You can see how easy it is to crave revenge because there are people who plot against those who have done nothing to deserve such treatment. We must carefully avoid joining the ranks of such sinners.
Don’t plot harm against your neighbor, for those who live nearby trust you. Don’t pick a fight without reason, when no one has done you harm. ~ Proverbs 3:29-30 (NLT)
It is wrong to plot harm against your neighbor, violating his trust in your good will. The plot can mean to plow furrows in a field or to devise plans, and Hosea 10:13 combines the two ideas nicely when it speaks of people who plan wickedness and reap evil.
“But you have cultivated wickedness and harvested a thriving crop of sins. You have eaten the fruit of lies—trusting in your military might, believing that great armies could make your nation safe. ~ Hosea 10:13 (NLT)
The Israelites were taken in by the lie that military power could keep them safe. Believers today sometimes fall for lies. Those who lead others astray often follow these rules:
- Make it big;
- Keep it simple;
- Repeat it often.
Believers can avoid falling for lies by asking:
- Do I believe this because there is personal gain in it for me?
- Am I discounting relevant facts?
- Does this conflict with a direct command of Scripture?
- Are there any biblical parallels to the situation I’m facing that would help me know what to believe?
The classic Old Testament example is Jezebel’s false accusation against Naboth. 1 Kings 21:1-27
Now there was a man named Naboth, from Jezreel, who owned a vineyard in Jezreel beside the palace of King Ahab of Samaria. One day Ahab said to Naboth, “Since your vineyard is so convenient to my palace, I would like to buy it to use as a vegetable garden. I will give you a better vineyard in exchange, or if you prefer, I will pay you for it.”
But Naboth replied, “The Lord forbid that I should give you the inheritance that was passed down by my ancestors.”
So Ahab went home angry and sullen because of Naboth’s answer. The king went to bed with his face to the wall and refused to eat! ~1 Kings 21:1-4
After hearing God’s judgment (1 Kings 20:42), Ahab went home to pout. Driven by anger and rebellion against God, he had a fit of rage when Naboth refused to sell his vineyard. The same feelings that led him to a career of power grabbing drove him to resent Naboth. Anger turned to hatred and led to murder.
Naboth wanted to uphold God’s laws:
- It was considered a duty to keep ancestral land in the family.
This incident shows the cruel interplay between Ahab and Jezebel, two of the most wicked leaders in Israel’s history.
The Plot Develops
“What’s the matter?” his wife Jezebel asked him. “What’s made you so upset that you’re not eating?”
“I asked Naboth to sell me his vineyard or trade it, but he refused!” Ahab told her.
“Are you the king of Israel or not?” Jezebel demanded. “Get up and eat something, and don’t worry about it. I’ll get you Naboth’s vineyard!”
So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name, sealed them with his seal, and sent them to the elders and other leaders of the town where Naboth lived. In her letters she commanded:
“Call the citizens together for a time of fasting, and give Naboth a place of honor. And then seat two scoundrels across from him who will accuse him of cursing God and the king. Then take him out and stone him to death.”
So the elders and other town leaders followed the instructions Jezebel had written in the letters. They called for a fast and put Naboth at a prominent place before the people. Then the two scoundrels came and sat down across from him. And they accused Naboth before all the people, saying, “He cursed God and the king.” So he was dragged outside the town and stoned to death. ~ 1 Kings 21:5-13
To get the land for her husband, Jezebel devised a plot that appeared legal. Two witnesses were required to establish guilt, and the punishment for blasphemy was death by stoning. Today, those who twist the law and legal procedures to get what they want may be more sophisticated in how they go about it, but they are guilty of the same sin.
The town leaders then sent word to Jezebel, “Naboth has been stoned to death.” When Jezebel heard the news, she said to Ahab, “You know the vineyard Naboth wouldn’t sell you? Well, you can have it now! He’s dead!” So Ahab immediately went down to the vineyard of Naboth to claim it.
But the Lord said to Elijah, “Go down to meet King Ahab of Israel, who rules in Samaria. He will be at Naboth’s vineyard in Jezreel, claiming it for himself. Give him this message: ‘this is what the Lord says:
Wasn’t it enough that you killed Naboth? Must you rob him, too? Because you have done this, dogs will lick your blood at the very place where they licked the blood of Naboth!’”
“So, my enemy, you have found me!” Ahab exclaimed to Elijah.
“Yes,” Elijah answered, “I have come because you have sold yourself to what is evil in the Lord’s sight. ~1 Kings 21:14-20
Ahab still refused to admit his sin against God. Instead, he accused Elijah of being his enemy. When envy and hatred blind us, we find it almost impossible to see our sin.
So now the Lord says, ‘I will bring disaster on you and consume you. I will destroy every one of your male descendants, slave and free alike, anywhere in Israel! I am going to destroy your family as I did the family of Jeroboam son of Nebat and the family of Baasha son of Ahijah, for you have made me very angry and have led Israel into sin.’
“And regarding Jezebel, the Lord says, ‘Dogs will eat Jezebel’s body at the plot of land in Jezreel.’
“The members of Ahab’s family who die in the city will be eaten by dogs, and those who die in the field will be eaten by vultures.”
(No one else so completely sold himself to what was evil in the Lord’s sight as Ahab did under the influence of his wife Jezebel. His worst outrage was worshiping idols just as the Amorites had done—the people whom the Lord had driven out from the land ahead of the Israelites.)
But when Ahab heard this message, he tore his clothing, dressed in burlap, and fasted. He even slept in burlap and went about in deep mourning.
Then another message from the Lord came to Elijah: “Do you see how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has done this, I will not do what I promised during his lifetime. It will happen to his sons; I will destroy his dynasty.” ~1 Kings 21: 21-29
Ahab was more wicked than any other king of Israel, but when he repented in deep humility, God took notice and reduced his punishment. The same Lord who was merciful to Ahab wants to be merciful to you. No matter how evil you have been, it is never too late to humble yourself, turn to God, and ask for forgiveness.
Holman Old Testament Commentary
NLT Chronological Life Application Study Bible