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Truth in Palmyra

By Wally Fry

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elijah

Holly Springs Missionary Baptist Church-Summer Revival 2019-Thursday, August 8th

Zack Stringer-Get Out Of the Middle Of the Road

1 Kings 18

Another great message from bro Zack. Also a great special in song from his wife Katie.

Again, pardon the technical difficulties. Somehow his sermon got split. If you watch both parts you miss about 5 words.

Katie Stringer-Oh, the Blood

Zack Stringer-Get Our Of the Middle Of the Road Part 1

Zack Stringer-Get Out Of the Middle Of the Road Part 2

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Elijah-How One Man Made a Difference-Part 19

2 Kings 2

The end of Elijah’s ministry is approaching, and it is soon time for him to be taken away by the Lord to Heaven. A reading of the text reveals that this was not a surprise to any of the people described as taking part. Evidentally Elijah, Elisha and the company of 50 prophets who accompanied them all seemed to know that the departure of Elijah was coming soon.

The story itself is short and to the point. After some back and forth, between Elijah and Elisha, Elijah miraculously parted the waters and he and Elisha crossed on dry land. After one more exchange between the two, a fiery chariot appeared and…Elijah was taken up in a whirlwind.

It’s that final exchange we are going to talk about briefly today. Here it is: “And it came to pass, when they were gone over, that Elijah said unto Elisha, Ask what I shall do for thee, before I be taken away from thee. And Elisha said, I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me.” 2 Kings 2:9

Some questions are important; this one was. When Elisha witnessed the miracle of the parting waters of the River Jordan, he knew God’s power was in play; he could have asked for anything. What did he ask for anyway? He wasn’t asking for twice the miracle performing power of his mentor, although he certainly did far more miracles than Elijah had done. He certainly wasn’t asking for twice as much of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not some force that is given in increments; we get all of Him or have none of Him. Rather than try to force my own words into this answer, I will just share what  John McArthur had to say because I think he said it perfectly.

“In Israel, the firstborn son inherited a double share of his father’s possessions and with it the right of succession (Deut. 21:17). “A double portion of your spirit” was not merely Elisha’s request to succeed Elijah in his prophetic ministry, since the Lord had already revealed this succession in 1 Kin. 19:16–21. Nor was it Elisha’s desire for ministry superior to Elijah’s, though Elisha did, in fact, do twice as many recorded miracles as Elijah. Apparently, Elisha was asking to succeed Elijah in the prophetic office, as God had promised, with spiritual power beyond his own capabilities to meet the responsibilities of his position as Elijah’s successor. He desired that Elijah’s mighty power might continue to live through him.”

This was much wisdom from Elisha, and no doubt this was a test to see what he would ask for. What do we want? Do we want a powerful ministry that spotlights us and makes us look like heroes? Or do we want great things, beyond our capabilities, that will showcase the greatness of God?

Elijah-How One Man Made a Difference-Part 18

2 Chronicles 21

About the time, give or take some(sort of, maybe) Elijah was nearing the end of his ministry a sort of unusual, slightly confusing thing happened. The King of the Southern Kingdom of Judah, Jehoram(son of Jehoshaphat), received a letter from Elijah condemning him for his evil ways and predicting his ultimate doom. The reason this seems confusing is because of the timing involved in the writing/deliverance of this letter. All of this was transpiring around the time Elijah was whisked away on a chariot. A cursory reading through 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles seems to indicate that this letter was sent to King Jehoram AFTER Elijah’s translation to Heaven. What could be happening here?

First, chronologies and timing in the books of Kings and Chronicles can be challenging; I won’t even attempt to break them down. Sometimes events seem to appear not necessarily in the order in which they occurred. It may be that this is the case here.

We aren’t told that Elijah delivered the letter, just that he wrote it. It’s quite possible events occurred in the order they were written, but that this letter was simply delivered by another after the translation of the prophet. This would not be a first at all. We can see an example of this from 1 Kings 19 when Elijah was tasked to appoint Hazael to be king of Syria. We see later, that it was actually Elisha who ultimately fulfilled this mission on behalf of Elijah in 2 Kings 8. So, it would not be unusual or out of bounds for another to complete a mission Elijah had been given.

No matter the timeline surrounding this event, God seems to have given Elijah a prophecy concerning it, and it turned out to be quite accurate.

What seems really interesting is why Elijah was involved in this in the first place; after all his ministry was to the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and Jehoram was ruler in the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Jehoram was a pretty bad guy, by the way. He had served, apparently as co-regent with his father Jehoshaphat, during the last years of his reign. His father was a Godly king, but Jehoram did not seem to learn that lesson. Upon his father’s death, even though he was appointed king as the firstborn, he killed all of his own brothers and others who might be threats and turned his back on God. What on earth happened here? This is what happened:

2 Chronicles 21:6  And he walked in the way of the kings of Israel, like as did the house of Ahab: for he had the daughter of Ahab to wife: and he wrought that which was evil in the eyes of the Lord.

Legacy matters, friends. The legacy of the house of Ahab, which Elijah had spoken against for most of his career, never went away. It simply spread. In light of this, a letter from Elijah to a king of Judah was not really unusual at all.

Surely Jehoram knew better. People know other people’s business, and surely he knew the things that have transpired to the north of him with Ahab and Jezebel; yet, he chose to marry into that family! As much as I would like to foist the blame for this on Jehoram’s head, we should not be shocked completely here. Although he likely did not object to this marriage, it seems the groundwork had been laid by his very own Godly father:

2 Chronicles 18:1  Now Jehoshaphat had riches and honour in abundance, and joined affinity with Ahab.

We know already that even the Godly Jehoshaphat had is issues; a big one was that he was too willing to mix it up with folks he frankly should have stayed away from. Legacy matters, my friends; what we do in this life has repercussions in this life. Things never really got better in Judah, and ultimately events were set in motion here that resulted in their very destruction and captivity. How would we like to bear the load of knowing our part in such a thing as this?

 

Elijah-How One Man Made a Difference-Part 15

1 Kings 19

“So he departed thence, and found Elisha the son of Shaphat, who was plowing with twelve yoke of oxen before him, and he with the twelfth: and Elijah passed by him, and cast his mantle upon him. And he left the oxen, and ran after Elijah, and said, Let me, I pray thee, kiss my father and my mother, and then I will follow thee. And he said unto him, Go back again: for what have I done to thee? And he returned back from him, and took a yoke of oxen, and slew them, and boiled their flesh with the instruments of the oxen, and gave unto the people, and they did eat. Then he arose, and went after Elijah, and ministered unto him.” 1 Kings 19:19-20

So, now Elijah is finished with his crisis and is ready to move on. As we can see from the text, once he and God were done, he moved quickly to begin the tasks he had been assigned. The following has been published a couple of times around this blog, just never as part of this Elijah series. So, here it is again, as it is part of Elijah’s story and if we don’t tell it again, it will be an odd gap in our story. So, enjoy!

As we read this story, we see the great Prophet Elijah nearing the end of his ministry; in fact, he had been commanded by God to pass his mantle on the man God had selected to be his successor, Elisha. Elijah did as he was told, and encountered the future prophet Elisha plowing his fields, and cast his mantle upon him. In this way, he signified the calling of Elisha. The mantle or cape of a prophet was a sign of his station; Elisha would have known immediately what the casting of it on him meant.

Elisha was plowing with a 12 yoke of oxen. This would be in today’s frame of reference, the biggest, fanciest combine a farmer could buy. Actually, he was really not likely actually plowing on plow with that many oxen; in reality, he was probably overseeing and managing 12 others plowing with 12 yoke of oxen. Elisha was NOT some small-time farmer; he had stuff and was likely not a poor man. He was also a gainfully employed, very busy man. The future prophet was not looking for something to do; he had plenty to do.

Notice how Elisha had to run after Elijah. Elijah didn’t wait around talking, he just tossed the cape and kept on going. Elisha understood and had a decision to make. He immediately ran after Elijah and asked to tell his mother and father goodbye. He did just that apparently. He also did far more than that; he burned his oxen, his plow and all his equipment. Clearly, Elisha was never going back; he was committed!

When God calls us, do we turn our back on what and who we were and answer? Nobody is suggesting we necessarily burn our house down, or set fire to our car; the thought, however, remains the same. Too often we “follow” God but keep a handy back up plan in place in case things don’t work out. If the calling is a true one, we don’t NEED a backup plan. If we answer, God will equip and provide.

Elijah-How One Man Made a Difference-Part 14

1 Kings 19

“Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.” 1 Kings 19:18

We have reached the point where Elijah is about to spring back in action. Before he did, however, God had one last thing to say to the prophet. One of Elijah’s laments was that he thought he was the only surviving, working believer in all of Israel. God made it clear that this was not so and that there was still a believing remnant in Israel that Elijah did not know about. God informs Elijah that there are still 7000 left who have not turned to the worship of Baal. Is this a literal figure of 7000 or is it symbolic? I see no reason to dispute that God means exactly what He said. That’s actually a fair number of people in the nation, to be honest. At the current size of Israel that would be almost a faithful believer in every square mile of the nation! Given the sparse population in that day, that is not insignificant. Some writers assign a more symbolic nature to the number 7000, in that 7, 70, 700 and 7000 are all variables representing the completeness of God. In this case, this number may be symbolic and a representation of God’s sovereign will and ability to always have a chosen and preserved remnant true to Him. That works just fine also.

God is always working His plan, and He will always ensure the resources to accomplish it are available; that includes people who will remain faithful to him. The instances of God preserving a faithful remnant are found throughout Scripture. Noah and his family being chosen of all the world to survive the great flood, Lot and his two daughters surviving the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and even the rescue of Rahab from Jericho all come to mind. As we move into the New Testament we see that while talking to Peter in Caesarea Philippi, that Jesu promises the perpetuity of his churches:

 Matthew 16:18  And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

So, the preservation of a faithful remnant ready and able to do the Lord’s work is something we see time and time again in the Bible.

The issue then was not that God had somehow let things slip into disarray! The issue was all in the mind of Elijah. We already talked about how the prophet had gotten a bit wrapped up in himself, and how God had gotten him back on track with the still, small voice. Then, the Lord closes his conversation with Elijah by directly addressing one of Elijah’s concerns. Elijah was not alone.

Friends, neither are we. It these times, it can be easy for the faithful workers of God to get the mistaken impression that they are alone or at least lonely in the work of God. A cliché says something like 90 percent of the work is done by 10 percent of the people; clichés work because there is usually some truth to them. I suspect that, when we are doing “big,” stuff, that our tendency to think we are alone in the work intensifies. After all, what we are doing is significant, up front, and very mission essential (in our minds.)

There are just a few things we might want to remember when we are faced with our minds going in this direction. First, we just aren’t really that important. God’s plan will happen with us or without us. Anybody remember Esther being told when she hesitated that salvation for the Jews would still come from another if she declined to step in? God has this, and while He wants us on board, our failure to get on board certainly won’t mess up His plan. Secondly, there is a lot of stuff going on in God’s work that we may not think about much but are very important. That guy or girl who replaces the toilet paper in the church restrooms suddenly seems important when we are stuck paperless!

So, next time we get to thinking that we are alone and that clearly God’s work is going to pot around us…it’s not.

Elijah-How One Man Made a Difference-Part 13

1 Kings 19

“And he came thither unto a cave, and lodged there; and, behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah? And he said, I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away. And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the Lord. And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah? And he said, I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away. And the Lord said unto him, Go, return on thy way to the wilderness of Damascus: and when thou comest, anoint Hazael to be king over Syria: And Jehu the son of Nimshi shalt thou anoint to be king over Israel: and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abelmeholah shalt thou anoint to be prophet in thy room. And it shall come to pass, that him that escapeth the sword of Hazael shall Jehu slay: and him that escapeth from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha slay. Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.” 1 Kings 19:9-18 

Elijah’s time on Mt Horeb is ending, but first God has a lesson for the prophet. As we recall, Elijah has seemingly run off to My Horeb and had a bit of a pity party. He has complained to God that he has served him faithfully, yet everybody else has been killed off, he is alone, and they want to kill Elijah also. God commands Elijah to leave his cave and stand by on the mountain waiting. Clearly, he is to be waiting for the Lord to make Himself known. First, a strong wind roars by, which was strong enough to break rocks into pieces; yet, God was not in that wind. Then there was an earthquake; yet, God was not in the earthquake. Finally, there was a fire; yet, God was not in the fire either. Where was God?

Finally, there was nothing but a still small voice. Some translations call it a low whisper, or a quiet whisper. This, Elijah heard. Then, God spoke again, and asked the prophet the same question as before; Elijah replied with the same answer as before. We know Elijah heard, because our scripture tells us, “when he heard it.” We also can infer Elijah was now listening, because no other words were exchanged other than further instructions from God to Elijah concerning what he was to do next. He was to appoint a new king of Syria, a new King for Israel, and finally his own successor in the ministry, Elisha. How ordinary! It almost seems anticlimactic that after all the ruckus that God showed up in a quiet whisper, and Elijah listened.

That’s clearly the point of this. God has certainly spoken in dramatic ways. He at times spoke through whirlwinds and earthquakes; He displayed His presence through pillars of flame and cloud. Yet, He certainly is not restricted to dramatic ways of speaking. Elijah had learned this lesson during his time by the brook being fed by a raven, and during his time with the widow woman; that lesson was that God is in the daily and the ordinary; maybe Elijah needed that lesson after all of the drama and excitement he had been part of. God is not just in the big and dramatic; He is in the normal and mundane as well. I think Elijah needed a reminder of the presence of God in the daily, normal and mundane.

Again, this is something anybody doing a work for God could bear in mind. We may be called to do something huge like contending with the prophets of Baal on Mt Carmel; if He does, He will be with us then. On the other hand, we may not be called to anything big (in our minds,) at all. We may be called to a simple life of being a good Christian. Friends, He is with us then also. If we are waiting for God to appear in the grandiose, we may not hear the still small voice; we may actually miss the “big” calling….because we are too busy looking for it!

Elijah-How One Man Made a Difference-Part 12

1 Kings 19

“And he came thither unto a cave, and lodged there; and, behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah? And he said, I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.” 1 Kings 19:9-10

I don’t want to be too hard on poor Elijah here; after all, he is among the greatest prophets in the history of Israel. He was important enough that he didn’t even die like the rest of us; he was carried to heaven on a flaming chariot! So, Elijah is quite a big deal. We have sort of talked about whether Elijah’s trip to Mt Horeb was God-approved or not; as we read through this passage I think I find myself fairly firmly in the “not God approved or commanded,” camp on this. When God asks Elijah, “What are you doing here?” I can almost hear, “Elijah, why are you here on this mountain instead of continuing on with the mission I had given you?” Elijah’s response is what really seals my thought on the matter. Not to sound flip, but his response sounded a bit like, “But, what about meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee, God?”

We ought to not be shocked by this, or too judgmental about it either; when you are king of the hill, so to speak, it is important to remember that everybody not on top desperately wants to unseat you from your place. Not only should we cut Elijah a bit of slack, but we ought to understand that, in the right circumstance, that could be any one of us.

Standing strong for God can be tiring. Elijah had done exactly as told for a few years, and when things reached their climax no one could deny that the prophet had come through grandly. Undoubtedly, Elijah was simply tired. Elijah may have simply been shocked that suddenly, after all this time of God seemingly taking care of every need, that out of the blue this woman Jezebel wanted to kill him. Maybe that was a shock to the prophet.

All of that notwithstanding, it does seem Elijah did something that we should all be careful of; he seemed to have become quite fixated on himself. Not to be overly harsh, but maybe Elijah got a bit full of just how he fit into God’s plan. He was quick to remind God of all that he had done, and just as quick to remind God about the failure of others. He even seemed to think he was the sole remaining faithful person in God’s service.

Friends, serving our Lord can be a lonely place, especially if one takes a position that is not popular. It is not unusual for those doing brave service for God to feel isolated and even abandoned. God is going to teach Elijah a lesson, and it’s a lesson for all of us to use. Stay tuned.

Elijah-How One Man Made a Difference-Part 11

1 Kings 19:9

 And he came thither unto a cave, and lodged there; and, behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah?

1 Kings 19:13

And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah?

Here we are, after 40 days, at Mt Sinai(Horeb.) Elijah ran from the evil Jezebel, hid under a tree, was provided for by God and made the trek from Beersheba to Horeb. He finally arrives, finds a cave to hide in and lodges there. God speaks and asks the prophet, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” First, we must remember, God doesn’t ask things because He needs to know; He already knows. God knew the motivation of Elijah’s heart better than the man himself knew it. There must be another reason God asked this question.

Last time we talked we had some discussion about whether this trip was God’s plan, or whether Elijah was just doing his own thing. This passage makes me lean strongly in the direction of Elijah doing his own thing with this little side trip. It seems the very question might imply that what Elijah was doing was not actually what God wanted him to be doing. If that is true, it makes what transpires between God and Elijah even more amazing; it should also serve as a great encouragement to us all. We will see later that there were many others standing by in the wings to carry on with God’s work; one of those was the mighty Elisha. Again, God could have just left Elijah to wallow in his self-pity, or even just dealt with him directly. He did not.

So, back to the question regarding the question. God knew exactly what Elijah was up to, so why did He ask what Elijah was up to? Friends, God desires our communication with Him. We don’t have to tell Him what we seek; He already knows. We don’t have to tell Him our concerns and fears; He already knows. We don’t have to tell Him our needs; He knows what is best for us far better than we do.

We will see later that God had a lesson to teach Elijah on that mountain. I can’t help but think that part of the lesson was helping Elijah come to an understanding of his own self. In other words, God helped the prophet come to grips with his own motivation and concerns, then clearly addressed them. Maybe if Elijah had never articulated his concerns, they would have simply gone unanswered. How many time might our own concerns go unanswered simply because we never articulated them to our Heavenly Father?

Elijah-How One Man Made a Difference-Part 10

The remainder of these is new material, as in the past I have ended this study with Elijah fleeing to Beersheba in fear of Jezebel. They are going to be substantially shorter, as I no longer feel I have to write 2000 words to make a point. Enjoy!

1 Kings 19:5-8

And as he lay and slept under a juniper tree, behold, then an angel touched him, and said unto him, Arise and eat.And he looked, and, behold, there was a cake baken on the coals, and a cruse of water at his head. And he did eat and drink, and laid him down again. And the angel of the Lord came again the second time, and touched him, and said, Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee. And he arose, and did eat and drink, and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights unto Horeb the mount of God.

So, when we closed last time, we see a different-seeming Elijah than we have in the past. He had gone from a bold prophet facing off with hundreds of the prophets of Baal, to a scared prophet hiding away because Jezebel said she would kill him. As we open, Elijah had fallen asleep under the juniper tree under which he had stopped to beseech God with his despair. As this occurs, Elijah is about a days journey from Beersheba in the wilderness.

So, did Elijah really want to die, or was he just being dramatic? It seems that if he really wanted to die that, rather than running from Jezebel, he would just stay and let her kill him. Why exactly did the prophet go to Mt Horeb anyway? In every other occasion, we see God issuing very specific instructions to Elijah to go to the places he went. He was told to go hide in the very first cave he spent that year in. He was told to go find the widow woman who would sustain him for yet another length of time. Finally, Elijah was specifically told to go meet King Ahab and his prophets on Mt Carmel. We see…nothing from God in reference to this seeming side trip to Mt Horeb. Did God know this would happen? Of course, He did! Yet, maybe this was Elijah’s doing.

Why Mt Horeb? Well, Mt Horeb is just another name for Mt Sinai, and obviously, this has great importance to any believers from the Old Testament time period. Did Elijah pick this because of that great significance, or did God pick it for the same reason?  Either way, that location certainly would have had vast symbolic meaning for Elijah. This is interesting; From Beersheba, Mt Horeb was no 40-day trip; it was about a 200-mile trip for him. Again, the symbolic nature of 40 days as a remembrance of the original event on Mt Sinai seems notable.

But, none of that is really the point here, so let’s move on. Friends, God cares, understands and provides for us even when we falter in our service to Him. Elijah losing his focus and having a “moment,” was not the best option; the best option would have been to stay strong and continue with whatever mission God had next for him. Elijah did not, just like sometimes we don’t either. God was not done with Elijah, but God apparently knew just what Elijah needed. We see later that God pointed out that the prophet was far from alone as a servant of the Lord; He could have just let Elijah have his wish and die and called one of the remnant to pick up where Elijah left off. He did not.

God knows what is really in our hearts, and I think He must have investigated Elijah’s and known his heart was right. Elijah wasn’t trying to shirk his work; he wasn’t staging some rebellion of disobedience against God. He was just a tired child of God, with a right heart, who needed a hand up. God’s work will do that to us all sometimes, yet just like for Elijah, God stands by to offer us a hand up if we falter while our hearts stay in the right place.

 

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