Tuesday, June 11, 2013

How Many Commandments Can You Break?

I recently wrote a blog series on the Ten Commandments in which I examined each commandment's meaning.  There are ten of them, of course, and some are related to one another.  This next Sunday we will feature a story from the Bible in which a person broke one commandment and it led to his breaking another and another.  The person in the story is a King, Ahab by name, king of Israel in the Northern Kingdom after his father Omri.  He is king in Samaria and makes the mistake of marrying a woman from a surrounding tribe named Jezebel.  The name alone is notorious enough to us to let us know that she was up to no good.  Sure enough, when Ahab looked over into the garden next door to the palace and saw a wonderful vineyard that belonged to his neighbor, Naboth, he began to covet it.  He did not want a vineyard like the one that Naboth had.  He wanted Naboth's vineyard.  He wanted it badly.

You have to give Ahab some credit.  He first negotiated with Naboth, offering him money and another piece of land in exchange for his land but Naboth would not be swayed.  The property had been in his family for generations and no amount of money or no other piece of land, regardless of how attractive it was, could persuade him to give up the land that had been in his family for many generations.  Ahab was king, so technically he could have commanded Naboth to give up his land to him but he was not the type of guy who would command so he just went home to his palace and began to pout.  He fumed and turned his face to the wall and refused to eat.  It sounds like he may have been clinically depressed.

His lovely wife, Jezebel, who had a reputation of being up to no good, could not stand to see her man sad and depressed.  She questioned the king and found out the reason for his having the blues and basically laughed at him.  She said, "You are the king, are you not?"  (My paraphrase).  Then she made a plan for Ahab....if Naboth would not give up his vineyard to Ahab legally, then they would get it from him any way that was needed, even if it involved murder.  And it did.

Jezebel hired some low-life rascals to hatch a plot against poor old Naboth and to say that they had heard him curse God and the King and then to take him out and stone him.  So, the plan came off just like she planned.  Naboth had false accusations leveled against him and before he knew it, he was dead.  Clean and simple and to the point.  The vineyard could be claimed by Ahab.  Ahab immediately went out to claim what was not rightfully his and Jezebel laughed that hearty laugh that wicked people love to laugh.

All was right in the world of Ahab and Jezebel, it seemed...until that nosy prophet Elijah got involved.  God informed Elijah about what had transpired and he soon found Ahab and confronted him about his great sins.  "O my enemy?" was what Ahab said when he saw Elijah coming.  The coming of the prophet did not mean something good was about to happen in their day and sure enough Elijah leveled the judgment against Ahab and Jezebel and it was not going to be pretty.

So, Ahab looked at his neighbor's fine looking vineyard and it looked so fine that he decided he had to have it for his own.  Commandment 10---Thou Shalt Not Covet!  Then, Ahab and Jezebel leveled false charges against Naboth in order to do away with him.  Commandment 9--Thou Shalt Not Bear False Witness!  Then, Naboth was murdered at the command of Ahab and Jezebel.  Commandment 6--Thou Shalt Not Murder!  Three strikes and Ahab and Jezebel were out!

How easy it was for them to let breaking one commandment lead to breaking another one.  When Ahab began obsessing about something he could not have, instead of just forgetting about it, he decided he had to have it and with the help of his dear wife he plotted to get it.  Coveting led to making the obtaining of what he wanted to happen.

There are people in this world who will resort to many dangerous and wicked actions in order to get possessions that belong to others.  There are television programs weekly that tell the real stories of real persons in our world who do dastardly deeds to gain material wealth.

The psalmist recognized this fact in the first psalm: "Happy are those who do not follow the advice of the wicked; or take that path that sinners tread, or sit in the seat of scoffers; but their delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law they meditate day and night." (Ps. 1:1-2)  Meditating on what God would have us do in life does not mean that we consciously recite scripture verses.  It means that we allow our consciences that  have been shaped by the values we have been taught to lead us into doing what is right, things that will be good for us and for others in life.  Following the precepts set down by church and society will help us live a happy life, one that will lead us in paths that we will naturally follow because they seem right to us.

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