There are some very strange stories in the Bible. The passage I have been reading lately is found in 1 Kings 21. This story has four main characters: (1) Naboth, (2) Ahab, (3) Jezebel, and (4) Elijah. At first glance, this seems like a ridiculous story, hardly worth mentioning in the Bible in the first place. What lies within it though are important keys to ministry. The story basically goes something like this:
King Ahab wants to take possession of a vegetable garden owned by a respectable Jewish man named Naboth. Ahab offers Naboth another vineyard for the garden or states that he will pay a great price for it. Naboth says, “The LORD forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my fathers.” Naboth basically says, “I am not interested – thanks but no thanks.” King Ahab, being a “sore loser,” marches home, goes upstairs to his room, slams the door and pouts like a 2-year-old child. When his wife, Jezebel goes to see him, she opens the door and sees Ahab, the King of Jezreel crying. When she asks why he is acting this way, he tells her that Naboth wouldn’t give him his garden.
Jezebel, seeing that Ahab is in a vulnerable position, says that she will get the garden for the King. She then takes the King’s seal, writes several letters and states that Naboth should be stoned. When she receives a letter that Naboth has been stoned and is dead, she tells the King to go and get his land. With that, he goes and possesses the land that was owned by Naboth.
What is interesting to me is that Ahab was the King of Jezreel pouted like a baby when things did not go his way. He then allowed his wicked wife to take the reigns and ultimately kill a man who was only minding his own business in taking care of the land he was given to take care of. I wonder how many men allow their wives to take the reigns when it comes to situations like that. I am not in full-time ministry at this point of my life, but I am not surprised when I talk to some of my friends who are pastors, that there are men who allow their wives to dictate their thoughts when things are not going their way. They cannot take the role of leadership for themselves and speak boldly given any situation. I had a pastor friend tell me that there was a time when he was talking to some guy on the phone about a specific issue and he could actually hear the guy’s wife telling him what to say. My friend wanted so badly to tell the guy to put his wife on the phone since he was not able to stand up and speak bolding to him about whatever the issue was at the time. This is a big issue in our churches today. We have a lot of men who are afraid to speak. This definitely needs to change.
The other thought I have rests of the faith and obedience of Naboth. Naboth was only doing what was commanded of him in Leviticus to not sell his land to another tribe but to pass it on to his children as it was passed on to him. He worked hard to produce a great crop in that garden. As I sit and think about Naboth, Why did Naboth have to die? If he was being obedient to the Word of God, why did Naboth have to lose his life? Wasn’t God looking after Naboth? There are, in fact, many stories that seem to happen this way. As many may know, my friend Michael and his fiancée Trish was killed by a drunk driver almost seven years ago this upcoming July. Michael was a talented artist and a great friend. Trish was a young girl who had fallen in love with a godly man. Their plans included marriage, children, and the nice how with the picket fence and a dog. It seemed as though life had dealt them a great hand to play. Unfortunately, after worshipping God on a Wednesday night, they got in their car, began to make a left turn to go home, and were struck by a guy who had just been released from jail the day before for drinking. As I sit and ponder those events, which still run through my mind, I can only shake my head and wonder why God would allow two amazing people to go so soon. You see, ministry is hard, and confusing, and awkward, and strange, and hurts sometimes. It is not all “fun in the sun – life is good” stuff. There are great pains in ministry, which we all need to work through sometimes. And, though I do not have the answers I am looking for still, I know that God is faithful, He loves, and He is just. And, if that is all I knew about God, in this circumstance, that would be enough to place my trust in His hands. His perfect love and grace exceeds our own. That never makes ministry easy though. Naboth was a mere man who tended a garden near the palace of a King and honored God. In the mist of this story, he is now dead and King Ahab has taken possession of the garden Naboth owned.
It is then that we find out that God speaks to Elijah and tell him to go and talk to Ahab about this event. You can almost hear Elijah’s response as he hears the words of God. You see Elijah had been a true friend to King Ahab. He has given firm advice, helped Ahab win a few battles, and has never lied to him. For a period of almost ten years, Elijah has pleaded with Ahab to check his motives and to turn to God. For ten years Elijah has poured his life into Ahab. So, when Ahab sees Elijah, you would think his response would be positive. You would think his response would be something like, “Hey there, old friend. What are you doing in the neighborhood? Would you be interested in some cookies?” Unfortunately, we are told that the response of Ahab was not what we would have expected. Instead of saying several kind words to Elijah, Ahab says, “Have you found me, O my enemy?” What in the world is this about? One of the things I have been continually told concerning the ministry is that there will be people who love you and there will be people who hate you. No matter how much you invest in someone, his or her response could be something like Ahab’s response to Elijah. No matter what response we receive, we must still pursue the command and obedience of God. Elijah gave the Word of the Lord to Ahab and the word Elijah gave – that Ahab and his wife Jezebel would die – happened.
There are definite parts of ministry that are joyful and memorable. There are also parts of ministry that are difficult, hard, confusing, and hurtful, and just plain agonizing. No matter what the circumstance though, we must always be ready to give the Word of God boldly and without delay. God’s goodness and glory shows up when we are obedient to His calling for us. When we place our trust in God to lead us in the calling that He has for each one of us, we can be assured that He is with us. And, despite the lows of ministry, there are also many highs that we can and will experience when we listen and obey Christ and His Word.