Day 08 Devotional & Discussion – March 13, 2014

Micah 7:1-3, 1 Kings 21:1-16

Micah laments that Israel’s justice system is broken.  What specifically does he see that makes him feel empty?

The story of Jezebel, King Ahab’s wife, from 1 Kings is an example of the abuse of the “court” system to get what she wants.  Using her husband’s seal, she directs the elders of the community (the judges) to call a sacred assembly, have two witnesses testify that Naboth has cursed God and the King, and then stone Naboth.  What are the power dynamics at work in this example of a justice system gone bad?  Where have you seen people with power “work the system” to get what they want?

How does this story make you feel?  What do you specifically see in our justice system that makes you feel sick to your stomach?

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2 comments

  1. As with Absalom yesterday, in today’s passage, Ahab & Jezebel are easy to hate. Maybe easier. I literally feel the heat of anger inside me as I’m typing and thinking about this injustice. The story is very reminiscent of David & Bathsheba. Like that one, I’m glad this story doesn’t end with a crime.

    Before I get to that, there are elements of our justice system that make me angry too. But I am convicted because it is an anger that pretty much leads to nothing. Have I ever done anything to impact the injustice in our justice system? Not that I can think of. I admit that my life feels so full, the thought of adding “yet another cause” can be debilitating. It’s like a bookshelf that has room for 35 books, but I have 50 (and growing) that need to be on there. So what do I do with the excess? Stuff them in a closet where they are out of sight and thus out of mind. I don’t know that is a good enough excuse.

    This story has a fascinating conclusion that I think is worthwhile to discuss. After Ahab & Jezebel conspire to have Naboth killed, the Lord gets involved! There is justice. He sends Elijah who lays down the law, declaring judgment that Ahab & Jezebel will be eaten by dogs. And we are all cheering. But Ahab repents! Even after the author tells us that “there was never a man like Ahab, who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord, urged on by Jezebel”, the Lord says to Elijah “Because [Ahab] has humbled himself, I will not bring this disaster in his day, but I will bring it on his house in the days of his son.” Whew. I do NOT like that. Mercy. This goes back the discussion we were having a few days ago. The Lord has mercy of those who humble themselves. There is still a punishment (to his son…also have trouble with that one), but for now there is mercy. I want to look at the Lord and say “Really?”. I’ve been taught that when something doesn’t seem right, especially in studying the Old Testament, there is usually something going on that needs more investigation. I have sense this is one of those times.

    Either way can we say this is an instance of crime that led to judgment that led to mercy that led to a stay of judgment?

    Is this same pattern available to the judge in the Kids for Cash situation? For Jerry Sandusky?

    I don’t know…I’m feeling a bit torn in two directions today as I think about this. I love mercy. I have been the beneficiary of loads of mercy. But Ahab and Jezebel were monsters. It is hard to swallow this application of mercy. But I know I would want it if I was in Ahab’s shoes.

    1. God’s mercy extended to Ahab is evidence of God’s refusal to categorize anyone as totally evil. We are dealing with a situation in our community where there is an Jezebel-like character that is working the system to make a profit while causing a great deal of suffering for people who are struggling. He can do it because he has money. He can do it because he’s made the “elder of the community” indebted to him. I would like to simply say, “This guy is evil. And God, as judge of the earth, should take him out!” God doesn’t work like that.

      That said, God doesn’t just let the perversion of justice stand or sweep things under the rug. Through Elijah, God exposes the ways that Jezebel perverted justice in this story. She has the power in the situation (and the reputation for making things difficult for those who cross her). It’s no wonder that the judges did what she asked because there would be hell to pay if they didn’t. There are so many news stories of corporations that “work the system” to get favorable judgments. Individuals or corporations make substantial contributions to a politician and suddenly, policies get passed that benefit the corporation even if it means destruction of a community. I feel what Micah felt: The powerful dictate what they desire. And the little guy gets screwed.

      Elijah speaks truth to the powers. He is a courageous example of someone who is not willing to let the injustice slide. He refuses to be complicit in the injustice. This is where I believe the church has to be. We have to be the ones speaking on behalf of the Naboths who have no power. We confront the perversion of justice with the truth. We stand in solidarity with those who are being abused by the power.

      I can relate to Micah. Being able to identify the problem, but feeling pretty powerless to change it. I think Elijah reminds me that we are not powerless. We just may be too intimidated by Jezebel to use our power. We need to remember that God is indeed the Judge of the Earth.

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