“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 “For [Jeremiah] is not seeking the welfare of this people, but their harm.” — Jeremiah 38:4 There are two types of people in this world, those who are seeking the welfare of others and those who are not. This can be most clearly seen in those who are “active”, those that are outward in their efforts, but the same thing is true of those who are more “passive” or inactive. We often fail to realize that our passivity is not benign; it either joins with evil or it joins with good, just as much as our outward activity. Many of us have heard the quote, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” Which is true only in part, the other truth that is missing is that people who do nothing are not good men, they are evil men. They join with evil and not with good by their passivity. Our passivity is not benign; it either joins with evil or it joins with good, just as much as our outward activity. Our inactivity can either be good or it can be evil. We may as Christians be passive because we are waiting upon God and trusting in Him. The world will easily fault us for doing this, but it is done from a righteous heart and in faith. At the same time we can be passive, not from faith, but from our laziness, selfishness, or fear. This is most notably seen in the face of those who are actively doing evil and we do nothing in response, or purely because we are not diligent to seek welfare and good as God calls us to, by daily applying ourselves to the path of righteousness. We can see this in our own daily lives, where we seek to live for ourselves or we seek to live for the Lord’s Kingdom first. Jesus said, “Whoever is not with me is against me.” (Matt 12:30) Did He mean by this that every person who is not with Him is picking up a sword to persecute Him? No, rather He saw to the heart of the matter that everyone at their core is either working for the true Good in this world, or for its harm. That we are in our hearts either for it, or against it. That our activity or passivity still comes from the same heart. What we fail to realize today is that those who reject Christ yet live in some generally moral way are still those who oppose good. They oppose good because they reject Goodness Himself. This means that even their very activity for whatever appears moral to them is still founded upon the basis of their rebellion and rejection of God. They operate in these things for their rejection of God. And because of this, they are opposed to what is good in this world—no matter how much they might believe they are working towards it, they are actively working against it. The danger for us is that we fail to realize how our passivity and even our activity for what we deem to be “good” can be nothing more than activity against God and Goodness itself. Our Nature without God When we look at the history and the details around King Ahab we can see the outward appearances of the evil he walked in: murder, idolatry, greed, covetousness, his failure to defend Israel, killing the prophets of God, and his rebellion against God. The problem for us today is that we often fail to see that the condition of man’s heart is no different. We fail to perceive this because we imagine that a lack of outward appearances of evil means a lack of an evil heart. When the truth is that people have merely learned to hide their evil hearts. And this has given a restraint to us, but it does not mean that our nature is not still the same. We have had enough mad, ruthless, and proud kings throughout all of human history to prove this to be true—that all God has to do is remove His restraint and we get a Hitler, Stalin, Nebuchadnezzar, Nero, or Ahab. This is not God’s crime, this is the proof of man’s evil nature. The issue for us springs from the fact that we do not believe God’s Word. We do not believe that this is true of man—that he is evil and fallen. And therefore we are busy denying the truth outright by our philosophies, idealisms, our own morality, and our very attempts at goodness. How do our acts of goodness deny God and the truth? Because they are based solely upon the idea of man being good and for his praise. Beyond this, we also have very mixed motives in our actions, though we lie and try to hide this. We do not realize that the very good we seek to do can also be nothing more than corruption. This is because we lack a true heart of love for our neighbor in our acts of goodness and we lack a true heart that reveres God in our giving. Often our “good deeds” are done in quiet contempt of our neighbors, and in rebellion against God. We have come to a confusing place today, and that is where we can oppose God most by our fallen attempts at good rather than outward attempts of evil. How do our acts of goodness deny God and the truth? Because they are based solely upon the idea of man being good and for his praise. This is because we oppose God in our hearts. We oppose the truth of God’s Word, that which reveals the truth about us as fallen sinners and we reject His Savior, Christ Jesus. When we reject the truth in our hearts about God this means that everything that flows out of us; our actions, beliefs, ideas, desires are all of corruption. This is what Jesus was showing us in saying to us that all who are not with Him are against Him. For if we do not join with the truth we join with lies. Only by truly joining ourselves to Christ and the Truth of God’s Word will we ever be people who truly work for good—repenting of our evil deeds and brought into true holiness. Denying Truth and Making Demands of God The problem today is that because people reject God’s Word as Truth, and because we believe our own ideas about what is wrong in the world and the solutions to it, we reject Truth’s right to rule us and rebuke us. We deny God and therefore we reject His right to exist and occupy the throne that He has every right to. Further, we expect God to reject His own throne and subject Himself to our ideas, desires, and plans. When God refuses to do this we accuse Him of falsehood and cruelty. This is how our natural hearts perceive God. We expect in our hearts the right to take God’s place and demand that the only God bow to us in submission. And when God keeps His throne, speaking to us the truth about our sin, Him alone being God, and us being created man, we see this as evil, rather than true and good. This would be the same as a man working twenty years, day and night, to build a business. During this time he has been a faithful father and husband, consistently providing for his whole family. After his hard labor to build his company, he manages to become successful. And then one day his son comes home and believes that he himself was the one who single handedly built it, and not only that, he believes he deserves all rights to the business. This son has never contributed to the business in any way up until this point! When the father tries to confront his son’s delusions, the son tries to take him to court to sue and imprison him. Though the father loves his son, his son has become greatly deluded as to the truth and is doing great evil. And how wrong would it be for him to cave to his son’s delusions and hand over what not only does not belong to his son but that which his son has no capacity to preside over! This example is not even close to how we treat God, but it’s certainly a small window into it. And here enters our problem: because we choose to rebel against God, we choose to make God our enemy. God has not just made us His enemies on some fluke, we are the enemy. We are the enemy to truth, to God, and to goodness. Yet we will not repent of our ways and turn back to what is good and right. We will not walk in the repentance to which God calls us, nor the submission to Him for which we were created. Because we live in the condition of resisting God, we believe that all of the acts of God in which He disciplines us, rebukes us, and judges us are acts of cruelty and are unjust. And so because of all of this we come to the position that we are now in: opposing God, walking in sin, and rebelling against God’s right to rule us. Here enters in God’s Word, rebuking us, calling us back to Him, calling us to repentance, and faith in His Son. Yet it is because of these actions and words of God that we believe the lies that Ahab believed—that God is the troubler, rather than us. “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) Because we live in the condition of resisting God, demanding life and goodness apart from God, being an enemy to God, we believe that all of the acts of God in which He disciplines us, rebukes us, and judges us are acts of cruelty and are unjust, rather than the acts of a righteous God against sin and all that is evil. Because God is the Judge, the one who stands at the top, we see Him as being at fault when He acts within his role and responsibility to give truth and justice. Because He is the One who will act against our sin and rebellion, we see Him at fault rather than ourselves. Refusing to Accept Judgment “For [Jeremiah] is not seeking the welfare of this people, but their harm.” (Jeremiah 38:4) Jeremiah brought the message of God’s judgment upon Israel for their sins and told the people that God had ordained the Babylonians to conquer Jerusalem, telling the people that their safety was to surrender to them rather than continue fighting. But the leaders of Jerusalem saw the words of Jeremiah to be evil—believing he was against the people and their welfare, rather than for it. The danger of the leaders is that they were determined to do things their way. They did not want to believe the judgement of God was coming, and when it did come they still did not want to obey God. This is a reflection of God’s work through His Son. Through the Son of God judgement has begun upon the earth, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.” (John 3:18) God is calling all of us to repent and believe in the Gospel (Mark 1:15)—to surrender ourselves to the King that God has chosen (Psalm 2:12). God calls us to accept the truth about ourselves, and to see our sin, the evil ways that we have walked in, and to turn from them in repentance. He calls us to receive from His hand what He justly gives as substitution so He may justly forgive and restore us, and to align our hearts and actions to His Word. In all of this He calls us to bow our knee in submission to the One True God (Isaiah 45:23) and obey Him. God calls us to accept the truth about ourselves, and to see our sin, the evil ways that we have walked in, and to turn from them in repentance... It is this very call of God that man thinks is the “trouble”. It is this very call of God that man thinks is the “trouble”. The world cries out against God’s Word and His people as being evil and being the troubler. Today, even the church has become confused in this. With so much protest from the world, many people in the church have begun to believe along with the world that the Word of God, the rebuke of God, and the judgment of God are cruelties rather than righteousness. We prove that we believe God to be our enemy by the very fact that we believe that God’s Word and His ways cause us unnecessary trouble. We may never be so bold as to say that we believe God to be our enemy, but we may be bold enough to say that we think God’s ways work against our welfare. But it is this belief that shows that we truly believe God to be our enemy and His ways to be cruel. We Are the Troublers, Not God This is the condition of man’s fallen heart, that while he is fallen, evil, and wicked, he will accuse God and His people of being the ones who are evil. Man truly believes this. He is offended at Christ and His Word, he is offended at the call to see his sin and turn from it, he is offended at the cross, and he is offended at the truth of God’s judgement of man. “Blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” (Matt 11:6) God’s Word is going to conflict with our sin. He does not give it to be inconvenient and troublesome but to reveal how devoted we are to our sin. Truth and wisdom are beautiful to those who trust Him and seek righteousness, but to foolish, rebellious, self-focussed mankind it is a frustrating impediment. We can see the state of our own hearts by how we respond when His Word conflicts with our path and desires. We can see the state of our own hearts by how we respond when His Word conflicts with our path and desires. Some of the greatest forms of man’s unity are based upon this lie—of believing God is the enemy and man is good. But the question to each of us today is if we are going to accept the Word of God by faith, trusting God to know what we don’t know, and if we are willing to surrender the weapons of our enmity and rebellion against Him? Will we unite ourselves with God or against Him? Are we willing to turn from our own ideas about God and about ourselves? “Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the LORD weighs the heart.” (Prov 21:2) God alone can tell us what is true and righteous, and what is a lie and wicked. He is calling out to all of mankind to turn from their sinful ways, to repent and believe in the Gospel (Mark 1:15). May we all realize the true deception and depravity of our own hearts. May we learn to see that God is not the troubler, but we are. And at God’s Word and His judgements, may we bow before Him and seek to live in the repentance, obedience, and faith to which He calls all of us.