Wielding Manipulation and Control: Jezebel
No matter how you look at it, King Ahab’s marriage to Queen Jezebel was no match made in Heaven. When he chose her as his bride, he was seemingly entering into a pact with Satan. Warning! This account may conjure up memories of what could be power plays familiar to us, and this couple’s lack of yielding to the Holy Spirit might hit a little too close to home. Dare we have anything in common with a power wielding, control obsessed queen? Well, we might.
Has there been a time when you wanted a certain job, to join an organization, or get your child into a particular school, but it either was inconvenient, pricey or filled to capacity, so you decided to do something about it? Did you think for a minute about ways you could make it happen? Maybe you actually put in a phone call to someone with influence, wrote a letter, took a little cash from savings or some other financial commitment. Did you resolve to make it happen, to do something about it, no matter the cost?
This is the kind of thinking that permeated the leadership of the Israelites under Jezebel’s rule. When her husband gave up on getting what he wanted, Jezebel was just getting started. If she wanted something, she went to great lengths to get it. There are two clear examples of how she used her position of power to control circumstances. One I call “the vineyard incident” and the other “the confrontation after Mount Carmel.”
In 1 Kings 21:1-16, we see the makings of a daytime drama. Jezebel’s husband wanted a vineyard, but the landowner, Naboth, in obedience to God (vs. 3), refused to relinquish his property. Ahab gave up and sulked, but Jezebel chose to use her influence. She decided to do something about it.
First, she took control of her husband commanding “Is this how you act as king over Israel? Get up and eat! Cheer up. I’ll get you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite” (1 Kings 21:7). Rather than exhibiting an Ephesians 5 approach to “respect her husband,” she undermined him.
In the next few verses, Jezebel took control of the situation. “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.” In the letter, she wrote: “Proclaim a day of fasting and seat Naboth in a prominent place among the people. But, seat two scoundrels opposite him and have them testify that he has cursed both God and the king. Then take him out and stone him to death.”
Flipping back to 1 Kings 18, we see another attempt to wield control playing out after God’s prophet Elijah struck down false prophets who worshiped the same idols as Jezebel. At Mount Carmel, Elijah challenges the people and the false prophets of Baal and Asherah. In verse 25, “Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose one of the bulls and prepare it first, since there are so many of you. Call on the name of your god, but do not light the fire.” So they took the bull given them and prepared it. Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. “O Baal, answer us!” they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made.”
In verse 27, Elijah encouraged them to shout louder and mocked their fake lord saying, “Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.”
After hours passed and the people failed to produce their god, Elijah prepared the stage for the one and only true God. He repaired the broken altar and directed the people to fill jars with water and pour them onto the offering and wood. Three times, they filled jars and drenched the site.
Then, in verses 36 and 37, Elijah stepped forward and prayed “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”
This is a powerful prayer! Elijah is clearly yielded to the Lord. And, God answered in the very next verse, “Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stone and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench.” My God is an awesome God! At this point, there is nothing left for the people to do except yield and proclaim: “The Lord – he is God! The Lord – he is God!” (vs. 39) They didn’t just recite the words, I believe in their heart of hearts they knew it was true.
Elijah then ordered the seizure and execution of prophets of Baal. Ahab heard of all that went on and told his wife what happened. The Bible says she responded by issuing a death threat: “So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.” 1 Kings 19:2
Of course, today, the vast majority of people will not use deadly force to get what they want. Often our attempts to fulfill our desires are very subtle and in some cases, could be classified as an acceptable level of persistence or healthy ambition. Yet, sometimes wielding control looks like yielding.
Engineers know that a “yield point” is that moment when material permanently changes form. The more we bend to the Holy Spirit, seeking to please the only Wise King, the more we change. The more we yield to God, the more empowered we become, recognizing that He alone has control. If we truly aspire to use our femininity for good and our leadership to advance God’s kingdom, we have to yield to His will, to His way, casting aside our own self-focused pursuits. Then, when we find ourselves faced with life’s challenges, we are able to yield more quickly to God’s will, allowing Him to display His ability.
Jezebel did not give way to the Lord. Could it be she was too busy trying to control those things and people she feared? It’s not uncommon for us to attempt to manage the very thing we believe may harm us, or relationships we believe we may lose, because we are afraid. Fear of losing a job may prompt a worker to spend excess hours at the office. Fear of losing our financial footing might lead us to hoard the very resources God entrusts to our stewardship. I believe Jezebel made unimaginable efforts to control circumstances and those around her because she simply was afraid of not being the one who called the shots. Fear can lead one to do some crazy stuff.
Over the years, more often than I care to admit, it wasn’t until I stopped trying to control my relationships and circumstances that God fulfilled my desires. Letting go of our need to be in charge is not a once-and-done kind of thing. We have to daily, minute-by-minute give things over to God and rest in the fact that He really is in control. Loosening the reins on our lives can be so freeing!
Let’s yield, pray and proclaim “The Lord – He is God! “The Lord – He is God!” 1 Kings 18:39