaanites building houses, farming, and living in abundance. This was an enviable event for the Israelites. So, the Israelites who lived in Canaan had faith in serving God at the beginning of their settlement, but as time went by, they tried to live like the Canaanites. However, this did not mean they completely abandoned God but also served Baal.
However, there are many differences between the god Baal and the faith in Jehovah. Let’s listen to Pastor Jinhee Lee’s explanation.
‘There is no such thing as sin, repentance, salvation, obedience, the kingdom of God, mission, or calling in Baal religion. (The next part is also the difference from Jehovah’s faith.) There is no problem if you live as you please. Baal has absolutely no involvement in how we live. As a result, I don’t realize how much easier it is than serving God. That is why the Israelites who entered Canaan fell to Baal.
In other words, Baal does not care how his people live. Baal does not intervene in the lives of those who serve him. So Baal leaves people to live as they please. So, no matter how many sins he committed, all he had to do was offer a good sacrifice to Baal. Of course, they didn't have to feel remorse for their sins. Also, the Canaanites believed that rain was the semen that came out when Baal had sexual intercourse with his wife, Asherah. So, when there was a famine, the Canaanites had sex promiscuously as a group at Baal's shrine. This was because the god Baal became excited when he saw this and believed that if he had sex with Asherah, it would rain. This is why sexual corruption was worse among the Canaanites than anything else. And they also offered human sacrifices to Baal. It is said that the children sacrificed at this time were children born through promiscuous sex at the high places of Baal. Since a child who did not know who his father was, they thought it was okay to offer a human sacrifice.
So, what kind of person is Jehovah God?
God is very interested in how his people live. God is involved in the lives of the people who serve him. God is uncomfortable with his people living carelessly. He delights more in obedience than in sacrifice. When the Israelites sin as if it were a meal and offer sacrifices diligently, God tells them that such gifts are disgusting and asks them not to give an offering. There is judgment if you do not live according to God's will, but He does not judge you if you do not offer sacrifices well. He does not give us everything we want but only what we need, and He wants us to be self-sufficient.
In this way, Jehovah God is much more demanding than Baal.
So the next question is this. The question is which scene is more attractive.
The gods Baal and Asherah were attractive to the Israelites who lived in the prosperous land of Canaan. Baal, who filled a spring with water, was more attractive than God, who had to hit a rock for water to come out. In this way, the people of Israel and the king of Israel were becoming accustomed to living by serving Baal rather than God.
The part to read with this in mind is 1 Kings. 1 Kings 21:1, which we read today, begins like this.
‘After that, this happened…..’
Here, ‘after that’ refers to after the prophet said that God would judge Ahab, the king of northern Israel, for his disobedience. This comes from 1 Kings 20:42.
‘And he said to the king, ‘This is what the LORD says: ‘By your hand, you have let go of the man (Benhadad) whom I was determined to destroy.’ Thy life for his life, and your people for his people.’ King Ahab heard something that sounded like it would collapse. Upon hearing this, King Ahab reacted like this:
‘The king of Israel came to Samaria to return to his palace, distressed and distressed.’
It is said that the king felt ‘anxious and frustrated’ after hearing the message that God was judging.
Looking at this content alone, one might think that King Ahab was taking God's word seriously.
However, events after that show that this was different. This is because King Ahab received the message of judgment and went to Samaria, and what happened afterward was the scene of him coveting Naboth's vineyard. He seemed worried that he would die and that his people would suffer because of him, and his desire to take over Naboth's vineyard grew even greater. He offered to give him a vineyard more beautiful than Naboth's, and if he didn't like it, Ahab would give it to him in exchange for money. However, Naboth flatly rejects Ahab’s offer. Because it was something God had forbidden, we can read Naboth's will to live according to the word of God.
However, King Ahab’s reaction to this incident appears in verse 4.
‘Ahab returned to the palace, sad and depressed, and lay down on his bed with his face turned away from eating.’
The scene where Ahab is worried and frustrated is repeated for the second time following 1 Kings 20. Something upsetting happened to King Ahab twice. However, of King Ahab's two reactions, which is more serious? That was that he did not get Naboth's vineyard. The worry and frustration he felt when he didn’t get is worse than the worry and frustration he showed after hearing the warning of God's judgment.
What does it mean? To King Ahab, God was inferior to his desires. To King Ahab, God had almost no existence, and therefore, Jehovah God was recognized as a god worse than Baal. So, King Ahab needed Baal, who would do whatever he wanted, not God, who would criticize and judge what he did.
And King Ahab tells this to his wife, Jezebel. Then, Jezebel, who diligently served Baal and Asherah, devised a plan to enable King Ahab to obtain Naboth's vineyard. However, the plan was to write a letter in Ahab's name, seal it, and send it to the elders and nobles living in Naboth's city. The content of the letter was to kill Naboth and his children for cursing God and the king. All of this is to take over Naboth's vineyard. In the end, like Jezebel's scheme, Naboth is killed by village elders and nobles who know Naboth well. So, King Ahab got what he wanted. Ahab had no qualms about this and only enjoyed getting what he wanted.
However, there is something that catches our eye here. The death of Naboth was an incident in which a person who tried to live according to the word of God was killed according to the law of God. So, you can see that this incident is very embarrassing and shows how evil humans are. They are killing people to get vineyards, but they are full of lies, and they are using the name and law of God to commit evil.
Naboth tried to keep the law of God, but it appears that the law betrayed him. This does not mean that you will succeed if you live according to the word of God, but it also says that if you live according to the word of God, you will fail and die. So, when I read the text today, I feel some discomfort. If you believe in Jesus, you will live well and be blessed. If you believe in Jesus, you will be successful, you will live long, and if you believe in Jesus, you will survive no matter what you do, but today's text tells an entirely different story.
Pursue covetousness, and you will find! Should I say that it contains the message:
Chase Baal! Do this, and you will get it! This is also the message.
Today's text is about an incident in which the people who served God were murdered because of the greed of the king and queen who served Baal and also because of the cowardice of the people living in the same village. This part is also the complex problem of today's text. But why has this become such a challenge?
This is because it conflicts with the belief that if you believe in Jesus, you will be successful. We are accustomed to finding the question, “Who is the successful person?” in today’s text.
Who is successful?
Isn’t it King Ahab? Isn’t that Jezebel? Living as a king and queen is a successful life. This is because he is a person who eats well, lives well and does not feel guilty no matter what he does to satisfy his greed. Why did this happen? Because they serve Baal and Asherah. As I said before, Baal has no involvement in how King Ahab or Jezebel lives. It merely serves to satisfy their greed.
Let me once again introduce the contents of Pastor Jinhee Lee's book. The Baal he talks about is this kind of god.
‘Baal promises success. He promises to make her live in abundance. He promises to give us what we want. He promises to make sure you eat well and live well. He promises to fill the warehouse. I promise to make you prosper and give you wealth, power, and glory.’
Aren’t your ears perking up? And in our era, many people want to resemble King Ahab, Jezebel, and the elders and nobles in today's text. Today's Baal is materialism, money, success, and prosperity. The world worships this Baal. It is to obtain what Baal offers. Because I believe that Baal can do that. We serve Baal to be successful, live well, enjoy more, own more, and rise higher. This is the culture of the world we live in. This is a world dominated by pleasure and a world dominated by material civilization.
Of course, we do not believe in Baal. They say that believing in Baal is something only uncivilized people do. However, we live today to obtain what we thought Baal would give us.
The Baal religion disappeared long ago, but we still live in a world ruled by Baal. Although they serve God, they may also be serving the god Baal next to them and the god Asherah.
So, it is difficult to understand the death of Naboth, who tried to live according to the word of God. The death of Naboth, who lived according to the word of God, is synonymous with foolishness. He refused even if I offered him more money. He refused even if he was offered a better opportunity. Still, he tried to keep the word of God.
Is this easy? No. Trying to keep the word of God in an age where materialism is rampant is not easy. And the price for that was conspiracy and an unfair death. No one shows any interest in him. Because he failed, because he abandoned a better opportunity, was foolishly stubborn, and was unjustly killed. However, God did not ignore Naboth’s death because he was a person who wanted to live according to God's word and God's law.
Can we live like Naboth?
The question is whether we can live doing what is right, what is right, what God wants, what God is pleased with. Even if we lose, suffer, or die, can we live our lives trying to live entirely according to the word of God? I am asking this question.
The world we live in is the land of Canaan. It's rich. You can have a lovely home and job. This is a land where success is an idol. Of course, people want to succeed. And the most likely land is Canaan. From that perspective, America is that kind of place. A country where you can dream of success. A country where anyone can succeed. The United States is a country with many such opportunities. It is a dream-like country and a country that everyone envies. However, such a country is also a country that can live without God.
A country where the god Baal has become the greatest god. The United States is also a country where ethics have hit rock bottom; people pursue pleasure, and it is okay to steal from others. Isn't it? In some ways, the same is true for our home country, Korea. The economy is excellent. If you live well and the economy is doing well, what you do doesn't matter. It seems reasonable and logical, but if you use the law to plot and kill people, this is today's text.
The land of Canaan was full of sin. Sodom and Gomorrah were full of sin before they were called the land of Canaan. Are you envious of a successful life? You're right. I envy you for a successful life. This is because it is human nature to want to be able to get everything you want and do whatever you want. That is why many people want to become King Ahab and Jezebel. However, the Bible does not speak of this kind of success.
God does not promise or recommend a successful life. Instead, the Bible exhorts us to live a victorious life. King Ahab has a successful life. If he lived as a king, wouldn't he have been successful? But he didn't win. He surrendered to sin, offered to Baal, and lived as a slave to idols.
On the other hand, what about Nabot? He did not live a so-called successful life. However, he lived a victorious life in the eyes of God. This is because, in 1 Kings 21:17 and below, there is a scene where God reacts through Elijah to the death of Elijah, who tried to live according to God's word.
Likewise, many of the ancestors of faith in the Bible were not successful people in some ways.
But they lived a victorious life in the eyes of God.
They are victorious over sin. They are people who lived on this earth by faith. That is why they are the people whom God called righteous.
Please think about their lives. Among our ancestors in faith, some were stoned to death, and others were sawed to end. Jesus was crucified and died on the cross. Among those who believe in Jesus, many lived in truly miserable places.
How about you?
Even in our eyes, aren't they living a miserable life?
However, in God's eyes, they are victorious.
People who win with faith! I hope those people are you and me.
Of course, it would be nice to succeed and win. But, if you had to choose one? We want to choose victory. This means selecting a God who is interested in how we live on this earth, a God who rules the universe. It is choosing God to be involved in our lives and rule over us. So, I bless and pray in the name of the Lord that we all live with a desire for God's kingdom and heaven more than worldly success.