Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Corrupt Officers of the House of God

1Do you indeed decree what is right, you gods?
Do you judge the children of man uprightly?
2No, in your hearts you devise wrongs;
your hands deal out violence on earth.
Psalm 58:1-2

1Now Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard in Jezreel, beside the palace of Ahab king of Samaria. 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.” But Naboth said to Ahab, “The Lord forbid that I should give you the inheritance of my fathers.” 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.
But Jezebel his wife came to him and said to him, “Why is your spirit so vexed that you eat no food?” 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.’ ” 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.”
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. 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 cursed 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.
1 Kings 21:1-16

The Naboth’s vineyard story is a testament of the corruption of powerful rulers.  When corruption reigns supreme, justice is persecuted and innocents are mistreated.  Naboth was powerless against the rulers.  The only thing that he did that got him the unjust treatment was that he rejected the King’s offer.  And there was nothing wrong with rejecting King Ahab’s offer.  Naboth merely followed the Law laid out by Moses as instructed by God (Leviticis 25:23, Numbers 36:7, and Ezekiel 46:18).  Ezekiel 46:18 in particular speaks against the offer Ahab made:

18 The prince shall not take any of the inheritance of the people, thrusting them out of their property. He shall give his sons their inheritance out of his own property, so that none of my people shall be scattered from his property.”

Naboth followed the Law accordingly, but Ahab couldn’t accept the Law of the Lord.  His wife, a foreigner, surely did not feel like following the Law of the Lord.  Cunningly she devised a plan to take the vineyard from Naboth.  And Ahab did nothing to stop his wife even though as an Israelite he knew the Law.

            When an active official ruler does nothing to stop a lawbreaker from exploiting the Law, disaster is bound to happen.  Ahab was the first gate and the most important one to stop the immoral activity of his wife Jezebel.  Ahab was appointed by God to be king of the Northern Israel.  And he was supposed to govern the ten tribes according to the Law.  But Ahab was tempted by his own desire to own the vineyard for himself.  As the most powerful man in the land, he found it hard to submit to the Law of God.  With the power he had in his hands, he could just take the vineyard by force.  But it would make him looked bad in the people’s eyes.  Politically he wouldn’t risk it.  If the people started fearing that Ahab would take their properties at will, they would revolt.  People’s revolting against him would leave a terribly bad taste in his mouth.  As a smart king, he would not let that happen.  Since his motive was merely political, it was obvious that he did not have any desire whatsoever to obey God.  When his wife assured him that he would get the vineyard, his heart was overjoyed and he let his wife did whatever evil trick she could do in order to fulfil his wish.  So the first gate to stop evil was down.  Jezebel moved to the second gate.

            Jezebel wrote a letter instructing the elders and leaders in Naboth’s city to unjustly sentence Naboth to death.  She deliberately wrote in her letter to set “two worthless men” to accuse Naboth falsely.  It was a serious accusation, which according to the Law if proven the accused ought to be stoned to death for blasphemy.  However, it was all an evil scheme.  The elders and leaders were not discerning accordingly, but they already set in their mind and heart to please Jezebel and condemn Naboth.  The elders and leaders of the people were supposed to be the second gate.  They were appointed by God to govern His house following the Law (cf. Exodus 18, Numbers 11:16-17, and Deuteronomy 1:9-18).  The appointment was a very serious one.  Deuteronomy 1:16-17 elaborates the charge:

16 And I charged your judges at that time, ‘Hear the cases between your brothers, and judge righteously between a man and his brother or the alien who is with him. 17 You shall not be partial in judgment. You shall hear the small and the great alike. You shall not be intimidated by anyone, for the judgment is God’s. And the case that is too hard for you, you shall bring to me, and I will hear it.’

They were supposed to judge justly.  They were supposed to acquit the innocent and condemn the guilty.  They were supposed to be accountable to God.  In that light, the elders and leaders were supposed to say no to Jezebel.  They were not supposed to collaborate with Jezebel.  Whatever their reason was in collaborating with Jezebel, this event had proven that they were corrupt.  The second gate was down.  The disaster was spelled.  It was premeditated murder packaged in a cunningly ‘pretty’ politics.

            In the story, it was never mentioned that Naboth was given a voice.  It was either Naboth truly was not allowed to defend himself whatsoever, or even if he was given a time to speak, his fate was actually already sealed.  Whatever that was, injustice was planned for Naboth.  The ultimate goal was to take over his vineyard that the king desired so badly.  The plan succeeded.  The Law of God was broken.  They thought nobody knew.  Ahab was so happy to finally get his wish granted.  He couldn’t care less about the Law being transgressed on his behalf.  All he cared about was the vineyard was his now.  He didn’t have to deal with Naboth anymore.  Everybody was happy.  The elders and leaders were happy they could serve the queen and king.  The queen was happy she could please the king.  The king was so pleased.  But the story was not over.

            Injustice is everywhere.  Thousands of years ago injustice was already rampaging the earth.  In the 21st century, when technology is at its highest peak and human development is at its fastest progress, injustice is still a serious threat.  As long as humanity is still plagued by sin, injustice will always show its face.  From the simplest to the most complicated, injustice appears whenever humans go.  From ignorance and laziness to the deliberate and premeditated evil scheme, injustice happens every second in this fallen and depraved world.

A simple story was told by Ravi Zacharias in his younger years, as he was studying in a university, about a seemingly little injustice that he experienced.  The story goes like this.  It was in the classroom.  Students were coming into the classroom.  The professor was just preparing to give his lecture.  And one student was planning to prank a fellow student.  As his friend was about to sit he interrupted him and quickly moved his chair away from him.  This student did not know that his chair was moved away from him.  He thought his chair was still on the right place, so he began to sit down thinking that the chair was in place to sustain his body.  Ravi saw the whole thing and he quickly attempted to rescue the student by pushing the chair back to him before he crashed to the ground.  But unfortunately Ravi was too late.  So the student fell hard to the ground creating a scene.  The professor looked up and saw the student was on the floor cringing and was in pain.  The professor saw that Ravi’s hands were on the chair.  So the professor said to Ravi: “You, get out!”  So Ravi said: “But…”  The professor cut him off and raised his voice, saying again: “Get out!”  Ravi was not given a chance to defend himself.  It might look like a small matter, but not for Ravi.  That day injustice was forced upon him.

            From 1940 to 1945 injustice was the food of the Jews.  The Nazis mistreated the Jews, even though the Jews did nothing to deserve such inhumane treatment.  It was all planned by Hitler ever since he became Fuhrer in 1934.  He planned the propaganda to brainwash the young Germans to subconsciously hate the Jews.  He succeeded.  The young Germans who joined the Nazi were all united with one single vision, to eliminate the Jews.  They systematically and methodically worked together to achieve the goal.  They obeyed their ‘prophet’, Adolf Hitler.  About 6 million Jews died due to the Nazi’s injustice.  Many more were displaced.  Their lives were ruined beyond their wildest imagination.  Many German churches that were supposed to oppose the Nazi’s racial injustice were silent.  They let injustice wreak havoc in Germany and many parts of Europe.  And this happened about 2800 years after Jezebel murdered Naboth by exploiting the Law of the Lord.

            About 850 years after the Naboth’s vineyard event, another grave injustice also happened.  This was the greatest injustice ever happened to a single human being.  An innocent Man was found completely faultless even by the Gentile Governor, and yet condemned to death on the cross.  In the religious court, His only guilty verdict came because He told the truth of His identity.  Mark 14:61-64 testifies:

Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” 62 And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.63 And the high priest tore his garments and said, “What further witnesses do we need? 64 You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?” And they all condemned him as deserving death.

All His life, Jesus only did what was right.  Never in His life had He broken the Law, nor harming others, nor disobeying even the Roman government.  Yet He was stripped off His rights, and be tried unjustly, both by the religious court and by the state court.  Governor Pilate found Him not guilty, but the loud voice of madness won the day, so the most powerful man in Judea gave in to evil and proceeded with injustice.  Luke 23:18-25 writes:

18 But they all cried out together, “Away with this man, and release to us Barabbas”— 19 a man who had been thrown into prison for an insurrection started in the city and for murder. 20 Pilate addressed them once more, desiring to release Jesus, 21 but they kept shouting, “Crucify, crucify him!” 22 A third time he said to them, “Why? What evil has he done? I have found in him no guilt deserving death. I will therefore punish and release him.” 23 But they were urgent, demanding with loud cries that he should be crucified. And their voices prevailed. 24 So Pilate decided that their demand should be granted. 25 He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, for whom they asked, but he delivered Jesus over to their will.

The priests were supposed to be the guardian of the House of God.  They were given authority to watch over the implementation of the Law.  Justice should be their breath.  When the people needed justice, they should have found it in the priests’ just decision.  But in this event, the priests were the conspirators of the evil plan to condemn an innocent Man.  And their motive was not hidden from the Gentile Governor.  Matthew 27:18 speaks:

18 For he knew that it was out of envy that they had delivered him up.

They were less popular than Jesus.  For Jesus quickly gained popularity through His authoritative teaching, truthful witness, selfless character, uncontested miracles, and great signs.  Envy got the best of them.  Their hearts were corrupted.  And so they devised a plan to murder a Man they knew was 100% innocent.  They just wanted to get rid of Him.  They just needed to eliminate Jesus in order to get their fame back.  The result was the Son of Man hanged between heaven and earth.

            Yes, the story did not end there.  The story of Naboth’s vineyard did not end there.  For the Judge of all the earth saw everything.  Nothing escaped Him.  Even when injustice seemed to prevail on earth and it looked like nobody could do anything to make it right, God saw it and He had made His just decision.  So He sent Elijah to confront the evil king Ahab.  1 Kings 21:17-24 reveals:

17 Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, 18 “Arise, go down to meet Ahab king of Israel, who is in Samaria; behold, he is in the vineyard of Naboth, where he has gone to take possession. 19 And you shall say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord, “Have you killed and also taken possession?” ’ And you shall say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord: “In the place where dogs licked up the blood of Naboth shall dogs lick your own blood.” ’ ”
20 Ahab said to Elijah, “Have you found me, O my enemy?” He answered, “I have found you, because you have sold yourself to do what is evil in the sight of the Lord. 21 Behold, I will bring disaster upon you. I will utterly burn you up, and will cut off from Ahab every male, bond or free, in Israel. 22 And I will make your house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah, for the anger to which you have provoked me, and because you have made Israel to sin. 23 And of Jezebel the Lord also said, ‘The dogs shall eat Jezebel within the walls of Jezreel.’ 24 Anyone belonging to Ahab who dies in the city the dogs shall eat, and anyone of his who dies in the open country the birds of the heavens shall eat.”

God is the avenger.  He would not let injustice win forever.  He made sure justice prevailed.  He made sure Ahab and Jezebel got what they deserved.  He made sure that Naboth got justice.  So He avenged the death of Naboth.  And this is the proper closure.  Every evil deed will eventually meet its fate, God’s vengeance and wrath.

            There is no escaping God’s justice.  Ahab and Jezebel could not hide in their palace even if they wanted to.  God’s justice would eventually catch up with them.  Divine retribution must be paid in full.  The weak can rest and find hope in the Lord.  Because He is their defender.  When all seemed lost and injustice seemed winning, God stepped in.  When His appointed officers did not do their duty, God intervened and He made it right.  He condemned the unjust judges, the corrupt officers, and cleaned up His House.  In 1 Peter 4:17 Peter declared:

17 For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?

God’s judgment always begins with His House first.  God’s appointed officers are to be judged first.  Because they are given power and authority to execute judgment.  The abuse of power and authority that God gives to them would be met with God’s terrifying judgment.  Ahab was judged first as the head of the state and then Jezebel.  The two represented the entire kingdom of the Northern Israel.  And so beginning with them God was cleaning His House.  2 Kings 9 & 10 was written to proclaim to the world that the justice of God prevailed.

            The judgment of God over Nazi Germany started in November 23, 1942, as the German soldiers were demolished by the Soviet in Stalingrad.  In the next two years leading to the death of Adolf Hitler in April 30, 1945, the Nazi Germany continued to suffer heavy loses.  The tyrant could not escape God’s judgment.  The silence of the German churches resulted in the devastation of faith in the hearts of many Europeans.  Ever since the defeat of the Third Reich, many Germans have lost their trust in the church.  God cleaned up His House.  Many German Christians continue to weep over the empty churches for decades.  The old church buildings became the silent witnesses of the judgment of God.  To many Jews, the Holocaust was their worst nightmare.  Millions of Jews lost their lives.  And many of the survivors lost their faith.  At their lowest point of their life, they asked: “Where is the God of Israel?”  And there was no audible answer.  But God was not silent.  He was working through His faithful believers all over Europe to save as many Jews as they could.  In Holland, in France, in Poland, even in Germany, many true believers saved Jews from the hands of Nazi.  And God rose up the allied forces in order to punish the warlords with a deadly blow.  Despite many Jews losing faith, some of the Jews also saw the hands of God executing His justice.  And so they gained a new faith.  The world saw hope.  God is trustworthy.

            The death of Christ became the most important event in the history of mankind as it was paired with the resurrection of Christ.  The Judge of all the earth could not be mocked.  He could not be defeated.  For He even had the event of evil in His hands as He turned it into the goodness for His people.  When Christ died on the cross, He did not become a victim of injustice who could not do anything to overcome it.  His death on the cross, in fact, was His most brilliant act of love in order to defeat death.  He absorbed the injustice of mankind and He accepted God’s justice over sin on that cross.  Thus He saved His people from God’s wrath once and for all.  Whoever believes in Him shall not perish under God’s wrath.  No more.  Those who do not believe will surely be condemned for all eternity.  In the end time, when Christ returns in glory, all His enemies would be completely demolished.  There is no escaping the Divine retribution.  Revelation 20:10-15 prophesies:

10 and the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.  11 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. 12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

This is the hope that God has promised.  It will be done.  Justice will prevail.  In this temporary world, the corrupt officers seem winning, but rest assured they will receive their payment in full.  To all of us who have been mistreated, our God will defend us, even after our body is buried.  He will make sure that justice is executed.  Have faith and hope in the Lord.

To all the corrupt officers of God’s House, let this be a warning and a call to repentance.  Do not think that God does not know your abuse of power and authority.  Do not think that God would not do anything concerning your unjust judgment.  He will deal with you.  Remember that His judgment begins with His own House.  He will clean up His House from corruption.  He has done it many times in the past, and He will do it again without hesitation.  Repent and start doing what is right.  For God is merciful.  His love endures forever and His mercy lasts for eternity.  He will not reject those who sincerely repent.  Psalm 51:17 says:

17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

David spoke of this in his repentance over his terrible sin of adultery and murder.  Even though God’s decision to punish David was not cancelled in his lifetime, his soul is spared in the life to come.  David was corrupt as God’s officer.  He misused his power and authority for his own selfish gain.  So God had to punish him.  Yet his repentance was not despised by God.  So God forgave him.  2 Samuel 12:13 declares:

13 David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord.” And Nathan said to David, “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die.

God is a longsuffering God.  He is a merciful God.  He is a loving God.  And His love endures forever.  When there is time to repent, do not delay.  Quickly make things right by acknowledging your sins before the Lord and repent sincerely.  Make amend accordingly.  And He will forgive you.  Do not harden your heart, or you will follow the path of Pharaoh king of Egypt that God destroyed without remedy.

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