You ever feel like just when things are going well that the Government comes along and wants everything you have?  If it’s not property tax that the HRM wants, then it’s sales tax the province wants or income tax the federal government wants. 

Which have you heard, the CRA has adopted a new logo?  It reads Canada Revenue Agency, “We’ve got what it takes to take what you’ve got!”

According to the Fraser Institute, the average Canadian Family has to work until June 9th each year, just to pay their taxes.  But what you make from here on in is all yours. 

On the other hand, it could be worse.  

Put yourself in this guy’s shoes.  One day you’re out working in your vineyard, tending the vines, killing the bugs, pulling out the weeds and whatever else you do when you’re tending a garden.  Can you tell I was a fisherman and not a farmer?  And into your life arrives the King who makes you an offer you can’t refuse. But you do. 

What happens is that the king tells you he wants your vineyard to plant a veggie garden in.  And he offers to give you a better vineyard, or whatever else you want.  Just imagine the Prime Minister arrives at your door and says, “I love your house, and I will trade you for a much nicer home or give you however much you want for it.” 

The problem was that this vineyard had been in Naboth’s family for longer than long.  This was in all probability the plot that was given to his family hundreds of years before when the Israelites had first arrived into the Promised Land. To sell his birthright was against the law of God.  And so, he didn’t even think about it he just told the king no.

Well, the King went home and climbed the miff tree, you know he went to snitsville, or whatever.  Because regardless of what you call it the King began to sulk.  Poor king.  It wasn’t hard to notice that he hadn’t gotten his own way, he’d just gone in thrown himself on his bed and stared at the wall, wouldn’t come out not even for dinner.  And so while he’s having fun at his own pity party, his wife Jezebel comes along and wants to know what’s wrong.  And so Ahab tells her, 1 Kings 21:6  “I asked Naboth to sell me his vineyard or trade it, but he refused!” Ahab told her.

And it’s in the king’s reaction that we discover this week’s “But”.

Over the past couple of months, we’ve been looking at the reality that After the But, comes the truth.  And we have discovered that the word “but” is the hinge that swings the meaning of a statement. 

For example, Robert McCloskey said, “I know that you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.”

So, back to the story.

You have to wonder why the king needs a vineyard when he could produce that much whine with just his voice.

Now personally I love the response of the Queen because she says, “Aren’t you the King of Israel?”  And then she tells him, “Get out of bed and eat something!  Don’t worry, I’ll get Naboth’s vineyard for you.” 

That is the couple that puts the fun in dysfunctional.

Now if this were a movie, the music would change to a minor key to signify that something bad was about to happen, and indeed something did happen, and it wasn’t all that nice. 

So, Jezebel borrowed the King’s seal and letterhead and wrote letters to the officials of the town where Naboth lived.  She asked them to order the people in the town to begin a fast and to call for a town hall meeting with everyone in the community. 

Now this might seem a little strange to us, but to the people of Jezreel it could only mean one thing.  I suppose I should tell you, right?  It meant that somehow; they had displeased God, and the officials would make it right.  Along with the call to a fast Jezebel added one other thing.  She wanted the town leaders to find two false witnesses who would swear that they heard Naboth curse God and the King.  And then there were to take Naboth out and execute him.  Simple yet effective.  And to the bottom of the letter, she affixed her husband’s seal and signature.

And that’s what happened, as a matter of fact not only was Naboth stoned to death, but later on we discover that his entire household was put to death.  Conveniently leaving his estate including his vineyard without an heir. 

Well, what is a king supposed to do?  The land now reverted to the crown because the previous owner had been found guilty of treason and blasphemy.  I’m sure that Jezebel was thinking, “I love it when a plan comes together.”

Not a very nice story, but then again Ahab and Jezebel weren’t very nice people.  So, what can we learn from this story?

Naboth’s sin started when He Wanted Something That Wasn’t His.  Naboth wasn’t alone here; the very essence of sin goes back to principle.  If you were to take a trip back to the beginning, you would find the original couple, Adam and Eve had everything they could possibly want, except for one thing, they could not eat from one tree. 

They could do anything they wanted to with the tree.  They could look at it, they could touch it, they could climb it, but God had told them very specifically in Genesis 2:16-17  But the LORD God warned him, “You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden—  except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.”

Pretty plain, pretty clear, no ambiguity there;This is what you must not do.  And when Satan came along to tempt Adam and Eve, what ploy did he use?

Sure he appeals to their greed in Genesis 3:4-5  “You won’t die!” the serpent replied to the woman.  “God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.”

What was he saying?  He was saying, don’t you want what God has?  If you just had what God had, then you’d be really happy.  Right?  Look across the Bible. What is it that gets people in trouble?  Wanting what somebody else has.  And it’s not just a matter of wanting something like the one they have, it’s wanting what they have, so they can’t have it anymore because it’s yours.

We could go through example after example in the Bible.

Jacob wanted Esau’s inheritance, and he was willing to cheat and lie to get it.  Joseph’s brothers wanted the love that their father bestowed upon Joseph, and they were willing to kill him or sell him into slavery to get it.  David wanted Uriah’s wife Bathsheba, and he was willing to kill Uriah to get her. 

The religious leaders who had Jesus executed didn’t do it because of what he did, they did it because of what he had.  He had the power of God, and he had the ears of the people, and if the high priest couldn’t have what Jesus had, then he couldn’t have it either and so they killed him.

Think of any of the crimes and atrocities that have been committed throughout history, they happened because somebody wanted what somebody else had.

One of the Ten Commandments tells us Exodus 20:17  “You must not covet your neighbour’s house. You must not covet your neighbour’s wife, male or female servant, ox or donkey, or anything else that belongs to your neighbour.”

It might seem harmless enough and yet that is the very beginning of our problems.  God didn’t just put that commandment in because the Ten Commandments sounded better than the nine commandments; he put it in for a reason.

Ben Stein writes, “Greed is a basic part of animal nature. Being against it is like being against breathing or eating. It means nothing.”

But that isn’t what the bible says, the bible warns us over and over again about the danger of Greed, for example Isaiah 57:17 records the words of God, Isaiah 57:17  I was angry, so I punished these greedy people. I withdrew from them, but they kept going on their own stubborn way.

When Jesus was condemning the Pharisees listen to what he said about them Matthew 23:25  “What sorrow awaits you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and self-indulgence!

And listen to the group that he clumps greed into in Mark 7:20-23  And then he added, “It is what comes from inside that defiles you.  For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder,  adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness.  All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.”

I didn’t say all that to say that having stuff is wrong.  It was Mahatma Gandhi

who said “There is a sufficiency in the world for man’s need but not for man’s greed.”

And greed has very little to do with what you have, and everything to do with what you don’t have.  And when what you don’t have consumes you, then it is wrong.  And you don’t have to have money to fall into that trap. 

Listen to what Teddy Roosevelt said “Probably the greatest harm done by vast wealth is the harm that we of moderate means do ourselves when we let the vices of envy and hatred enter deep into our own natures.”   We of moderate means said the man who’s net worth was estimated to be around 125 million dollars.

The bible calls it Covetousness, and the Bible says it’s a sin, and remember: Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay and cost you more than you want to pay.

He Didn’t Care That it Was Wrong.  Now Naboth didn’t turn down the King’s offer just to be difficult.  He wasn’t trying to put himself into a better bargaining position.  He wasn’t even doing it because he disliked the king.  He was doing it because it was the right thing to do, and he was doing it because that’s what God would have him to do. 

If we look into Leviticus 25:23  God laid down his rules for the land which he had given the children of Israel.  Leviticus 25:23  “The land must never be sold on a permanent basis, for the land belongs to me. You are only foreigners and tenant farmers working for me.”

Naboth knew that he would be in violation of God’s law if he sold his vineyard to the King. And do you know what?  The King knew that it would be wrong as well, and part of why he was upset was that he knew that Naboth had more integrity than he did.  And that is never a pleasant discovery.  It’s been said that if you are trying to prove how crooked a stick is, the easiest way is not to debate it, or to argue about it the easiest way is to lay a straight stick next to it. 

Most people don’t unwittingly commit sin.  Most people know exactly what they are doing and do it anyway.  They might justify their actions, they might rationalize what they are doing, they might even try to deny that they knew they shouldn’t do it.  But the bottom line is most people sin willingly.  Peter Marshall said “We are too Christian really to enjoy sinning, and too fond of sinning really to enjoy Christianity.  Most of us know perfectly well what we ought to do; our trouble is that we do not want to do it.”

Not only was Ahab trying to get Naboth to break the God’s laws concerning his land but when he couldn’t get it that way, he murdered the man to get it.  Now I know that technically it was Jezebel who did the killing, but Ahab had as much blood on his hands as the two guys who lied about Naboth.  Why?  Cause he knew what his wife was capable of. 

This was the same gal who in 1 Kings Chapter 11 had killed all the preachers in the country except for a hundred and fifty of them.  Now regardless of your feelings about preachers that seemed a little excessive.  This was the woman who threatened to separate Elijah’s head from his shoulders. 

This wasn’t Shirley Temple we’re talking about, this wasn’t even Lady Gaga.  So when she told Ahab in 1 Kings 21:7  “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!”

What did Ahab think she was going to do? Play Naboth a game of checkers for his vineyard?  I think not.  Ahab knew what his wife was capable of and knew exactly what she was going to do to Naboth, and he did nothing at all to stop it. 

Listen to what happens; 1 Kings 21:15-16  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.

Now wouldn’t you have been the least bit curious about how Naboth died, was he sick?  Was it an accident?  No Naboth didn’t ask because he already knew.  When he whined to Jezebel, he had signed Naboth’s death certificate.

And you know as well as I do that when we finally decide that we are going to do something that is against the will of God, we don’t care if it’s wrong or not.

He Got Caught  If you don’t get anything else from this message please get this it is so important.  It doesn’t matter how clever you think you are; you will get caught. 

Everyone who sins knows they are too smart, too clever or too lucky to pay the price but listen up you will get caught, I can’t guarantee how or when but I can guarantee this, you will get caught.  It’s gonna come back and bite you.

Someone will see or hear you do it or they will be a participant and they will tell.  Or you will feel so miserable about what you have done that you will confess.  Or you will mess up either intentionally or unintentionally and leave proof but be sure of this you will be caught.  Maybe you will be like the man on his death bed who told his wife, “Honey I have to confess before I die, I cheated on you.”  To which his wife replied, “I know, and I poisoned your soup.” 

Do you understand that?  That’s why the word of God says in  Numbers 32:23  . . . and you may be sure that your sin will find you out.

_________ didn’t read the part about Ahab getting caught but it is just a couple of verses further along, this is what happened.  1 Kings 21:17-19  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!’”

You gotta love that.

What is there in your life right now that you don’t want people to know about? 

What actions, or thoughts, what are you watching, reading or listening to that you’d just as soon it remained between you and you?  You know that isn’t possible, don’t you?

I may not arrive on your front steps to confront you, your spouse may never know, your kids may never find out, but you will get caught.

But maybe you will make it through to the end and as you lie on your death bed you will think, “Denn was wrong, I didn’t get caught.” And as you step though into eternity and into the presence of God you will realize that Denn was right, and you did get caught. 

Psalm 11:4  But the LORD is in his holy Temple; the LORD still rules from heaven. He watches everyone closely, examining every person on earth.

I mentioned the story of David and Bathsheba earlier in the message, how he lusted after his neighbour’s wife, slept with her, got her pregnant and murdered her husband and he thought he got away with it until he was confronted by the prophet Nathan. 

David was guilty as guilty can be and he knew that there was only one thing to do, he did it three thousand years ago and friends it is still the only thing that we can do.  Listen to the words that David wrote Psalm 51:1-4 Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love. Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins.  Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin.  For I recognize my rebellion; it haunts me day and night.  Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight. You will be proved right in what you say, and your judgment against me is just.

Those words are what we call repentance.  Telling God that we are sorry that we disappointed him by not obey him.  But not just saying we are sorry, but saying we are so sorry we won’t do it again.   And it’s probably not a great idea to wait until you get caught to repent.  Keep short accounts with God.

Often times we are good at saying, Sorry.  After all, we are Canadians.  But repentance literally means to change direction and turn around. 

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