1 Kings 19:1-18 – Elijah. Recovery from Discouragement and Depression

1 Kings 19v1-18.

Elijah. Recovery from Discouragement and Depression.

 

Introduction.

 

ILLUS.:

A few weeks ago England beat Germany 5-1 in a football match on German soil. It was a great performance – free flowing football, great skill and finishing esp. by Michael Owen. The following week they played Albania – not the greatest team but it was a struggle. England managed a 2-0 victory – and they knew it would be tough. Yesterday’s 2-2 draw with Greece showed how tough it is.

 

After a great victory a team / or an individual is very vulnerable. After the high it is easy to slide into a down-mood.

 

Elijah has just reached a high point / probably the highest point of his career as a prophet. He has confronted the prophets of Baal – AND in a show down in front of the King and the whole nation he is proved right. God vindicates his prophet.

It was spectacular, sensational! Fire From heaven! Judgements on the false prophets! The drought was broken after 3½ years. AND Elijah had run faster than the king’s chariot.          He was on cloud 99 never mind cloud 9!

 

Jezebel’s Intimidation Tactics

Now a few days later – Queen Jezebel – who has heard what happened from her husband, is seething! 450 of her prophets are dead and her god has been made a fool of in front of the nation. There is no doubt about who wears the trousers in the royal household – and it is not King Ahab!! A domineering, manipulative, evil woman married to a weak, feeble man is a dangerous combination!

 

She sends a message to Elijah, “By this time tomorrow you are going to be dead!”

I wonder why she warned him – why not just kill him? Probably – if she killed him the people would turn against her – he would be a dead hero – BUT if she could intimidate him and he ran away the problem would be solved – or so she thought! She is an archetypal bully.

 

She was right in that Elijah was intimidated and did run!

 

Elijah’s retreat.

 

Retreat can be used in two ways – to run away from problems or to withdraw to be refreshed.

Both apply here although I don’t think Elijah had the second meaning in mind but I believe God did.

 

a)    Elijah ran away.

 

1/ He wasn’t thinking clearly.

Elijah had just witnessed an incredible exhibition of God’s power. The same God who had miraculously provided food via birds / then via a destitute widow and seen her son raised from the dead.

But now threaten by a mere human – a powerful woman granted – but just a mere mortal. If he had stopped to think clearly he might have responded, “Wait a minute, God’s in control here not this evil Queen. I will just trust God as I have done for years!”

BUT he was not thinking clearly. Let’ not be too harsh. After all he was human just like us!!

 

2/ He was caught in the aftermath of a great victory.

Elijah was suffering the same emotions as a team after a great win!

 

ILLUS.: Mountaineer will tell of the elation of reach the summit. They will also tell that the greatest danger is the descent from the peak. The adrenaline rush has warn off and the are vulnerable and at greater risk of making mistakes.

 

Churches often suffer from this after completing a big project – building – relax and there is a decline in commitment and enthusiasm.

 

3/ He was exhausted, physically and emotionally.

His Carmel encounter was very draining – then he had run all the way to Jezreel in the rain. Prior to the he had been the nation’s ‘most wanted man’. He had been living on the edge for years.

A Greek proverb “You will break the bow if you always keep it bent!” If you live under constant stress you will eventually break under pressure. You need rest and refreshment. {Some may have too much but that’s another story}

 

The kind of reaction we see from Elijah is very common in spiritual ministry. Not just amongst ‘full-time’ people.

The lowest day of my week is Monday. Sunday is the climax of a week’s preparation and prayer. Monday is the down slope. That is when I am most weary and vulnerable to discouragement. We have a saying amongst pastor “Never resign on a Monday!” Esp. because Monday is the day people tend to call about things they didn’t like on Sunday!                //   Charles Spurgeon – one of the greatest preachers in the past 100 or so years – suffered from depression on a regular basis.

So Elijah’s cry – 1 Kings 19:4-5 4 HE GOES …. into the desert. He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, LORD,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” 5 Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep….

 

4/ He isolated himself.

1 Kings 19:3-4 3 Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, 4 while he himself went a day’s journey into the desert. …

 

Discouraged and depressed people tend to be lonely. When he need a friend the most – he cut himself off. Maybe if his servant had been with him he could have encouraged and helped him.

When we are depressed and discouraged we need fellowship / support / … sadly it isn’t always forthcoming. BUT also sometimes we don’t get t because we push people away.

 

5/ He wallowed in self-pity.

Self-pity makes us see things as worse than they are / it develops a victim mentality / … in worst cases it will led us to wish we were dead.

We all feel sorry for ourselves at times. Sometimes justifiably because others have treated us badly BUT if we wallow in it, it will debilitate and even destroy us.

b)    God refreshed Elijah.

How does God respond to Elijah’s distressed state?

It is interesting to see how God deals with his fearful, runaway prophet.

 

1/ He allows him rest and refreshment.

There is no sermon. No blame or shame. No, “What’s the matter with you, just pull yourself together!”

Instead – rest, food and a gentle touch from an angel.

Fatigue / exhaustion can send our emotions into turmoil – It is not unspiritual to be tired. Be careful of judging others, esp. when they have been through a prolonged period of extreme stress! They may behave in ways that are uncharacteristic  – even extreme!

God understands our human frailty.

 

2/ God communicated with Elijah.

1 Kings 19:9 There he went into a cave and spent the night. And the word of the LORD came to him: “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (NIV)

God doesn’t tell him to ‘snap out of it’ / or say ‘ you should be ashamed of yourself running away like this’.

NO! Just a simple question, “What are you doing here!”

 

1 Kings 19:10  He replied, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.” (NIV)

 

Elijah’s response is basically, “I’ve done my best, I am all alone and now they are trying to kill me!”

God listens – he doesn’t get in a huff – he is not offended that Elijah had it wrong as we will see – he doesn’t rebuke or reject him.

 

ILLUS.: I have a friend in ministry who went through an extended time of great stress – Response was similar to Elijah // a hurt, tired, irrational heart-cry that was misunderstood, criticised and ignored by some insensitive, but no doubt well-meaning Christians [Job’s comforter types]. Result – crushed and deeply hurt // and a damaged ministry that will take a long recovery time!

 

Generally we are far harder and more critical than God will ever be!

 

God asked a question – then listened! Listening is vital – to the heart-cry NOT just the words!!!

 

Then shows his power – NOT in the earthquake or storm or fire BUT in the gentle whisper.

 

We seek the sensational – signs and wonders – we think that if God would do wonderful spectacular miracles our needs would be better met and people would flock to worship him.

 

The people had seen the spectacular – fire fell from heaven and consumed the altar / sacrifice / water etc BUT the nation didn’t return to worship God. No doubt this was part of the reason for Elijah’s despondency.

 

The Jews of Jesus day looked for signs and wonders – and they saw Jesus perform many but most didn’t follow him. The NT Church in Corinth did the same – 1 Corinthians 1:22 22 Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, (NIV)

Paul’s response – “We preach Christ” – signs and wonders are of no use whatever unless they lead us to Jesus. It is in Christ that God meets our needs.

 

God speaks to Elijah in a “still small voice / a gentle whisper”. He speaks to us today through his Word by the HSp. The inner peace of God’s presence is infinitely more comforting than all the signs and wonders.

 

3/ God reassured and recommissioned him.

After this encounter with God in the ‘gentle whisper of the breeze’ [the Spirit of God comforting and strengthening – God asks the same question “What are you doing here!”

And gets the same reply

1 Kings 19:10 I zealously served you / the Israelites rejected you / I am the only one left / now they want to kill me!”

BUT this time God’s response is different.

Elijah go back. I still have a job for you // you are not alone // there are 7000 others who have remained faithful to me AND I am going to give you Elisha – a companion and successor – my work and kingdom will go on in spite of what appears in the nation as a whole!”

 

We all have down times – sometimes severe depression even – BUT the mark of Christian characters and maturity is not the we have spectacular experiences of God’s power BUT that we respond to his Word & his Spirit and get back to faithfully serving Him in our witness to Jesus his Son.

The Bigger Picture.

 

God takes Elijah to a mountain – the same one Moses was on 100’s of years earlier where God revealed himself to Moses. Both men witnessed God’s power and glory. Both became despondent and wished for death. Both spent 40 days and 40 nights alone in this isolated place. Both were sent back to their tasks, re-commissioned. Both were the objects of God’s special care at the time of there death.

 

Centuries later Jesus would stand on a Mountain – enveloped by the glory and splendour of God and God the Father would say “This is my beloved Son” – there it was Moses and Elijah who stood with him. BUT unlike Moses and Elijah, Jesus did not succumb to despair – he with stood the threats and temptation of Satan for 40 days and 40 nights in the desert. He took on the forces of evil against him on the cross and defeated them by rising from the dead.

 

And the story is not over yet ….

 

God is still at work in his world. And like Elijah and Moses and all his people before us he calls us to faithful serve him even if other refuse to do so.

 

Things were bleak for Elijah – even after the victory of Mt. Carmel, the worship of Baal went on. After Jesus died and rose again evil remained – and to think that we can ‘rid the world of evil doers’ as some have claimed is a pipe dream. We may share those sentiments BUT only when Jesus Christ returns in glory and judgement will evil be done with.

 

Until then we are to be God’s ‘Elijahs’ – he was a man “just like us” as we read in James [NT]. We will have ups and downs – but God is faithful. He will not abandon his people no matter how difficult things may seem. If we will hear him in the ‘gentle whisper’ of his Word by his Spirit he will comfort and refresh us and then re-commission us to the tasks of His Kingdom. And ultimately there is no greater fulfilment because we were created for his glory.

 

 

Elijah. Recovery from Discouragement

                                               and Depression.

 

1 Kings 19v1-18.

 

Jezebel’s Intimidation Tactics

 

Elijah’s Retreat.

 

a)   Elijah ran away.

 

WHY?

 

1/ He wasn’t thinking clearly.

2/ He was caught in the aftermath of a great victory.

3/ He was exhausted, physically and emotionally.

4/ He isolated himself.

5/ He wallowed in self-pity.

 

b)        God refreshed Elijah.

 

HOW?

 

1/ He allowed him rest and refreshment.

2/ He communicated with Elijah.

3/ He reassured and recommissioned him.

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1 Kings 18:16-46 – Idolatry on trial – A Time to Choose.

1 Kings 18v16-46.

 

Idolatry on trial – A Time to Choose.

 

Introduction.

 

All of life is made up of big  (Macro) pictures and little (Micro) pictures!

ILLUS.: World economy -> National economy -> Businesses -> individuals

Or World terrorism -> which impacts individuals lives

Or Religion => Church => my Church => my personal faith

 

The story before us touches both these areas – the Marco picture – a contest between Baal and Yhwh => between Elijah and the prophets of Baal / Ahab & Jezebel => a conflict in the hearts and minds of the people and the need to make a choice

 

THE CONTEXT.

The story so far….

Remember Israel (Northern Kingdom) moved away from worshipping God – idolatry – Baal / Asherah – each successive king is worse than the one before.

God sends Elijah – a rugged countryman – to Ahab – “No rain until I say so!”

Then he disappears and God cares for him by a Brook and then through a widow in a foreign land – both unconventional means. Our particular traditions or religious rules do not bind God.

THEN after 3½ years Elijah turns up and tells [not asks mind you] the King and the prophets of Baal and all the people to assemble at Mt. Carmel.

 

The nation of Israel had moved away from worshipping God to worshipping idols. 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 gods and goddesses of fertility were worshipped in ways the symbolised fertility – these usually involved sacred prostitution and child sacrifice.

 

Of course, idols don’t have to be statues – the idols of our day are far more likely to be our own lusts or desires – money, power, position, security and relationships. Maybe the easy way to identify an idol is to ask, “What do we serve?” Basically it is those things we are tempted to trust instead of God.

Israel thought Baal could meet their needs an they put him in place of God. BUT God is not mocked.

As humans we create idols to replace god – philosophies, institutions, structures and we think in them we find security and meaning. BUT there is not security in such thing – What could be more powerful symbols of human economic and military power than the World Trade Center and the Pentagon?

I am NOT saying that God caused those tragedies BUT if our hope is in such things we are very vulnerable and insecure.

You see even in the OT Israel put their trust in the Temple in Jerusalem – God’s own Temple – BUT he allowed it to be destroyed because the poel allowed it to replaced God.

What is my security and faith in – my pension fund? Insurance co.? NHS? My physical strength?

 

THE CONTEST.

 

This battle of the gods to which Elijah summons the nations seem, at least from a human perspective, rather one sided.

The Main players are the prophets of Baal against Elijah – 450 vs 1!

But behind theses humans are Satan’s false gods [which are not gods at all] and YHWH – the God of Israel. So it is not 450 vs 1 But 450 vs 1 plus God!

 

Thet contest – 2 altars with a sacrifice but NO fire – the god who sends fire is the real God.

 

Mt. Carmel is the place where this contest is to take place. Near the shores of the Med. near the modern port of Haifa – 1800 feet high. It is the highest point in the region – It is a stronghold of Baal worship. Baal is depicted in ancient Syrian art as holding a bolt of lightening in his right hand – the god of the storm/ rain / fertility. This is Baal territory – plus his prophets out number God’s 450 to 1.

Also the worship of Baal is well established on Carmel whereas Elijah starts with the altar of God that is in ruins. Sending fire from heaven urely shouldn’t be a problem.

 

Elijah then seems to make the situation worse by soaking the firewood with gallons of water – even digging a moat around the altar.

 

Every advantage that the prophets of Baal are given will only serve to increase the glory of the one true God.

Before we look at the outcome … what of the people.

 

THE OBSERVERS.

 

I say observers but really they are not simple spectators. The outcome of this contest will have a profound effect on their lives.

Elijah has told them that they have a choice to make “Either Baal or YHWH!”

There is no such thing as “both – and” when it come to the worship of the God of Israel.

Exodus 20:3 “You shall have no other gods before me. (NIV)

Exodus 20:2  “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. (NIV) – In other words you are mine!!

 

When it comes to the worship of God there is no room for double-mindedness –

NT tells us that such a position results in instability – James 1:8 8 … a double-minded man, [is] unstable in all he does. (NIV)

 

Like the people on Mt Carmel in Elijah’s day so too today, as in every generation, there is a choice to be made.

So the people are not just spectators – they are involved in this contest because they must choose!

 

THE OUTCOME.

The prophets of Baal plead and beg their god to send fire – the dance and chant and mutilate their bodies BUT no fire comes.

Elijah watches and mocks and jibes at the impotence of their god!

Then having rebuilt the altar and soaked the sacrifice and wood and surrounding earth with water he prays a simple but powerful pray.

1 Kings 18:36-38           36 At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. 37 Answer me, O Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”

38 Then the fire of the LORD fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. (NIV)

 

Then the people fall on their faces and acknowledge God as the true and only God.

The 450 prophets are killed and then God sends the rain!

Some are uneasy about the slaughter of these prophets. BUT we must not loose the significance of this event as a mini picture of history. It is a confrontation between God and all powers that set themselves up in opposition to God.

It is a picture of the Great Battle in Revelation 16 when ultimately at the end of time God will intervene in history and vindicate his name and all idolatry will be eradicated. AND those in opposition to God will be judged.

 

Elijah’s battle points to the final battle with evil – there is no place in God’s new heaven and new earth for idolatry.

1 Corinthians 6:9-10     9 Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders 10 nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. (NIV)

Revelation 21:8 8 But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practise magic arts, the idolaters and all liars — their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulphur. This is the second death.” (NIV)

Revelation 22:14-15 14 “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. 15 Outside are the dogs, those who practise magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practises falsehood. (NIV)

 

The utter defeat of evil – everything and everyone who sets up in opposition to God  and fails to acknowledge that God is God! Elijah was just a foretaste and there remains a fearful judgement to come.

Hebrews 10:27 27 … a fearful expectation of judgement and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. (NIV)

And remember that Jesus said “If you are not for me, you are against me!”

 

THE OPTIONS.

 

The options open to the observers – either continue in your idolatry and face the same fate as the prophets of Baal or repent and worship God as the one true God and receive mercy and forgiveness and blessing – remember the rains followed!

 

The choices that the people of Elijah’s day [OT] faced are the same today [NT] –

Acts 17 – Paul speaks to the Greeks in Athens … Acts 17:29-31

29 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone — an image made by man’s design and skill. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.” (NIV)

 

God’s justice will come – Carmel is a taste of that – BUT there is now an opportunity for repentance, God commands it. Failure to accept his offer will result in ultimate and infinite justice.

ILLUS.: I am uneasy about the military build up called “operation infinite justice”. Infinite justice is Gods prerogative. I am not saying there shouldn’t be a response to what happened at the World Trade Center on 11th September 2001 but we cannot and dare not play God.

Interestingly some Muslim clerics have questioned the name “infinite Justice” saying only Allah can dispense infinite justice – and they’re right!!

When we try to play God we are guilty of idolatry!! Because we are tempted to trust our own abilities and our own resources instead of God.

Yes there need to be justice but it must be measured and fair! We never have all the facts – only God does!

 

THE OPPORTUNITIES.

 

Elijah stood alone. His resources were limited. He beliefs were out of fashion. Everything seemed to be stacked against him.

 

Sometimes the circumstances of life can seem like that. Difficulties and challenges that are overwhelming and way beyond our resources and abilities. BUT so often in those situations when we feel weak and vulnerable BUT will trust him anyway that the glory and sufficiency of Christ is seen and experienced most.

 

ILLUS.: Over lunch we are gong to be talking about the challenges and opportunities we as Binscombe Church face in our community – What can we really do? Remember 1 plus God is a majority!!

 

2 Corinthians 12:8         God said to Paul ……, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

1 Corinthians 1:25 25 & 27 For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength. (NIV)

…27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. (NIV)

 

We may feel weak and inadequate BUT this story shows how God takes Elijah into the territory of Baal and uses him to win over the people in spite of much opposition. We do not need to be afraid to move into the world’s territory – in fact we are failing in our witness if we fail to engage with our world. NOT calling down fire from heaven!!

 

THE OBJECT LESSON.

 

What started out as a struggle between YHWH and Baal ends up as a burnt offering to God.

1 Kings 18:36-38           36 At the time of sacrifice, ……

The fire, which represented divine judgement, is also a reminder of God’s grace and kindness. A sacrifice for the sin of the people – I don’t think that Elijah’s prayer at the time of sacrifice is coincidental. God’s purpose in the event on Carmel is not so much the defeat of Baal as it is a expression of his love and reclaiming grace for his people Israel. And to show His glory!!

 

The greatest expression of God’s judgement in all history was the death of Jesus on the cross. Jesus took upon himself God’s judgement for the sin of the world. BUT it is also the greatest expression of God’s love – it is the means by which he reclaims a people for himself.

 

God is not mocked And idolatry will always ultimately fail – God created the universe, including humans as the pinnacle of that creation, for His glory and his glory alone and we can share in that glory only when we, like the Israelites of Elijah’s day, declare “The Lord, he is God!”

 

 

IDOLATRY ON TRIAL – A TIME TO CHOOSE

1 Kings 18 v 16-46

 

THE CONTEXT

God ignored – “When people stop believing in God … they start believing absolutely anything” G K Chesterton

 

THE CONTEST

450      against  1  ……  plus GOD

 

THE OBSERVERS

There are no spectators ……

…… all must make a choice

 

THE OUTCOME

Idols always, ultimately fail ……

            …… God always, ultimately triumphs

 

THE OPTIONS

Follow anything ……   OR    …… follow God

 

THE OPPORTUNITIES

Challenges are also Gods opportunities ……

 …… ‘God’s strength in made perfect

 through our weaknesses’

 

THE OBJECT LESSON

      “At the time of sacrifice …”

      the fire was a sign of judgement and grace.

The cross …

… God’s greatest expression of Judgement

AND his greatest expression of love.

1 Kings 18:1-15 – Upright living in a crooked world

1 Kings 18v1-15

 

Upright living in a crooked world.

 

Introduction.

 

The story of Elijah is dramatic and heroic. Here is a great man of faith through whom God works mighty miracles. It is an exciting story – one man standing alone against the corrupt govt. of his day and winning. From the human perspective it is the classic little man taking on the big corporation or govt. It is the stuff of Hollywood movies.

 

I was going to look at Elijah’s confrontation with the 450 Prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel BUT reading 1st half of ch.18 I was struck by this man Obadiah.

You see it is all to easy for us when we read a story like Elijah to say to ourselves, “It is all very well for Elijah – he was a spiritual giant – but God doesn’t expect me to be like that! When I pray the rain doesn’t stop for 3 ½ years and people don’t come back to life!!”

BUT then in the midst of these epic stories we find characters like Obadiah. An upright man living his day-to-day life in a crooked world.

 

ILLUS.: Who has been watching ITV’s programme “SURVIVOR” – come on be honest! 16 (?) people taken to a remote tropical island, put through various challenges and their fellow competitors vote one off per week. They are currently down to about 6.

Pete was recently voted off – Pete is Christian and he was openly so – not pushy, just openly stating his beliefs. It was refreshing in the midst of all the scheming and conniving to see Pete being upright. He wasn’t perfect – but all his competitors, even if they didn’t like him, considered him to be honest.

 

Upright living in a crooked world! The challenge of this is not that it is a one-off flash-in-the-pan episode BUT a consistent, daily-under-the-spotlight way of life.

 

Let’s pick up the story from last time….

 

Elijah had confronted Ahab – 3 ½ years ago now – told him God was not happy with Israel because they had turn away from God to worship idols. Then Elijah had been removed from the scene – a year living alone by the Cherith Brook with ravens bring his food morning and evening. Then God sent him to live with a pagan widow right in the territory of the god Baal. There God supplied a never-ending supply of oil and flour. An object lesson that God and not Baal was in control of crops and rain. Then the widow’s son died and God, in response to Elijah’s prayer raised him from the dead – another object lesson that God and not Baal and his cohorts had power over life and death.

 

NOW after 3 ½ years without rain God instructs Elijah to go and confront Ahab again!

 

 

  1. 1.     God uses a variety of strategies to achieve his purposes.

 

Contrast God command to Elijah in 17v2 to “hide yourself” and his command in 18v1 to “present himself”. The prophet is now to return to public life after 3 ½ years and soon the rains will return and the drought will end.

 

I find it interesting how God uses different approaches at different times. For Elijah there were times when it was appropriate to hide and there were times when it was appropriate to have a higher profile.

 

We do God a disservice and ourselves no good when we think that there is only one way to serve God. I am not talking about changing God’s message or God’s Truth. I am talking about the methods we employ to do God’s work.

 

God is a dynamic God – a God of variety and we try to box him in at our peril.

We serve an unchanging God but that doesn’t mean we serve a static God – God is active and moving and at work in our contemporary world – AND he works through his people in a variety of ways. And ways of serving him here today are different to other places and other times.

 

As we have already seen in Elijah’s life so far God’s methods are often unorthodox and very surprising – God doesn’t conform to our liturgy.

Who would use ceremonially unclean scavengers birds to feed a prophet .. God did! Who would send a prophet of God to live with a pagan widow .. God did! Who would ask a prophet of God, Hosea, to marry a prostitute? .. God did!

Jesus’ methods were very unorthodox .. he didn’t fit in the religious establishment. He accommodated himself to our world for the sake of His kingdom .. we cannot do less.

 

Moving on …

What was King Ahab doing during the 3 ½ years since he last set eyes on Elijah.

 

  1. 2.     Ahab: A crooked king in a crooked world.

 

I expect that Ahab may not initially have taken Elijah’s prediction about ‘no rain’ very seriously but as the weeks and months went by and the wet season came BUT no rain fell, Ahab became more worried and very angry. He had scoured the country and the neighbouring nations, looking for Elijah. No doubt threatening, bribing and begging – but when God conceals something / one nobody will find it.

 

Ahab was a miserable selfish king.

Kings in the Ancient Near East were often portrayed as shepherds. King David of Israel was the classic example – foreshadowing Jesus the greatest of all Shepherd-kings.

A good king was a shepherd to his people, protecting and caring for them, providing for their needs and seeking their well-being.

 

As someone has said, “A benevolent and wise autocrat is better than a corrupt democracy!”

 

Ahab was a corrupt autocrat who used his position and his power for his own ends. When the famine was severe instead of worrying about and caring for his people he was more concerned about finding food and water for his horses and mules [v.5].  His people were starving but heaven forbid that he should loose any of his livestock!

 

Ahab was worried about the grass when he should have been worried about the wrath of God.

It is NOT that difficult to understand why. Look at the society in which we live – maybe we need also to look into our own hearts – everyday people set out set out in pursuit of their personal goals and the almighty ‘£’ – there is a denying or ignoring of Almighty God and his wrath. Generally speaking people are far more concerned about making a living than they are about meeting our maker!

 

Now, of course, we tend to think that this applies to the profit hungry corporate director and shareholders.

BUT here is an exercise to examine ourselves.

On a A4 sheet make two columns: #1 list what you think should be your priorities.  #2 Use your diary and your bank statement to see how you actually spend your time and money! DO the two columns agree or are changes necessary!!!

 

Contrasted with Ahab the crooked king is Obadiah his servant.

 

  1. 3.     Obadiah: An upright man in a crooked world.

 

Here is a man who is in a key position even though he does not have the power – at least not humanly speaking.

In contrast to Ahab who should have cared for the people here is Obadiah managing to hide and feed 100 prophets of God.  Certainly he is risking his life – but at the same time he is obviously respected and trusted by the king and very good at his job.

 

There is a huge irony here – we know that Ahab, and Jezebel his wife, have killed many of God’s people and have scoured the nation for Elijah. YET under their very noses God places one of his people, Obadiah, no only to hide these 100 prophets but to supply their needs from the storehouse of the very king who is trying to kill them. God definitely has a sense of humour!!

 

Obadiah: An upright man who is very human.

When he meets Elijah – and Elijah gives him a message for King Ahab, Obadiah is fearful and understandably so. He has seen the ruthlessness of his boss. He also knows Elijah is rather elusive – yet in spite of his fear and apprehension – he trusts Elijah to keeps his word and tells the king. [v16]

 

I am hugely impressed with Obadiah – a godly man working in an ungodly environment. I guess many of you can identify with his position.

Some of you work for / with people who don’t believe what you do. Who do unethical things – who treat you and those around them in a selfish and abusive way. Yet in the midst of such a position God calls his people to do a good job with integrity and honesty. I doubt very much if Obadiah had opportunity to “preach the gospel” to the King and Queen!!

 

BUT he is not a compromiser – he is described as a devout believer! Like Daniel after him, called to serve the pagan king Nebuchadnezzar. Like Esther a godly woman in the courts of the King of Persia – all of these and more, devout believers willing to serve in ungodly places and when necessary – at the right time – willing to risk all for the sake of God’s glory!

 

There are many of God’s people – many like you – who are not called by God to so called ‘full-time ministry’ but are called to be workers in the everyday, work-a-day world. Willing to work with integrity and be available to be used for God’s kingdom when the opportunities arise!!

Obadiah was not a prophet like Elijah but was willing to be used by God for his purposes.

Obadiah hadn’t heard the Lord’s prayer but he certainly lived by the principle “May your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven

 

 

 

 

 

What lessons for Us!

 

There are occasion when like Elijah Christians need to ‘hide’ but it is usually only for a time – for protection to save lives or for spiritual refreshing.

Elijah was thrust back into the fray – as was Obadiah who was there all that time.

 

Wholehearted engagement with the world, with the political and economic process, is for most of us the way in which we can and should bear witness before a watching world. Jesus never pray that we be removed from the world.

John 17:15 15 My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one.

 

When Christians and the churches disengag from the world and form a ‘holy-huddle’ we are out of God’s will. John 17:18 18 As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. (NIV)

 

Obadiah was fearful and asks Elijah for assurances – HOWEVER his fears did not stop him from obeying the request from God’s man.

Do we have fears that keep us from obeying God, as we ought?

Few of us will face life-threatening situations like Obadiah and Elijah. They had the whole political and religious system against them. And God did preserve their lives.

Like Elijah Jesus would face single-handed combat against the forces of evil. In both cases God would vindicate himself – in Elijah’s case by preserving his life – and in Jesus case by accepting his death. When Jesus was heading for the cross he taught his disciples this – Mark 8:35 35 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it. (NIV)

 

Elijah was not ashamed of God’s Word – nor was Obadiah ashamed to risk his life to obey either – SO the true Man of God, Jesus, will not be ashamed of them – or us if we do the same. Mark 8:38 38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” (NIV)

 

When the Apostle John in Revelation describes the people of God through history he refers to them as having overcome. Revelation 12:11 11 They overcame him [the devil] by the blood of the Lamb         and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death. (NIV)

 

There have, of course, been many who have lost their lives – and still do today!!

As in Elijah’s time, so today God’s people are engaged in a spiritual battle. The forces of Evil do all in their power to destroy God’s work.

 

Few of us will ever have to face loss of life for the sake of the gospel – but are we being faithful in the small things – living uprightly in a crooked world!

 

God’s power over the forces of evil was seen in him stopping the rain, providing the flour and oil, raising the dead – right there in the territory of the god Baal you supposedly provided all these things. BUT God’s power was also seen in the life of Obadiah, and the 100’s of other people of God at the time who did not bow the knee to Baal and succumb to the idolatrous influences of the day.

 

So too when we, like Obadiah, live upright lives is a crooked world – day in day out – resisting the ungodly influences of our day striving to live by God’s principles, THEN God’s power is being demonstrated in us and God is glorified.

 

 

 

 

Upright living in a crooked world.

 

Kings 18v1-15

 

1. God uses a variety of strategies to

achieve his purposes.

 

Contrast God’s commands to Elijah –

hide yourself” – 17v2

present yourself” – 18v1

 

2. Ahab:

A crooked king in a crooked world

    

More concerned about his possessions

than his people

 

3. Obadiah:

An upright man in a crooked world

 

  • A God-fearing man
  • A man of honesty and integrity
  • A very human man – fearful but obedient
  • A man of faith willing to risk life for his God
  • A man willing to engage with his world

 

1 Kings 17:17-24 – Elijah: Man of Passion, Man of God

1 Kings 17v17-24

 

Elijah: Man of Passion, Man of God.

 

Introduction.

 

Death in a family is always difficult. The younger the deceased the more tragic it seems. Although the idea that somehow it is easier to die when you are older doesn’t hold much water. When the death is a child it somehow seems more tragic though!

This past fortnight . two friends we knew in SA died – both young mothers – one of leukaemia (Gill Ostroom) and the other savagely murdered (Shirley – nee Wyness)

 

Death raises in us many fears and questions!

 

1. Death: a devastating event.

 

This widow in Zarephath was no exception – her young son becomes ill and eventually dies. What is interesting is that before Elijah entered their lives She and her son were preparing for death and expecting it – it seems they had resigned themselves to it. 1 Kings 17:12 “…. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it — and die.” (NIV)

 

BUT then enter Elijah – God miraculously provides flour and oil – he stays in the upper room. The widow has exercised a certain faith in responding to God’s promise to provide. She has experienced God’s grace in the never-ending supply of Flour and oil. Life settles into a routine with a certain amount of security – BUT she is about to be tested more severely – tragedy strikes!!! – The boy dies.

Exercising faith in God is not a one-off event. The Bible teaching that we are to walk by faith // live by faith not sight (2 Cor.5v7) It is an ongoing process that is tested again and again.

How will this widow and indeed Elijah cope with God’s latest testing?

 

2. The Widow – a cry from a broken-heart.

 

Only those who have lost a loved-one, esp. a child can begin to appreciate the searing pain in the heart of this widow. Her grief and anger and pain is expressed in an outburst against Elijah. Yesterday’s hero becomes tomorrow’s scapegoat. Once Elijah the man of the moment is now the murderer in her eyes.

1 Kings 17:18 18 She said to Elijah, “What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?” (NIV)

 

Let’s us not judge her too severely. Sometimes in grief or pain we say things we later regret.

Elijah is God’s man – God’s representative – and she is angry and hurt and bitter – and Elijah is the nearest and most convenient target.

NB – how she quickly links the death of her son with something evil she did in the past. It is true that children sometimes suffer consequences of parent’s sins BUT God doesn’t punish children for their parents – Jesus and the man born blind. John 9:2-3  His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. (NIV)

In Zarephath, too God’s power would be shown.

 

BUT this widow is angry and Elijah is in the firing line.

Three bullets:-

  • “Elijah, you have something against me!”
  • “Elijah, you remind me of my sin!”
  • “Elijah, you killed my son!!”

 

She feels a mixture of hurt, grief and guilt and she looks for someone to blame.

 

3. Elijah: Response

– Silent in the face of accusation.

 

You know what is so impressive about Elijah at this point – He says nothing!!!

He doesn’t try to defend his position or his pride – in spite of being falsely accused.

He doesn’t argue with her. // doesn’t rebuke her. // doesn’t remind her how much he has done for her // or how ashamed she should be for blaming him // he doesn’t go off in a huff to leave her in her grief and self-pity.

 

Elijah has learned a thing or two in his years of testing.

 

–         Compassionate in his reaction to the widow.

 

Spiritual maturity s able to take / absorb the outbursts of anger and grief and blame and to see beyond these to the deep need. Selfishness and immaturity takes it personally, becomes defensive, withdraws and leaves the person in need unhelped and alone!!

 

Elijah’s action is to reach out and take the boy from his grieving mother – to take her burden // her pain // her anguish on himself.

Sound familiar – Isaiah says of Jesus, “… surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows…”

 

–         Passionate in his approach to God.

 

Elijah may have been silent before the woman but he is not silent before God

1 Kings 17:20 20 Then he cried out to the LORD, “O Lord my God, have you brought tragedy also upon this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?” (NIV)

It is before God that he raises the tough questions.  Elijah is open and rather blunt, even abrupt and angry, with God. “Lord what are you doing? I come here in your name, she takes me in and cares for me and now this?! Whjat’s going on?!”

Ever felt like that? Angry with God – questioning!!?

It is not wrong to ask questions BUT we have no right to demand an answer!

 

Elijah is not only passionate in his questions but also passionate in his requests!

1 Kings 17:21 21 Then he stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried to the LORD, “O Lord my God, let this boy’s life return to him!” (NIV)

 

Now what is going on here. There is no precedent in history to this point. The nearest we get is Enoch (Gen.5v24) who didn’t die but was simply taken straight to glory!

Elijah can’t look back as we can – to the cross and resurrection – Indeed this is a pointing forward to the cross. A taste of what is to come – that God is the God of the Life and Death.

 

Why stretch himself out over the boy 3x – not told. Maybe he is saying “Lord, take my life in the place of this child – give him my breathe!!”

The point is that Elijah recognises that in such circumstances God and only God has a solution.

What God is trying to teach Elijah and this widow, and the Nation of Israel and us too is that he, and he alone is God and holds the keys of death and life.

 

In the face of death no idol – least of all Baal could restore life from death.

 

1 Kings 17:22 The LORD heard Elijah’s cry, and the boy’s life returned to him, and he lived. (NIV)

 

Wider context.

Before we look at the widow’s response let’s zoom out and look at the wider context, which is vitally important. In fact the wider view is much more important than the individual story of this widow’s son.

 

In response to Elijah’s prediction in the face of King Ahab it has not rained and the famine is severe. What is going on?

 

God warned Israel when they entered the Promised Land that he would bless them and send rain and good crops IF they obeyed his commands and worshipped him only.

BUT Israel (Northern tribe) had had a series of kings who turned away from God and worshipped idols – the nation went into steep spiritual decline and all the warning of impending punishment went unhindered.

Instead of looking to God for their well-being they looked to idols – Baal – the god of wind and rain and fire – life  – fertility.

In Canaanite mythology the gods were often portrayed as being at war.

At the end of the growing season the god “Mot” (death) defeated Baal who descended into the nether world and stayed there until the dry season was over.

Then with the help of his consort, Anat, he would return from the realms of death bring life-giving rain for the crops – Baal was the source of life and he annually defeated death. (Except he hadn’t been doing to well lately!!

 

BUT Israel should have known better … God had long ago told them who was behind the growing seasons. Genesis 8:22

22 “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest,

cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night    will never cease.” (NIV)

Israel’s God didn’t have to die each year to bring life to the earth!!

 

SO the issue of POWER is again raised – right here in Zarephath – on Baal’s turf. Baal’s alleged power over life was at best indirect – it was one thing for the rains to come or not come and crops to fail or not. BUT to bring a dead person back to life!! Even in Canaanite mythology Baal could not return from death each year without help – SO what good was he in raising the widow’s son?

 

In reality Baal was just as dead as the wood used to make his image – He was simply the product of warped / sinful human imaginations.

 

Humans are ever ready and willing to trust in idols! Today in our so-called sophisticated world we do not bow to statues made of wood or stone. BUT we have plenty of other idols – things that we serve in order to establish and maintain our sense of wholeness and well-being. Money, material things, jobs, position, pleasure, influence and even other people. BUT all end in the grave. Like Baal these things cannot deal with the great leveller – death.

What in this life do you have that will go with you to the grave???

 

Just like Elijah going into the territory of Baal and showing God’s superior power right in the centre of Baal worship SO TOO Jesus in a greater way takes the battle to the enemy’s home turf. Satan’s great power is death

Hebrews 2:14 Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death — that is, the devil — (NIV)

After his death and before his resurrection Jesus enters Satan’s domain – he descends into Hades / the grave and shows himself to be Lord over death as well as life.

 

Baal worshipper thought that Baal was in control – BUT Elijah’s God shows himself to LORD. “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it”

And no matter how much people may erect idols to the contrary, the earth and life and death and all creation belongs to God.

 

It is interesting that as Elijah takes the dead boy to his upper room so in Jesus in the upper room with his disciples at his last meal before his death he teaches them “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life” (John 14)

 

And Elijah stretches himself out to cover the boy’s death – the Son of God, God’s True Man, the God-Man, is stretched out on a cross bring life to a world dead in sin.

 

And isn’t it ironic that the widow think that her son has died  because of her sin! BUT in reality her son could never be given as a price for her sin. Only God could give his Son to pay that price.

 

SO this is not just a story about a widow’s son who comes back to life – like some fairy tale “Once upon a time ….. and  …. They lived happily ever after

This is about HE who is the One True God  – whose power is over all the earth, and over life and death itself!

 

People spend billions to extend life and search for immortality – what else explains the obsession to remain young looking – but they refuse to come to the One who can give it. WHY? Because like our forebears, Adam and Eve, we think we know better than God himself.

 

4. The widow – a faith response.

 

Elijah return’s with her son alive. He simply gives him back. No long explanations – he doesn’t say, “Wow! look what happens when I pray” – God’s power has been demonstrated and God’s word has been proved true.

 

1 Kings 17:24  Then the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the LORD from your mouth is the truth.” (NIV)

 

Her response is one of faith in the word of God because she has seen in demonstrated through the man of God.

Do the people we live and work with see the Word of God, the power of God at work in and through us.

 

Oh!”, you say, “If only God would raise the dead today then people will believe!” NO! In spite of all the miracles Israel witnessed they still turned away from God and followed useless idols.

 

ILLUS.: Jesus told story of Rich man and a beggar named Lazarus .. both die .. Rich man to Hades and poor Lazarus to heaven Abraham’s bosom.  Rich man begs Abraham to send Lazarus back from the dead to warn his brothers ….

Luke 16:29-31     29 “Abraham replied, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.’

30 ” ‘No, father Abraham,’ he said, ‘but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.’

31 “He said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’ ” (NIV)

 

The Bible teaches us that the Christian life is a life of faith – we walk by faith not by sight – we are to believe God and take him at his word.

He has spoken supremely in the life and death and resurrection of Jesus and IF we will not believe that then there is no hope.

 

BUT as God’s people we are called like Elijah to live out that life of faith in the real world.

ILLUS.: Story this week of a farm hand who came to the Pastor and said he wanted to become a Christian – because for 15 years he had watch the farmer’s life and had seen a consistently honest, upright, compassionate man – “Now I am convinced his Faith and his God are true and I want what he’s got!”

 

Can our families and friends and colleagues look at us and like the widow say, “I have watched you – through ups and downs // through joys and heartaches // And now I know that that you are a man // woman of God and that word of the Lord from your mouth is the Truth!”

May this be true of us  — for God’s sake!

 

 

 

Elijah: Man of Passion, Man of God.

 

1 Kings 17v17-24

 

1. Death: a devastating event.

 

2. The Widow: a cry from a broken-heart.

 

–     She feels a mixture of hurt and anger, grief and guilt and she looks for someone to blame.

 

3. Elijah: his response

 

– Silent in the face of accusation.

–     Compassionate in his reaction to the widow.

–     Passionate in his approach to God.

 

4. The Widow: a faith response.

 

–     to the witness of Elijah

–     to the Word of God

 

1 Kings 17:7-16 – Elijah: Moulding goes on and on and on and ….

1 Kings 17v7-16

 

Elijah: Moulding goes on and on and on and ….

 

Introduction.

 

ILLUS.: I grew up at the sea on the East Coast of South Africa – Durban. The surfing capital of Africa. Started off with rubber ‘lilos’ {name?} then used flippers for body-surfing and eventually graduated to a surf-ski – like a kayak but you sit on it, not in it. Different types of waves – depends on tide, winds etc. Some crumble from the top – great! Others curl, suck back at bottom and crash – dumpers!!! In rough conditions come is quick succession. Dumped, churned – surfaced for air only to be dumped and churned again and again and again…HOPEFULLY just before you drown you are unceremoniously dumped onto the beach, spitting sand!!!

 

Life can sometimes feel like that. A wave hits you and you get dumped and churned and as you come up for air, breathing a sigh of relief that you made it through that, another wave hits you, and another, …

 

I wonder if this is how Elijah felt as the next phase of God’s moulding process kicks in?

 

  1. 1.     The brook dries up!

 

1 Kings 17:7 Some time later the brook dried up because there had been no rain in the land. (NIV)

 

God had sent Elijah to the Cherith Brook. NOW the water dries up. The God who gave the water in the first place now withholds it. Has God forgotten Elijah?

You see our human response is that once God gives us something he shouldn’t take it away!

Once God gives us a child he should never take it away, should he?

Once God gives a spouse he should never take him/her away, should he?

Once God provides a good ministry and growing church he has no right to stop that, does he?

 

When times are tough has God forgotten us?

Had God forgotten Elijah? Was he unhappy with Elijah and punishing him? NO! – on both counts.

He was not unhappy with Elijah – Elijah was where God wanted him to be – he had sent him there. [not always the case but was so here!!]

 

A dried up brook was a result of Elijah’s own prayer. He had prayed that it would not rain and ultimately it did not rain for 3 ½ years. A dried up brook was an indication that the very thing he had prayed for was beginning to happen.

James 5:17           17 Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years. (NIV)

 

Has this ever happened to you? “Lord, make me a godly man! Make me into the woman you desire me to be?” BUT in your heart you are thinking “…but don’t let it hurt too much!”

 

ILLUS.: My brother Leigh as a young man going off to Bible College prayed – and wrote in the front of his Bible – “Lord, anywhere, any time, any cost!” Some years later his wife Esther, together with my sister Jayne were killed in a motor accident – part of the cost? Yes!

 

Lord, teach me faith, make strong, BUT don’t let me suffer to much!”

We sang “… give us compassion we pray, melt our cold hearts…” For something to melt the heat needs to be turned up!! Are we prepared for God to do that in our lives?

 

God’s desire is to make us into what he wants us to be – to be like Jesus. He is relentless in his purpose.

 

So for Elijah, and for us, a dried up brook is not necessarily a sign of God’s disappointment in us, but may be a sign of his pleasure.

ILLUS.:Abraham was told to sacrifice his son.

Joseph was sold as a slave and later thrown into prison  – unjustly.

Paul was stoned, beaten. Imprisoned etc.. for the sake of Christ.

Jesus went to Gethsemane and the cross – God was well-pleased with him!

 

A dried up brook – the God who gives water can also withhold it! And it is not necessarily a sign of his displeasure.

 

2. A Change of scenery.

 

1 Kings 17:8-9 … 8 Then the word of the LORD came to him: 9 “Go at once to Zarephath of Sidon and stay there. …

  • God knows where Elijah is.

Then the word of the LORD came to him…

God speaks to Elijah where he is – he knows exactly the place and the circumstances. When we are in tough times, feeling forsaken, lonely, afraid – angry with God and not wanting even to speak to him. He knows where I am!

And his word will come to us if we will hear – sometimes God reminds us of his word through a friend, a song, a memory, a reading of his Word – promises like

Isaiah 41:10         10 So do not fear, for I am with you;

do not be dismayed, for I am your God.

I will strengthen you and help you;

I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

 

However difficult Cherith was – Elijah had daily reminders of God’s care. The ravens brought his food twice a day for about a year – +700x.

God’s moulding process is sometimes slow – painstakingly slow. He took 40 years to teach Israel the consequences of lack of trust!

 

  • God knows where Elijah is going.

Go at once to Zarephath of Sidon and stay there

Maybe Elijah had got used to Cherith and was comfortable there. God changes the scenery to teach new lessons and continue the moulding process.

Zarephath – Why there?

Plenty of reason why not.

  • It is on the opposite direction to Samaria.- Capital of Israel – where action is – King and Queen there!
  • It is about 80-100 miles away – a long trek through the drought ridden country. Through territory where he is the nation’s no.1 wanted man.
  • It is a foreign country – in fact it is right into the region where the wicked Queen Jezebel came from – the woman who was after his life. And it is into the heartland of Baal worship – The god against whom Elijah is protesting.

 

The name Zarephath means to melt / smelt. God sends him from Cherith [possibly meaning drought] to Zarephath [smelting furnace] – talk about turning up the heat!!!

 

And stay there… same as Cherith – live their in dependence

 

  • God has prepared a place for Elijah.

1 Kings 17:9 .. I have commanded a widow in that place to supply you with food.

 

It is one thing to have God-directed-birds miraculously bring food. That’s the stuff of miracles – looks good in a biography. But it is very humbling to have a poor, destitute widow be your means of provision.

 

Who is this woman?

We don’t know her name or the name of her son. She is a Sidonian, almost certainly not one of God’s people – she refers to Elijah’s God as “your God” [v.12]. She is most likely a worshipper of Baal – possibly at this stage a very disillusioned follower of Baal who was supposed to be the god of the wind and rain and at present wasn’t doing a very good job!!

Had her husband died as a result of the drought? ??

A woman in that time and place had no status without a husband and her son was still dependent. She is about to eat her last meal and then lie down and die!

A picture of disillusionment and hopelessness.

 

What must Elijah have thought when he first saw her. “This women Lord? You cannot be serious. Are you sure it is not some wealthy widow on the seafront – maybe I need to look around a bit more?”  — “No, Elijah, this is the one!!”

Welcome to Zarephath, Elijah!!

 

The circumstances seem to contradict what God had said “I will provide for you!” BUT he is confronted with a woman who has an empty bowl of flour and an empty jar of oil – or at least it will be if she feeds him!!

 

3. God’s faithfulness and human obedience.

 

Elijah had obeyed God and confronted King Ahab, then gone to Cherith Brook and experienced God’s faithful provision, now obeyed again and journeyed to Zarephath. God said “go!” and Elijah “went”.

NOW he is tested again – in faith to believe and declare to this woman that God would provide flour and oil for her and her son and her uninvited guest until the next rains!

 

What is this woman’s response? – 1 Kings 17:15 … 15 She went away and did as Elijah had told her. ..

 

In the midst of this crucible of Zarephath this widow believed Elijah and His God and obeyed. Was this bold, brazen faith striding out in confidence; or was it stuttering feeble faith, that was at rock bottom and thought, “I have nothing to loose maybe I should try this God – nothing else seems to work!”

I suggest it was probably the latter.

 

Humanly speaking it was desperate situation – humanly speaking this widow would have been the last person we would have looked to, to provide food and shelter for Elijah.

 

There are times in our lives when we take faltering steps not sure if our decisions are in faith or foolishness. May be we are at rock bottom – maybe we don’t even bring the situation to God is pray – maybe we are so stressed out // so feeble // so at the end of our tether that we are too numb to say how we feel.

AND then God because he is gracious and good works things out in ways we could never expect. AND then in the midst of our weakness works through us.

 

ILLUS.: When we first arrived in the UK 11 years ago [next Sunday in fact 1st July 1990] God provision was through a single man we had never met – who lived in a house that was about to be repossessed and we were able to stay there for 3 months. We had very little – we had been very hurt and disappointed by the organisation we worked for and resigned. God used this single man who had very little himself to meet our needs. And through our weakness spoke to his heart and he became a Christian and was baptised – we could take no credit. I don’t recall in that time praying passionately for him or trying to ‘preach the gospel’ to him. BUT he testified that through us being there God had got through to him – in spite of us.

In our weakness // need // when we only have God to lean on he often works in amazing and unexpected ways. – sometimes when we don’t even consciously lean on him or ak him.

 

This destitute widow was God’s means of providing for Elijah – and he no doubt tired and weary from his long, hot and dangerous journey was the means God used to meet the need of the widow and her son.

 

Elijah is a Prophet of God with a message – BUT Prophecy is more than just words – it is often picture language. Here is Elijah, God’s prophet, in the crucible of Zarephath – the heartland of Baal worship, the fertility god who supposedly controlled the sun and rain and crops but who had failed. Elijah’s God, and ours, demonstrates that he is in control and can provide directly the oil and flour in unending supply.

 

In the process of working through Elijah, God is at the same time working in Elijah moulding him into the man of God he wants him to be. Teaching him faith, humility, obedience and trust. It is exactly those things that God wants to develop is each of his children.

 

Maybe like Elijah you feel that life has been very tough – maybe there are times when you question this Christianity – God seems to respond so slowly to our prayer OR not at all it seems – is it all worth it? Don’t give up God hasn’t forgotten you! Isaiah 49:15-16 15 “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne?

Though she may forget, I will not forget you! 16 See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;…

Maybe like the widow you feel that you have nothing to give – what can I do for God? Your bowl seems empty and the jar is dry! BUT what is so amazing is that out of the need – in that situation were you feel weak and helpless God can use you IF like the widow – and Elijah – you [we] will ‘go’ and ‘do’. Trust and obey!

Can you imagine what the widow and her son must have felt when years later the rains came and they hear the story of Elijah’s confrontation with the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel? And how Elijah’s God, who had become their God had sent rain?

Imagine what she must have felt – thank you Lord for allowing us the privilege of host Elijah as guest in our home. For allowing us to be part of your plan to restore your people.

 

Can you imagine what it will be like on that day when we get to heaven and because we have trusted God and faithfully obeyed him we will see what he has accomplished and that we had the privilege of being part of his purposes?

 

BUT we don’t have to wait for heaven – God is working in this world to establish his kingdom. When we reach out in love and compassion to the hurting around us and their lives are enriched by God as a result, that should give us great joy – and fulfilment and purpose.

 

Elijah’s Cherith experience was in isolation – alone with God.

We asked “Am I as willing to be set aside as I and to be used?”

NOW “Am I, like Elijah, willing to be humbled and to live in humility?”

The widow was herself a social welfare case and God’s sends Elijah to her to find help! And to stay there for 2 ½ years.

 

Zarephath was a hard lesson – and there is more to come!!

We said last week how we would all like a Mt.Carmel-type experience where we see bold faith and dramatic miracle. –

 

– but that the road to Carmel led through Cherith [drought – alone with God to learn dependence] AND that same road also leads through Zarephath [smelting – furnace] where dependence is deepened and humility is learned.

 

The God who leads is also the God who provides – often just enough and just in time – often in unexpected and unorthodox ways – but always faithful.

 

No doubt Elijah felt like a weary pilgrim in a drought-stricken land and cried to God for strength and guidance – and we need to do just that.

Guide me o my Great Redeemer,

pilgrim through this barren land,

I am weak but thou art mighty,

hold me with thy powerful hand,

Bread of heaven, Bread of heaven

feed me now and ever more ,

 feed me now and ever more!


Elijah: The Moulding goes on and on and ….

 

1 Kings 17v7-16

 

1. The brook dries up!

  • The God who gives water can also withhold it.

 

  • A dried up brook was a result of Elijah’s own prayer.

 

2. A Change of scenery.

  • God knows where Elijah is.

 

  • God knows where Elijah is going.

 

  • God has prepared a place for Elijah.

 

3. God’s faithfulness and human obedience.

  • God can and will use us IF like Elijah and the widow we will ‘go’ and ‘do’. Trust and obey!

 

1 Kings 17:2-6 – Elijah: Moulding the Man

1 Kings 17v2-6

 

Elijah: Moulding the Man

 

Introduction.

 

Some people are so busy that the thought of stopping and taking time out scares them.

Some talk about time out and mean a weekend away – a few weeks holiday in the sun and then back into the fray.

On the other hand, for some life is so very organised and routine and comfortable that the thought of doing something different or radical is frightening.

 

As Christians we say that we want God’s blessing // we want him to use us in his service // we sing about our willingness to do whatever our Lord wants // we pray that he will develop in us a Christlike character //… BUT I wonder how sincere we [ and I mean we – including me ] … how sincere and genuine we really are!

 

The story of Elijah, and many other great men and women of God, shows us that there is a cost involved in serving God AND that really God is far more concerned about our character than he is about our gifts and talents!

 

There are times when God wants us to stop the mad activity and be alone with him. Then there are others times when he requires us to be different, to be radical for him, to be willing to change and to take risks of faith.

Elijah has just been through an adrenaline-rush experience – He has stood boldly in front of the King of the nation and told him a thing or two about who controls the rain.

 

Surely now God wants to capitalise on this remarkable act – a national tour perhaps? Doing the rounds of the TV studios – ‘Breakfast with Frost’ ‘Question Time with David Dimbleby’…? Interviews with Sue McGregor and John Humphries on the Today Programme? Phone-ins on Radio 5-live!? Photo-shoots and interviews with the National Press.

 

BUT NO! God’s word to Elijah is “Get off the national stage and go hide away from the public arena!”

 

  1. Am I as willing to be set aside by God as I am to be used by Him?

 

No many are Elijah-type who are in up-front positions BUT we would all like to be useful to God – to have a sense of being needed – to make a difference in my sphere of activity.

 

BUT am I willing to be set-aside – to be in obscurity and in the process be tried and tested by God. Those who know the story of Elijah will know that a 3½  years hence Elijah will have to confront the god Baal and the 450 prophets as well as King Ahab and Queen Jezebel. Elijah needs to be prepared for that event and God is in the process of doing it.

 

God is still in the business of preparing his people for ministry – developing Christ-like character in them. Preparing them for usefulness in his kingdom.

 

ILLUS. When I was 18 I was conscripted into the SA Army. The first 3 months was basic training. Engineers Corps – Sappers. No home leave or weekends off. Middle of winter. Up at 5:00 am PT // 6:00 shower // 6:30 breakfast // 7:00 Parade // 7:30 –10:00 marching // lectures.. rifle training .. explosives and demolition .. landmines .. water purifying .. bridge building etc… Running in full battle dress .. 30 mile night marches … WHY? Preparing for conflict!

Months later while on the Nambia / Angola border during the Angolian war, I was extremely grateful for that training when as the only army engineer on a convoy I was called upon to defuse two landmines buried in a dirt road.

 

We like Elijah are involved in a spiritual battle – and God sometimes puts us through tough training to prepare us and make us useful for his service.

 

There is something of an irony in God’s instruction to Elijah – Go to “Kerith / Cherith Brook / Ravine” – brooks are first to dry up in drought! And some think the word “Kerith” may even mean drought! Why does God send him there? To protect him – hide him from Ahab and Jezebel’s murderous threats. NO! – we know from later in the story that Obadiah, a God-fearing man and a top civil servant hid 100 of God’s prophets in two caves and fed them from the King’s supplies!!!

 

I believe God took Elijah there as part of the moulding process.

Yes he was protected from Ahab but he takes him to a hidden, isolated place to prepare him for greater things!

We all have character traits and rough edges that God needs to deal with and sometimes the process is painful – A W Tozer – “It is doubtful that God can bless a man greatly until he has hurt him deeply.”

God is far more concerned about what we are that what we can do! Greatness, as the Bible defines it, never come quickly. It is forged in the furnace of time.

Moses spent forty years in the deserts of Midian, before he was ready to lead God’s people out of slavery.

David spent years looking after sheep and then running and hiding in the desert from the murderous King Saul, before he became King.

Joseph spent time as a slave and a prisoner before he became Pharaoh’s no.2. Prime Minister of Egypt.

 

Elijah spends time at the Cherith Brook – part of God’s moulding / honing process. It is not a lush green valley with crystal clear bubbling brook surrounded by fruit trees. That part of the world is scorchingly hot in the day and cold at night. The only catering service are the ravens!! And they dish up the same menu every day – meat and bread!

 

In our frantic, fast-moving-conveyor-belt-type existence we are always on the go! Things to do, people to see, programmes to watch. We live in noise infested environment. Silence and stillness is something to be avoided.

 

You phone the dentist and for the 17½ second that you are on hold they play you music! [Vivaldi’s Four Seasons in tiny distorted sound – I don’t know what Vivaldi did to deserve such treatment!!]

The jogger running through the country side can’t possible listen to the sounds of nature but must have a walkman blasting his eardrums!

 

SO maybe we can’t stop the world and live at Cherith for a year or even a week or a day. BUT don’t we need to build stillness into the midst of our busyness. Do you have even 10 minutes a day when you stop and engage with God!

 

Perhaps like Elijah we would like a real MT. Carmel-type experience of faith – mighty miracles, boldness, strong faith. BUT the story of Elijah shows us that the road to Carmel passes through Cherith. Alone with God.

 

  1. God’s direction includes His provision and requires our daily trust.

 

Can you imagine Elijah bumping into an old friend on his way to Cherith.

F – “Where you going?”

E – “Cherith”

F – “Cherith – we’re joking – there’s nothing there!

What are you going live on?”

E – “Well there’s a brook there with some water!”

F – “What will you eat?”

E – “Well God said the ravens will bring me food!!”

F – “Yea, right! Maybe you should see a

psychiatrist!!”

 

God makes provision for his physical welfare AND he provides for his spiritual welfare as well – silence and solitude – that’s what was needed to mould his character.

 

NB 1 Kings 17:5  So he did what the LORD had told him. He went to the Kerith Ravine, east of the Jordan, and stayed [lived] there. (NIV)

It is one thing to go on an adventure trail // or a weekend of camping BUT this was to live there! Probably about a year!

 

Hidden away. The brook. Those birds again. AND God!

Are we willing to be hidden away? – to learn those deep and hidden values from God.

It may not mean physically going away! Think of hidden lives – mother caring for children! Children caring for elderly parents! {Highly qualified people doing apparently menial tasks}

OR God sets you aside on a sick bed – or takes you through a financial desert – removes you from a promising career!

Maybe God allows these things because he knows that we need learn to be alone with him // dependant on him.

 

These times and experiences may sometimes be extremely difficult BUT they are God’s provision – because he knows what we need, to develop into what he what us to be and to do.

 

As human we so easily slide into comfortable grooves – in our family / church / working / social lives. We can’t imagine life any other way.

 

ILLUS.: Vance Havner in his book “It is toward evening” tells the story of a group of farmers who were growing cotton in the American Deep South. They had put all their resources and energies in their cotton fields. Then the boll weevil came. Disaster!! BUT amazingly someone came up with the idea of growing peanuts – it brought them more money than they would ever have made growing cotton. What initially looked like disaster proved to be the opposite. They erected a monument to the humble boll weevil. The very thing they thought would destroy them.

 

Sometimes” says Havner, “we settle into a humdrum routine as monotonous as growing cotton year after year. Then God sends us the boll weevil to jolt us out of our groove, and we must find new ways to live!”

 

Maybe it is financial trouble, health problems, loss of position,  a bereavement etc… because as the master farmer God’s purpose is to produce in his people fruit – Christlike character – that will last.

SO he allows things into our lives to teach us!!

ILLUS.: Being diagnosed with cancer in October 1995 is not something I would have chosen. BUT I have learned things through these past 6 years I would have learned no other way – I often acted and reacted badly – I am a slow learner!! BUT God is gracious and patient and keeps chipping away. AND there is still a long way to go!!!

 

Sometimes the best thing that can happen to us is the coming of our boll weevil!

The God who directs is the God who provides and he wants us to trust him one day at a time.

 

God never told Elijah what the next step would be until he had taken the first step.  Go to Ahab. Now to Cherith. Now to Zerapath. ….

He did not know the future but he had God’s promise — “I will provide for you there.

 

NB God’s method of provision!!!!!!!

 

  1. God’s ways are often extraordinary, even startling.

He is not bound to our agenda.

1 Kings 17:6 6 The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook. (NIV)

 

This is extraordinary!! Bizarre!

These birds bring Elijah food each breakfast and suppertime were a constant reminder that God was involved in the detail of his life.

Elijah was learning that God is full of variety and surprises – we have a tendency to fall into legalistic sterility BUT not God. He is not a do-it-by-the-rule-book God but an extraordinary dynamic God.

I am sure Elijah didn’t relish the idea of being drip fed by a bunch of birds! Esp. ravens as they are scavengers feeding on offal and rotting matter – they love to hang around rubbish tips. Added to this, according to Jewish ceremonial law, these birds were unclean!

Leviticus 11:13-15        13 ” ‘These are the birds you are to detest and not eat because they are detestable: the eagle, the vulture, the black vulture, 14 the red kite, any kind of black kite, 15 any kind of raven, (NIV)

 

Elijah wasn’t asked to eat the birds BUT if they were unclean anything they touched became unclean! What is God doing??!!

Maybe God is teaching Elijah, and us, that he will not be – can not be –  boxed in by preconceived legalism.

God is not bound into our style!

 

“God we want you to meet us but, Lord, it will have to be between 10:30 and 11:30 on Sunday mornings!! We want you to bless us but you must do it this way. Please provide what we ask you – our daily food but it can’t possibly be by The Raven’s Catering Services!”

God is a dynamic God – a God of freshness and creativity and sometimes he shatters all our preconceived ideas about how he does his work – and if we won’t co-operate with him he will raise up others who will.

 

If Elijah had been unwilling to accept God’s radical method of providing he would have starved to death.

 

Conclusion.

 

Elijah’s Cherith experience was not a holiday.

Sometimes the hardest thing for us to do is to do nothing. Our pride tells us we need to do things ourselves!! To be concealed / hidden away / cut-off from the hustle and bustle of the familiar and the routine doesn’t come easily – we like to be in control!

 

Maybe you are an active person always busy doing maybe in up front limelight /maybe behind the scenes.

Maybe your ego and your pride drives you to always be doing! In our fast moving, 21stC world with TV, Radio, telephones, computers, microwave meals and motor cars we need Cherith Brook experiences. Times alone with God. When we stop – listen – reflect – ask God to meet our inmost needs and desires – to change us, to teach us, to mould us, to make us like Jesus and to prepare us to do his work in his way. AND we must be willing to let God be God and do it HIS way! He requires our obedience and co-operation.

 

God was moulding Elijah – yes for Elijah’s good – but also so Elijah could be useful to God’s work. The same is true of us.

What is God wanting to teach us – individually and as a church – ARE WE LEARNING THE THINGS GOD WANT TO TEACH US? God wants to mould us for our good BUT also, and more importantly, for his glory.

 

 

Elijah: Moulding the Man

 

1 Kings 17v2-6

 

 

  1. 1.      Am I as willing to be set aside by

God as I am to be used by Him?

 

 

  1. 2.      God’s direction includes His

provision and requires our daily

trust.

 

 

3. God’s ways are often extraordinary,

even startling. He is not bound by

our agenda.

 

“God is far more concerned about what we are than he is about what we can do”

 

1 Kings 16:29 – 17:1 – Elijah: A Man for the Moment!

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!

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”

His Roots.

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!

His Character.

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)

His task

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.

Psalm 24:3-4

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

before him.