TODAY’S READING: 1 KINGS 16-18
“When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, ‘Is it you, you troubler of Israel?’ And he answered, ‘I have not troubled Israel, but you have, and your father’s house, because you have abandoned the commandments of the Lord and followed the Baals.'” – 1 Kings 18:17-18
Ahab says Elijah is the troubler of Israel. But, Elijah says that Ahab is the troubler of Israel.
What does it mean to be a troubler?
And, who is the real troubler of Israel?
Elijah sought to definitively answer this question by his challenge to the prophets of Baal and Ahab.
Ultimately, Jesus sought to definitively answer this question on the cross.
The Hebrew word for troubler is akar, which means put into disorder, bring into disaster, throw into confusion. It can even mean to entangle.
The first use of this word is in Genesis 34:30, which says, “Then Jacob said to Simeon and Levi, ‘You have brought trouble on me by making me stink to the inhabitants of the land, the Canaanites and the Perizzites.'”
Jacob’s daughter Dinah had been defiled by Shechem. When Jacob’s sons heard this, they were indignant and angry. Hamor, Shechem’s father, asked for Jacob and his sons to make marriages with them And, Shechem said he would do whatever the sons of Jacob would say.
So, the sons of Jacob answered deceitfully. They lied, saying that if every male among Hamor and Shechem were circumcised they would give their daughters to them for marriage. Three days after the men of Hamor and Shechem were circumcised, Simeon and Levi took their swords and killed all the men.
Therefore, the lies and murder of Simeon and Levi led their father Jacob to say that they had caused him trouble.
The next use of akar comes from the account of Achan. He did not keep himself from the things devoted to destruction and Israel lost their very next battle to Ai. When it was found that Achan had lied about the idols he had kept, he was stoned to death.
Once again, the troubler, akar, is linked with lies and murder.
ELIJAH VS. AHAB AND THE 450 PROPHETS OF BAAL
Elijah means my God is Yahweh. Elijah is clearly a picture of Jesus. Prior to 1 Kings 18, Elijah has miraculously fed the widow of Zarephath and himself as raise the widow’s son from the dead, both of which foreshadow two of Jesus’ seven miracles in the gospel of John.
The name Ahab means something like father’s brother of brother of the father. We have already seen that Ahab, like the previous kings of Israel, did evil in the sight of the Lord. Below, we will see who his father really is.
Elijah said that Ahab had abandoned the commandments of the Lord and followed the Baals. In other words, Ahab was deceitful, a liar, because he followed the gods of this world.
In addition to challenging Ahab, Elijah called out his 450 prophets of Baal. Why 450 prophets of Baal? Perhaps it was symbolic of one prophet for every year that it took Israel to possess Canaan as their inheritance since they left Egypt. Acts 13:18-20 says, “And for about forty years he put up with them in the wilderness. And after destroying seven nations in the land of Canaan, he gave them their land as inheritance. All this took about 450 years.”
JESUS VS. THE JEWS
The battle between Elijah and Ahab and the 450 prophets of Baal is very similar to the confrontation between Jesus and the Jews in John 8. In 1 Kings 18:22, Elijah said, “I, even I only, am left a prophet of the Lord, but Baal’s prophets are 450 men.” Like Elijah, Jesus was all alone in his confrontation with the Jews. And, by the end of the confrontation Jesus said in John 8:58, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” Jesus’ claim to be the I Am was the fulfillment of Elijah’s statement “I, even I only, am.”
But, if we look at the confrontation between Jesus and the Jews, then we see that it is the same confrontation as that between Elijah and Ahab and the 450 prophets of Baal – who is the troubler of Israel?
Jesus was trying to explain who the Father was and that with his word Jesus could make them free. But, even the Jews who had believed him (!!!) kept responding “we are offpsring of Abraham” and “Abraham is our father.” In essence, the Jews were saying, “We know who our father is and you are just troubling us with this business of being bound and enslaved to sin.”
So, Jesus took it up a notch. In John 8:39-41, he said, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. you are doing the works your father did.”
The Jews insisted their father was God, Yahweh.
In John 8:44, Jesus responded, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is not truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”
Jesus just identified even the Jews who had believed in him as the troublers of Israel. Just like Simeon and Levi, just like Achan, just like Ahab and the 450 prophets of Baal, these Jews were the troublers of Israel because they were like their father the devil – liars and murderers. In this confrontation, they were lying directly to Jesus about their enslavement to sin and later they would murder Jesus.
CHOOSE YOUR STRENGTH – MURDER OR PEACE
In 1 Kings 18:23, Elijah said, “Let two bulls be given to us, and let them choose one bull for themselves.” In the Bible, bulls are a symbol of strength. So, Elijah is letting the 450 prophets of Baals chose the bull, the strength, that is best for them.
But, this foreshadows Jesus just before his crucifixion. The Jews were demanding Jesus be crucified. But, per tradition, the Jews could have a prisoner released because of the feast of passover.
Mark 15:7 says, “And among the rebels in prison, who had committed murder in the insurrection, there was a man called Barabbas.”
So, Matthew 27:17 says, “So when they had gathered, Pilate said to them, ‘Whom you want me to release for you, Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?'”
Then, Matthew 27:20-21 says, “Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. The governor again said to them, ‘Which of the two do you want me to release for you?’ And they said, ‘Barabbas.'”
The Jews had a choice between two bulls. One bull, Barabbas, was a murderer. The other bull, Jesus, was a man of peace, a man that Isaiah 53:9 says had done “no violence.” The Jews chose Barabbas, showing that their strength was found in murder, violence.
CRYING OUT FOR MURDER
So, the 450 prophets of Baal prepared their bull for sacrifice first. 1 Kings 18:26 says, “And they took the bull that was given them, and they prepared it and called upon the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, ‘O Baal, answer us!’ But there was no voice, no one answered.”
Pilate gave the Jews Jesus to be crucified. From morning until noon, the Jews taunted Jesus. Matthew 27:39-44 says, “And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, ‘You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.’ So also the chief priests, with the scribes and elders, mocked him, saying, ‘He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel, let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe him. He trusts in God, let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, “I am the Son of God.”‘ And the robbers who were crucified with him also reviled him in the same way.”
The Jews wanted to Jesus to come down from the cross and prove that he was the king that would deliver them by overthrowing the Roman government with violence. They wanted their king to be a murderer, for that was where they believed strength lied.
But, Jesus said nothing in response. Nor did he die. The gods of this world, the Baals, could not kill him.
DARKNESS FALLS, MOCKING THOSE SEEKING A MURDERER
1 Kings 18:27 says, “And at noon Elijah mocked them, saying, ‘Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.”
Noon is the sixth hour. Luke 23:44 says, “It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land.” The lust for murder of the Jews was thwarted. Their god was unable to kill their sacrifice, Jesus. At noon he was still alive.
JESUS LAID DOWN HIS LIFE AT THE TIME OF THE OFFERING OF THE OBLATION
1 Kings 18:29 says, “And as midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of oblation, but there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention.”
1 Kings 18:36-37 says, “And at the time of the offering of oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, ‘O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.”
Elijah doused the bull that he offered with water. This is a symbol that Jesus offered himself as a bull who was strength was found in the life of the Father through his Spirit, as the Spirit is symbolized by water throughout scripture.
The time of the offering of oblation is the time of the offering of the second lamb that was offered on a daily basis in Israel. While we think of it as the evening sacrifice, the Hebrew wording actually means between noon and evening. This would be the ninth hour.
In the ninth hour, Luke 23:46 says, “Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!'” Jesus’ strength came from the Spirit of peace, yet even though he was a bull that was completely soaked in water, or more likely because of this, he was able to offer up his life and commit his spirit to the Lord.
WHO ARE THE TROUBLERS TODAY?
Jesus is the truth. And, he never did any violence. He found his strength in doing the will of his Father and laying down his life for others.
The Jews, even the ones that believed Jesus, were of their father the devil. They were liars and murderers. They found their strength in violence and murder.
Yet, the irony is that today those who choose the way of Jesus, truth and peace, non-violence, are deemed to be troublers by those that long (perhaps secretly) for the time that their enemies will be vanquished by the Lord returning with a sword of violence.
This brings us to the background meaning of entangler or to entangle of akar, the Hebrew word for troubler.
In Matthew 22:15, the Pharisees sought to entangle Jesus in his words. They wanted to make Jesus like themselves, liars and murdered, sons of the devil. But, Jesus resisted that.
So too do we need to resist becoming entangled with the ways of the world, Satan’s kingdom. Those ways are lying and murdering. Every government is part of Satan’s kingdom and participates fully in those two works of Satan . It doesn’t take much to see that if you care to look and hear with spiritual eyes and ears.
Therefore, in 2 Timothy 2:3-4, Paul said, “Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him.”
If you are a believer, then Jesus has enlisted you in his army. His rejects lies and murders, the works of Satan. Jesus did no violence and so does his army. The world says that makes you a troubler. But, Jesus says it’s just the other way around. It’s the ones who lie and murder, the ones who do violence and make excuses for it, that are the troublers.
Lies and murder are “civilian pursuits” that good soldiers of Christ Jesus do not get entangled in. Troublers are in entangled in those things. And, troublers entangle others in them.