And that brings us to the other scene in his tragedy of "Pay Day — Someday." It is:
VII. THE ALARMING APPEARANCE
"The word of the Lord came to Elijah."
The journey of twenty-odd miles from Samaria to Jezreel is over. Jehu brings the horses to a stop outside the gate to the vineyard. The horses stretch their necks trying to get slack on the reins. They have stood well the furious pace at which they have been driven. Around the rim of their harness is the foam of their sweat. On their flanks are, perhaps, the marks of Jehu's whip. They breathe as though their great lungs were a tireless bellows. The outriders line up in something of military formation. The hands of ready servants open the gate to the vineyard. Bidkar opens the chariot door. And Ahab steps out into Naboth's vineyard. There, no doubt, he sees, in the soft soil, Naboth's footprints. Close by, doubtless, the smaller footprints of his wife he sees. Naboth is dead, and the coveted vineyard is now Ahab's through the "gentle scheming" of the queen of his house. Perhaps Ahab, as he walks into the vineyard, sees Naboth's pruning hook among the vines. Or he notices the fine trellis work which Naboth's hands had fastened together for the growing vines. Perhaps, in a corner of the vineyard is a seat where Naboth and his sons rested after the day's toil, or a well where sparkling waters refreshed the thirsty or furnished water for the vines in time of drought.
Ahab walks around his newly-gotten vineyard. The rows of vines glisten in the sunlight. Maybe a breeze moves the leaves on the vines. Ahab admires trellis and cluster. As he walks, he plans how he will have the royal gardener to pull up those vines and plant cucumbers, squash, garlic, onions, cabbage and other vegetables that he may have his "garden of herbs."
And while Ahab strolls among the vines that Naboth tended, what is it that appears? Snarling wild boasts? No. Black clouds full of threatening storm? No, not that. Flaming lightning which dazzles him? No. War chariots of his ancient enemies rumbling along the road? No. An oncoming flood sweeping things before it? No; not a flood. A tornado goring the earth? No. A huge serpent threatening to encircle him and crush his bones in its deadly coils? No; not a serpent. What then? What alarmed Ahab so? let us follow him and see.
As Ahab goes walking through the rows of vines, he begins to plan how he will have that vineyard arranged by his royal gardener, how flowers will be here and vegetables yonder and herbs there. As he converses with himself, suddenly a shadow falls across his path. Quick as a flash Ahab whirls on his heels, and there, before him, stands Elijah, prophet of the living God. Elijah's cheeks are swarthy; his eye is keen and piercing; like coals of fire, his eyes burn with righteous indignation in their sockets; his bosom heaves; his head is held high. His only weapon is a staff: his only robe a sheepskin, and a leather girdle about his loins. Like an apparition from the other world, like Banquo's ghost at Macbeth's feast, Elijah, with suddenness terrifying, stands before Ahab. Ahab had not seen Elijah for five years. Ahab thought Elijah had been cowed and silenced by Jezebel, but now the prophet confronts him with his death- warrant from the lord God Almighty.
To Ahab there is an eternity of agony in the few moments they stand thus, face to face, eye to eye, soul to soul! His voice is hoarse, like the cry of a hunted animal. He trembles like a hunted stag before the mouths of fierce hounds. Suddenly his face goes white. His lips quiver. He had gone to take possession of a vineyard, coveted for a garden of herbs; and there he is face to face with righteousness, face to face with honor, face to face with judgment. The vineyard, with the sun shining upon it now, is as black as if it were part of the midnight which has gathered in judgment. Like Poe 's raven "his soul from out that shadow shall be" lifted — nevermore.
"And Ahab said to Elijah, Hast thou found me, 0 mine enemy?" (I Kings 21:20) and Elijah, without a tremor in his voice, his eyes burning their way into Ahab's guilty soul, answered: "I have found thee: because thou has sold thyself to work evil in the sight of the Lord." Then, with every word a thunderbolt, and every sentence a withering denunciation, Elijah continued: Hast thou killed, and also taken possession? . . . Thus saith the Lord, In the place where dogs licked the blood of Naboth shall dogs lick thy blood, even thine . . . Behold, I will bring evil upon thee, and will take away thy posterity . . . And will make thine house like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijah, for the provocation wherewith thou hast provoked me to anger, and made Israel to sin! (I Kings 21:l9, 21,22).
And then, plying other words mercilessly like a terrible scourge to the Cringing Ahab, Elijah said:
And of Jezebel also spake the Lord, saying, The dogs shall eat Jezebel by the wall of Jezreel. Him that dieth of Ahab in the city the dogs shall eat: and him that dieth in the field shall the fowls of the air eat (I Kings 21:23,24).
And, with these words, making Ahab to cower as one cowers and recoils from a hissing adder, finding Naboth's vineyard to be haunted with ghosts and the clusters thereof to be full of blood, Elijah went his way — as was his custom so suddenly to appear and so quickly to disappear.
Ahab had sold himself for nought, as did Achan for a burial robe and a useless ingot, as did Judas for thirty pieces of silver which so burned his palms and so burned his conscience and so burned his soul that he found relief in the noose at the rope's end. And when Ahab got back in the chariot to go back to Jezebel — the vile toad who squatted upon the throne to be again with the beautiful adder coiled upon the throne — the hoofs of the horses pounding the road pounded into his guilty soul Elijah's words: "Some day — the dogs will lick thy blood! Some day the dogs will eat Jezebel by the ramparts of Jezreel." God had spoken! Would it come to pass?
And now we come to the last scene in this tragedy — "PAY DAY — SOMEDAY." It is:
VIII. PAY-DAY ITSELF
Did God mean what He said? Or was He playing a prank on royalty? Did pay day come? "Pay Day — Someday" is written in the constitution of God's universe. The retributive providence of God is a reality as certainly as the laws of gravitation are a reality.
And to Ahab and Jezebel, pay day came as certainly as night follows day, because sin carries in itself the seed of its own fatal penalty.
Dr. Meyer says: "According to God's constitution of the world, the wrongdoer will be abundantly punished." The fathers sow the wind and the children reap the whirlwind. One generation labors to scatter tares, and the next generation reaps tares and retribution immeasurable. To the individual who goes not the direction God points, a terrible pay-day comes. To the nation which forgets God, payday will come in the awful realization of the truth that the "nations which forget God shall be turned into hell." When nations trample on the principles of the Almighty, the result is that the world is beaten with many stripes. We have seen nations slide into Gehenna — and the smoke of their torment has gone up before our eyes day and night.
To the home that has no room for the Christ, death and grave clothes are certain. "Ichabod" will he written about the church that soft-pedals on unpleasant truth or that stands not unwaveringly for "the faith once delivered" — and it will acknowledge its retribution in that it will become "a drifting sepulcher manned by a frozen crew."
A man can prostitute God's holy Name to profane lips if he will, but he is forewarned as to the pay-day in the words: "The lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh His Name in vain (Ex. 20:7).
A man can, if he will, follow the way of some wicked woman; but God leaves him not without warning as to the pay-day, in the words:
He goeth after her straightway, as an ox goeth to the slaughter, or as a fool to the correction of the stocks; Till a dart strike through his liver; as a bird hasteth to the snare, and knoweth not that it is for his life . . . For she hath cast down many wounded: yea, many strong men have been slain by her. Her house is the way to hell, going down to the chambers of death (Prov. 7:22,23, 26, 27).
People can drink booze, if they will, and offer the damnable bottle to others, if they will, but the certainty of "Pay Day Someday" is read in the words: "No drunkard shall inherit the kingdom of God," and in the words: "At the last it biteth like a serpent, and stingeth like an adder." The certainty of "Pay Day — Someday" for all who regard not God or man is set forth in the words of an unknown poet:
You'll pay. The knowledge of your acts will weigh
Heavier on your mind each day.
The more you climb, the more you gain,
The more you'll feel the nagging strain.
Success will cower at the threat
Of retribution. Fear will fret
Your peace and bleed you for the debt;
Conscience collects from every crook
More than the worth of what he took,
You only thought you got away
But in the night you'll pay and pay.
Churchill expressed the certainty of God's retributive justice when, speaking of Mussolini, he said.
Mussolini is swept into the maelstrom of his own making. The flames of war he kindled burn himself. He and his people are taking the stinging lash of the whip they applied to Ethiopia and Albania. They pay for Fascist sins with defeat, despair, death. Mussolini's promise of life like a lion turns into the existence of a beaten cur!
Years before the statesman, Winston Churchill, spoke these words, Ralph Waldo Emerson, in his Compensation wrote:
Crime and punishment grow out of one stem. Punishment is a fruit that unsuspected ripens within the flower of the pleasure that concealed it. Cause and effect, means and ends, seed and fruit, can rot be severed, for the effect already blooms in the cause. The end pre-exists in the means — the fruit in the seed.
Paul Lawrence Dunbar showed wisdom as great as the wisdom of Churchill and a knowledge of Nature's laws as great as Emerson's knowledge when he wrote the autobiography of many individual sinners in these poetic and potent words:
This is the price I pay —
Just for one riotous day —
Years of regret and of grief,
And sorrow without relief.
Suffer it I will, my friend,
Suffer it until the end,
Until the grave shall give relief.
Small was the thing I bought,
Small was the thing at best,
Small was the debt, I thought,
But, 0 God! — the interest.
All these statements are but verification of Bible truth:
Whoso diggeth a pit shall fall therein: and he that rolleth a stone, it will return upon him (Prov. 26:27).
Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices. For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them (Prov. 1:31,32).
Even as I have seen, they that plow iniquity, and sow wickedness, reap the same (Job 4:8).
For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind (Hos. 8:7).
The gods are just — and of our vices make instruments to scourge us.
When I was pastor of the First Baptist Church of New Orleans, all that I preached and taught was sent out over the radio. In my "fan mail" I received letters from a young man who called himself '"Chief of the Kangaroo Court." Many nasty, critical things he said. Sometimes he wrote a nice line-and a nice line was, in all the vulgar things he wrote, like a gardenia in a garbage can. One day I received a telephone call from a nurse in the Charity Hospital of New Orleans. It was about this fellow who so often dipped his pen in slop, who seldom thrust his pen into nectar. She said: "Pastor, there is a young man down here whose name we do not know, who will not tell us his name. All he will tell us is that he is chief of the Kangaroo Court. He is going to die. He says that you are the only preacher in New Orleans that he has ever heard — and he has never seen you.
He wants to see you. Will you come down?" "Yes," I replied. And I quit what I was doing and hurried down to the hospital.
The young nurse met me at the entrance to the charity ward and took me in. A glance around showed me cots on the north side, cots on the south side, beds on the east side and beds on the west side - and clusters of cots in the center of the huge ward. In a place by itself, somewhat removed from all other cots and beds, was a bed on which lay a young man about nineteen or twenty years of age — big of frame, though the ravages of disease had brought a slenderness. The nurse, with little ado, introduced me to the young man, saying: "This, sir, is the Chief of the Kangaroo Court."
I found myself looking into two of the wildest, weirdest eves I have ever seen. As kindly as I could, I spoke, saying "Hello." "Howdy do?" he answered in a voice that was a discourteous and furious snarl — more like the voice of a mad wolf than the voice of a rational man. '"Is there something I can do for you?" I asked as kindly as I could speak.
"No. Nothing! Not a thing. Nothin' 'tall! — unless you throw my body to the buzzards when I am dead — if the buzzards will have it!" he said, with half a shout and with a sort of fierce resentment that made me wonder why he had ever sent for me.
Then his voice lost some of the snarl — and he spoke again. "I sent for you, sir, because I want you to tell these young fellows here something for me. I sent for you because I know you go up and down the land and talk to many young people. And I want you to tell 'em, and tell 'em every chance you get, that the Devil pays only in counterfeit money."
Oh! I wish I could tell all men and women and all boys and girls everywhere to believe the truth that Satan always pays in counterfeit money, that all his pearls are paste pearls, that the nectar he offers is poisoned through and through. Oh, that men would learn the truth and be warned by the truth that if they eat the Devil's corn, he will choke them with the cob.
I stayed with this young man nearly two hours. Occasionally he spoke. There was a desperate earnestness in the young man's voice as he looked at me with wild eyes where terror was enthroned. After while I saw those eyes become as though they were glass as he gazed at the ceiling above. I saw his huge lean chest heave like a bellows. I felt his hand clutch at mine as a drowning man would grab for a rope. I held his hand. I heard the raucous gurgle in his throat. Then he became quiet — like a forest when the cyclone is long gone.
When he died, the little nurse called me to her, excitedly. "Come here!" she called.
"What do you want, child?" I asked.
"I want to wash your hands!" She meant she wanted to wash my hands with a disinfectant. Then she added — with something of fright in her words, "It's dangerous to touch him!"
The Devil had paid the young man off in counterfeit money.
But what about Ahab? Did payday come for him? Yes. Consider how. Three years went by. Ahab was still king. And I dare say that during those three years Jezebel had reminded him that they were eating herbs out of Naboth's vineyard. I can hear her say something like this as they sat at the king's table: "Ahab, help yourself to these herbs. I thought Elijah said the dogs were going to lick your blood. I guess his dogs lost their noses and lost the trail."
But I think that during those three years, Ahab never heard a dog bark that he did not jump.
One day Jehoshaphat, king of Judah, visited Ahab. The Bible tells us what took place — what was said, what was done:
And the king of Israel said unto his servants, Know ye that Ramoth in Gilead is ours, and we be still, and take it not out of the hand of the king of Syria? And he said unto Jehoshaphat, Wilt thou go with me to battle to Ramoth-gilead? And Jehoshaphat said to the king of Israel, I am as thou art, my people as thy people, my horses as thy horses (I Kings 22:3,4).
So the king of Israel and Jehoshaphat the king of Judah went up to Ramoth-gilead (I Kings 22:29).
Ahab, after Jehoshaphat had promised to go with him, in his heart was afraid, and had sad forebodings, dreadful premonitions, horrible fears. Remembering the withering words of Elijah three years before, he disguised himself — put armor on his body and covered this armor with ordinary citizen's clothes.
And the king of Israel said unto Jehoshaphat, I will disguise myself, and enter into the battle; but put thou on thy robes. And the king of Israel disguised himself, and went into the battle (I Kings 22:30).
The Syrian general had given orders to slay only the king of Israel — Ahab.
But the king of Syria commanded his thirty and two captains that had rule over his chariots, saying, Fight neither with small nor great, save only with the king of Israel (I Kings 22:31).
Jehoshaphat was not injured, although he wore his royal clothes.
And it came to pass, when the captains of the chariots saw Jehoshaphat, that they said, Surely it is the king of Israel. And they turned aside to fight against him: and Jehoshaphat cried out. And it came to pass, when the captains of the chariots perceived that it was not the king of Israel, that they turned back from pursuing him (I Kings 22:32,33).
While war steeds neighed and war chariots rumbled and shields clashed on shields and arrows whizzed and spears were thrown and swords were wielded, a death- carrying arrow, shot by an aimless and nameless archer, found the crack in Ahab's armor.
And a certain man drew a bow at a venture, and smote the king of Israel between the joints of the harness: wherefore he said unto the driver of his chariot, Turn thine hand, and carry me out of the host; for I am wounded. And the battle increased that day: and the king was stayed up in his chariot against the Syrians, and died at even: and the blood ran out of the wound into the midst of the chariot . . . And one washed the chariot in the pool of Samaria; and the dogs licked up his blood; and they washed his armour; according unto the Word of the Lord which He spake (I Kings 22:34, 35, 38).
Thus we learn that no man can evade God's laws with impunity. All of God's laws are their own executioners. They have strange penalties annexed. Stolen waters are sweet. But every ounce of sweetness makes a pound of nausea. Nature keeps honks pitilessly. Man's credit with her is good. But Nature collects. And there is no land to which you can flee and escape her bailiffs. Every day her bloodhounds track down the men and women who owe her.
But what about Jezebel? Did her payday come? Yes — after twenty years. After Ahab's death, after the dogs had licked his blood, she virtually ruled the kingdom. But I think that she went into the temple of Baal on occasions and prayed her god Baal to protect her from Elijah's hounds.
Elijah had been taken home to heaven without the touch of the deathdew upon his brow. Elisha had succeeded him.
And Elisha the prophet called one of the children of the prophets, and said unto him, Gird up thy loins, and take this box of oil in thine hand, and go to Ramoth-gilead: And when thou comest thither, look out there Jehu the son of Jehoshaphat the son of Nimshi, and go in, and make him arise up from among his brethren, and carry him to an inner chamber; Then take the box of oil and pour it on his head, and say, Thus saith the Lord, I have anointed thee king over Israel. Then open the door and flee, and tarry not. So the young man, even the young man the prophet, went to Ramoth-gilead . And when he came, behold, the captains of the host were sitting; and he said, I have an errand to thee, 0 captain. And Jehu said, Unto which of all us? And he said, To thee, 0 captain. And he arose, and went into the house; and he poured the oil on his head, and said unto him, Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, I have anointed thee king over the people of the Lord, even over Israel. And thou shalt smite the house of Ahab thy master, that I may avenge the blood of My servants the prophets, and the blood of all the servants of the Lord, at the hand of Jezebel . . . And I will make the house of Ahab like the house of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, and like the house of Baasha the son of Ahijab: And the dogs shall eat Jezebel in the portion of Jezreel, and there shall be none to bury her. And be opened the door, and fled (II Kings 9:1- 7,9,10).
Jehu was just the man for such an occasion — furious in his anger, rapid in his movements, unscrupulous, yet zealous to uphold the law of Moses.
Then Jehu came forth to the servants of his lord: and one said unto him, Is all well? wherefore came this mad fellow to thee? And he said unto them, Ye know the man, and his communication. And they said, It is false; tell us now. And he said, Thus and thus spake he to me, saying, Thus saitb the Lord, I have anointed thee king over Israel. Then they basted, and took every man his garment, and put it under him on the top of the stairs, and blew with trumpets, saying, Jehu is king (II Kings 9:11-13).
Mounting his chariot, commanding and taking with him a company of his most reliable soldiers, furiously did he drive nearly sixty miles to Jezreel.
So Jehu rode in a chariot, and went to Jezreel; for Joram lay there. And Ahaziah king of Judah was come down to see Joram. And there stood a watchman on the tower in Jezreel, and he spied the company of Jehu as he came, and said, I see a company. And Joram said, Take an horseman, and send to meet them, and let him say, Is it peace? So there went one on horseback to meet him, and said, Thus saith the king, Is it peace? And Jehu said, What hast thou to do with peace? turn thee behind me. And the watchman told, saying, The messenger came to them, but he cometh not again. Then he sent out a second on horseback, which came to them, and said, Thus saith the king, Is it peace? And Jehu answered, What hast thou to do with peace? turn thee behind me. And the watchman told, saying, He came even unto them, and cometh not again: and the driving is like the driving of Jehu the son of Nimshi; for he driveth furiously. And Joram said, Make ready. And his chariot was made ready. And Joram king of Israel and Ahaziab king of Judah went out, each in his chariot, and they went out against Jehu, and met him in the portion of Naboth the Jerreelite. And it came to pass, when Joram saw Jehu, that he said, Is it peace, Jehu? And he answered, What peace, so long as the whoredoms of thy mother jezebel and her witchcrafts are so many? And Joram turned his hands, and fled, and said to Ahaziah, There is treachery, 0 Ahaziah. And Jehu drew a bow with his full strength, and smote Jehoram between his arms, and the arrow went out at his heart, and he sunk down in his chariot. Then said Jehu to Bidkar his captain, Take up, and cast him in tlie portion of the field of Naboth the Jezreelite: for remember how that, when I and thou rode together after Ahab his father, the Lord laid this burden upon him; Surely I have seen yesterday the blood of Naboth, and the blood of his sons, saith the Lord; and I will requite thee in this plat, saith the Lord. Now therefore take and cast him into the plat of ground, according to the word of the Lord (II Kings 9:16-26).
"And when Jehu was come to Jezreel, Jezebel heard of it." Pause! Who is Jehu? He is the one who, twenty years before the events of this chapter from which we quote, rode down with Ahab to take Naboth's vineyard, the one who throughout those twenty years never forgot those withering words of terrible denunciation which Elijah spoke. And who is Jezebel? Oh! The very same who wrote the letters and had Naboth put to death. And what is Jezreel? The place where Naboth had his vineyard and where Naboth died, his life pounded out by stones in the hands of ruffians. "And when Jehu was come to Jezreel, Jezebel heard of it; and she painted her face, and tired her head, and looked out at a window."
Just here I think of what the poet, Leslie Savage Clark, wrote:
From the palace casement she looked down,
Queenly, scornful, proud,
And watched with cold indifferent eyes
The weary ragged crowd.
Of the wage of sin she never thought,
Nor that a crown might fall ...
Nor did she note the hungry dogs
Skulking along the wall.
And as Jehu, the new king by the will and word of the lord, entered in at the gate, she asked: "Had Zimri peace who slew his master?" And Jehu lifted up his face to the window and said, "Who is on my side? who? And there looked out to him two or three eunuchs. And he said, Throw her down" (II Kings 9:30-33).
These men put their strong men's fingers into her soft feminine flesh and picked her up, tired head and all, painted face and all, bejeweled fingers and all, silken skirts and all — and threw her down. Her body hit the street and burst open. Some of her blood splattered on the legs of Jehu's horses, dishonoring them. Some of her blood splattered on the walls of the city, disgracing them.
And Jehu drove his horses and chariot over her. There she lies, twisting in death agony in the street. Her body is crushed by the chariot wheels. On her white bosom are the black crescent-shapes of horses' hoofs. She is hissing like an adder in the fire. Jehu drove away and left her there.
And when he was come in he did eat and drink, and said, Go, see now this cursed woman, and bury her: for she is a king's daughter. And they went to bury her: hut they found no more of her than the skull, and the feet, and the palms of her hands (II Kings 9:34, 35).
God Almighty saw to it that the hungry dogs despised the brains that conceived the plot that took Naboth's life. God Almighty saw to it that the mangy lean dogs of the back alleys despised the hands that wrote the plot that took Naboth's life. God Almighty saw to it that the lousy dogs which ate carrion despised the feet that walked in Baal's courts and then in Naboth's vineyard.
These soldiers of Jehu went back to Jehu and said: "We went to bury her, 0 king, but the dogs had eaten her!"
And Jehu replied:
This is the word of the Lord, which he spake by his servant Elijah the Tishbite saying, In the portion of Jezreel shall dogs eat the flesh of Jezebel. And the carcase of Jezebel shall be as dung upon the face of the field in the portion of Jezreel; so that they shall not say, This is Jezebel (II Kings 9:36, 37).
Thus perished a female demon, the most infamous queen who ever wore a royal diadem.
"Pay Day — Someday!" God said it — and it was done! Yes, and from this we learn the power and certainty of God in carrying out His own retributive providence, that men might know that His justice slumbereth not. Even though the mill of God grinds slowly, it grinds to powder.
Yes, the judgments of God often have heels and travel slowly. But they always have iron hands and crush completely.
And when I see Ahab fall in his chariot and when I see the dogs eating Jezebel by the walls of Jezreel, I say, as the Scripture saith: "'0 that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments; then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea" (Isa. 48:18). And as I remember that the gains of ungodliness are weighted with the curse of God, I ask you: "'Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not?" (Isa. 55:2).
And the only way I know for any man or woman on earth to escape the sinner's payday on earth and the sinner's hell beyond — making sure of the Christian's payday on earth and the Christian's heaven beyond the Christian's payday — is through Christ Jesus, who took the sinner's place upon the Cross, becoming for all sinners all that God must judge, that sinners through faith in Christ Jesus might become all that God cannot judge.
Back to David Sisler's Home Page