What do you do when you don’t get your way? I read two remarkable accounts today in 1 Kings 21 that have far too many similarities to my life to be a comfortable read. Ahab was the King of Israel. He wanted a certain portion of land that was owned by a man named Naboth. The land was considered a part of the family because it had been apportioned to the twelve tribes of Israel and divided up by clans. It was, therefore, more than just a possession or an investment.
As a result, Naboth refused to sell the land to Ahab even though a generous offer was on the table. From a financial point of view, it would have been a good move for Naboth but from a spiritual point of view it would have been the wrong thing to do. In short, Naboth said, “No,
Well, this is not what Ahab wanted to hear and he was very disappointed that his plan was not accepted. We have been and will be in this type of situation over and over again. Life never turns out exactly the way we would like. Just yesterday, I planned on a 4 hour car repair project that took much longer than expected. I have had real estate offers refused. I have had business ideas die before they ever got off the ground. I have worked hard to build opportunities that were taken over by others, sometimes gently and sometimes deceptively. This is the way life is and when it happens to us, we have to decide how we will respond.
Ahab responded by pouting. “Ahab went home, sullen and angry because Naboth the Jezreelite had said, ‘I will not give you the inheritance of my ancestors.’ He lay on his bed sulking and refused to eat.” (1 Kings 21:4) He is the king. He has an abundance of resources at his disposal. There is plenty of land to work with. He has a myriad of opportunities before him that will meet his goal. Instead of refocusing, he chose to mope around!
His wife, Jezebel, would have none of this. She apparently couldn’t stand the sight of her husband pouting, so she chose to manipulate the situation. First she confronted Ahab, “Why are you so sullen? Why won’t you eat? . . . Is this how you act as king over Israel?” (verse 5-7) You can hear the contempt in her voice and the impatience in her spirit. She wants her man to get a spine and do whatever it takes to get his way.
Next, she takes over the situation. Instead of asking strategic questions to help Ahab refocus, she becomes the boss. She could have said, “So, what is your next move? Have you checked out other opportunities? I guess we are on to plan B so I will be praying God gives you the wisdom to see what that is.” Instead, she defiantly said to him, “Get up and eat! Cheer up. I’ll get you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.” (verse 7)
She was obviously skilled at manipulation because “So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name, placed his seal on them, and sent them to the elders and nobles who lived in Naboth’s city with him.” (verse 8) In the letters she planned the demise of Naboth so that at his death, Ahab could take possession of the vineyard.
Few of us would ever resort to a murderous course of action but many of us are all too willing to manipulate, deceive, complain and cajole in order to get our way. The end result becomes more important than our integrity, our relationships or our long-term personal development.
As I read this, I found a renewed dedication to being actively content. I don’t ever want to give up having goals while resorting to passive living but at the same time, I don’t want to be so attached to my ideas that I either pout or manipulate in order to force my will upon life. A phrase one of my Marine friends passed on to me years ago seems very appropriate at this moment, “Sempre Gumby!” (always flexible)