In 1st Kings there is this fascinating story about the King of Samaria, a guy named Ahab.
Ahab lives in a palace next door to a chap named Naboth. And Naboth owns a vineyard. The King wants to buy Naboth’s vineyard because it’s so close to his palace, and kings back then were lazy and didn’t want to walk very far.
Now it sounds pretty cut and dry right? He offers Naboth a really good deal for some land, Naboth should take it. But this land had been in his family for generations, and Naboth wasn’t selling.
So King Ahab gets all mopey and 3rd grader-ish. Until him and his wife devise a plan. They decide to frame Naboth for blasphemy, they plant a couple of people to accuse him at a party. It works. Naboth is killed, and King Ahab gets his vineyard.
Sounds like a happy ending right?
But then God sends a prophet to tell Ahab that He is about to wreck his world. Cut off his descendents, take away his throne, the whole nine yards.
That sounds normal to us right? Guy does wrong, God enforces justice.
But that’s not the way it used to be. When a king did something, it was the job of the gods, at least the job of that kings gods to legitimize it, to justify it. (Hence the blasphemy charges to get the vineyard).
Think about that scene in the Frost/Nixon interview and recent movie. The one where Nixon tells David Frost that when a president does something illegal, it becomes legal. We know know that reasoning doesn’t fly, but it would have. But the The God of Israel is a different kind of God, and He is trying to set humanity on a different path. One where those in power don’t lord it over others.
He doesn’t exist to just legitimize existing power structures, he actually calls them to be accountable. That’s a new idea, even though it seems like it should have been around forever. Matter of fact, if you are in power God holds you more accountable.
This applies across the board, religious leaders and teachers will be held to harsher judgement. The writers of Scripture knew that power, and kind of power, can go to a person’s head. They can start to think that they are above the ones they lead. It’s a call to remember that even though others may answer to you, you answer to God.
One of the terms used in the Bible to refer to God and to Jesus, is the King of Kings. This isn’t just praise, it’s a statement about the way God works in the world. God is over your power structures, your thrones, your presidents, and your churches. So when humans get to big for their own britches, we need to remember we answer to someone else.
Get your own vineyard.