"For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God, and the LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth." ~ Deuteronomy14:2

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Raising The Standard: Joyfulness Is Refusing To Enjoy Anything Which Harms The Person Or Reputation Of Another

"For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshy wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world..." ~ 2 Corinthians 1:12
From The Pages Of Scripture: Everything we have loses its value to us when we desire something we cannot have. This is one of the penalties of envy and covetousness. It is a serious matter to set our affections on something we shouldn't have because those around us will often do what they can to get it for us. To assist us in learning this lesson, Scripture includes a vivid account of envy which resulted in murder, destruction and death. A king had great riches but was unable to enjoy them because he wanted something he could not have. The wicked scheme devised by his wife gave him his wish, but neither of them considered the final price of what they had done.
How Does Scripture Illustrate The Need To Refuse To Enjoy Anything That Harms Others? God created a wife to be an helpmate for her husband (Genesis 2:18). It is tremendously important for a wife that her husband's goals are honorable and just. What wife in Scripture used evil ingenuity to help her husband reach a wicked goal and lived to see God judge both of them for doing so? Jezebel.
The cold eyes of a wicked queen stared at her sulking husband. It was in her interest to keep everyone around her happy, but the king was greatly displeased and dejected. She played the part of the doting wife. "Why aren't you eating? What has made you so upset?" The king answered as though he was a little boy telling his mother who hurt him. "I asked our neighbor if he would trade me his vineyard for a better one or accept money for it, but he refused." "Why would he refuse?" she probed. "Because he claims that the law of God prohibits such a sale." With irritation she demanded, "Are you the king or aren't you?" Then with a cunning gleam in her eye, she assured her husband, "Don't worry about it. I'll see that you get that vineyard." The evil queen despised God's prophets and delighted in destroying them. Why should she allow a neighbor who kept God's laws to interfere with her husband's happiness? So she went about her deadly scheme against the vineyard owner. Letters were sent in the king's name to the leaders of the city. "Call the citizens together, proclaim a time of trial. Hire two men to falsely accuse him of cursing God and the eking. Then execute him." The leaders of the city followed her instructions. When the report of the man's death reached the queen, she proudly announced to her husband, "Do you remember the vineyard your neighbor wouldn't sell you? You can have it now. He is no longer living." The king grinned like a spoiled child used to having his own way, but when he left the palace to claim the vineyard he was met by a prophet of God. The king was startled and deeply convicted by the prophet's words. "God has a message for you, O king. Isn't it bad enough to kill your neighbor and his family? Must you steal his vineyard, too? Because you have done this, dogs will lick your blood outside the city just like they licked the blood of your neighbor's. None of your sons will survive, and the dead body of your wife will be ripped apart by the dogs." Several years later that king was killed in battle. As men washed his blood out of the chariot, dogs came and licked it. Later still, the general of the army entered the royal city. the wicked queen was waiting for him. She had painted her eyelids, fixed her hair, and was sitting in an upper window of her palace. The general shouted, "Throw her down." The servants who surrounded her obeyed and threw her out the window. Her blood splattered against the wall. The general trampled her body beneath his horses. Later, soldiers were sent to bury her, but they found only the skull, feet and hands of that wicked queen Jezebel. The dogs had eaten her just as the prophet said they would. But even the dogs refused her bloodstained hands, her feet that were swift in running to mischief, and her corrupted mind that found joy at the expense of others when they stood in the way of her evil plans. ~ From 1 Kings 21 and 2 Kings 9:30-37
Was Jezebel Genuinely Concerned About Bringing Joy To Her Husband?
Jezebel was motivated more by a contempt for the Lord and righteous Naboth than by a noble desire to please her husband. Jezebel had seen Ahab "heavy and displeased" ever since the prophet of the Lord rebuked him for sparing the life of the king of Syria and made the bitter announcement that Ahab was to be killed for this sin (1 Kings 20:42-43). Now Ahab "laid him down upon his bed, and turned away his face and would eat no bread." (1 Kings 21:4) To Jezebel, familiar with despotic and ruthless rule of heathen kings, this action of her husband was weak and cowardly. Such behavior would not inspire the respect and fear she thought he deserved. She was furious with Ahab's fear over the Lord's prophetic word and his submissiveness to Naboth's refusal. If her husband was overthrown because of his weakness, she would lose her power and life of luxury as well.
Was Jezebel's Influence Confined To The Country Of Israel?
Unfortunately, it was not. Jezebel's daughter, Athaliah, was given in marriage to the son of Jehoshaphat, king of Judah (2 Kings 8:16-18). The marriage was designed to strengthen the military and economic relations between Israel and Judah, but the spiritual consequences were disastrous. Athaliah inherited her mother Jezebel's unscrupulous nature and influenced both her husband and son for evil. She exhibited her mother's zeal for Baal shortly after her husband took over the throne. Athaliah usurped the Davidic throne for six years after her son's death. To eliminate rivalry she murdered her own grandchildren. During her reign the worship of Baal was zealously promoted (2 Chronicles 24:7). Athaliah was finally overthrown and replaced by her sole surviving grandson, Joash, who had been rescued from her slaughter (2 Kings 11:1-2).
Did Jezebel's Actions Bring Joy To Anyone?
Jezebel did succeed in giving Ahab the vineyard he desired, but it did not bring him happiness. He was met at the field by the prophet Elijah who proclaimed to Ahab the Word of the Lord. "Behold, I will bring evil upon the, and will take away thy posterity... the dogs shall eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel." (1 Kings 21:21, 23) His elation changed to depression and "he rent his clothes, and put on sackcloth upon his flesh, and fasted and lay in sackcloth, and went softly." (1 Kings 21:27) The prophecy was fulfilled. Ahab was wounded in battle and died; the dogs licked up his blood (1 Kings 22:35, 38). His two sons who succeeded him on the throne both died violent deaths. One son, Ahaziah, was killed by a fall in the palace (2 Kings 1:2, 7). Another, Jehoram, was killed in his chariot by his successor, Jehu, and his body was cast into Naboth's plot of ground (2 Kings 9:24, 26). Jezebel was thrown down from her window and eaten by dogs (2 Kings 9:33-36).
Illustrated In The World Of Nature: The northern shrike's Latin name, Lanius exubitor, means "watchman" or "sentinel." A literal translation of its name is "the watchful butcher." This is an appropriate title for the alert predator. Perched high atop the tallest treas, it is constantly on the lookout for prey and is equally aware of its own possible attackers, such as the hawk. When it spots a hawk flying overhead, the shrike utters a shrill whistle and then drops into the densest foliage of the trees to hide. It will reappear only after the predator has passed.
How Does The Shrike Illustrate The Need To Refuse Pleasures Which Harm Others?
The trap was set. High in the western forests a naturalist performed his study and research, recording the unusually high bird population of the area. He had placed wire mesh traps for the purpose of catching various birds. These large traps were made of screen material allowing the birds to enter freely. But the construction of the door prevented the birds from flying back out. A door at the top of the trap permitted the naturalist to reach in, catch the specimens and study them. He measured and weighed the bird, determined the gender, banded it by placing a little metal tag around its leg, recorded the data, then released the bird, unharmed. He had been having a high degree of success with these traps and was very encouraged with his progress thus far. The bait of seeds and bits of food had lured many different species such as chickadees, red-polls, and various sparrows. The traps varied in size; some were capable of holding more birds than others. The naturalist regularly made his rounds, checking the traps as many times during the day as possible. One day while he was checking his sets, he came upon one of the larger traps and heard a loud commotion. As he drew closer he could see that the trap contained four or five birds frantically trying to escape. When he looked inside, he noticed a different bird --- one that he had not caught before. Its actions were astounding. Rather than trying to escape from its trap, this bird was attacking the others! It would jump on another bird's back and strike the victim with its beak --- shaking, twisting, and choking it until it was finally dead. Instead of eating its kill, it then flew after another bird. The naturalist stood and stared at the spectacle. One by one the captive birds were savagely attacked by this blood thirsty killer. The presence of the naturalist did not seem to bother this crazed villain. It was fearless, bold, and relentless as it went about its gruesome business, appearing almost to enjoy and delight in snuffing out the lives of the helpless birds. Its natural tendency to caution and alertness was deadened. It seemed totally unaware of its own dangerous captivity. The joy and pleasure which this butcher seemed to derive at harming the others disturbed the naturalist. Reaching inside the trap he captured the bird and destroyed it, ending the wanton slaughter.

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