O merciful Lord, You did not spare Your only Son but delivered Him up for us all. Grant us courage and strength to take up the cross and follow Him, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
1 Kings 21:1-16 (From the Bible Story Lectionary)
1 Now Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard in Jezreel, beside the palace of Ahab king of Samaria. 2 And after this Ahab said to Naboth, "Give me your vineyard, that I may have it for a vegetable garden, because it is near my house, and I will give you a better vineyard for it; or, if it seems good to you, I will give you its value in money." 3 But Naboth said to Ahab, "The LORD forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my fathers." 4 And Ahab went into his house vexed and sullen because of what Naboth the Jezreelite had said to him, for he had said, "I will not give you the inheritance of my fathers." And he lay down on his bed and turned away his face and would eat no food.
5 But Jezebel his wife came to him and said to him, "Why is your spirit so vexed that you eat no food?" 6 And he said to her, "Because I spoke to Naboth the Jezreelite and said to him, 'Give me your vineyard for money, or else, if it please you, I will give you another vineyard for it.' And he answered, 'I will not give you my vineyard.'" 7 And Jezebel his wife said to him, "Do you now govern Israel? Arise and eat bread and let your heart be cheerful; I will give you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite."
8 So she wrote letters in Ahab's name and sealed them with his seal, and she sent the letters to the elders and the leaders who lived with Naboth in his city. 9 And she wrote in the letters, "Proclaim a fast, and set Naboth at the head of the people. 10 And set two worthless men opposite him, and let them bring a charge against him, saying, 'You have cursed1 God and the king.' Then take him out and stone him to death." 11 And the men of his city, the elders and the leaders who lived in his city, did as Jezebel had sent word to them. As it was written in the letters that she had sent to them, 12 they proclaimed a fast and set Naboth at the head of the people. 13 And the two worthless men came in and sat opposite him. And the worthless men brought a charge against Naboth in the presence of the people, saying, "Naboth cursed God and the king." So they took him outside the city and stoned him to death with stones. 14 Then they sent to Jezebel, saying, "Naboth has been stoned; he is dead."
15 As soon as Jezebel heard that Naboth had been stoned and was dead, Jezebel said to Ahab, "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." 16 And as soon as Ahab heard that Naboth was dead, Ahab arose to go down to the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite, to take possession of it.
Catechism: The Ninth & Tenth Commandments
What is the Ninth Commandment?
You shall not covet your neighbor’s house.
What does this mean?
We should fear and love God so that we do scheme to get our neighbor’s inheritance or house, or get it in a way which only appears right, but help and be of service to him in keeping it.
What is the Tenth Commandment?
You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant or maidservant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
What does this mean?
We should fear and love God so that we do not entice or force away our neighbor’s wife, workers, or animals, or turn them against him, but urge them to stay and do their duty.
In the name of T Jesus.
In the story above, we might be tempted to think that Jezebel was alone in her guilt. But the Ninth and Tenth Commandment indict Ahab as well. It’s not obvious at first. Ahab asked Naboth for his vineyard, and it was Jezebel that conceived and carried out the plot. What makes Ahab complicit in this sin?
A careful examination of Luther’s meaning to the Ninth Commandments helps us out. There we see this important phrase “or get it in a way that only appears right.” That is to say, in our scheming to get our neighbor’s house or inheritance, even a plan that allows us to appear innocent does not free us from the guilt of having schemed and plotted to take what the LORD has given to another.
Sure, it was Jezebel who plotted and schemed, but it was Ahab’s authority which allowed the plot to be carried out. If Ahab would have spoken up, and honored his neighbor Naboth; if Ahab would have kept the Seventh Commandment, and helped Naboth to improve and protect his possession, then the covetous heart of Jezebel would have been kept from giving birth to greater sin.
In this story, we understand what James meant when he wrote, “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death” (James 1:14-15). In the story above, the enticing desire for the vineyard, having given birth to the sinful plot of Jezebel, became fully grown in the death of Naboth.
Ahab knew that he could hide behind his name, and the authority of his kingly office. By allowing Jezebel to carry out her plot, he would have the vineyard, and everything would appear to be right. And while appearance might create reality in the minds of men, it doesn’t satisfy the LORD.
Contrast this with the heart of Christ, who, instead of taking from others, gives of Himself for the benefit of others. In sacrificing His life for the sins of the world, He gave us the priceless treasure of life and salvation. By His Spirit, we will learn to put to death our covetous desires, that they might not grow up into outward acts against our neighbor. And in so doing, we will also learn to be content with whatever the LORD decides to give. And thankfully, it is the Father’s good pleasure to give us the Kingdom, for the sake of His Son, who serves us with His Word, so that by faith, it would be ours forever.
In the name of T Jesus. Amen.
Lord Jesus, touch our cold and loveless hearts, and fill them with the warmth of Your love, that we may reach out to all who are in need. Amen (TLSB, p. 575).
Daily Prayer (For Monday)
We pray…for faith to live in the promises of Holy Baptism; for one’s calling and daily work; for the unemployed; for the salvation and well-being of our neighbors; for schools, colleges, and seminaries; for good government and for peace.