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Truth in Palmyra

By Wally Fry

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Elijah-How One Man Made a Difference-Part 9

1 Kings 18:41-46

And Elijah said unto Ahab, Get thee up, eat and drink; for there is a sound of abundance of rain. So Ahab went up to eat and to drink. And Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; and he cast himself down upon the earth, and put his face between his knees, And said to his servant, Go up now, look toward the sea. And he went up, and looked, and said, There is nothing. And he said, Go again seven times. And it came to pass at the seventh time, that he said, Behold, there ariseth a little cloud out of the sea, like a man’s hand. And he said, Go up, say unto Ahab, Prepare thy chariot, and get thee down, that the rain stop thee not. And it came to pass in the mean while, that the heaven was black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain. And Ahab rode, and went to Jezreel. And the hand of the LORD was on Elijah; and he girded up his loins, and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel

We started our study with Elijah handing a prophecy to King Ahab that, due to the sin and idolatry of both him and the nation, that God would withhold rain from the land or Israel as a judgment upon them.

Elijah then spent three years basically keeping out of sight while the drought unfolded in the land, first living alone at the brook Kidron, then living in the home of a widow woman and her son. We learned that not only was God giving time for the drought to unfold in the land so that the people would understand the judgment they were under, but that God was shaping and molding Elijah for a great, great mission.

That mission, of course was the great confrontation on mount Carmel between Elijah and the prophets of Baal. Of course we know there was really no showdown or contest in reality, as we know it was all merely an opportunity for God to showcase His awesome power and bring the people to repentance and forgiveness.

That is where we stand in our story. The “contest” on mount Carmel is over. God has shown to all the assembled just who is God and who is not; the prophets of Baal are all dead. At this point it is only Elijah, the people of Israel(who have immediately begun obeying God, as we see by the execution of the prophets of Baal at Elijah’s command), and King Ahab. What’s next?

It almost seems anti climactic at this point in some ways. Elijah seemingly said to Ahab; “Hey go get something to eat.”; however, Elijah did add some interesting words here: for there is a sound of abundance of rain. Basically, Elijah was telling the King to go celebrate the coming of the rain. Did Elijah actually hear rain here? Did Elijah have really good ears? Given what happened next, it doesn’t seem likely Elijah actually heard or saw anything to physically indicate rain was coming. What did Elijah hear?

Elijah has just spent three years relying on the promises and provision of God. He was fed by a raven, watched food refill itself for two years, and watched a young boy come back from the dead; Elijah had come to recognize the sound of God’s promises. While Elijah may not have physically heard or seen the signs of rain, he did know God had promised the rain would come. In 1 Kings 18:1 we see that: And it came to pass after many days, that the word of the LORD came to Elijah in the third year, saying, Go, shew thyself unto Ahab; and I will send rain upon the earth. Elijah heard and heeded the promise of God to bring the rain.

Note what the great prophet did now. The great man who had only moments before been standing with strength and confidence now prostrated himself in supplication and prayer to his God. Elijah didn’t just pray once, as we see. He sent his servant to scan the horizon seven times looking for signs on impending rain. On the seventh persistent prayer, Elijah’s servant reported rain on the horizon.

The interaction between Elijah and King Ahab is very interesting. Why wasn’t the most evil King in Israel’s history slain along with his idolatrous prophets? Well, I certainly don’t know. But it apparently was in God’s sovereign plan, and Elijah knew it. He sent the servant to Ahab to tell him the rains were coming, and to head quickly back to his home in Jezreel before the deluge stopped him. Filled with the strength of the Holy Spirit, Elijah ran before the King’s chariot the entire distance back. This certainly showed Elijah’s loyalty to the man ordained by God to be the leader of the country, as the custom was for runners to precede the chariots of kings. It again also showed the empowering of Elijah for this mission as this was likely in the range of 15-25 miles back to the palace.

The story of Elijah, Ahab, and Jezebel is not over yet; there is still an important episode left to record in relation to this story, and we will head there next time. The lessons we can learn from Elijah continue to show themselves to us.

We see by Elijah’s prayer that he was bold before men, yet humble before God,, just as believers today should be.

We see that Elijah was persistent in his prayer. Seven times he prayed for God to deliver what He had promised that he would.

Elijah’s loyalty to King Ahab show the prophet’s continued willingness to act in accordance with God’s plan and be loyal the the man God had place in leadership, even when he certainly had personal feelings that would have prompted him otherwise.

1 Kings 19:1-4

And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and withal how he had slain all the prophets with the sword.Then Jezebel sent a messenger unto Elijah, saying, So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by to morrow about this time. And when he saw that, he arose, and went for his life, and came to Beersheba, which belongeth to Judah, and left his servant there. But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers.


As we left our previous discussion, Elijah had run ahead of King Ahab all the way back to Jezreel, and seemingly dropped him off at the gate of the city, more or less. As was typical of Ahab, the first thing he did was run in and tell his evil wife, Queen Jezebel, what had happened back on mount Carmel. As was typical of Jezebel, she immediately took control of things and came up with a solution. As was typical of Jezebel, her solution was simply to get rid of the problem!

When informed of how Elijah has slain all the prophets of Baal, she immediately sent word to Elijah that his fate would be the same. “By this time tomorrow, you will be dead too!” is what she informed the great prophet of. Immediately, Elijah returned to the palace and boldly proclaimed a message of repentance and forgiveness to Queen Jezebel, right? He fearlessly confronted her with the Word of God, knowing that his God would continue to protect him, right?

Since we all have the book, we know that none of that happened. For three years, Elijah had trusted God; for three years Elijah had done all that God had called him to do. Elijah had stood bold and alone against the dancing prophets of Baal on mount Carmel. Elijah had mocked and defeated(in God’s power, or course), the 450 prophets of the false god. Elijah had chased the false prophets down and killed them all. Now, when given a message from Queen Jezebel of his imminent demise, he tucks tail and runs; Elijah heads for the hills! What has happened to the great man of God?

We really do not know exactly why Elijah reacted the way he did to Jezebel’s threat, as Scripture never comes right out and tells us, We can only theorize; so let’s theorize a little bit. As we theorize, let’s consider how many of these thoughts apply to believers today, even as we do The Lord’s work.

This threat was personal; it was aimed directly and personally against Elijah. He had just been the channel by which God showcased His amazing power and proved just who He was. But think about the conversation between Ahab and Jezebel. No doubt, Ahab gave a blow by blow description of what happened, with every intention of making Elijah look as bad a possible and himself as good as possible. He told Jezebel about all that Elijah had done. The responsibility for these things had been laid squarely at Elijah’s feet; God was not acknowledged as the source for them. That must have hurt! There was Elijah, just doing God’s called work, and all of these horrible things had been laid at his feet. Does that happen today?

Elijah was tired. He had maintained focus for three long years, and had done all things God had asked of him. Think about this: that day on mount Carmel must have been a long one. This all started early in the morning, continued into the evening, and was capped by a 25 mile road march! Elijah was no doubt exhausted. How often do we push so hard in God’s service that we become exhausted?

Perhaps Elijah was disappointed. Surely he expected everybody to see the great thing God had done and react in repentance and faith. Perhaps he even expected Jezebel to react this way. Her heart, however, was so hard she did not. Have we ever been disappointed to see our best efforts, often at personal cost to us, fail when they confront a hardened heart?

Elijah was simply a human being, just like the rest of us. Elijah was nothing special; his only notable characteristic is that God called him. He tells us himself, that I am not better than my fathers. Elijah was a human, with human emotions and weaknesses. He, and any of us, can fail to rely on the presence of the Holy Spirit on our lives and slip into a slump.

It’s not far from the Penthouse to the outhouse. I used to know a fellow who said that quite often, and it is a true statement. Just like Elijah, we can all be used greatly and mightily by The Lord. Just like Elijah, even at the height of our God given successes, we can find ourselves quickly in trouble.

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Elijah-How One Man Made a Difference-Part 8

 

 1 Kings 18:25-29

And Elijah said unto the prophets of Baal, Choose you one bullock for yourselves, and dress it first; for ye are many; and call on the name of your gods, but put no fire under. And they took the bullock which was given them, and they dressed it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even until noon, saying, O Baal, hear us. But there was no voice, nor any that answered. And they leaped upon the altar which was made. And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked. And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them. And it came to pass, when midday was past, and they prophesied until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that there was neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regarded.


Well, here we are! The time for the great “showdown: is here! I hope readers notice that every time I type that word, “showdown,” it has been in quotation marks; that has not been an accident. We often refer to this as the contest on mount Carmen between the Prophet Elijah and the prophets of Baal. Two points are critical to assess at this point: It was NOT a contest, and it was NOT between Elijah and anybody. The result of this confrontation was predetermined, preordained, and there was never any question of just who would prevail here. Elijah was simply God’s chosen tool and representative; he was simply the man God had picked to show His might and power to the idolatrous Israelites, Ahab, and the prophets of Baal.

Before we move on, let’s recap quickly where we have been. Three long years ago, Elijah had pronounced God’s judgement via drought on the nation of Israel for turning their backs on God under the leadership of King Ahab and the evil, idol worshiping Queen Jezebel. Elijah then took off into the desert to escape the wrath of the angry Jezebel, who we find out later began a systematic pogrom and purge of the men of God in the Kingdom. Elijah basically hid himself out for three years first by a brook where he was fed by a raven daily, then with a widow woman and her child, where God provided for the three of them. Elijah was doing much more than just hanging out; God was working a purpose in The Prophet. Elijah was being taught, groomed, and strengthened for a great work

What are some of the things Elijah learned over the course of three years?

Elijah learned that, if God called him to do something even though seemingly dangerous, that He would protect and provide for him. We see that as he sat by the brook Kidron for a year drinking its waters and being fed by a raven. We see that as God provided for Elijah for two more years while dwelling with the widow woman and her son, who just before Elijah’s arrival were preparing to eat their last meal and die.

Elijah learned that God would provide physical safety for His people if He puts them at risk. No doubt while Elijah was sitting hidden by that brook, Ahab and his soldiers were desperately seeking to kill this prophet who had spoken so brashly against him. Then God sends Elijah to abide with the widow, practically in the evil Queen Jezebel’s very back yard!

Elijah learned that his God can do anything, even seemingly the impossible. Remember that the raising of the widow woman’s son was the first instance in The Bible of that occurring. It must have been an amazing and awesome thing for Elijah to be a part of, and must have forever cemented in The Prophet’s mind the power of God.

Elijah learned that sometimes we just have to be where God puts us, and that every mission counts. He spent likely two years in the widow’s home, very likely sharing his God with her. As we see, she did become a believer in the One True God. Than may have seemed like an insignificant little mission, but Elijah was willing, and he simply did it.

Now it’s time. Elijah has invited the people of Israel, Ahab, Jezebel, and the prophets of Baal and Asherah to a confrontation on mount Carmel. We would find out soon, just who the real God was, and who the fake gods were as well.  The challenge was straightforward. Each side would take a sacrificial bullock, lay it on the altar, and the God who consumed the sacrifice with fire from heaven would prove the be the true God.

Right from the beginning, we see Elijah striking right at the heart of the believers of Baal. After all, Baal was the god of storms and lighthing(fire from heaven.) Surely such a god could perform his mission, right? Not only that, but Elijah said they could go first, and take all of the time they needed to call their god and watch him work.

Call they did! They called, and called, and called some more. There was silence. Where was Baal? They danced, shouted some more, and even cut themselves. Still, there was silence. Where was Baal?

It seems Elijah had the same question, and his reaction may seem odd to us. Elijah shouted at the dancing prophets of Baal and mocked them! Is Baal sleeping? Is he travelling? Perhaps he cannot hear so well? There is even writing that suggests Elijah asked the frantic prophets of Baal if perhaps their god was out relieving himself. Honestly, this is smack talking at its best!

So, what can we learn here? Are we to mock and deride those who have opposing views from us? Are we to mock and deride those who may mock and deride God and thumb their nose in His face? Probably not. We are called to:

I Peter 3:15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:

That doesn’t really sound like mockery now does it? Perhaps we should take a quick more in depth look at the term “meek.” Meek as described in the Bible does not mean a retiring weakness, but rather a state of strength under control. In its every day usage it was commonly used to describe the training of a horse. A horse would be “meeked.” That stallion would not lose one ounce of it’s vast strength and power, but that power would simply be controlled and in a submissive state to the desires of its master. That is how meekness applies to us, Great power, from the Holy Spirit, under control and submissive to the desires of our master, Jesus Christ.

So, are we to mock our “opponents?” Very likely the answer to that is simply: no. On the other hand, when faced with open challenges to our God, mockery of Him, and open mistreatment of His people, are we to turn the other cheek and head for the hills? Maybe. There is a time for heading for the hills, but the when is not our decision; that timing and that decision belongs to God. Our job is to listen to Him and execute that timing according to His will. On the other hand, God may not be telling us to head for the hills.

It may be our time, just as it was Elijah’s time. Perhaps we have been taught, tested, provided for and molded, and it is time for God to use us in a great way. So, while maybe mockery is not the way we should deal with those who oppose or mock God, standing in an unequivocal way against them is just fine and dandy.

When told that “truth is relative,” and that it’s not what we believe that matters but how sincerely we believe it, are we willing to look a person in the eye and say: “That is untrue!”?

When the people we are with mock God, Jesus, and those who believe in Him, do we speak up or remain silent?

Are we willing to speak out against things God clearly considers sin, even when the tide of the world says otherwise?

When God asks us to go to our mount Carmel, will we be willing?

1 Kings 18:30-40

And Elijah said unto all the people, Come near unto me. And all the people came near unto him. And he repaired  And Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, unto whom the word of the LORD came, saying, Israel shall be thy name: And with the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD: and he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two measures of seed. And he put the wood in order, and cut the bullock in pieces, and laid him on the wood, and said, Fill four barrels with water, and pour it on the burnt sacrifice, and on the wood. And he said, Do it the second time. And they did it the second time. And he said, Do it the third time. And they did it the third time. And the water ran round about the altar; and he filled the trench also with water.And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near, and said, LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word. Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the LORD God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again. Then the fire of the LORD fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces: and they said, The LORD, he is the God; the LORD, he is the God. And Elijah said unto them, Take the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape. And they took them: and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there.


After hours of watching the 450 prophets of Baal dance and cut themselves, Elijah finally took his turn. This would have been around three in the afternoon, about the time of the evening sacrifice as described in verse 36. So, Elijah calls the people of Israel to come near as he prepares to show them the awesome power of God.

Apparently, both the false prophets and Elijah were using an altar previously built for the worship of God, because we see a reference to the altar of the LORD that was broken down. It’s some what unclear just where the altar came from. It may even have been one in use by men and women worshiping God in private during the evil reign of Ahab and Jezebel. Note some things here; Elijah did not just immediately use that altar, as is. He repaired it. He made God’s House ready for the worship of God. What a great representation of how we should prepare ourselves, and God’s House for the proper worship of him. Elijah collected 12 stones to repair and build the altar he would use for his sacrifice, and our text tells us these represented the 12 tribes of Israel. In God’s mind, even though the 12 tribes were divided asunder in the Divided Kingdom of the day, they were still the people and the nation He had made His covenant with.

As earlier Elijah had stacked the deck in favor of the false prophets, he now stacked the deck against the True God. Three times Elijah ordered the altar and the sacrifice to be saturated with barrels of water. So much water was applied that it ran off of the altar into a trench which had been dug around it! Basically, this altar and the sacrifice were literally sitting almost in pool of water. It must have been obvious to all gathered that no human was going to be able to start a fire there and consume that offering. Elijah had spent three long years learning just who God was, and what He was capable of doing; now the nation of Israel and its idolatrous people were about to learn the same lesson.

Elijah knew what was about to happen, nonetheless he prayed this prayer:

LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word. Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the LORD God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again

There were many messages in this very simple prayer.

Elijah prayed that this thing be done for the honor and glory of God. Those are the prayers God responds to. Even our Jesus told us that :

John 14:3 And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

Not only would God be known as the God of Israel, but Elijah would be know as the man speaking for him. As with all prophets, the signs were merely and indication of for just whom they were speaking.

Finally, this prayer was a wonderful example of God’s grace and forgiveness, even in the face of such idolatry and rebellion by His people. God was drawing His people back to Him, and if they responded, He would welcome them back with open arms. Since we have been noting during this study the similarities between that day and this day, we should note that one as well. Even today, God is drawing His people back to Him, and will welcome them with open arms if we only turn our hearts back again.

What happened next? Well, of course God proved he was, in fact, God. Immediately upon the conclusion of Elijah’s prayer, fire descended from Heaven and consumed both the sacrifice and the altar. Never again would this place be used for the worship of any false god.

Most likely the prophets of Baal were shocked beyond degree at this turn of events, after all they had danced and called to their god for hours! Something else important happens here when we note the differing reactions of the people assembled on mount Carmel.

The prophets of Baal continued their rebellion, not with words and prayers to false gods, but by fleeing the scene.

The people of Israel turned to God in repentance, acknowledged Him, and worshiped Him

The slaying of the prophets of Baal at Elijah’s order may seem rough and harsh, but was it really? They saw the same God in action that the Israelites saw, yet they continued in their rebellion. They had been warned of their rebellion, as the Law of Moses was clear what was to be done to false prophets; they were to be killed. God had given them every chance to turn to HIm in submission just as God’s people did when they proclaimed, The LORD, he is the God; the LORD, he is the God

God has not changed in respect to how He will deal with us. We have discussed the many similarities between then and now during the course of this study, and they continue. God warned the people then, and He warns the people today. God showed Himself then, and He shows Himself today. Some chose to repent and come to God then, and some do now. God accepted the ones who repented then, and He still does; He offered forgiveness then, and He offers it now.

Sadly, due to some rejecting God’s offer of forgiveness, some faced judgment then, and some face it today.  It doesn’t need to be that way, as the offer of forgiveness remains open until one’s final breath.

Next: The rain comes

 

 

Elijah-How One Man Made a Difference-Part 2

 

Last time we covered the back ground for this story: what was going on in the Nation in that day, and the little we know about Elijah. Now, it’s time to progress forward, as we see God preparing The Prophet for his ultimate mission. Blessings and enjoy.


1 Kings 17:1

And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, As the LORD God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.

Well, here he is. Elijah the fiery prophet with a blazing heart and a blazing tongue. What a sight this must have been to all watching. Here suddenly we have this previously unknown man, Elijah, showing up on the King’s doorstep to make a pronouncement of judgment upon the King and his nation. “Hey King! You and all of your people have been living in evil, and it’s about to stop raining, and it won’t start again until I say so! Oh, by the way, I speak for God here, in case you wondered.”

We have to understand that this was a pretty dire pronouncement for any people of that time. This was predominantly an agricultural society, so no rain meant starvation ultimately. This was much more than not being able to take long showers or wash the chariot here. Drought in this day was extremely serious.

Another thing to note here is that God didn’t just wake up, so to speak, and feel cranky and decide to judge the people of Israel. God is not arbitrary, and is never randomly capricious. In fact, God is shown time and time again to be patient and long suffering towards a people who constantly drift away and reject him. We never see God exercising judgment without the people being given ample warning and opportunity to repent.

Ahab was the seventh king to reign over the Norther half of the divided Kingdom of Israel. We all know the story, as we know that back when Solomon ruled as the last king of the unified Kingdom, God told Solomon that after his death that his Kingdom would be taken from him and divided. Why? Well, for the sin and idolatry Solomon had turned to personally, and leading his people in that same direction. Things didn’t get any better as the years went on, as not a single one of the Northern Kings was a Godly man. Ahab just happened to be the worst of the lot.

Just a quick discussion of the theology of the day is in order. It seems that worship of the god Baal was the primary direction the nation had gone under the influence of the evil Jezebel, with worship of Asherah running a close second. Between the two of them, they had 850 prophets serving them. The One True God had one: The man Elijah. It seems almost unimaginable to even consider how Elijah must have felt, and Scripture really never tells us. We can ask ourselves, however, how we would feel? How would we respond?

Apparently Elijah was fully confident in where he stood, and for whom he stood. He said as much, referring to the Lord God of Israel, before whom I stand. Then Elijah made God’s pronouncement: There will not be rain again until I speak it. That is pretty powerful stuff.

Here I am, and I stand for God. Here I am, and I speak for God. Here I am, and I speak with the power of God behind me.

Why drought? It was no accident that rain(or lack thereof) was the chosen judgment on Israel. Baal was noted for being the God of the storm. In other words, Baal controlled the rain. This was like a theological dagger into the heart of Baal, this declaration that the rain would stop. This would prove who REALLY controlled the rains.

Elijah confronted Ahab, and the gauntlet was cast down. Armed with the power of God’s Word, Elijah boldly proclaimed it to a hostile audience.

Who is our Ahab? Are we willing to do the same thing Elijah did?

1 Kings 17:2-4

And the word of the LORD came unto him, saying, Get thee hence, and turn thee eastward, and hide thyself by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan. And it shall be, that thou shalt drink of the brook; and I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there.

Scripture never says this explicitly, but there is little doubt that Ahab was, to put it mildly, angry after Elijah’s visit. So, God warned him to go hide by the brook Cherith where He would be safe.

Why would Ahab have been angry?  Well, we know by now Ahab was doing wrong in many, many ways. He had married a idolatrous woman and she had turned Ahab, and subsequently the entire nation of Israel away from the True God. It is doubtful that Ahab was simply clueless about the state of his heart and his actions. Even today, how do we act when confronted with our sin? How does the non believing world react today when confronted with there sin? Written anything on WordPress lately of a Christian nature? Chances are you have felt anger from a non believing world, and perhaps even believers.

Was Elijah the first time Ahab and Jezebel had heard God’s Word preached? Maybe, maybe not. We see later in 1 Kings Chapter 18 that the two of them were at some point so angry about Elijah’s announcement and the subsequent drought that they began to systematically kill off the prophets of God in the Kingdom. We see how Obidiah, one of King Ahab’s servants, and a man of God, had hidden 100 prophets of God in caves to protect them. If he hid 100, surely there were many more than that.  I personally suspect Elijah was not the first time they had heard God’s Word preached.

Other than protection, why would God instruct Elijah to go off and hide in the desert? Well, there was nothing else for Elijah to do at the moment. He had preached The Word, and perhaps others had as well. The difference was, Elijah had not only preached The Word, but had pronounced judgment. There was really nothing else to do now but wait and watch the truth of God’s Word unfold. “I told you what was coming, now watch and see!

Not only did God protect Elijah, but we will see later that He provided for him as well. And that is our point here. We have discussed several times the similarities between society in the day of Ahab and Jezebel and our society today. We have discussed the need today for those willing to step up and boldly proclaim God’s Word. Even the reaction is the same to the preaching today as it was then. People have heard it, but they do not want to hear it. Are you a Christian? Is anybody angry at you for your proclamation of your faith? Great, then you might be doing what God wants. Is your life as a Christian just peaceful with not strife or issues whatsoever? Maybe it’s time to step out some.

Okay, I understand not everybody is called to be an Elijah; not everybody is called to stand on the street corner and preach the Gospel. We are all called to boldly proclaim God’s Word in different ways; however, we are all called to proclaim it in SOME way. And the reaction is likely to be anger, perhaps strong anger. But, as we can see from Elijah’s story,

God will keep us safe.

1 Kings 17:3-6

Get thee hence, and turn thee eastward, and hide thyself by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan. And it shall be, that thou shalt drink of the brook; and I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there. So he went and did according unto the word of the LORD: for he went and dwelt by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan. And the ravens brought him bread and flesh in the morning, and bread and flesh in the evening; and he drank of the brook.

Well, Elijah has made his proclamation of God’s judgment to King Ahab. God had subsequently given Elijah his marching orders so to speak. Elijah was to go to the brook Cherith and simply hide and wait. As we covered earlier this may have been due to Ahab’s anger at being called on the carpet. It may also have simply been for the sake of waiting itself; Elijah had promised drought, now he just had to wait for God to bring that promise of judgment to bear.

God did provide for Elijah’s need, As we see in the text, God commanded ravens to bring food to Elijah, and Elijah then drank from the brook. It is interesting to see how God provided for His Prophet.

God provided for Elijah emotionally it seems. God could have just dropped manna from Heaven or something like that so that Elijah could eat; instead he had Elijah’s needs provided by a raven. In other words, sustenance was provided by another living creature. I can’t help but think that must have been somewhat of a comfort to Elijah, sitting out there alone by the brook. Elijah was not alone.

God provided completely, in that He provided bread and meat. God provided something resembling a balanced diet for His Prophet.

By using the raven, God showed us that He can use the unworthy to accomplish His works. The raven was considered and unclean bird according to Jewish dietary law; even today we would look at a raven as no more than a common scavenger, hardly what we would pick ourselves to perform this mission. But, God still chose this unworthy vessel to be His chosen way.

Again, what is the point? The point is, Elijah was willing to step out and do what God wanted even when he must have wondered what would happen to him when he did. We see what happened.

Elijah stepped out, and God then protected and provided for him. Just as He will us.

1 Kings 17:7-9

And it came to pass after a while, that the brook dried up, because there had been no rain in the land. And the word of the LORD came unto him, saying, Arise, get thee to Zarephath, which belongeth to Zidon, and dwell there: behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee.

Of course, as readers we all know the big climactic event of the Elijah story. That would be the Prophet’s “showdown” with the prophets of Baal atop Mount Carmel. I put that word in parentheses because, as my friend Colorstorm pointed, out, it really wasn’t a contest at all. The point here is that, although we all know the end of the story, Elijah did not. There is not any evidence that God had revealed just what was to be done eventually by Elijah.

Elijah had not come out of the box, so to speak, ready to use. That is true for most of us really. We may be willing to go where God sends, but few of us are ready. God makes us ready. If we are to be a vessel ready for God’s use, sometime we have to be fired, or tempered a bit before we are ready for use.

We see that with Elijah now, and we will see more of it in the future as this story progresses. Note that the drought not only arrived, but the effects of it are being seen. The brook Cherith where God had provided sustenance to Elijah for some period of time, had dried up. That must have been somewhat of a shock to Elijah, as God had been providing his every need for some time. Suddenly God’s own promise of a drought in the land was not only happening, but was affecting this man of God.

That is very true, by the way. Sometimes when judgment comes, even God’s people suffer the consequences of it. But, that is exactly the point. God is in the process here of molding Elijah into a vessel suitable for his use.

God has provided for Elijah, and Elijah has seen God’s Word come to pass as promised. God is teaching Elijah to trust Him. Although he doesn’t know it yet, the biggest challenge of Elijah’s life is coming up, and he will need to be even stronger and more resolute than he has already shown himself to be. He will have to learn that God will take care of business even under the direst of circumstances.

God’s instructions to Elijah are simple: Go to Zarepath, where I have prepared a widow woman to sustain you. After reading this numerous times it finally hit me that this must have sounded quite odd to Elijah. There is a drought in the land. His creek had dried up and his raven friend was gone. Now, he was to go into the city where the one person mostly likely to be truly suffering in a national time of need, a widow, was going to take care of this grown man. I wonder if Elijah was wondering what God was planning at this point?

Maybe he was, maybe he was not; nonetheless he simply executed God’s instructions to him without skipping a beat. God had provided for him once, and He would do it again.

How about us? Do we trust God that much? Will we speak boldly regardless of the perceived threat? Do we believe God will take care of us? More importantly, do we believe God will take care of us when things get even worse?

Next…a change of scenery for the prophet

Elijah-How One Man Made a Difference-Part 1

 

As I said earlier, I am running this old series on the prophet Elijah. He is such a great example of a man who answered God’s call and never looked back.

I really, really like the story of Elijah found in First Kings Chapters 17 and 18.

Why do I like this story? It reads very easy because it is very familiar. The background in which the great Prophet operated, as well as the Prophet himself,  have a familiar ring to them.

During the next bit, we will study our way through 1 Kings Chapters 17 and 18, as we explore the calling of Elijah, his subsequent teaching and development, and finally ending with what appeared to be his true purpose. So, that’s homework. Read those two chapters, read the culture and history of the time, even read some commentaries.

Let’s take a trip back as we begin, to Chapter 16 of our book.

1 Kings 16:29-34

In the thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah, Ahab the son of Omri began to reign over Israel, and Ahab the son of Omri reigned over Israel in Samaria twenty-two years and Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord, more than all who were before him. And as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, he took for his wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and went and served Baal and worshiped him. He erected an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he built in Samaria. And Ahab made an Asherah. Ahab did more to provoke the Lord, the God of Israel, to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him. In his days Hiel of Bethel built Jericho. He laid its foundation at the cost of Abiram his firstborn, and set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub, according to the word of the Lord, which he spoke by Joshua the son of Nun.

What we see above is Elijah’s world. One could say that what we see above is our world also. In Israel we see a nation carried away in the abandon of its own sin. Today we are in a nation carried away in the abandon of its own sin. Israel was populated by people who had, by and large, abandoned the true worship of the True God. Today we are in a nation that has, by and large, abandoned the true worship of the True God.

What do we see in Israel at this time?

Wicked and corrupt leaders

A nation and a people who are turning from God

A nation and a people who are turning to many gods

A nation and a people sliding deeper into sin and immorality of every sort, and things that only a few generations before would have been unthinkable.

What do we see in our own land today?

Wicked and corrupt leaders

A nation and a people who are turning from God

A nation and a people who are turning to many gods

A nation and a people sliding deeper into sin and immorality of every sort, and things that only a few generations before would have been unthinkable.

Another thing we can perhaps surmise but is not necessarily made explicit in the text is the slow change from the worship of the true God, to perhaps religious pluralism, to outright persecution and murder of God’s people. Does that sound familiar? First, it is okay to worship other gods. Next, it’s okay and pretty accepted to take one’s pick; worship Yahweh, or Baal, either one is fine. Next, it becomes definitely NOT okay for one who worships the True God to say or even imply that God is the only God or the only way to heaven. After that, we see Jezebel’s systematic murder of the Prophets of God. I know no one is being killed in this nation for their Christian faith, but we certainly see other indicators very similar to what we see with Ahab and Jezebel.

1 Kings 17:1

Now Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.”

Elijah who? That is a good question really. We just discussed the depths of rebellion into which the Israelites had descended. They were ruled by the most Evil and unGodly King since the Kingdom had divided, and Idolatry and sin of every sort were rampant in the land. Then, seemingly out of nowhere pops this man, Elijah to proclaim boldly to King Ahab the pronouncement of God’s judgment upon the nation. Wow.

What do we know for sure? He was a Tishbite, from Gilead. Nothing is noted about his parentage, or anything else. We don’t even know for sure exactly where his hometown was even located!

He certainly made a grand entrance, and quite a grand exit as well. In 2 Kings Chapter 2, we can read how Elijah was taken by God in a fiery chariot to Heaven. God must consider him to have been of some importance, as he appeared with Moses at the Transfiguration of our Lord in Matthew Chapter 17.

What can we infer perhaps about Elijah.? Well, it seems he was, in many ways, just like the rest of us. He was a man of strong passion and strong emotion. He was even a man of fear, as we see later after his showdown with the Prophets of Baal. When threatened with death by the evil Jezebel, Elijah succumbed to his fatigue and fear and became depressed. He may have been a tough, hard man, as he seems to have lived mostly alone in the desert for a good piece of the three-year drought God judged Israel with. Comparison is made between Elijah and John the Baptist, also a rough, tough man of the wild.

What is the point? There is nothing to really indicate that Elijah was special or specially gifted or endowed in any way. Apparently, Elijah’s gift was simply that he responded to God’s call. Elijah was one man, willing to step into the gap.

Why this study of Elijah? Because of the similarities we see between then and now. The society is similar, and the need is similar. God is still calling a few, or many, to step up and deliver a message of repentance to a nation gone astray. There are simply some great lessons in this story about how God will take care of us if we take care of His business.

Who will be our Elijah today?

Elijah-How One Man Made a Difference-Part 11

I think today we will wrap up our study of the story of the Prophet Elijah and the prophets of Baal.I am not sure where we are doing next, but hopefully the Holy Spirit will point me in the direction He wants me to do next. Well, allow me to amend that. He will certainly point, but I hope I am listening.

Elijah

1 Kings 18:41-46

And Elijah said unto Ahab, Get thee up, eat and drink; for there is a sound of abundance of rain. So Ahab went up to eat and to drink. And Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; and he cast himself down upon the earth, and put his face between his knees, And said to his servant, Go up now, look toward the sea. And he went up, and looked, and said, There is nothing. And he said, Go again seven times. And it came to pass at the seventh time, that he said, Behold, there ariseth a little cloud out of the sea, like a man’s hand. And he said, Go up, say unto Ahab, Prepare thy chariot, and get thee down, that the rain stop thee not. And it came to pass in the mean while, that the heaven was black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain. And Ahab rode, and went to Jezreel. And the hand of the LORD was on Elijah; and he girded up his loins, and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel

We started our study with Elijah handing a prophecy to King Ahab that, due to the sin and idolatry of both him and the nation, that God would withhold rain from the land or Israel as judgment upon them.

Elijah then spent three years basically keeping out of sight while the drought unfolded in the land, first living alone at the brook Kidron, then living in the home of a widow woman and her son. We learned that not only was God giving time for the drought to unfold in the land so that the people would understand the judgment they were under, but that God was shaping and molding Elijah for a great, great mission.

That mission, of course was the great confrontation on mount Carmel between Elijah and the prophets of Baal. Of course we know there was really no showdown or contest in reality, as we know it was all merely an opportunity for God to showcase His awesome power and bring the people to repentance and forgiveness.

That is where we stand in our story. The “contest” on mount Carmel is over. God has shown to all the assembled just who is God and who is not; the prophets of Baal are all dead. At this point it is only Elijah, the people of Israel(who have immediately begun obeying God, as we see by the execution of the prophets of Baal at Elijah’s command), and King Ahab. What’s next?

It almost seems anti climactic at this point in some ways. Elijah seemingly said to Ahab; “Hey go get something to eat.”; however, Elijah did add some interesting words here: for there is a sound of abundance of rain. Basically, Elijah was telling the King to go celebrate the coming of the rain. Did Elijah actually hear rain here? Did Elijah have really good ears? Given what happened next, it doesn’t seem likely Elijah actually heard or saw anything to physically indicate rain was coming. What did Elijah hear?

Elijah has just spent three years relying on the promises and provision of God. He was fed by a raven, watched food refill itself for two years, and watched a young boy come back from the dead; Elijah had come to recognize the sound of God’s promises. While Elijah may not have physically heard or seen the signs of rain, he did know God had promised the rain would come. In 1 Kings 18:1 we see that: And it came to pass after many days, that the word of the LORD came to Elijah in the third year, saying, Go, shew thyself unto Ahab; and I will send rain upon the earth. Elijah heard and heeded the promise of God to bring the rain.

Note what the great prophet did now. The great man who had only moments before been standing with strength and confidence now prostrated himself in supplication and prayer to his God. Elijah didn’t just pray once, as we see. He sent his servant to scan the horizon seven times looking for signs on impending rain. On the seventh persistent prayer, Elijah’s servant reported rain on the horizon.

The interaction between Elijah and King Ahab is very interesting. Why wasn’t the most evil King in Israel’s history slain along with his idolatrous prophets? Well, I certainly don’t know. But it apparently was in God’s sovereign plan, and Elijah knew it. He sent the servant to Ahab to tell him the rains were coming, and to head quickly back to his home in Jezreel before the deluge stopped him. Filled with the strength of the Holy Spirit, Elijah ran before the King’s chariot the entire distance back. This certainly showed Elijah’s loyalty to the man ordained by God to be the leader of the country, as the custom was for runners to precede the chariots of kings. It again also showed the empowering of Elijah for this mission as this was likely in the range of 15-25 miles back to the palace.

The story of Elijah, Ahab, and Jezebel is not over yet; there is still an important episode left to record in relation to this story, and we will head there next time. The lessons we can learn from Elijah continue to show themselves to us.

We see by Elijah’s prayer that he was bold before men, yet humble before God,, just as believers today should be.

We see that Elijah was persistent in his prayer. Seven times he prayed for God to deliver what He had promised that he would.

Elijah’s loyalty to King Ahab show the prophet’s continued willingness to act in accordance with God’s plan and be loyal the the man God had place in leadership, even when he certainly had personal feelings that would have prompted him otherwise.

1 Kings 19:1-4

And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and withal how he had slain all the prophets with the sword.Then Jezebel sent a messenger unto Elijah, saying, So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by to morrow about this time. And when he saw that, he arose, and went for his life, and came to Beersheba, which belongeth to Judah, and left his servant there. But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers.


As we left our previous discussion, Elijah had run ahead of King Ahab all the way back to Jezreel, and seemingly dropped him off at the gate of the city, more or less. As was typical of Ahab, the first thing he did was run in and tell his evil wife, Queen Jezebel, what had happened back on mount Carmel. As was typical of Jezebel, she immediately took control of things and came up with a solution. As was typical of Jezebel, her solution was simply to get rid of the problem!

When informed of how Elijah has slain all the prophets of Baal, she immediately sent word to Elijah that his fate would be the same. “By this time tomorrow, you will be dead too!” is what she informed the great prophet of. Immediately, Elijah returned to the palace and boldly proclaimed a message of repentance and forgiveness to Queen Jezebel, right? He fearlessly confronted her with the Word of God, knowing that his God would continue to protect him, right?

Since we all have the book, we know that none of that happened. For three years, Elijah had trusted God; for three years Elijah had done all that God had called him to do. Elijah had stood bold and alone against the dancing prophets of Baal on mount Carmel. Elijah had mocked and defeated(in God’s power, or course), the 450 prophets of the false god. Elijah had chased the false prophets down and killed them all. Now, when given a message from Queen Jezebel of his imminent demise, he tucks tail and runs; Elijah heads for the hills! What has happened to the great man of God?

We really do not know exactly why Elijah reacted the way he did to Jezebel’s threat, as Scripture never comes right out and tells us, We can only theorize; so let’s theorize a little bit. As we theorize, let’s consider how many of these thoughts apply to believers today, even as we do The Lord’s work.

This threat was personal; it was aimed directly and personally against Elijah. He had just been the channel by which God showcased His amazing power and proved just who He was. But think about the conversation between Ahab and Jezebel. No doubt, Ahab gave a blow by blow description of what happened, with every intention of making Elijah look as bad a possible and himself as good as possible. He told Jezebel about all that Elijah had done. The responsibility for these things had been laid squarely at Elijah’s feet; God was not acknowledged as the source for them. That must have hurt! There was Elijah, just doing God’s called work, and all of these horrible things had been laid at his feet. Does that happen today?

Elijah was tired. He had maintained focus for three long years, and had done all things God had asked of him. Think about this: that day on mount Carmel must have been a long one. This all started early in the morning, continued into the evening, and was capped by a 25 mile road march! Elijah was no doubt exhausted. How often do we push so hard in God’s service that we become exhausted?

Perhaps Elijah was disappointed. Surely he expected everybody to see the great thing God had done and react in repentance and faith. Perhaps he even expected Jezebel to react this way. Her heart, however, was so hard she did not. Have we ever been disappointed to see our best efforts, often at personal cost to us, fail when they confront a hardened heart?

Elijah was simply a human being, just like the rest of us. Elijah was nothing special; his only notable characteristic is that God called him. He tells us himself, that I am not better than my fathers. Elijah was a human, with human emotions and weaknesses. He, and any of us, can fail to rely on the presence of the Holy Spirit on our lives and slip into a slump.

It’s not far from the Penthouse to the outhouse. I used to know a fellow who said that quite often, and it is a true statement. Just like Elijah, we can all be used greatly and mightily by The Lord. Just like Elijah, even at the height of our God given successes, we can find ourselves quickly in trouble.

Elijah-How One Man Made a Difference-Part 10

Elijah

 1 Kings 18:25-29

And Elijah said unto the prophets of Baal, Choose you one bullock for yourselves, and dress it first; for ye are many; and call on the name of your gods, but put no fire under. And they took the bullock which was given them, and they dressed it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even until noon, saying, O Baal, hear us. But there was no voice, nor any that answered. And they leaped upon the altar which was made. And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked. And they cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them. And it came to pass, when midday was past, and they prophesied until the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that there was neither voice, nor any to answer, nor any that regarded.


Well, here we are! The time for the great “showdown: is here! I hope readers notice that every time I type that word, “showdown,” it has been in quotation marks; that has not been an accident. We often refer to this as the contest on mount Carmen between the Prophet Elijah and the prophets of Baal. Two points are critical to assess at this point: It was NOT a contest, and it was NOT between Elijah and anybody. The result of this confrontation was predetermined, preordained, and there was never any question of just who would prevail here. Elijah was simply God’s chosen tool and representative; he was simply the man God had picked to show His might and power to the idolatrous Israelites, Ahab, and the prophets of Baal.

Before we move on, let’s recap quickly where we have been. Three long years ago, Elijah had pronounced God’s judgement via drought on the nation of Israel for turning their backs on God under the leadership of King Ahab and the evil, idol worshiping Queen Jezebel. Elijah then took off into the desert to escape the wrath of the angry Jezebel, who we find out later began a systematic pogrom and purge of the men of God in the Kingdom. Elijah basically hid himself out for three years first by a brook where he was fed by a raven daily, then with a widow woman and her child, where God provided for the three of them. Elijah was doing much more than just hanging out; God was working a purpose in The Prophet. Elijah was being taught, groomed, and strengthened for a great work

What are some of the things Elijah learned over the course of three years?

Elijah learned that, if God called him to do something even though seemingly dangerous, that He would protect and provide for him. We see that as he sat by the brook Kidron for a year drinking its waters and being fed by a raven. We see that as God provided for Elijah for two more years while dwelling with the widow woman and her son, who just before Elijah’s arrival were preparing to eat their last meal and die.

Elijah learned that God would provide physical safety for His people if He puts them at risk. No doubt while Elijah was sitting hidden by that brook, Ahab and his soldiers were desperately seeking to kill this prophet who had spoken so brashly against him. Then God sends Elijah to abide with the widow, practically in the evil Queen Jezebel’s very back yard!

Elijah learned that his God can do anything, even seemingly the impossible. Remember that the raising of the widow woman’s son was the first instance in The Bible of that occurring. It must have been an amazing and awesome thing for Elijah to be a part of, and must have forever cemented in The Prophet’s mind the power of God.

Elijah learned that sometimes we just have to be where God puts us, and that every mission counts. He spent likely two years in the widow’s home, very likely sharing his God with her. As we see, she did become a believer in the One True God. Than may have seemed like an insignificant little mission, but Elijah was willing, and he simply did it.

Now it’s time. Elijah has invited the people of Israel, Ahab, Jezebel, and the prophets of Baal and Asherah to a confrontation on mount Carmel. We would find out soon, just who the real God was, and who the fake gods were as well.  The challenge was straightforward. Each side would take a sacrificial bullock, lay it on the altar, and the God who consumed the sacrifice with fire from heaven would prove the be the true God.

Right from the beginning, we see Elijah striking right at the heart of the believers of Baal. After all, Baal was the god of storms and lighthing(fire from heaven.) Surely such a god could perform his mission, right? Not only that, but Elijah said they could go first, and take all of the time they needed to call their god and watch him work.

Call they did! They called, and called, and called some more. There was silence. Where was Baal? They danced, shouted some more, and even cut themselves. Still, there was silence. Where was Baal?

It seems Elijah had the same question, and his reaction may seem odd to us. Elijah shouted at the dancing prophets of Baal and mocked them! Is Baal sleeping? Is he travelling? Perhaps he cannot hear so well? There is even writing that suggests Elijah asked the frantic prophets of Baal if perhaps their god was out relieving himself. Honestly, this is smack talking at its best!

So, what can we learn here? Are we to mock and deride those who have opposing views from us? Are we to mock and deride those who may mock and deride God and thumb their nose in His face? Probably not. We are called to:

I Peter 3:15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:

That doesn’t really sound like mockery now does it? Perhaps we should take a quick more in depth look at the term “meek.” Meek as described in the Bible does not mean a retiring weakness, but rather a state of strength under control. In its every day usage it was commonly used to describe the training of a horse. A horse would be “meeked.” That stallion would not lose one ounce of it’s vast strength and power, but that power would simply be controlled and in a submissive state to the desires of its master. That is how meekness applies to us, Great power, from the Holy Spirit, under control and submissive to the desires of our master, Jesus Christ.

So, are we to mock our “opponents?” Very likely the answer to that is simply: no. On the other hand, when faced with open challenges to our God, mockery of Him, and open mistreatment of His people, are we to turn the other cheek and head for the hills? Maybe. There is a time for heading for the hills, but the when is not our decision; that timing and that decision belongs to God. Our job is to listen to Him and execute that timing according to His will. On the other hand, God may not be telling us to head for the hills.

It may be our time, just as it was Elijah’s time. Perhaps we have been taught, tested, provided for and molded, and it is time for God to use us in a great way. So, while maybe mockery is not the way we should deal with those who oppose or mock God, standing in an unequivocal way against them is just fine and dandy.

When told that “truth is relative,” and that it’s not what we believe that matters but how sincerely we believe it, are we willing to look a person in the eye and say: “That is untrue!”?

When the people we are with mock God, Jesus, and those who believe in Him, do we speak up or remain silent?

Are we willing to speak out against things God clearly considers sin, even when the tide of the world says otherwise?

When God asks us to go to our mount Carmel, will we be willing?

1 Kings 18:30-40

And Elijah said unto all the people, Come near unto me. And all the people came near unto him. And he repaired  And Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, unto whom the word of the LORD came, saying, Israel shall be thy name: And with the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD: and he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two measures of seed. And he put the wood in order, and cut the bullock in pieces, and laid him on the wood, and said, Fill four barrels with water, and pour it on the burnt sacrifice, and on the wood. And he said, Do it the second time. And they did it the second time. And he said, Do it the third time. And they did it the third time. And the water ran round about the altar; and he filled the trench also with water.And it came to pass at the time of the offering of the evening sacrifice, that Elijah the prophet came near, and said, LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word. Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the LORD God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again. Then the fire of the LORD fell, and consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones, and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces: and they said, The LORD, he is the God; the LORD, he is the God. And Elijah said unto them, Take the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape. And they took them: and Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there.


After hours of watching the 450 prophets of Baal dance and cut themselves, Elijah finally took his turn. This would have been around three in the afternoon, about the time of the evening sacrifice as described in verse 36. So, Elijah calls the people of Israel to come near as he prepares to show them the awesome power of God.

Apparently, both the false prophets and Elijah were using an altar previously built for the worship of God, because we see a reference to the altar of the LORD that was broken down. It’s some what unclear just where the altar came from. It may even have been one in use by men and women worshiping God in private during the evil reign of Ahab and Jezebel. Note some things here; Elijah did not just immediately use that altar, as is. He repaired it. He made God’s House ready for the worship of God. What a great representation of how we should prepare ourselves, and God’s House for the proper worship of him. Elijah collected 12 stones to repair and build the altar he would use for his sacrifice, and our text tells us these represented the 12 tribes of Israel. In God’s mind, even though the 12 tribes were divided asunder in the Divided Kingdom of the day, they were still the people and the nation He had made His covenant with.

As earlier Elijah had stacked the deck in favor of the false prophets, he now stacked the deck against the True God. Three times Elijah ordered the altar and the sacrifice to be saturated with barrels of water. So much water was applied that it ran off of the altar into a trench which had been dug around it! Basically, this altar and the sacrifice were literally sitting almost in pool of water. It must have been obvious to all gathered that no human was going to be able to start a fire there and consume that offering. Elijah had spent three long years learning just who God was, and what He was capable of doing; now the nation of Israel and its idolatrous people were about to learn the same lesson.

Elijah knew what was about to happen, nonetheless he prayed this prayer:

LORD God of Abraham, Isaac, and of Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word. Hear me, O LORD, hear me, that this people may know that thou art the LORD God, and that thou hast turned their heart back again

There were many messages in this very simple prayer.

Elijah prayed that this thing be done for the honor and glory of God. Those are the prayers God responds to. Even our Jesus told us that :

John 14:3 And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.

Not only would God be known as the God of Israel, but Elijah would be know as the man speaking for him. As with all prophets, the signs were merely and indication of for just whom they were speaking.

Finally, this prayer was a wonderful example of God’s grace and forgiveness, even in the face of such idolatry and rebellion by His people. God was drawing His people back to Him, and if they responded, He would welcome them back with open arms. Since we have been noting during this study the similarities between that day and this day, we should note that one as well. Even today, God is drawing His people back to Him, and will welcome them with open arms if we only turn our hearts back again.

What happened next? Well, of course God proved he was, in fact, God. Immediately upon the conclusion of Elijah’s prayer, fire descended from Heaven and consumed both the sacrifice and the altar. Never again would this place be used for the worship of any false god.

Most likely the prophets of Baal were shocked beyond degree at this turn of events, after all they had danced and called to their god for hours! Something else important happens here when we note the differing reactions of the people assembled on mount Carmel.

The prophets of Baal continued their rebellion, not with words and prayers to false gods, but by fleeing the scene.

The people of Israel turned to God in repentance, acknowledged Him, and worshiped Him

The slaying of the prophets of Baal at Elijah’s order may seem rough and harsh, but was it really? They saw the same God in action that the Israelites saw, yet they continued in their rebellion. They had been warned of their rebellion, as the Law of Moses was clear what was to be done to false prophets; they were to be killed. God had given them every chance to turn to HIm in submission just as God’s people did when they proclaimed, The LORD, he is the God; the LORD, he is the God

God has not changed in respect to how He will deal with us. We have discussed the many similarities between then and now during the course of this study, and they continue. God warned the people then, and He warns the people today. God showed Himself then, and He shows Himself today. Some chose to repent and come to God then, and some do now. God accepted the ones who repented then, and He still does; He offered forgiveness then, and He offers it now.

Sadly, due to some rejecting God’s offer of forgiveness, some faced judgment then, and some face it today.  It doesn’t need to be that way, as the offer of forgiveness remains open until one’s final breath.

Next: The rain comes

 

 

Elijah-How One Man Made a Difference-Part 2

Elijah

Monday we covered the back ground for this story: what was going on in the Nation in that day, and the little we know about Elijah. Now, it’s time to progress forward, as we see God preparing The Prophet for his ultimate mission. Blessings and enjoy.


1 Kings 17:1

And Elijah the Tishbite, who was of the inhabitants of Gilead, said unto Ahab, As the LORD God of Israel liveth, before whom I stand, there shall not be dew nor rain these years, but according to my word.

Well, here he is. Elijah the fiery prophet with a blazing heart and a blazing tongue. What a sight this must have been to all watching. Here suddenly we have this previously unknown man, Elijah, showing up on the King’s doorstep to make a pronouncement of judgment upon the King and his nation. “Hey King! You and all of your people have been living in evil, and it’s about to stop raining, and it won’t start again until I say so! Oh, by the way, I speak for God here, in case you wondered.”

We have to understand that this was a pretty dire pronouncement for any people of that time. This was predominantly an agricultural society, so no rain meant starvation ultimately. This was much more than not being able to take long showers or wash the chariot here. Drought in this day was extremely serious.

Another thing to note here is that God didn’t just wake up, so to speak, and feel cranky and decide to judge the people of Israel. God is not arbitrary, and is never randomly capricious. In fact, God is shown time and time again to be patient and long suffering towards a people who constantly drift away and reject him. We never see God exercising judgment without the people being given ample warning and opportunity to repent.

Ahab was the seventh king to reign over the Norther half of the divided Kingdom of Israel. We all know the story, as we know that back when Solomon ruled as the last king of the unified Kingdom, God told Solomon that after his death that his Kingdom would be taken from him and divided. Why? Well, for the sin and idolatry Solomon had turned to personally, and leading his people in that same direction. Things didn’t get any better as the years went on, as not a single one of the Northern Kings was a Godly man. Ahab just happened to be the worst of the lot.

Just a quick discussion of the theology of the day is in order. It seems that worship of the god Baal was the primary direction the nation had gone under the influence of the evil Jezebel, with worship of Asherah running a close second. Between the two of them, they had 850 prophets serving them. The One True God had one: The man Elijah. It seems almost unimaginable to even consider how Elijah must have felt, and Scripture really never tells us. We can ask ourselves, however, how we would feel? How would we respond?

Apparently Elijah was fully confident in where he stood, and for whom he stood. He said as much, referring to the Lord God of Israel, before whom I stand. Then Elijah made God’s pronouncement: There will not be rain again until I speak it. That is pretty powerful stuff.

Here I am, and I stand for God. Here I am, and I speak for God. Here I am, and I speak with the power of God behind me.

Why drought? It was no accident that rain(or lack thereof) was the chosen judgment on Israel. Baal was noted for being the God of the storm. In other words, Baal controlled the rain. This was like a theological dagger into the heart of Baal, this declaration that the rain would stop. This would prove who REALLY controlled the rains.

Elijah confronted Ahab, and the gauntlet was cast down. Armed with the power of God’s Word, Elijah boldly proclaimed it to a hostile audience.

Who is our Ahab? Are we willing to do the same thing Elijah did?

1 Kings 17:2-4

And the word of the LORD came unto him, saying, Get thee hence, and turn thee eastward, and hide thyself by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan. And it shall be, that thou shalt drink of the brook; and I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there.

Scripture never says this explicitly, but there is little doubt that Ahab was, to put it mildly, angry after Elijah’s visit. So, God warned him to go hide by the brook Cherith where He would be safe.

Why would Ahab have been angry?  Well, we know by now Ahab was doing wrong in many, many ways. He had married a idolatrous woman and she had turned Ahab, and subsequently the entire nation of Israel away from the True God. It is doubtful that Ahab was simply clueless about the state of his heart and his actions. Even today, how do we act when confronted with our sin? How does the non believing world react today when confronted with there sin? Written anything on WordPress lately of a Christian nature? Chances are you have felt anger from a non believing world, and perhaps even believers.

Was Elijah the first time Ahab and Jezebel had heard God’s Word preached? Maybe, maybe not. We see later in 1 Kings Chapter 18 that the two of them were at some point so angry about Elijah’s announcement and the subsequent drought that they began to systematically kill off the prophets of God in the Kingdom. We see how Obidiah, one of King Ahab’s servants, and a man of God, had hidden 100 prophets of God in caves to protect them. If he hid 100, surely there were many more than that.  I personally suspect Elijah was not the first time they had heard God’s Word preached.

Other than protection, why would God instruct Elijah to go off and hide in the desert? Well, there was nothing else for Elijah to do at the moment. He had preached The Word, and perhaps others had as well. The difference was, Elijah had not only preached The Word, but had pronounced judgment. There was really nothing else to do now but wait and watch the truth of God’s Word unfold. “I told you what was coming, now watch and see!

Not only did God protect Elijah, but we will see later that He provided for him as well. And that is our point here. We have discussed several times the similarities between society in the day of Ahab and Jezebel and our society today. We have discussed the need today for those willing to step up and boldly proclaim God’s Word. Even the reaction is the same to the preaching today as it was then. People have heard it, but they do not want to hear it. Are you a Christian? Is anybody angry at you for your proclamation of your faith? Great, then you might be doing what God wants. Is your life as a Christian just peaceful with not strife or issues whatsoever? Maybe it’s time to step out some.

Okay, I understand not everybody is called to be an Elijah; not everybody is called to stand on the street corner and preach the Gospel. We are all called to boldly proclaim God’s Word in different ways; however, we are all called to proclaim it in SOME way. And the reaction is likely to be anger, perhaps strong anger. But, as we can see from Elijah’s story,

God will keep us safe.

1 Kings 17:3-6

Get thee hence, and turn thee eastward, and hide thyself by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan. And it shall be, that thou shalt drink of the brook; and I have commanded the ravens to feed thee there. So he went and did according unto the word of the LORD: for he went and dwelt by the brook Cherith, that is before Jordan. And the ravens brought him bread and flesh in the morning, and bread and flesh in the evening; and he drank of the brook.

Well, Elijah has made his proclamation of God’s judgment to King Ahab. God had subsequently given Elijah his marching orders so to speak. Elijah was to go to the brook Cherith and simply hide and wait. As we covered earlier this may have been due to Ahab’s anger at being called on the carpet. It may also have simply been for the sake of waiting itself; Elijah had promised drought, now he just had to wait for God to bring that promise of judgment to bear.

God did provide for Elijah’s need, As we see in the text, God commanded ravens to bring food to Elijah, and Elijah then drank from the brook. It is interesting to see how God provided for His Prophet.

God provided for Elijah emotionally it seems. God could have just dropped manna from Heaven or something like that so that Elijah could eat; instead he had Elijah’s needs provided by a raven. In other words, sustenance was provided by another living creature. I can’t help but think that must have been somewhat of a comfort to Elijah, sitting out there alone by the brook. Elijah was not alone.

God provided completely, in that He provided bread and meat. God provided something resembling a balanced diet for His Prophet.

By using the raven, God showed us that He can use the unworthy to accomplish His works. The raven was considered and unclean bird according to Jewish dietary law; even today we would look at a raven as no more than a common scavenger, hardly what we would pick ourselves to perform this mission. But, God still chose this unworthy vessel to be His chosen way.

Again, what is the point? The point is, Elijah was willing to step out and do what God wanted even when he must have wondered what would happen to him when he did. We see what happened.

Elijah stepped out, and God then protected and provided for him. Just as He will us.

1 Kings 17:7-9

And it came to pass after a while, that the brook dried up, because there had been no rain in the land. And the word of the LORD came unto him, saying, Arise, get thee to Zarephath, which belongeth to Zidon, and dwell there: behold, I have commanded a widow woman there to sustain thee.

Of course, as readers we all know the big climactic event of the Elijah story. That would be the Prophet’s “showdown” with the prophets of Baal atop Mount Carmel. I put that word in parentheses because, as my friend Colorstorm pointed, out, it really wasn’t a contest at all. The point here is that, although we all know the end of the story, Elijah did not. There is not any evidence that God had revealed just what was to be done eventually by Elijah.

Elijah had not come out of the box, so to speak, ready to use. That is true for most of us really. We may be willing to go where God sends, but few of us are ready. God makes us ready. If we are to be a vessel ready for God’s use, sometime we have to be fired, or tempered a bit before we are ready for use.

We see that with Elijah now, and we will see more of it in the future as this story progresses. Note that the drought not only arrived, but the effects of it are being seen. The brook Cherith where God had provided sustenance to Elijah for some period of time, had dried up. That must have been somewhat of a shock to Elijah, as God had been providing his every need for some time. Suddenly God’s own promise of a drought in the land was not only happening, but was affecting this man of God.

That is very true, by the way. Sometimes when judgment comes, even God’s people suffer the consequences of it. But, that is exactly the point. God is in the process here of molding Elijah into a vessel suitable for his use.

God has provided for Elijah, and Elijah has seen God’s Word come to pass as promised. God is teaching Elijah to trust Him. Although he doesn’t know it yet, the biggest challenge of Elijah’s life is coming up, and he will need to be even stronger and more resolute than he has already shown himself to be. He will have to learn that God will take care of business even under the direst of circumstances.

God’s instructions to Elijah are simple: Go to Zarepath, where I have prepared a widow woman to sustain you. After reading this numerous times it finally hit me that this must have sounded quite odd to Elijah. There is a drought in the land. His creek had dried up and his raven friend was gone. Now, he was to go into the city where the one person mostly likely to be truly suffering in a national time of need, a widow, was going to take care of this grown man. I wonder if Elijah was wondering what God was planning at this point?

Maybe he was, maybe he was not; nonetheless he simply executed God’s instructions to him without skipping a beat. God had provided for him once, and He would do it again.

How about us? Do we trust God that much? Will we speak boldly regardless of the perceived threat? Do we believe God will take care of us? More importantly, do we believe God will take care of us when things get even worse?

Next…a change of scenery for the prophet

Elijah-How One Man Made a Difference-Part 1

Elijah

We have finished our study of the Deity of Jesus Christ, and it is time to move on in another direction. Let’s take a trip back the the Old Testament, and the Prophet Elijah, shall we?

I really, really like the story of Elijah found in First Kings Chapters 17 and 18.

Why do I like this story? It reads very easy, because it is very familiar. The background in which the great Prophet operated, as well as the Prophet himself have a familiar ring to them.

During the next bit, we will study our way through 1 Kings Chapters 17 and 18, as we explore the calling of Elijah, his subsequent teaching and development, and finally ending with what appeared to be his true purpose. So, that’s homework. Read those two chapters, read the culture and history of the time, even read some commentaries.

Let’s take a trip back as we begin, to Chapter 16 of our book.

1 Kings 16:29-34

In the thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah, Ahab the son of Omri began to reign over Israel, and Ahab the son of Omri reigned over Israel in Samaria twenty-two years.and Ahab the son of Omri did evil in the sight of the Lord, more than all who were before him. And as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, he took for his wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and went and served Baal and worshiped him. He erected an altar for Baal in the house of Baal, which he built in Samaria. And Ahab made an Asherah. Ahab did more to provoke the Lord, the God of Israel, to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him. In his days Hiel of Bethel built Jericho. He laid its foundation at the cost of Abiram his firstborn, and set up its gates at the cost of his youngest son Segub, according to the word of the Lord, which he spoke by Joshua the son of Nun.

What we see above is Elijah’s world. One could say that what we see above is our world also. In Israel we see a nation carried away in the abandon of its own sin. Today we are in a nation carried away in the abandon of its own sin. Israel was populated by people who had, by and large, abandoned the true worship of the True God. Today we are in a nation that has, by and large, abandoned the true worship of the True God.

What do we see in Israel at this time?

Wicked and corrupt leaders

A nation and a people who are turning from God

A nation and a people who are turning to many gods

A nation and a people sliding deeper into sin and immorality of every sort, and things that only a few generations before would have been unthinkable.

What do we see in our own land today?

Wicked and corrupt leaders

A nation and a people who are turning from God

A nation and a people who are turning to many gods

A nation and a people sliding deeper into sin and immorality of every sort, and things that only a few generations before would have been unthinkable.

Another thing we can perhaps surmise, but is not necessarily made explicit in the text is the slow change from worship of the true God, to perhaps religious pluralism, to outright persecution and murder of God’s people. Does that sound familiar? First, it is okay to worship other gods. Next it’s okay and pretty accepted to take one’s pick; worship Yahweh, or Baal, either one is fine. Next it becomes definitely NOT okay for one who worships the True God to say or even imply that God is the only God, or the only way to heaven. After that, we see Jezebel’s systematic murder of the Prophets of God. I know no one is being killed in this nation for their Christian faith, but we certainly see other indicators very similar to what we see with Ahab and Jezebel.

1 Kings 17:1

Now Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.”

Elijah who? That is a good question really. We just discussed the depths of rebellion into which the Israelites had descended. They were ruled by the most Evil and unGodly King since the Kingdom had divided, and Idolatry and sin of every sort was rampant in the land. Then, seemingly out of nowhere pops this man, Elijah to proclaim boldly to King Ahab the pronouncement of God’s judgment upon the nation. Wow.

What do we know for sure? He was a Tishbite, from Gilead. Nothing is noted about his parentage, or anything else. We don’t even know for sure exactly where his hometown was even located!

He certainly made a grand entrance, and quite a grand exit as well. In 2 Kings Chapter 2, we can read how Elijah was taken by God in a fiery chariot to Heaven. God must consider him to have been of some importance, as he appeared with Moses at the Transfiguration of our Lord  in Matthew Chapter 17.

What can we infer perhaps about Elijah.? Well, it seems he was, in many ways, just like the rest of us. He was a man of strong passion, and strong emotion. He was even a man of fear, as we see later after his show down with the Prophets of Baal. When threatened with death by the evil Jezebel, Elijah succumbed to his fatigue and fear and became depressed. He may have been a tough, hard man, as he seems to have lived mostly alone in the desert for a good piece of the three year drought God judged Israel with. Comparison is made between Elijah and John the Baptist, also a rough, tough man of the wild.

What is the point? There is nothing to really indicate that Elijah was special or specially gifted or endowed in any way. Apparently, Elijah’s gift was simply that he responded to God’s call. Elijah was one man, willing to step into the gap.

Why this study of Elijah? Because of the similarities we see between then and now. The society is similar, and the need is similar. God is still calling a few, or many, to step up and deliver a message of repentance to a nation gone astray. There are simply some great lessons in this story about how God will take care of us, if we take care of His business.

Who will be our Elijah today?

The Elijah Factor Or How 1 Man Made a Difference- The Prophet Suffers a Setback.

1 Kings 19:1-4

And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and withal how he had slain all the prophets with the sword.Then Jezebel sent a messenger unto Elijah, saying, So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by to morrow about this time. And when he saw that, he arose, and went for his life, and came to Beersheba, which belongeth to Judah, and left his servant there. But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers.


As we left our previous discussion, Elijah had run ahead of King Ahab all the way back to Jezreel, and seemingly dropped him off at the gate of the city, more or less. As was typical of Ahab, the first thing he did was run in and tell his evil wife, Queen Jezebel, what had happened back on mount Carmel. As was typical of Jezebel, she immediately took control of things and came up with a solution. As was typical of Jezebel, her solution was simply to get rid of the problem!

When informed of how Elijah has slain all the prophets of Baal, she immediately sent word to Elijah that his fate would be the same. “By this time tomorrow, you will be dead too!” is what she informed the great prophet of. Immediately, Elijah returned to the palace and boldly proclaimed a message of repentance and forgiveness to Queen Jezebel, right? He fearlessly confronted her with the Word of God, knowing that his God would continue to protect him, right?

Since we all have the book, we know that none of that happened. For three years, Elijah had trusted God; for three years Elijah had done all that God had called him to do. Elijah had stood bold and alone against the dancing prophets of Baal on mount Carmel. Elijah had mocked and defeated(in God’s power, or course), the 450 prophets of the false god. Elijah had chased the false prophets down and killed them all. Now, when given a message from Queen Jezebel of his imminent demise, he tucks tail and runs; Elijah heads for the hills! What has happened to the great man of God?

We really do not know exactly why Elijah reacted the way he did to Jezebel’s threat, as Scripture never comes right out and tells us, We can only theorize; so let’s theorize a little bit. As we theorize, let’s consider how many of these thoughts apply to believers today, even as we do The Lord’s work.

This threat was personal; it was aimed directly and personally against Elijah. He had just been the channel by which God showcased His amazing power and proved just who He was. But think about the conversation between Ahab and Jezebel. No doubt, Ahab gave a blow by blow description of what happened, with every intention of making Elijah look as bad a possible and himself as good as possible. He told Jezebel about all that Elijah had done. The responsibility for these things had been laid squarely at Elijah’s feet; God was not acknowledged as the source for them. That must have hurt! There was Elijah, just doing God’s called work, and all of these horrible things had been laid at his feet. Does that happen today?

Elijah was tired. He had maintained focus for three long years, and had done all things God had asked of him. Think about this: that day on mount Carmel must have been a long one. This all started early in the morning, continued into the evening, and was capped by a 25 mile road march! Elijah was no doubt exhausted. How often do we push so hard in God’s service that we become exhausted?

Perhaps Elijah was disappointed. Surely he expected everybody to see the great thing God had done and react in repentance and faith. Perhaps he even expected Jezebel to react this way. Her heart, however, was so hard she did not. Have we ever been disappointed to see our best efforts, often at personal cost to us, fail when they confront a hardened heart?

Elijah was simply a human being, just like the rest of us. Elijah was nothing special; his only notable characteristic is that God called him. He tells us himself, that I am not better than my fathers. Elijah was a human, with human emotions and weaknesses. He, and any of us, can fail to rely on the presence of the Holy Spirit on our lives and slip into a slump.

It’s not far from the Penthouse to the outhouse. I used to know a fellow who said that quite often, and it is a true statement. Just like Elijah, we can all be used greatly and mightily by The Lord. Just like Elijah, even at the height of our God given successes, we can find ourselves quickly in trouble.

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