ENEMY OF THE STATE
Character in a time of crisis Day seven.
( 1 Kings 18:17)
For Ahab to describe Elijah as “you Troubler of Israel” ( 1 Kings 18:17) was in effect to pronounce a death sentence on the prophet. The word of the king was law and would, in ancient times, lead to a quick and summary execution. Especially if the king was accusing a subject of treason, as Ahab seems to be doing.
But who in this passage is the ‘ Enemy of the State’? The real clue is found in what scripture has to say of King Ahab himself. 1 Kings 16 gives us a potted history/ biography of several kings of Israel, and unsurprisingly Ahab is deemed to be the worst of them. Ahab was the son of Omri, an able but evil king, who fortified Samaria and made it his impressive capital city. ( 1 Kings 16:24) The record of Omri is that although admired by even other nations, ‘he did evil in the sight of the Lord’ ( 1 Kings 16:25). However, he was as nothing compared to his son, as Ahab did more evil than all who were before him’ ( 1 Kings 16:30) The book of second kings describes Ahab in these terms;
( There was none who sold himself to do what was evil in the sight of the Lord like Ahab, whom Jezebel his wife incited. 26 He acted very abominably in going after idols, as the Amorites had done, whom the Lord cast out before the people of Israel. (1 Kings 21:25-26 ESV)
So Ahab is ‘the troubler of Israel’, not Elijah, and Elijah is not slow in pointing out this fact to the king, again an act of great courage. (1 Kings 18:18)
It is now let’s remember the third year of drought and famine ( 18:1), and Ahab has asked his servant, Obadiah, to go and look for pasture for his horses and mules, as the severe drought would have had a significant effect on grassland. At the heart of Ahab’s kingdom was the valley of Jezreel which in modern-day Israel is a green oasis of very fertile farmland, but without irrigation would turn into dust. Ahab is getting desperate, he needs water, as he needs horses for his military. There is no mention of the people; right now, horses were more important to Ahab. Elijah confronts the king as he has said he would and strange as it may seem the king pays heed to his instructions. The stage is being set for the great confrontation which lay ahead on Mount Carmel.
But who is the troubler of Israel? Ahab’s comment to Elijah is somewhat typical of how the world views Christians. In the Scottish Context, the historian Tom Nairn once famously said:
“Scotland will never be free until the last minister is strangled by the last copy of the Sunday Post.” ( A well known Scottish Sunday newspaper).
This might be an extreme view, but it is one that I am sure many of us will have come across that the reason for society’s ills is god bothering Christians, on the wrong side of history. Yet far from being enemies of the state we are called to pray for the nation and those who lead us;
First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. ( 1 Timothy 2:1-2)
More than any other faith, the Christian faith is often dismissed in our society, as a merely a crude superstition that is stifling progress and even a threat to social cohesion, or simply bigoted, hypocritical and intolerant. Do we expect things to change anytime soon? Well, not unless God does the changing! We are now two weeks into a lockdown caused by the Coronavirus Pandemic. Can we imagine this going for three years? Three years of famine in Israel and the king lays the blame for it at the feet of the man of God Elijah.
Elijah is not the troubler of Israel. The Christian who is walking in God’s light and obedience to His will is never the source of trouble and strife. There may be times when this attends our days, simply because of our lifestyle and faith, but the Christian is never the troubler of Israel. Instead “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. ” (Romans 12:18)