“A Bad King,
A Bold Preacher and
A Prime Piece of Property”
By Donald Shoemaker
[NOTE: This biblical story that I tell has relevance anytime evil attempts to trample good, oppression suppresses helpless victims, or the power of the government is used to force people of religious conviction to violate their consciences. I think of it when questionable instances of “eminent domain” occur. The story is from the Old Testament—1 Kings 21.]
Please listen to my August 23, 2015 sermon on this topic:
Once upon a time, far away in the little kingdom of “Israel,” there lived a wicked king named Ahab. His wife was Queen Jezebel. She was even more wicked than he was!
One day the wicked king looked out his palace window and saw a piece of property that belonged to a simple, good working-class man named Naboth. Ahab thought to himself, “I’d like to have that property! I’d make better use of it than Naboth ever would.” Since Ahab was the king, anything he took for himself would be for “public use” * of course.
So one day he asked Naboth if he would sell the property. “I’ll even pay you the full market price,” the king said. But Naboth said no. Why should he give up this land, which was his family land for generations?
Ahab was very, very sad—so sad that he pouted. When the wicked queen saw him pouting she really let loose with her tongue at him, so meddlesome and henpecking she. “Is this how the king of Israel acts? Cheer up! I’ll get you that land!”
So she brought some false charges against Naboth. Naboth was found guilty and put to death. Then the wicked queen told the king that Naboth was dead. Ahab was very happy. He took Naboth’s property by eminent domain and made it his own.
Ahab and Jezebel thought this was the end of the matter and they would enjoy their new property and live happily ever after. But God saw what had happened and he was really angry. He sent a preacher named Elijah to confront the wicked king and queen.
Now, Ahab didn’t really want to listen to this preacher. “Religion and government are separate things!” he believed. He didn’t think this preacher should try to influence what the government does at all.
Elijah didn’t care what the king thought! He wouldn’t keep quiet because he knew God wanted him to speak. So he told the king he was a very bad man—a murderer and a thief. He had no right to take this simple man’s property. Elijah said that God would bring death on him because of his wicked deeds—and on the wicked queen too. He even said that what the king did put a stain of sin on the whole land.
Everything the preacher said came true! Ahab died in battle and Jezebel was put to death by her own servants. She died right where Naboth died!
The little kingdom of “Israel” was a better kingdom once the wicked king and queen were gone. But the world has still not learned its lesson.
* “Public use” – According to the 5th Amendment in the Bill of Rights, any property taken by the government through what we call eminent domain is for “public use.” A very unfortunate U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2005 allowed that “public use” could include forcing land away from one private owner and passing it to another private owner, who would then (hopefully) develop it, creating jobs, bring in more tax money, etc. The case was Kelo v. City of New London. Critics said the decision obliterated the distinction between “public use” and “private use.” In this case the results were horrible and utterly unproductive.