Sunday, May 16, 2021

Elijah the Mighty Man of God

If you want to talk about one of the greatest heroes to ever walk the earth. If you want to talk about someone who God really did incredible miracles through, if you want to talk about someone who walked hand in hand with the living God, if you want to talk about someone who changed the world forever, then you’ve gotta talk about one man, his name was Elijah.

And Elijah would one day be followed up his apprentice, a man named Elisha.

So we recall from last week, after the death of Solomon, the kingdom of Israel was split between Jeroboam in the north and Rehoboam in the south. This takes us through one of the darkest times for Israel, the time of 1st and 2nd kings. These books of the Bible walk us through all these various kings that ruled in the north and the south. And for the most part, they simply went from bad to worse. Today we focus in on the northern kingdom, also called Samaria. This is where Jeroboam reigned. But now there is a new king, and his name is Ahab. And his queen is a wicked woman named Jezebel. Two really bad people.

It’s at this point, that Elijah, the prophet of God, came on the scene. Elijah is serving as prophet, to speak the word of the Lord to King Ahab. God is going to deal with Ahab’s evil. So God tells Elijah, there is going to be a long drought in the land.

This is a big deal. Without rain, you don’t have any crops. People start to starve to death. So Elijah goes to Ahab and speaks to him.

From 1st Kings 17:1-7 “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.” 2 And the word of the Lord came to him: 3 “Depart from here and turn eastward and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. 4 You shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.” 5 So he went and did according to the word of the Lord. He went and lived by the brook Cherith that is east of the Jordan. 6 And the ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook. 7 And after a while the brook dried up, because there was no rain in the land.”

The drought goes on for many years. But God cares for Elijah during the drought. He tell Elijah to go live by a stream in Cherith. You know growing up we used to go out to Aniwa, where my grandparents owned land. And on that land there was a little brook. We used to stand on the bridge over the brook and just enjoy the beautiful waters and the sound of the water passing by. I loved it as a kid. So Elijah lives by this brook, and he’s fed by the Lord. But eventually the brook itself dries up because of the drought.

We have to understand that if we are true servants of God. I mean really all in for the Lord, not nominally Christian, but 100% real Christian, God is going to care for us through every difficulty we face.

You see people out there who were storing up toilet paper during covid, or food during covid, now people are storing up gasoline, me, as a Christian, I don’t have to worry. I don’t need to store up food. I know God will provide for my needs. The same is true for you. Trust God. He’ll make sure you have what you need.

1st Kings 18:1-2 “After many days the word of the Lord came to Elijah, in the third year, saying, “Go, show yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain upon the earth.” 2 So Elijah went to show himself to Ahab. Now the famine was severe in Samaria.”

Elijah proposes to Ahab to gather all the people together. Ahab and Jezebel have promoted the worship of Baal in the land. And it’s destroyed everything. It’s the reason the drought is happening. They’ve turned far from the Lord. But Elijah is here to make a stand for God. He says lets gather everyone together and we’re gonna decide once and for all, who is really God, Baal or the Lord.

1st Kings 18:20-46 ”So Ahab sent to all the people of Israel and gathered the prophets together at Mount Carmel. 21 And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word. 22 Then Elijah said to the people, “I, even I only, am left a prophet of the Lord, but Baal's prophets are 450 men. 23 Let two bulls be given to us, and let them choose one bull for themselves and cut it in pieces and lay it on the wood, but put no fire to it. And I will prepare the other bull and lay it on the wood and put no fire to it. 24 And you call upon the name of your god, and I will call upon the name of the Lord, and the God who answers by fire, he is God.” And all the people answered, “It is well spoken.” 25 Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose for yourselves one bull and prepare it first, for you are many, and call upon the name of your god, but put no fire to it.” 26 And they took the bull that was given them, and they prepared it and called upon the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no voice, and no one answered. And they limped around the altar that they had made. 27 And at noon Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.” 28 And they cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them. 29 And as midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention.

30 Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come near to me.” And all the people came near to him. And he repaired the altar of the Lord that had been thrown down. 31 Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord came, saying, “Israel shall be your name,” 32 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 seahs[a] of seed. 33 And he put the wood in order and cut the bull in pieces and laid it on the wood. And he said, “Fill four jars with water and pour it on the burnt offering and on the wood.” 34 And he said, “Do it a second time.” And they did it a second time. And he said, “Do it a third time.” And they did it a third time. 35 And the water ran around the altar and filled the trench also with water.

36 And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. 37 Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.” 38 Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. 39 And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.” 40 And Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape.” And they seized them. And Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon and slaughtered them there.”

This is the great moment of victory for the Lord. And God does it through Elijah. It’s been revealed once and for all, Baal is false, and God is real. And that moment will often come in our own lives.

We’ll face down false prophets, and people will attack us and mock us and rebel. And people will be led astray. But then God will reveal himself, and show the truth plainly to all. God reveals to all he is the true God. God has the final word, not our enemies, not the lies. Lies will always break to the truth. You can’t stop the truth from coming out.

After this great moment, finally rain returns to the land. The drought is over. God is revealed to be true, and Baal is revealed to be false.

So Ahab goes back and tells Jezebel what happened.

From 1st Kings 19:1-8 “Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 2 Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, “So may the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.” 3 Then he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there.”

So what’s happening here? Elijah has dealt with worse things than threats from Jezebel. Yet he runs for his life.

Sometimes when we’ve gone through a bunch of stuff, some hard times, it just takes one more thing to hit us, and it completely knocks us over. You expended all your energy in the hard time, and then Satan hits you with something small, but it’s the last straw, and you run. The enemy loves to hit us after we’ve done a great thing. He knows our energies are expended. And we’re weak. Watch out for sneak attacks after great victories.

So Elijah is on the run.

It says, “4 But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree. And he asked that he might die, saying, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” 5 And he lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, “Arise and eat.” 6 And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank and lay down again. 7 And the angel of the Lord came again a second time and touched him and said, “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.” 8 And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God.”

God met Elijah as he ran. Elijah is so upset. He’s at rock bottom. He’s saying take my life Lord. This is it. I can’t take anymore. I’ve had moments like that in my life. Where I’ve just thought… I can’t take anymore. I’ve had enough. Have you ever felt that way?

God has Elijah eat. He encourages him. Gives him rest. And slowly Elijah heals. Elijah continued onward, on this journey, and came to a cave.

1st Kings 19:9-11, “There he came to a cave and lodged in it. And behold, the word of the Lord came to him, and he said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 10 He said, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” 11 And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.””

So now we get this mysterious moment, where God reveals himself to Elijah, we have all these elements, first it gets super windy, then theres an earthquake, then theres fire, and after the fire.. .a gentle blowing. And he saw God’s presence at that moment. And it changed him forever ,in that moment, something divine happened. He felt God, sensed God, saw God’s glory.

God reminds Elijah, that though it seems like everyone is against the Lord, that the Lord has kept 7,000 in Israel set apart for him. And then God sends Elijah back, to anoint a new king, Jehu. And to commission a new prophet, Elisha.

1st Kings 19:19 “Elijah left and found Elisha plowing with a team of oxen; there were eleven teams ahead of him, and he was plowing with the last one. Elijah took off his cloak and put it on Elisha.”

Meanwhile Syria begins attacking Israel. And during the war King Ahab is killed. But not before Ahab did more evil deeds, like having a man named Naboth killed so he could steal his vineyard.

For a while Elijah mentors Elisha, and then one day, Elijah is set to leave.

2nd Kings 2:9-12 There, Elijah said to Elisha, “Tell me what you want me to do for you before I am taken away.”

“Let me receive a double portion of your anointing, that will make me your successor,”[a] Elisha answered.

10 “That is a difficult request to grant,” Elijah replied. “But you will receive it if you see me as I am being taken away from you; if you don't see me, you won't receive it.”

11 They kept talking as they walked on; then suddenly a chariot of fire pulled by horses of fire came between them, and Elijah was taken up to heaven by a whirlwind. 12 Elisha saw it and cried out to Elijah, “My father, my father! Mighty defender of Israel! You are gone!” And he never saw Elijah again.”

That’s pretty amazing. That doesn’t happen for just anyone! Most biblical figures die and are buried, but not Elijah, he was so special, so loved by God, that he is taken to heaven in a chariot of fire.

So if you recall Elijah anointed Jehu to be the new king of Israel. And Jehu is set to deal with Jezebel.

So it says in 2nd Kings 9:30-37, “Jehu arrived in Jezreel. Jezebel, having heard what had happened, put on eye shadow, arranged her hair, and stood looking down at the street from a window in the palace. 31 As Jehu came through the gate, she called out, “You Zimri! You assassin! Why are you here?”

32 Jehu looked up and shouted, “Who is on my side?” Two or three palace officials looked down at him from a window, 33 and Jehu said to them, “Throw her down!” They threw her down, and her blood spattered on the wall and on the horses. Jehu drove his horses and chariot over her body, 34 entered the palace, and had a meal. Only then did he say, “Take that cursed woman and bury her; after all, she is a king's daughter.” 35 But the men who went out to bury her found nothing except her skull and the bones of her hands and feet. 36 When they reported this to Jehu, he said, “This is what the Lord said would happen, when he spoke through his servant Elijah: ‘Dogs will eat Jezebel's body in the territory of Jezreel. 37 Her remains will be scattered there like dung, so that no one will be able to identify them.’”

So the new king Jehu dealt with Jezebel, and Ahab was killed in war in Syria. Elijah was taken to heaven by a chariot, and Elisha was the new prophet of the northern kingdom. Eventually things do work out. Those who practice evil are destroyed, and those who serve the Lord are honored and blessed. Sometimes it takes a long time for that to happen. And we wonder why evil people get away with their schemes. Never-the-less in the end we know that God’s people will receive salvation, and our enemies will receive eternal damnation.

But despite these bright moments, we’ll see next week that God will have to deal with the northern kingdom.