Ahab went to meet Elijah. When he saw Elijah, he said to him, “Is that you, you troubler of Israel?”
“I have not made trouble for Israel,” Elijah replied. “But you and your father’s family have.
(I Kings 18: 16-18, NIV)
To Tell the Truth is one of the most popular television game shows in American history with twenty five seasons and six decades of air time. The object of the show is simple. Four celebrity panelists seek to identify a person with a unique occupation. The “real” person is accompanied by two impostors and the celebrity panel tries to guess who he or she is by asking a series of questions of the three challengers. The imposters are allowed to lie, but the central character must always “tell the truth”.
In 1 Kings eighteen we find three unique characters in the midst of the drought stricken land of Israel. If these three individuals had appeared on To Tell the Truth, one of them would have been labeled The Trouble Maker. In our study for this week, I’ll be asking you, the anti-celebrity panelist, to guess which one is the real Trouble Maker.
Contestant Number One: Obadiah, The Palace Administrator
Our first contestant is a man caught between two worlds. He is Obadiah, the most highly placed government official in Samaria, second in command in Israel.
Although working in the palace in Samaria for King Ahab and his overbearing, murderous queen, Jezebel, Obadiah is a worshiper of the God of Israel. While Jezebel slaughters the prophets of God, Obadiah, at great risk to his own life, hides one hundred of them in secret caves, supplying them with food and water.
Obadiah is in a delicate, in fact, dangerous situation. His job is a mine field of occupational hazards. A wrong word on his part or a pair of prying eyes and shouts of spy and trouble maker would be sure to echo in the palace halls.
Is Obadiah the real Trouble Maker?
Contestant Number Two: Elijah, The Desert Prophet
Our second contestant is the “nobody” from nowhere; Elijah from the obscure village of Tishbe in Gilead. Unknown until announcing in the king’s throne room that drought is coming, this camel cloaked country boy is now public enemy number one in Israel.
King Ahab has invested great resources and energy in tracking down this rogue prophet. No stone has been left unturned. Even the kings and officials in surrounding countries have been asked to swear that they know nothing of the prophet’s whereabouts.
Meanwhile, the land languishes from lack of rain. Crops and cattle die, citizens starve, and dust, not Ahab, reigns. All of this is happening according to the word spoken by Elijah.
Is Elijah the real Trouble Maker?
Contestant Number Three: Ahab, King of Israel
Our third contestant is Ahab. Described in Scripture as doing “more to arouse the anger of the Lord, the God of Israel, than did all the kings before him”, he is also known as the husband of Jezebel. He is a mere tool in the hands of this evil seductress and, according to her wishes, has plunged Israel head first into the worship of the god Baal and his goddess, Ashteroth.
Ahab has torn down the altars of the God of Israel and replaced them with altars to Baal. Shrines where male and female prostitutes encourage Israelites to join them in “worship” have been constructed. Children are sacrificed. A violent society is emerging due to the worship of a violent god.
But the drought is becoming a major political problem to Ahab’s immoral and murderous agenda. After all, Baal is the storm god responsible for rain. Ashteroth, his female counterpart, is the goddess of fertility promising a ripe and rich harvest for her worshipers. The drought prophesied by this dusty, desert prophet and experienced by all of Israel is interfering with the conversion of thousands of Israelites to the religion of Baal.
Is Ahab the real Trouble Maker?
Truth and Worldviews
All of us have a worldview, or way of looking at events, circumstances, and people in our lives. Where we grew up, who our parents were, the schools we attended, the friends we associated with, the religions we received or rejected; all these things shape our worldview.
Here, in Korea, we find two opposing worldviews separated by a geographical boundary called the thirty eighth parallel. This invisible, but very real, “line in the sand” separates two people groups of similar origin and race, but with violently different worldviews.
1 Kings eighteen is a classic example of two worldviews colliding.
Elijah, at God’s command emerges from hiding and confronts Ahab. Interestingly enough, he first meets Obadiah. In this encounter we see Obadiah’s worldview tested. Elijah asks him to find the king and announce that Elijah has appeared. At first, Obadiah hesitates. He fears that Elijah will be gone by the time Ahab arrives. This would mean disaster for the palace administrator. So, Obadiah has a choice to make – Will he trust God and the prophet of God or will he make his career in the palace his priority? In the end, we see that Obadiah’s worldview truly is that of a servant of God.
Informed by Obadiah of his nemesis’ appearance, Ahab goes at once to meet Elijah. The two meet in what at one time had been a lush, green land, but is now dust and death.
I picture the scene like this – Ahab points his trembling finger at Elijah and as the rage inside him boils over he cries out, “Is that you, you troubler of Israel?” Calmly, Elijah answers, “I have not made trouble . . . but you and your father’s family have. You have abandoned the Lord’s commands and have followed the Baal’s.” (I Kings 18:18, NIV)
I have no doubt that both these men sincerely believed the other to be The Real Trouble Maker. Two opposing worldviews led both Elijah and Ahab to very different conclusions about right and wrong and what was best for Israel. Which one was the The Real Trouble Maker?
Your answer to that question is important. It matters a great deal. In fact, it reflects your own understanding of right and wrong in a world where truth is increasingly considered a matter of opinion. But ultimately there is only one person’s answer that matters, and that is God’s.
The real Trouble Maker will soon be revealed on the peak of Mount Carmel where God will answer with fire. The result will be judgment for some, forgiveness for others.
Eight centuries after Mount Carmel on another mountain in Israel the fire of God’s judgment fell. Mount Calvary, where the Son of God was crucified for our sins, is where all worldviews stand the ultimate test. As God opens the eyes of our heart to gaze at the crucified Christ, we learn that we are all Trouble Makers. All of us deserve judgment.
Yet in his great mercy, God, thru his son, Jesus calls us out of the drought of our sin and promises to send the rains that bring fruitfulness, purpose, meaning, and joy into our lives.
All we have to do is Tell the Truth. Stop pointing our fingers at others. Stop blaming people, circumstances, and events, and acknowledge that we are the ones who need to change. Our worldview needs adjusting.
There’s a word for that in the New Testament. It is the Greek word “metanoia” and it literally means “to change one’s mind” or “to change one’s way of thinking”. It is translated, repentance. And it is a lifelong calling for all of us who would exchange our incomplete and faulty worldviews for the only one that matters, God’s.
Think About It
- Most of us never take the time to reflect on our worldviews. We simply take for granted that our perspective is the right one. Take time to pray and ask God to help your worldview to align with that of his son, Jesus, and the kingdom to which he calls us.
- Did you identify with Obadiah? Do you find yourself working in circumstances where God is neglected, ignored, or even disdained? What are some challenges you face? How is your worldview tested?
- We often think of repentance as simply acknowledging our sin, but it is more than that. It is reorienting our worldview to line up with God’s perspective. As we noted, it is literally, “changing the way we think”. What difference does this view of repentance make in your understanding of discipleship?