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.” 1Kings 18:17-18 (KJV)
After the death of Solomon, the great Kingdom of Israel was divided. It would never be known again as one Kingdom. It would now be known in the North as Israel, but in the South, the Tribes would be known as Judah . From the very outset, the Northern Kings were, almost without exception, wicked. They were idolatrous men. They introduced- brought into Israel- idols from their heathen neighbors.
Among these is one of my favorite bible characters - Old testament characters, a king by the name of Ahab. None of the previous kings, or all of them put together, were as wicked as Ahab. You have heard me say before when taking about Ahab, the bible says that Ahab did more to provoke God than all of the Kings in Israel’s history, and I always chuckle, because when God talks about Ahab, God has nothing good to say about him.
You know when God has nothing good to say about you, you are in bad shape! Ahab provoked God; he tried God’s patience. He would be warned and then ignore the warning. Judgment would come and he would ignore the judgment. He did more to provoke God than any King in Israel’s history.
I want you to know my brothers and sisters, that God is long suffering. He is full of grace, but sooner or later judgment will come. During the reign of King Ahab, judgment came. This King had been warned. Let me tell you about it. I have told you about his wife Jezebel. She was unruly, ungodly, and unmanageable. She was a pagan queen who brought into God’s holy nation her pagan gods and forced Israel to worship them. God tried to warn him, and he would not hear, and God’s judgment visited the people.
Whenever God’s people choose to ignore God’s warning, plagues and punishment are sure to come. Because of their sins, God sent plagues in the midst of Ahab’s hellish reign God had a prophet. Ahab had promised to kill all of the prophets. Someone in his own household by the name of Obadiah was a godly man, and Obadiah hid all of the prophets of Israel in caves and fed them. Elijah went into hiding, but in the midst of all of this God raised up Elijah-fearlessly raised up Elijah- to speak what God wanted him to say. We ought not make any mistake about it my brothers and sisters; God always will have someone who will speak for him. The Lord God Jehovah is never without a witness. He always will have someone to speak for him.
There was Elijah, through whom God dealt with Ahab and Israel. One day God sends Elijah to tell Ahab that for three years, it would not rain. No rain, dew would not even fall from the sky. The heavens were shut up. And because the heavens were shut up there was a scarcity of food and it resulted in famine. Things got pretty bad. But in the third year of the drought, and in the midst of this famine, God commands Elijah. He says, “Go back and tell Ahab that rain is on the way.” And the text says- you have heard it read this morning-the text tells us of a meeting between Prophet Elijah and King Ahab.
Elijah had been the one who announced the impending doom - since he brought the bad news, Ahab blamed him for the misery- since he brought the message. You know sometimes the messenger gets killed just because he brought bad news. Elijah brings the news, to Ahab and Ahab blamed him for the poverty and for the want and misery and all of the suffering. The King looks up and sees the prophet, and he says, “oh there you are. You are the worst, the biggest troublemaker in all of Israel.” Its amazing how, when trouble comes, people will look at everything and everyone else and everywhere else instead of looking at themselves. It is easier for Ahab to blame the prophets rather than the people. It was a misguided blame.
Look at it, “You are” he says to the prophet the “worst trouble maker in all of Israel. You put us in this mess.” That is what he is saying. Well look at us and look at our day. It is easier for us to blame the schools and the police, government and Internet ,than for us to take responsibility for ourselves. I must say to you my brothers and sisters that whether we want to acknowledge it or not, whatever we see going on in our society today is symptomatic of the home. I need to say that again. Let me put it another way for you. Whatever plagues our communities is a reflection on what has happened to the home. In our homes we are fragmented, torn apart. In our homes God has been left out and our family prayer time has been become extinct. We come and go in our homes by shifts. Yet men and women blame everything else and everyone else instead of saying lets get our homes together.
Elijah knew that he was coming in the name of the Lord, so he would not be cowed by the anger of the King. He knew that it was Ahab that had caused the trouble. He knew that it was Ahab who had sinned. But the prophet is not slow to answer the King. Listen to what he says: “Oh King Ahab, I am not the one who has caused the trouble. Its you and your father. You King and the King before you have caused this problem. Look at what you have done. You have led the people into Baal worship. Worshiping idol gods. It is you and your father.” You know my brothers and sisters, sometimes the judgment of the Lord is immediate and other times it is slow coming, but sooner or later judgment will come.
Listen to the case Elijah proposes to the King. He says; “You have forsaken the commandments of God. You have gone to worship Baal. You have left the Lord God Jehovah and you are bowing down to idols. You have left the God that fed you in the wilderness. You have left the God who guided you by a cloud by day and a pillow of fire by night. And you are worshiping idols; you are following after Baalum. Ahab, you and your father are the troublemakers.”
I must say to you this morning that whenever men and women forsake the commandments of God, trouble is on the horizon . When I brooded over this text I wondered what would this text have to do with us this morning. There are a few things I want to say to you.
First of all, troublemakers, the true troublemaker in this world, are those who forsake the commandments of God. Elijah is emphatic in his assertion that Ahab was the troublemaker, that the real cause of the trouble was sin. I told you he married a woman who was a pagan queen and left the Lord God Jehovah. He turned his back on God, and when he began to worship, you know the people did also. They worshiped idols also. God has proven that He will not be mocked. If He has blessed us it is our responsibility to worship Him. If God has provided for us, it is our responsibility to worship Him, but I am amazed how often God can bless us with things, stuff, and we know that it has come from God. We know that we have not gotten them on our own, and you know what we end up doing? We end up leaving God and worshiping the stuff!
I must caution you, the words of our God found in the first testament are still alive today. “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” That is God talking. Did you hear him? You know what he is saying. “Don’t worship anything or anyone else other than me.” Ahab had misidentified the problem. He was the troublemaker. His sins had caused the trouble. And that has always been the case, we misidentify the problems.
God created man and put him in a perfect world - Adam and Eve, but man sinned, turned away from the commandments of the Lord, and his trouble began. He was driven out into the darkness of misery, the darkness of death. From that day to this very hour the curse of sin lies heavily upon this world, upon you and me and every son and daughter of Adam must suffer because of it.
Do you remember the judgment? After the fall of man, God says to them thorns and thistles are brought forth. Look at our world - with its world filled with trouble and sorrow; heartache and pain; war and all the misery of war; look at our world; sickness and pestilence; death is stomping through our world. Men and women die so fast that they can hardly be put away. I want to offer this warning this morning. It troubles me as it ought to trouble you, but the end is not yet. The handwriting is on the wall. That handwriting indicates that the misery before us is just a tip of the iceberg. I don’t mean to be a prophet of gloom and doom this morning, but I must say to you that because of our waywardness - and I am talking to church people now, because of the waywardness and the “lackadaisicalness” of the church more trouble is on the way.
Look at us, we shutter when we begin to think of the future. Men philosophize about the causes of our present condition. We point to each other because we are different from each other - we speak differently and our social levels are different and our educational levels are different. We say, you are different, so you’ve cause the trouble. Deep down beneath all of the surface causes is man’s sin. Sin: we don’t like to talk about sin often. But is sin is alive and well . Some time ago, one of our asked what sin was and the answer came back: Sin is man shaking his fist in the face of God. My sin, your sin, the sin of the world we have turned away from the Lord God Jehovah. We live as if there is no God. We talk about how we are self made men and women. I have often wondered what a self made man or woman is. We are in bad enough shape when God makes us. Lord help us if we make ourselves. We live as though God does not exist. We set up idols. We glorify ourselves our own might. We boast of our own achievements. Troublemakers are those who forsake God. And again I remind you that God is a jealous God!
Oh that men would learn to realize that they destroy themselves with sinning. I heard someone once say, when talking about sin, that sin will take you always further than you want to go, and keep you longer than you want to stay. And when sin is finished with you, you are good for nothing. When you have gone through Satan’s mill, you are cast away. How many people have lived as if life was an endless party - abused their bodies, lived on the high part of the mountain, had it all together? The young people of this church would call this “living large.” Now that Satan has finished with them they are at the lowest point.
There is a parable in the New Testament about a young man who had it all together. He had family, he had wealth, and then one day he got the idea that he could make it on his own, so he asked for his inheritance. He hadn’t worked for it, but he ask his father for his inheritance while his father lived, and went into a far country and threw one party after another; but when the money was gone, the friends were also gone. He found himself in a place where he did not want to be. There with the hogs he took a job he hated, and then, thank God , he thought on his ways, the only thing that gets us out of Satan’s trap is to think on our ways. He thought, “I am in bad shape.” The Kings James version says “He came to himself.” I am not doing as well as any of my fathers servants. I am going to go back home. When Satan finishes with you the only thing to do is to go back to Jesus Christ.
There is something else I want to say to you about this identifying troublemakers: The only way to truly know who the troublemakers are is to hold the situation up against the Word of God. Without the Word of God we end up without God as our guide; we end up having eyes and not being able to see. Ears and not being able to hear. That is one of the terrible effects of sin. It makes you think you are right and everybody else is wrong. It makes you think that your idea is the only idea worth anything. It makes you think that your words are the only words that matter, and everybody else’s opinion matters nothing. It makes you think that you are the best and everybody is worse off than you. Sin makes you think that you are superior and everybody else is inferior.
That was Ahab’s problem. The prophet of God had pronounced a divine sentence, by his words the heavens were shut up. It did not rain for three years; it caused misery and death and starvation as Israel had never seen before, and King Ahab blamed someone else for the trouble.
Listen to Ahab: “Oh you are the one who is causing all of this trouble in Israel.” He tried to lay blame on the prophet of God. He did not see, would not see, that he was the problem. Man has always had that problem, from the beginning of time; when Adam, sinned he blamed Eve - closed his eyes to his own faults and blamed Eve, and Eve blamed the serpent, and both blamed God.
Look at the scripture. Cain blamed Abel; Saul blamed David; and even today there are what I call some 21st century Pharisee’s where, instead of searching their own hearts and their own behavior, they blame everything and everybody else instead of looking internally and asking “what have I done to bring this about?” Where are the people? We have been told to pray all across this nation. We are holding prayer services in every nook and cranny of this nation. Where are the people who bow down on their knees and confess their sins?
Somewhere along the way my brothers and sisters (I shared this with our teenagers the other night) - somewhere along the way we have to realize that true prayer also acknowledges wrong doing. We don’t mind pointing the fingers at someone else. We condemn and we sentence other people to the nether parts of hell, but we have to ask ourselves what have we done? Who among us is blameless? Who among us is perfect and has no sin, of either commission or omission?
Have you always been sincere in your faith? Have you always been walking as you are walking now in Christ? I think now my brothers and sisters that, with all that is happening in our world, this is a perfect time for us as a nation, as members of a church, as the people of God , and as individuals to look into the mirror. We ought to see ourselves by the word of God, according to the word of God and according to God’s divine standards -not some of the things we make up and call the church. I am talking about God’s divine standard. God has a standard and His standard is rooted in eternity.
His standard require of us to deny ourselves. His standard requires self sacrifice. God’s standard compels for us to rearrange our priorities. The prophet offered this stern rebuke. He said it is you and your fathers. You notice when you read this passage that Ahab has no defense. He couldn’t even argue with the prophet.
My brothers and sisters, we have no defense . The only thing we can do is fall on our knees and cry out “Lord Have Mercy.” The Lord God is a gracious God. He will forgive sins. He will restore those who repent. I told you that He is a jealous God. I told you that He punishes sin, that He chastens the guilty. But, there is something else you ought to know about God. God is not only gracious, but he is merciful. I thank God for that. If we repent, if we cry out to Him, if we turn our hearts toward Him, He is merciful. Ahab and his people had provoked God to righteous anger. For three years God’s hands were heavy upon them, but God again called the prophet Elijah and told the prophet to go and tell Israel that God is going to send rain. Tell the King that it will rain. So Elijah called the children of Israel together on Mount Carmel and it was time for a show down.
I ought to say to you my brothers and sisters, that wherever you are in your Christian walk, sooner or later it is going to be time for a show down. Sooner or later everything we have been singing and praying and talking about, all of the things that we believe that God is all about, sooner or later in our walk with God we are going to have to prove it.
You have been saying if father and mother forsake me, the Lord will lift me up. Sooner or later you are going to have to stand in situations when mother and father are nowhere around. You have been saying that God will make a way when there is no way; sooner or later you will be brought into situations where you cannot see the way. You are going to have to stand and trust God. The biblical account informs us that it is time for a show down and Elijah shows up with all of Israel there watching. The Prophet Elijah is there and priests of Baal are there and they are helpless. You remember the story. They called on Baal and Baal does not answer them. But the Lord through Elijah’s prayer comes down out of heaven and set the altar ablaze.
We ought to learn from this. We ought to use their example. I said God is merciful; he was merciful then and he is merciful now. He sent His only Begotten Son to us, with one purpose. Oh, he healed the sick, gave sight to the blind, but the purpose for His coming to earth was to remove the curse of sin that was stamped upon all of our lives. God made His Son sin so that we might one day stand before Him sinless. We need to be told that God in His mercy and love sent us a Savior in order that men may one day stand before Him perfect. The book of Jude says: “One day we will stand before Him faultless.” No matter how good you are now, no matter how good I am now , I cannot boast of the fact that I am faultless. But one day Jesus will present us to the Father - Please God - faultless! God is speaking in stern words. Do you see His hands of wrath in this world? Do you hear His voice? We may not like what He is saying, we may not like the tone of His voice, but if we are people of God we cannot deny the fact that God is speaking. My prayer is that God in His grace and God in His mercy will lead His people back to Him. We cannot misidentify troublemakers. In the words of that Old Spiritual - each of us stands and say
“its me, its me oh Lord, standing in the need of prayer!
Not my mother, not my father, but its me oh lord,
standing in the need of prayer!”
One can carefully, easily find fault in others, but to stand and acknowledge that “I’ve messed up.I am not all I should be. I’ve done wrong.” It keeps many people from coming to God. Once we have identified the trouble, it calls for only one thing. We must repent! We have to stake our entire claim in the name of Jesus, and Jesus only. They will call you fanatics when you decide that “... it is Jesus in the morning and Jesus in the noonday and Jesus when the sun goes down.” They will say that serving God doesn’t require all of that. Well, I say that if you believe that God has done so much for you it takes that and more. Jesus and Jesus only, not by power - Jesus! Not by fame - Jesus! Not by military might - Jesus! Not in where you live or where you are going to live or who you know. Its Jesus and Jesus only! Its Christ only always !
My hope is built on nothing less
than Jesus blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
but wholly lean on Jesus Name.
On Christ the solid rock I stand,
all other ground is sinking sand.