Elijah: A Man for the Moment!
Life in the land is reasonably comfortable really. Politically things are stable, the economy is sound, farming is going well and foreign relations are relatively peaceful in fact quite beneficial. Everything seems to be going quite well really.
I guess we could be talking about our own country – things are pretty good, esp. if you are a Labour supporter. Things were not so good 60 or so years ago – there was a war on – as there was 20 years prior to that. The fortunes of a country can change very rapidly, as the country of Nepal has sadly found in the past 2 weeks!
In fact I am not actually talking about a modern state but one approx. 3000 years ago when King Ahab and Queen Jezebel where in power in Israel.
The problem was that while on the surface thing may have appeared to be politically and economically stable there was terrible turmoil in the land and in the lives of the citizens – AND most importantly of all God was very angry at the nation.
The Nation of Israel had slip far from the heady prosperous days when David and then Solomon were kings. Then they were a united nation under one ruler.
And they were rulers who acknowledged God – even though Solomon began to slip by marrying many foreign women and allowing their gods to be worshipped in Israel.
After Solomon the nation split into North [known as Israel] and south [known as Judah]
None of the kings of the North were god-honouring kings –Bible describes them as “doing evil in the eyes of the Lord”.
- Jereboam 22 years
- Nadab 2 years
- Baasha 24 years
- Elah 2 years
- Zimri 7 DAYS – [talk about a week being a
long time in politics]
- Omri 12 years – [civil war 6 years from Tirzah
– then 6 years from new capital at Samaria]
THEN — Ahab 22 years 1 Kings 16:30 30 Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the LORD than any of those before him. (NIV)
Solomon had tolerated worship of foreign gods / idols to appease his wives.
His Son Jereboam and his successors had set up golden calves and other idols to be worshipped, mainly for political expediency. He, influenced by his wife Jezebel, went further. He worshipped Baal [explain in a moment] and made Baal-worship the national religion – he hated the prophets of God and murdered many of them [1 Kings18v13].
Baal was a fertility god who was alleged to have control over wind, rain and clouds and therefore over fertility. It was during the reign of Ahab that Baal worship became worse than ever.
Jezebel came from the Phoenician territory of Sidon – along with Ahab, they built a temple to Baal and made an Asherah-pole an upright statue that represented another goddess of fertility.
These god and goddesses of fertility were worshipped in ways the symbolised fertility – these usually involved sacred prostitution and child sacrifice.
What this whole period of Israel / Judah’s history is teaching us is this. A religion and a society that promotes immorality and licentiousness can’t be the base for a strong community. The story of Israel’s history so far has been full of conspiracies and violence despite the seeming state of well-being!!
The king determines the character of the kingdom – and thus far there has been no king of Israel whose love for God will set him on a path of reform.
God’s promise to David years before had been that there would be a king on the throne of Israel who would “love righteousness and hated wickedness and whose throne would last forever.” [Hebrews 1v8-9]
Ultimately only Jesus Christ would be the perfect “Son of David”. Then the character of the king would again determine the character of the kingdom.
Idolatry produces a throne that will always fall. Only when the righteous Son of David / Son God came would there be established a righteous throne that would be ever.
Back to Ahab and Jezebel.
In spiritual terms this was a time of despair. The chasm between God and the people was at its widest!
Into this idolatrous and corrupt and anti-God situation, God himself sends his prophet Elijah.
The Man for the Moment!
His name – as all names in scripture – is significant.
El = God // jah = Jehovah // i = personal pronoun —— “My God is Jehovah” or “The Lord is MY God”
1 Kings 17:1 1 Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead,
Talk about coming from nowhere! The Archaeologists can’t tell us where Tishbe was – it was in region of Gilead which was on the east of Jordan River. It was a rugged outdoor life. It was not a place of polish and sophistication and diplomacy and no doubt Elijah’s appearance and manner was in keeping with that.
He was probably a rugged, maybe even coarse and crude, straight-talking prophets in whose company most of us would be uncomfortable. The kind of person who probably doesn’t win many friends BUT who certainly cannot be ignored. Prophets are like that!!
Elijah came from a remote area of Israel – we know nothing of his background.
- BUT was he removed in some way from the extent and grossness of Baal-worship and then suddenly he was faced with it and his love for Jehovah caused him to be enraged by it?
- Or was it something that was around him as he grew up & God impressed upon him the tremendous evil of it all?
One thing is certain – God moved and inspired him!
IMAGINE how it might have been. Elijah a young man maybe raise by godly Jehovah-worshipping parents. Then one day he is out near a hill and he hear the sound of music and chanting so he goes closer to look!
He sees a statue of Baal / or an Asheroth pole and the Baal priest gyrating and chanting, getting into a frenzy and cutting themselves with flint knives.
He watches wide-eyed and blushing as the worshippers begin to peel off their clothes and engage in all kinds of gross act in a frenzied orgy – a celebration of loveless lust.
And just when he thinks it is ending a young women is brought to the middle and bundle in her arms. Night has fallen and flickering light contorts the strained look on her face. The priests encircle, the music grows louder, the worshippers stop and gaze as the young women, her face expressionless and her eyes dead, opens the bundle and the priest take her baby – the child’s cries are drowned by the music as the priest throws it into the raging fire before the idol of Baal.
Can you feel some of the anger in Elijah – can you understand the wrath of God against his people Israel.
AND lest we sit in smug self-righteousness confining the awfulness of the child sacrifice to ancient history let us remember the saline drips and sterile forceps that destroy 1000’s of babies in our modern world on the altar of convenience!
There are some circumstances in which abortion is medically necessary – but not on the scale that it is practised today!
This is a serious issue and I don’t want to make trite comments – but I don’t believe God is happy when 1000’s of unborn babies are terminated.
BUT let me say this – to any who may have gone through with a termination or maybe you know someone who has – God can and does bring healing and restoration and forgiveness when we come to him in repentance and faith!
Let’s go back to Elijah’s time!
How and under what circumstances God spoke to Elijah we do not know.
I believe God used Elijah because he was a godly man. A man of spiritual standing, a man of earnest prayer and a man who knew God’s word.
James 5:17 17 Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, ….
He prayed earnestly – lit “he prayed in prayer”. This is no hurried notelet to God scribbled between a meeting a client and a cocktail party.
“Dear God, bless me, my family, bless Israel and sort out the brains of Ahab and Jezebel! Amen”
This is earnest, sincere, and persistent prayer! Prayer that is focussed, heart-rending, a passion that will not go away!
Prayer like this is dangerous because it leads inevitably to radical action – it is the bridge between interest and involvement.
Maybe we are afraid to pray like this because deep down we know that if we do God will tell us to get off our backsides and do something as radical as Elijah was told to do!!
Elijah would have known God’s Law and warning from many of years earlier–Deuteronomy 11:16-17
16 Be careful, or you will be enticed to turn away and worship other gods and bow down to them. 17 Then the LORD’s anger will burn against you, and he will shut the heavens so that it will not rain and the ground will yield no produce, and you will soon perish from the good land the LORD is giving you. (NIV)
To stand before the King and Queen and the nation of Israel on behalf of God and declare God’s message.
1 Kings 17:1 1 Now Elijah .., said to Ahab, “As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.” (NIV)
What did Elijah feel as he stood before Ahab – self-confident bravado? I suggest that he went in fear and trepidation BUT he knew it was what God wanted him to do and in God’s strength he was able to deliver.
Humanly speaking he was an obscure nobody from the hills of Gilead; a country bumpkin without social pedigree or standing; scruffy in his peasant garb standing before the king in all his royal regalia. Hopelessly out of his league!
Do you feel like that sometimes – most of the time!
James 5:17 17 Elijah was a man just like us. ….
But God enabled him ‘to stand in the gap’ and announce a weather forecast for the next few years! In the face of Baal-worshippers who believed that their god controlled the sun and wind and clouds and rain – don’t tell me God hasn’t got a sense of humour!
Elijah was saying to Ahab – “Your gods are useless impostors – not gods at all really! Your so-called god who thinks he controls the rain; Well there will be no more ran until I say so!”
Elijah’s confrontation with Ahab is not a licence for us to be rude and insensitive and arrogant in Jesus’ name!
What lesson for us?
1st – God wants people who will stand for him – alone if necessary!
Elijah, Joseph, Esther, John Knox, Martin Luther “Here I stand, I can do no other!” and many other men and women throughout history who have stood for God and many who have died for him.
Super heroes that we can never match? NO! They too were men and women with feet of clay – Elijah was a man just like us. ….
God still needs people today – people like you and me – who will make a difference in our world. Christians who will not be mediocre. Who will simply melt into the neutral background of the world around.
We need to remember that we are God’s people – or at least that is what we are supposed to be.
ILLUS.: Michael Griffiths wrote a book entitled “Cinderella with amnesia” The church, the Bride of Christ who has forgotten who she is. Satan wants the church to believe that she is insignificant and powerless and of no account in the world. BUT God says you are my people! Chosen! Royal! Overcomers!
2nd – God looks for special people in difficult times.
When Israel was in a mess at the time of Ahab and Jezebel – God used Elijah, a nobody from “no-where-ville” – “Tishbe, where’s that!” and as we will see there were 7000 others!!
In our contemporary world of tolerance and compromise – where, if you sing chants to a Mongolian Yak named Yoko while standing naked on your head people might even think you are quite cool!! BUT say that you love and worship Jesus Christ and they think you’re a nutter!!
God wants Christians like us to be strong witnesses for him – in our schools // offices // lunchrooms // University halls // corridors of government // hospital wards // coffee shops and pubs // AND in our homes!
He wants people who are not mediocre // not neutral about important issues // not side-tracked by their own agendas // not absorbed into contemporary culture but engaging with it // BUT also NOT cloistered together in holy-huddles.
Elijah could have tut-tutted in Tishbe and never effected Israel on iota!!
3rd – God’s methods are often surprising.
God didn’t raise up an army to destroy Ahab and Jezebel! He didn’t send an eloquent philosopher to argue and persuaded their royal majesties! [there are time for discussion and persuasion but this wasn’t one of them!]
He chose someone like … well, like Elijah! “A man just like us…”
Do you think that you are not able / equipped to lead that study group – to get involved in that short-term mission. Do you feel that your contribution to God’s service in not noteworthy enough to be important?
Maybe there is opportunity right in front of you and you’re missing it.
Maybe you’re in the midst of something and don’t realise the importance and opportunity God has given you. [e.g. what greater ministry can there be than being a faithful loving wife and mother!!!]
Your ministry might be 2-3 people at work / in the community. Don’t discount that. God’s methods are surprising.
ILLUS.: God used a boy, David, to fight a giant. He used trumpeters to march around a city to bring the walls down. He used a donkey to stop a man making a fool of himself.
If he can use a donkey – he can certainly use you and me!
4th – God wants people who will stand before him.
We are not only to stand for God – BUT also BEFORE God.
3 Who may ascend the hill of the LORD?
Who may stand in his holy place?
WHO MAY STAND BEFORE GOD!
4 He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
who does not lift up his soul to an idol
or swear by what is false. (NIV)
How is this possible – only through faith in Christ and by the power of the Holy Spirit. BUT if you are a child of God then you have that power!!
And whatever role you have in life it is NEVER unimportant when you are stand before God and for God.
What place has God given you to stand for him?
God said to you, “You are standing before ME, and I want to use you. I want you to be my unique spokesperson // witness in your day and age at this moment in time!”
Elijah was God’s man – striding out of nowhere – stepping into the pages of history to be God-person in his ungodly time and place.
God still requires that we be his people in our time and place!
ELIJAH: THE MAN FOR THE MOMENT.
1 Kings 16:29 – 17:1.
1. His Name
2. His Roots
3. His Character
4. His Task
What lessons for us?
a) God wants people who will stand for him
– alone if necessary.
b) God looks for special people
for difficult times.
c) God’s methods are often surprising.
d) God wants people who will stand