Rex Lex?


1 Kings 21
For Sunday, June 16, 2013
Proper 6

As a college student at Indiana University (Bloomington) I read Francis Schaefer voraciously.  I was trying to reconcile what I believed with the secular worldview framing most of the education I was receiving.  Schaefer wrote of  the difference between Rex Lex (“The King is the law”) and Lex Rex (“The Law is King”).  Lex Rex is what the story of Naboth’s Vineyard in 1 Kings 21 is about.

King Ahab lives in a beautiful and expansive palace, but like most of us, he wanted more.  What he wanted was his neighbor Naboth’s vineyard so that he could plant a vegetable garden.  Naboth declined.  I don’t blame him.  What kind of idiot would destroy a beautiful vineyard for a vegetable garden?  Put your little cucumbers in your own blasted yard!

Amazingly this little episode throws Ahab into a massive depression.  His wife Jezebel decides she has to do something so she calls Ahab’s therapist.  Oops, rather, she decides to exercise eminent domain over Naboth’s vineyard.  Yet even in Ahab’s kingdom one couldn’t just do this on a whim.  The property had to be condemned first.  Okay, how do I get it condemned, Jezebel asks herself?  Well, remove the current owner from the picture.  How do I do that, Jezebel reasons further.  Well, have him condemned and then stoned.  This requires the testimony of two witnesses.  Well, two witnesses then there shall be.  Problem solved.

Fortunately for us, this isn’t the end of the story.  After poor Naboth is stoned to death, Ahab goes down to repurpose the vineyard.  While standing in that very spot he is confronted by the prophet Elijah who says to him, “Thus says the LORD: Have you killed, and also taken possession?” You shall say to him, “Thus says the LORD: In the place where dogs licked up the blood of Naboth, dogs will also lick up your blood” (1 Kings 21:19).  Ahab repented, so God spared him for a season (1 Kings 21:29).  Yet at the end of the story, just as dogs licked up the blood of Naboth outside Jezreel, so did dogs lick up the blood of Ahab outside Samaria (New Bible Commentary, 1 Kings 22:29-40).

The point is that as much as it might appear to be the case, whether one is Attorney General protecting government secrets, or Secretary of State managing the response to a slain Ambassador, or a Business Consultant at a major insurance company (this last one being me), none of us is a law unto ourselves.  God knows who we are, where we are, and what we are doing.  He possesses data collection and analytics capabilities that in comparison make the National Security Agency look like nothing more than an Echo Sketch.  Yet rather than abusing this power for his own end God is committed in steadfast love, righteousness, and justice, to reconciling the world to himself.  He brings justice to those whose vineyards have been trampled upon.

So personally, are you living Rex Lex, or Lex Rex?  How about professionally?  Are you working in your organization, your church, and your community to do the right thing?  Or have you like so many others capitulated to the Lie of self-interest and personal autonomy?    May these words bring clarity, courage, and commitment to follow the Spirit’s lead that things on earth might hasten to become as they are in heaven.


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