Troubler of Israel

*image originated here

1 Kings 16 – 20

This past year I had the opportunity to vote for the first time. A lot of thought and prayer went into which little box I was going to mark in November. I spent plenty of time watching the news, listening to the criticisms, reading about the controversies, and talking to other adults I respected about who they were going to vote for and why. My problem was that none of the candidates were people who honored God with their words, actions or lives and that was the most important factor for me because of these examples I had seen all my life in the Bible and in the world. Leaders who follow God and love Him are blessed every other leader doesn’t last very long and their reign is filled with all kinds of misery. When it came down to which box to mark that November I chose what I believed to be the lesser of evils and I wouldn’t change that choice now. In America, we get stuck on this thought that we the people are ones who put our leaders in power and while that to great extent is true, God was there first. Just as in the ancient days of these kings is God who raises up the leaders of the nations¬†and commands them to walk in His ways. God says to Baasha King of Israel,

“I lifted you up out of the dust and made you leader of my people Israel, but you walked in the ways of Jeroboam and caused my people Israel to sin and to provoke me to anger by their sins.”

1 Kings 16:2

If you’re upset about the way things are being run in this country or in any other, know that God has raised up that leader and will hold them accountable for their actions. He tore apart these kings’ families, wealth, and peace. He left them no refuge to turn to and they were brought down by the same treachery they lived in. King Zimri of Israel only reigned for a week before God brought him down to the grave! The truly devastating thing is their sons who succeeded them never learned from their suffering. One king the Bible focuses on significantly is King Ahab.

He not only considered it trivial to commit the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, but he also married Jezebel daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and began to serve Baal and worship him.

1 Kings 16:31

Jezebel not only turns her husband away from God, she actively makes war against God’s followers. She gives the orders to hunt down all the men of God in the land and kill them!

Their reign is so bad that one of their subjects goes as far as to rebuild Jericho and if you didn’t think God was serious about punishing that sin remember the curse on the city when it was torn down because God fought for Israel.

Hiel of Bethel rebuilt Jericho. He laid its foundations at the cost of his firstborn son Abiram, and he set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub, in accordance with the word of the LORD spoken by Joshua son of Nun.

1 Kings 16:34 (the curse is in Joshua 6:26)

In this evil day, one of God’s greatest prophets was Elijah. He brought famine and drought upon the land then fled to the wilderness where God protected him and provided for him. Elijah was fed by ravens until the stream dried up where he was staying. Then God called a widow to provide for Elijah at Zarephath. Even she did not have much, Elijah met her when she was gathering sticks for the fire over which she would prepare her and her son’s last meal. All they had was a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug, but what they had they were willing to share. Elijah blessed them and told her not to be afraid until the rain came again there would always be flour in that jar and oil in that jug. Elijah lived with them and was provided for all the days of famine. The widow’s son became ill during this time and died, but Elijah by the power of God brought the boy back to life. By this, the widow knew for certain that Elijah loved and followed God.

Three years later God called Elijah to go back and present himself to Ahab so the famine would be ended. Along the way, Elijah meets Obadiah.

Obadiah was devout believer in the LORD. While Jezebel was killing off the LORD’s prophets, Obadiah had taken a hundred prophets and hidden them in two caves, fifty in each, and had supplied them with food and water.

1 Kings 18:3

Obadiah was also in charge of King Ahab’s palace so Elijah sends him to tell the king he knows where Elijah is. Obadiah is greatly afraid if he goes to the king and tells him he knows where his greatest enemy is and Elijah doesn’t show, Obadiah will be killed.

But Elijah does show and another part of Ahab’s attitude towards his sin is revealed. Ahab takes no personal responsibility for the misery he has caused but addresses Elijah as the troubler of Israel.

“I have not made trouble for Israel,” Elijah replied. “But you and your father’s family have. You have abandoned the LORD’s commands and have followed the Baals.”

1 Kings 18:18

The priests of the Baals are summoned by Elijah and the king as the prophet sets up a test. They will each make a sacrifice the priests will sacrifice to Baal and Elijah to God. Whichever one responds is the true God. The priests make their sacrifice and cry out to Baal until noon but there is now response. The Elijah restores the altar of the LORD and digs a trench around it, then he has the people poor enough water on the sacrifice and wood that the water fill the trench, finally, he prays.

“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.”

1 Kings 18:37

Not only does God’s fire consume the sacrifice, but it also licks up the water in the trench. The people are in awe and each and every one of the priests of Baal are rounded up and killed. The skies grow dark with rain and famine is at last ended.

Ahab tells Jezebel all that Elijah has done and she sends him a message threatening his death just as he killed the priests of Baal. Elijah flees for his life, yet at this point, he has had enough!

He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down and fell asleep.

1 Kings 19:4

Instead of allowing Elijah to lay down and die, God sends and angel to wake him, to comfort him and give him food. God sent him sustenance. God brings Elijah to His holy mountain and asks the same question a lot of people who desire death before its time are asking.

“What are you doing here, Elijah?”

1 Kings 19:13

Elijah begins with what he has done, served God zealously. Then Elijah begins to list the bad things that have happened, God’s people have turned away from Him, they have rejected Him, torn down His altars, and are now trying to kill Elijah and he alone serves God.

God tells him to go back to work doing His will and what is going to happen in judgment over the next few years to these kings. He also tells Elijah that he is not alone, there are 7,000 more in Israel who still faithfully serve God. Lastly, God tells him to go find Elisha because he is going to be Elijah’s successor. Elijah does go back and everything happens just as the LORD has told him. In some of this God uses King Ahab to complete His will. However, Ahab is still rebelling against God and makes a treaty with one of the kings God commanded should be killed. Another prophet is sent to tell Ahab what God thinks of his sin,

“This is what the LORD says: ‘You have set free a man I had determined should die. Therefore it is your life for his life, your people for his people.'” Sullen and angry, the king of Israel went to his palace in Samaria.

1 Kings 20:42-43

The end of these two evil rulers is coming. What is most important is that God knows the path it will take and is more than capable of using their bad for good. He is still in control even in one of the darkest hours of Israel’s history. God stands by His followers and sustains them with His mighty and compassionate hand. Whatever happens in each of our countries I pray God would do the same for each of us.

 

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