The Two Troublers of Israel – 1 Kings 18:17-18
Sermon preached by Joshua Dykes on February 14th, 2021
I invite you to turn in your Bibles to 1 Kings 18:7-19. This is the passage of our focus for this morning. Again, we are 1 Kings 18:7-19.
Now as Obadiah was on his way, suddenly Elijah met him; and he recognized him, and fell on his face, and said, “Is that you, my lord Elijah?” And he answered him, “It is I. Go, tell your master, ‘Elijah is here.’” So he said, “How have I sinned, that you are delivering your servant into the hand of Ahab, to kill me? As the LORD your God lives, there is no nation or kingdom where my master has not sent someone to hunt for you; and when they said, ‘He is not here,’ he took an oath from the kingdom or nation that they could not find you. And now you say, ‘Go, tell your master, “Elijah is here”’! And it shall come to pass, as soon as I am gone from you, that the Spirit of the Lord will carry you to a place I do not know; so when I go and tell Ahab, and he cannot find you, he will kill me. But I your servant have feared the Lord from my youth. Was it not reported to my lord what I did when Jezebel killed the prophets of the LORD, how I hid one hundred men of the LORD’s prophets, fifty to a cave, and fed them with bread and water? And now, you say, ‘Go, tell your master, “Elijah is here.”’He will kill me! Then Elijah said, “As the LORD of hosts lives, before whom I stand, I will surely present myself to him today.” So Obadiah went to meet Ahab, and told him; and Ahab went to meet Elijah. Then it happened, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said to him, “Is that you, O troubler of Israel?” And he answered, “I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father’s house have, in that you have forsaken the commandments of the LORD and have followed the Baals. Now therefore, send and gather all Israel to me on Mount Carmel, the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal, and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.”
This morning, the title of our lesson is The Two Troublers of Israel. This lesson will be divided into two parts. In the first part, we will discuss the positive troubler of Israel; and in the second part of this lesson, which will be far longer, we will discuss the negative troubler of Israel. Then, at the end of this lesson, I want us to answer this question within yourselves, this is a question of self-reflection: what kind of troubler am I?
Before we dive into this lesson, I want us to consider the different people within a classroom at a school. In the classroom, we have the teacher. The teacher teaches the students the information that they need so that they can grow up and be competent working adults. Then we have the students who sit at the front of the classroom and pay attention to everything that is being taught. Among those who sit at the front, we might have some who we might refer to as the teacher’s pet. They do absolutely everything that the teacher expects of them, then some. In the middle of the classroom, we have some of the students who are there to do the work that is expected of them, but they are not fully engaged in the class. Maybe, some of them might even doze off in the middle of the class lecture. In the back of the classroom, we have the students who are either hardly paying attention, or not paying attention to the teacher at all. In this part of the classroom, we might have what is usually called the “class-clown.” These class clowns are often also referred to as “trouble-makers.” They bring disorder to the classroom and constantly disrupt the teacher and other students from focusing on their work.
This morning, I want us to talk about two individuals who “brought trouble” to the Kingdom of Israel, one of them in a good way, and the other one in a bad way. One of them is more comparable to a teacher’s pet, honoring God and doing whatever he could to please Him. However, the other one was a clown and a fool. Reread with me 1 Kings 18:17, near the very end of the passage that was just read a little ago.
Then it happened, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said to him, “Is that you, O troubler of Israel?”
Let us examine the positive “troubler of Israel.” In this passage, we read of Elijah, a prophet of God. He is described as being the troubler of Israel. In the sense of him being a criminal who broke the laws put in place by Queen Jezebel and King Ahab, Elijah brought trouble to Israel. As with any criminal, Elijah was a troublemaker in the eyes of the King and Queen. However, in the eyes of God, Elijah is the teacher’s pet!
Later on in chapter 18, we read of Elijah offering a sacrifice to God thus proving that the God of Israel was still and is always still in control. Thanks to Elijah, the people of Israel as well as the prophets who were hidden with Obadiah were able to keep their lives. Elijah obeyed the LORD and the prescribed law by putting to death all 450 prophets of Baal who were present at Mount Carmel, thus keeping and fulfilling the LORD’s promise in Deuteronomy 11:26-28
Behold, I set before you today a blessing and a curse; the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the LORD your God which I commanded you today; and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn aside from the way which I command you today, to go after other gods which you have not known.
In 1 Kings 17, this is the first place we read of Elijah. From the very beginning, we read of a man that has his heart set on God. In verses 2-4, God called him to move to a different land. In verse 5, it says he did according to the word of the LORD. in verse 9, God tells Elijah to move yet again to the land of Sidon, and in verse 10, he did. In Chapter 18:1, Elijah is told to present himself to Ahab, and we see in verse 2, that he went to present himself to Ahab. In 1 Kings 19, following Elijah’s bout with depression and anxiety over Jezebel trying to hunt him down, God tells Elijah to anoint Elisha as his servant and as a future prophet, and Elijah does it. Elijah pleases the LORD and this is why he does not see death. The only other man to not see death was Enoch in Genesis 6:24.
There is a man in the New Testament who is compared to Elijah, and his name is John the Baptist. In John 1:21, the priests and Levites ask him if he is Elijah. And he states that he is neither Elijah, nor a prophet! Although Christ does later confirm that he is a prophet (Matthew 11:7-11) and more than a prophet, John the Baptist understood that pleasing God and fulfilling his duties were more important than status and recognition as a prophet. Likewise, Elijah understood that to please God was worth breaking the laws set in place by Ahab and Jezebel. This is what made him the troubler of Israel, not in a negative way, but in a positive way. As a matter of fact, one could hardly consider him the troubler of Israel. As a matter of fact, we are going to see Elijah reveal who the real troubler of Israel is when we revisit our scripture for this morning. And for us, the living stones and holy priesthood, are we doing everything we can to fulfill our duties to the Lord and to the Church. In Galatians 6:16, the Church is described as being the Israel of God. Are we doing the best we can to do whatever we can to please God and to keep the kingdom holy?
Let us revisit 1 Kings 18, and I want us to look at verse 18, here we get a glimpse of the negative troubler of Israel. Most of our time for the lesson this morning will be spent focusing on this troubler of Israel. Please read with me.
And he answered, “I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father’s house have, in that you [Ahab] have forsaken the commandments of the LORD and have followed the Baals.
The real troubler of Israel, given the context of this passage and story, is King Ahab – King over all Israel! The one bringing trouble to Israel was not the prophet or messenger from God, the troubler was the one who was put in charge of the land he was supposed to keep!
Consider this story from the battlefield. There was a commander of an infantry division during the first world war who wanted to deliver a message to one of the sergeants. Back then, there was no telephone in the battlefield, and morse code transmissions could easily be intercepted by the enemy. So the best way to send a message was through a messenger. So the commander sent one of his messengers across the battlelines to deliver the message. And being a messenger was no easy task, for there was always a high chance of being killed or captured by the enemy. The messenger makes, after several hours of travelling, finally makes it to the sergeant to deliver the battle commands to the sergeant. However, the sergeant refused to have his men carry out the commander’s orders, and instead went through with his own plans. As a result of not listening to the commander’s instructions delivered by the messenger, the sergeant lost most of his men. Word got back to the commander that the sergeant had been disobedient, so the sergeant was court martialed. The first thing the sergeant did was throw the messenger and the commander under the bus, and gave the lie that the messenger was the one who relayed a bad message. However, the commander knew that it was the sergeant who was the one who jeopardized the mission and brought trouble to the soldiers on the battlefield.
Now this story might have seemed kind of long, but I do not want you to miss the point. Ahab, the one put in charge over Israel, tried to throw Elijah under the metaphorical bus. “Is that you, O troubler of Israel?” However, Elijah gives him the reality check he needs. “I have not troubled Israel, but you.” And I want us to notice the two charges that Elijah brings against Ahab. And I want us to pay attention to these charges because both of them can apply to us today if we are not careful.
Elijah tells Ahab, “I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father’s house have in that you have forsaken the commandments of the LORD.” Now Ahab is not alone in this arena! We have all sinned against God and forsaken the commands of our Lord. Consider what Paul writes in Ephesians 2:1-3.
And you he made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.
Every single one of us were dead in our trespasses and sins! And Paul also states in Romans 3:23 that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” If we have sinned, then at some point, we have forsaken the commands of God. And when Elijah is confronting Ahab, he is saying that this is one thing that makes him the true troubler of Israel.
As was already mentioned, the church is the spiritual Israel. So if we disobey our God and forsake his commandments, then we bring trouble to the Church. It is true that God’s love for us is part of the reason Jesus went to the cross, John 3:16 clearly states that. However, we need to understand that it was our sins and transgressions that put him there. In Isaiah 53:3-7, the prophet tells us about the suffering savior before he even comes into this world.
He is despised and rejected by men, a Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way; and the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and He was afflicted. Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as sheep before its shearers is silent, so he opened not His mouth.
Because of our transgressions, he was put on the cross. Because of our refusals to obey the commands of our Lord, he was hung upon the tree. Yes, it was love that put Christ on the cross, but it was our separation from God that had to make it that way. Consider all that Christ, the head of the church had to endure so that we could be free from the bondage of sin. He endured calvary, not so that we may continue in sin (Romans 6:1-2), but so that we can live for righteousness. In 1 Peter 2:24, Peter states that it is through him that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness.
Now, why is it that neglecting the commands of God can make us troublers of the Spiritual Israel? In Matthew 28, when Jesus is commissioning his followers, he states in verses 19-20 “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe ALL THINGS THAT I HAVE COMMANDED YOU; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Jesus here is giving a command to go, in that command is a command to teach people to observe all that he has commanded. I know that sounded like a mouth full; But in order to be people who keep the Church healthy, we have to do our part to observe all that has been commanded by God. When we sin and break the commandments of God, we ruin the health of the Church. In 1 Corinthians, Paul is writing to a very hypocritical congregation. The Church is dealing with a lot of internal wickedness. And in Chapter 5 beginning in verse 6, Paul writes “purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sanctified for us.” Here Paul is talking about immoral Church members who continue to live willfully in a lifestyle of sin. This is not a sermon on Church discipline, but I want us to apply this passage to how we discipline ourselves. Let’s purge the sin that is within us and obey the commandments of God!
In 1 Corinthians 15:34, Paul writes
Awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame.
In Colossians 2:6, Paul writes
As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.
As Christians, we have each received Christ as our Lord, therefore we need to walk in his statutes and obey his commands. But notice, it says that we need to abound in it with thanksgiving. Are we thankful for the commands that have been given by God? If Ahab or any of the kings before him would have been thankful for the commands that had been given to him by God, I am absolutely certain that his heart would not have been as rebellious. David, a man after God’s own heart, writes in Psalms 19:8 “The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.” David here, seems to rejoice in the fact that God has established a set of commands. God’s commands give us a reason to rejoice because we do not have to be the ones establishing moral laws. The God who knows all and is wise is the one who gets to establish the rules, not a feeble human such as I. So if we want to avoid being troublers of Israel, we need to keep the commandments of God.
Please turn back with me, if you will, to 1 Kings 18:18. Let us reread this statement by Elijah so that we can gather what the other aspect is of the negative troubler of Israel.
I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father’s house have, in that you have forsaken the commandments of the LORD and have followed the Baals.
Ahab brought trouble to Israel because he continued the evil pattern of idol worship. He and his wife Jezebel, according to 1 Kings 16, made an altar and a temple to Baal in the region of Samaria. And in 1 Kings 16:33, it says that he made a wooden image, and that he did more to anger the Lord than all the kings of Israel who were before him. It is my personal belief that it is no coincidence that in this passage, both the mention of him making the image and of him doing more to anger the LORD are side by side. We anger God when we do not recognize Him as our LORD.
Elijah had put God first in his life. Ahab did not put God first. Even after God sent fire in chapter 18 to consume Elijah’s sacrifice, Ahab and his wife chose to follow the Baals.
Now how does this apply to the Christian, today? I argue that the Christian that doesn’t put God first is a troubler of the Spiritual Israel, that is the Church. Now that might seem kind of harsh, but I want you to consider this scenario:
A kid in the classroom refuses to pay attention in class and does not receive the instruction of his teacher. Although he may not be the class-clown, he continues to play on his phone and watch netflix while the teacher is trying to tell all the students how to solve the problem for the test.
This kid might not be a hooligan or a fool in the sense that he acts up in class and goofs around, however, his actions distract himself and fellow students from respecting the teacher. In the same regard, when we give other things attention that are not God, we become the trouble-maker who refuses to acknowledge Him as our Lord. Consider what John writes in 1 John 2:15-17.
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lusts of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.
One of the things that we need to understand that the teachings of the world always contrast the teachings of scripture. The world is trying to distract us from God. Peter warns us that the devil is our adversary and is walking about it like a roaring lion (1 Peter 5:8). He entices us with things that are desirable to the eye just like he enticed Eve to partake of the fruit of the tree. He entices us with sin and he wants us to put pleasure before God.
Consider the Israelites in Exodus 32. They had gone to Aaron and asked for him to make gods and idols that they might worship. Aaron did as the people of Israel asked and he made for them a golden calf. When Moses saw what was being done, in verse 19, I want you to see his reaction:
So it was, as soon as he came near the camp, that he saw the calf and the dancing. So Moses’ anger became hot, and he cast the tablets out of his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain. Then he took the calf which they had made, burned it in the fire, and ground it into powder; and he scattered it on the water and made the children of Israel drink it.
Now Moses was not the troubler of Israel for telling the people of Israel the sin they had committed against God. The troubler of Israel in this story is the people and Aaron. I want us to consider these golden calves that we often put before God. And these are the idols that make us troublers of Israel.
These are just some of the things that we often put before God. These are some of the Baals and golden calves that drive a wedge between us and God. If we are going to be people who do not follow the pattern of Ahab, then we need to be people that follow God as opposed to other things. John summarizes this up well when he concludes 1 John.
Little children, keep yourselves from idols.
This is not just some advice, this is an urgent command that we need to obey in order to people that are not trouble-makers but God-pleasers.
To close this lesson, I want to ask you this question: which troubler are you? Do you strive to be an Elijah, or do you strive to be an Ahab? Do you try your best to follow the commandments of God, and you do everything to put Him first, or are you ignoring the commandments of God to follow your own desires, giving God a lesser place and priority in your life?
This morning, only you can answer the question within yourself. You are the only one that can make a conscious decision to change your life and give yourself wholly to Christ. Giving yourself to Him in baptism and walking in newness of life is not just the right way, it is the only way. This morning, if you have any need, any need at all, please come as we stand and sing.