Thought for the Day by Clive Barrett (St Michael’s)
Speaking Truth to Power: Elijah and Naboth’s Vineyard
A warning for our times!
Farmer Naboth’s family land was eyed covetously by the royal pair, Ahab and Jezebel. Every farming family in ancient Israel had security and rights through the allocation of sufficient land for their needs. In any case, “The land is mine” says the Lord (Leviticus 25.23); it could not be transferred in perpetuity. One of the biggest crimes in British history was enclosure, when the common land of the people was stolen by the rich for private gain. Some privatisations felt a bit like that. What will be the future of the NHS, I wonder?
People with power – here, Ahab and Jezebel – use fair means and foul and fake news (from Naboth’s accusers) to grab property from the poor for the rich. Naboth would not be the last to be unjustly disinherited. Who gains from inequality today? Who has benefited financially during Covid, especially from official contracts? – questions an Elijah of our age would ask.
Elijah did not politely hold back: Ahab and Jezebel had committed evil, the Lord would bring disaster, the dogs shall eat Jezebel… Sometimes it is right to speak truth to power.
Ahab and Jezebel committed a double crime – stealing land and attacking Naboth’s family rights. That, too, feels close to home. Pre-Covid, only in a totalitarian nightmare could I have conceived that seeing my children and grandchildren could become illegal. The virus is very scary – I’m mainly lying low – but compliance on gathering comes with the need for vigilance, in case any future Ahabs and Jezebels use lockdowns to ban protest, stifle dissent, silence our Elijahs.
Theft of land and the people’s possessions, confiscation of family rights, abuse of power by the rich and privileged – such injustices are timeless. Elijah’s protests, in the name of God, must not stay enclosed in our Bibles but be part of our active Christian witness today.