Am I the Problem?
1 Kings 18:17, 21:20, 22:8
by Drew Nelson
[Originally published in Expository Files 21.12, Dec. 2014]
Ahab was a bad man and an even worse king. The author of Kings stresses that his wickedness was not just undesirable, but worse than every Israelite king before him. “Ahab did more to provoke the Lord…to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him” (1 Kings 16:33). He built and worshipped idols, married the evil Jezebel, and led Israel further away from God than they had ever been before. Yet these were just the beginning of Ahab’s issues. At the root of Ahab’s impiety was a hard heart that refused to evaluate himself or listen to godly counsel. Ahab never asked himself, “am I the problem?”
Because of the king’s wickedness, the prophet Elijah told Ahab that there would be a multi-year drought. When they met again Ahab jeered Elijah, “is it you, you troubler of Israel?” (1 Kings 18:17). Elijah set him straight, telling him, “I have not troubled Israel, but you have…because you have abandoned the commandments of the Lord and followed the Baals” (v18). Ahab blamed Israel’s trouble on Elijah, never considering his own culpability.
After Jezebel’s conspiracy against Naboth to acquire his vineyard and Ahab’s complicity, Elijah approached Ahab again. This time Ahab wryly asked Elijah, “have you found me, O my enemy?” (1 Kings 21:20a). Again, Elijah set him straight, saying, “I have found you, because you have sold yourself to do what is evil in the sight of the Lord” (v20b). Ahab considered God’s prophet to be his enemy, never considering his own evil heart.
After Jehoshaphat insisted on a prophet that was not a “yes man”, Ahab replied, “there is yet one man by whom we may inquire of the Lord…but I hate him, for he never prophesies good concerning me, but evil” (1 Kings 22:8). Ahab never considered why all the prophecies concerning him were evil. Never did he wonder, “perhaps the prophecies about me are evil because I am evil.” Ahab constantly blamed his problems on everyone but himself.
Ahab’s shirking still plagues mankind. He continually assumed that everyone but him was the issue. Bad things were happening all around him, but he could only blame Elijah. Never did he stop and ask, “am I the problem? Maybe I have something to do with all this trouble that constantly surrounds me.”
Have you ever known anyone like this? Imagine a man who is involved in multiple traffic accidents each year. Police officers know him by sight because they pull him over so often. Everywhere this man drives people honk and yell at him. And this is the conclusion the man comes to: “why are all these other people such terrible drivers? The police are out to get me!” Every accident is the other driver’s fault in his telling. Never does he stop and ask, “am I the problem?” He never even entertains the thought the he might be the terrible driver.
It is easy to recognize this problem in others. But will we recognize it in ourselves? When we are in constant conflict with people or feel like we are being continually persecuted, our first question ought to be, “am I the problem?” If conflict and controversy have been the story of my life, that probably says more about me than everyone else (it did with Ahab). Humility, honesty, and self-evaluation are in order—all things Ahab never practiced. Conflicts among brethren would be very short-lived (non-existent?) if all parties asked themselves, “am I the problem?”