Ki Tissa
For the week of February 23, 2008 / 17 Adar 5768
Torah: Shemot / Exodus 30:11 - 34:35
Haftarah: 1 Melachim / 1 Kings 18:1-39

Are You Trouble?

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 Melachim / 1 Kings 18:17,18; ESV)

The prophet Elijah (Hebrew: Eliyahu) lived during a very difficult time in the history of Israel. He was appointed by God to confront King Ahab. King Ahab was the most evil king of Israel to date (see 1 Melachim / 1 Kings 16:30). The intensity of his evil was partly due to his marrying Jezebel; a princess of the city of Sidon. It appears that she encouraged Ahab in the establishment in Israel of the worship of the false god Baal.

God sent Elijah to prophesy to Ahab of the coming three-year drought (see 1 Melachim / 1 Kings 17:1ff). After Elijah gave Ahab this message, Elijah went into hiding. For those of us from countries with ample water supply, it is difficult to fully appreciate what this means. At that time in history, the land of Israel was very dependent upon rainfall, even more than it is today. Drought inevitably led to famine, which meant national disaster. Lack of rain, therefore, would be understood as a sign of God's displeasure.

After the three-year period, we come to the interchange that includes what I quoted at the start. Ahab's first words to Elijah were, "Is it you, you troubler of Israel?" - an accusation which Elijah contradicted. He would not allow Ahab to transfer the blame for Israel's troubles from the true villain to himself.

But isn't Ahab's accusation typical? True trouble makers will shift the blame for the trouble they cause to the ones who expose their bad behavior. I don't think one has to be a psychologist to understand what is going on here. What it comes down to is that real trouble makers don't want their bad behavior confronted. They want to do what they want to do without having to face the consequences. They will protect themselves by any means, which almost always includes attacking anyone who gets in their way. In this case, Ahab used blame shifting. He did so, because it is often effective. Elijah brought the bad news of God's judgment on the nation. Ahab may not have been the only one who put the blame on Elijah, when the real cause of the disaster was Ahab and his evil ways.

People whom God uses to deal with evil today are often the last people who want to make trouble. In fact, they want to speak up out of a desire to avoid trouble, not make more trouble. They care deeply about people and are sensitive to the consequences of bad behavior. So they speak up. And what happens? They are the ones who are called trouble makers.

This is enough to shut some down. They may even believe these accusations. At one level life seemed more peaceful before they spoke up. They forget what it was that originally spurned them on. They forget the origin of the trouble. They take the blame, and the real trouble makers continue as before.

If you are someone God has called to speak out, then you mustn't be afraid to do what Elijah did. He contradicted Ahab to his face by saying, "I have not troubled Israel, but you have...". If God has called you to speak, then don't back down. Don't take the blame for trouble you have not caused. Keep close to the Lord, and let him guide you as to what you should and should not say and do. Don't let your critics confuse and intimidate you. When the true trouble makers call you, "trouble," it most likely means you are doing a good job.

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