I’m reading through the First (Old) Testament book of 1 Kings. There’s a story about a guy called Naboth, who had a vineyard that had been in his family for generations. The King, Ahab, rather liked the vineyard and offered to buy it from Naboth. Naboth politely declined – the vineyard was part of his heritage, that he would hope to pass on to his children. Ahab was a weak man, but he had a formidable wife, and when he told her about his disappointment, she promised to fix it.
She had someone accuse Naboth of cursing God and the King, and rigged the trial so that he was convicted and stoned to death. As Naboth was convicted of blasphemy, his property was confiscated and given to the king. (Surprise, surprise). Now. Elijah the prophet heard about what had happened, and he went to visit Ahab, and told him that he wasn’t going to get away with this act of murder and theft. He would come to a sticky end.
There are two forces at work here. One is the scheming of Jezebel, and the other is the word of the prophet. Jezebel didn’t like it when Elijah went against her and Ahab. In her eyes, the power of King and the power of Yahweh (God) should work hand in hand. True – the King owed his power to Yahweh, but Yahweh should act in favour of the king – surely ?
This is the age old question of church and state. The church needs the state to support religion, and the state would like to have God’s approval. At its worst, church and state are completely in bed with each other, and any integrity goes out of the window.
Jump forward to Matthew chapter 26. Another prophet, and another plotter. This time the prophet is Jesus, who is predicting his own death. Meanwhile, the priestly leaders, led by High Priest Caiaphas have got to the end of their patience with Jesus. They have realised that he cannot be controlled by the religious leaders. Their spiritual authority has been watered down by their concessions to political expediency. So they actively start to plot his death.
Plotters and prophets – one looking for self advancement, and the other seeking to find the God way. The lure of self promotion can be subtle and very inviting, that’s why religious leaders are so vulnerable.