Chapter 15 – The Story - God’s Messengers – Elijah and Elisha
The chapter for this morning focuses on two characters Elijah and Elisha who are sent by God as messengers of warning to Israel. I’d like to take time to talk about both of them but in the time of this message I’ll do good just to talk about one of them and hopefully in a way the we get a similar reaction like Elisha wanting Elijahs spirit. Thinking of Elijah 2 words desperation&exhaustion.
I. Desperation Point to Action- How many of you know that sometimes out of desperation and exhaustion, we will say and do things that we wouldn’t do otherwise. I read about a mother who had an infant and she used cloth diapers on her child. This particular mother was out for dinner with her husband who loved baseball. Right after they had sat down their baby started to cry. The woman spent the entire day taking care of their child and she was absolutely exhausted. So she asked her husband to change their son’s diaper. He tried to get out of the job saying, “I don’t know how to change a baby’s diaper.” She shot back, “Look and Listen, You lay the diaper out like a diamond. You put second base on the home plate. Put the baby’s bottom on the pitcher’s mound, hookfirst and third together and then slide home plate underneath. And if it starts to rain, the game ain’t called-you just start all over again!! In the words of the great philosopher Popeye, this mother.. “I had all I could stands and I couldn’t stands it no more”
When I think of Elijah I see a major Old Testament character who also “Had all he could stands and couldn’t stands no more” and as a result of his desperation and exhaustion he had some rather memorable experiences in his leadership alone brought about the one of the most notable showdowns in the forces of good and evil in the nation of Israel after the Rule of David.
Elijah and he lived in a time when the presence of evil had multiplied to the point where Israel was heading toward the Point of no return and their identity as the God’s People was about to dissolve into thin air. Elijah then takes action and as a result there are a series of miracles and revelations that are nothing short of amazing an astounding. Yet in the midst of these signs and wonders we find a reality in Elijah that is very human and reflects what James says that he is just like the rest of us. Here’s the scene.
II. King Ahab & Jezebel- Finally after a king named Omri dies…
1 Kings 16:29-33. 29 In the thirty-eighth year of Asa king of Judah, Ahab son of Omri became king of Israel, and he reigned in Samaria over Israel twenty-two years. 30 Ahab son of Omri did more evil in the eyes of the LORD than any of those before him. 31 He not only considered it trivial to commit the sins of Jeroboam son of Nebat, but he also married Jezebel daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and began to serve Baal and worship him. 32 He set up an altar for Baal in the temple of Baal that he built in Samaria. 33 Ahab also made an Asherah pole and did more to arouse the anger of the LORD, the God of Israel, than did all the kings of Israel before him.Ahab marries a pagan wife named Jezebel. Ahab and Jezebel these are names synonymous with evil. People don’t name their kids Ahab or Jezebel, Elijah yes, Jezebel no. They might name their dogs Jezebel but if you are ever walking through the pound and checking out homeless dogs and you see one that is named Jezebel…just keep walking.
King Ahab put Jezebel in charge of religion in the Northern Kingdom. The only problem is that Jezebel, a Baal worshiper, adopts it as her agenda to destroy the worship of God in all Israel. I Kings 18:4 tells us she tries to carry this out by systematically killing the prophets of the Lord, which is unprecedented. Prophets in Israel had had a kind of diplomatic immunity and kings often hated them, but they wouldn’t dare harm them. Not Jezebel--she’s having them murdered in cold blood. That’s the situation that the Northern Kingdom is in, and you wonder as you read it, “Will God even let this go on?” Finally God says, “I’ve had all I can…
III. Elijah – Confronting the Tide of Evil - I Kings 17:1 “Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, ‘As the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.’” The clear meaning of this is that a drought is coming that is God’s judgment on Ahab and the corruption of the Northern Kingdom. And the choice of a drought was quite significant. Baal was regarded, primarily, as a weather god. Elijah boldly confronts Baal worship.
After that declaration God sends Elijah east of Jordan and he is out in the wilderness next to a brook and God ordered ravens to bring him bread and meat twice a day. Ugh –Not a Happy meal.
The brook then dried up and God directs Elijah to a woman in Zarephath…a nice wealthy woman with lots of resources. No…
This woman is a widow, the poorest and most vulnerable member of society. She would be the last person anybody would think to ask for help. Not only that, she’s from Sidon, and that’s Jezebel’s hometown. She’s a pagan. But God sees and God cares for this pagan widow of Sidon. Elijah comes to this widow and asks her for some food. She says“As surely as the LORD your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.” 13 Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. 14 For this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the LORD sends rain on the land.’” 15 She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family.
” Now, the key phrase here is in verse 13. Elijah says, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first before you get food for yourself, first make a meal for me, and then God will take care of you.” If I were the widow, I think Tell God to fill up the flour jug and fill up the oil jar, then I’ll fix you something.” Yet God ‘s question to the widow is, “Will you trust me now with what you’ve got?” Because if we won’t trust God now with what we have, we won’t trust him when we get more.
More by itself never builds trust. Amazingly Vs 15, “She went away and did as Elijah had told her.” Imagine the drama of this moment. This is a widow. Her son depends on her. She takes whatever flour and oil she has, all that is left, and during the desperation of drought she dumps it out. She makes a meal for Elijah, and she has nothing left. If God doesn’t act, she and her son will die. She trusts God like that. She takes this to Elijah, and he says to her, “Go look in the jar.” She looks, and it is full. And she uses it that day, and the next morning she goes and looks, and the jar is full again. One day at a time, God supplies her needs. God sees and God cares. And I imagine this widow wondering, “ What if I hadn’t trusted God?”
Is there somewhere in our life that God is saying, “I need you to trust me like the Widow of Zarephath. Is there an area of your life where you say I don’t have enough – could be financial, it could be your mental, physical or emotional strength. You say you don’t have enough and yet God is asking will you trust me with what you do have? Will you really offer what you do have to me?
In this story, Not only is this woman blessed with provision of food but later when her son dies, Elijah brings back her son from the dead. Her faith paid off in spades. This story might seem like an odd small story in the midst of a major event in the life of the entire nation of Israel, but in the same way that God asked this widow to trust him he is asking the nation to repent and do the same. Challenges woman as the nation.
Elijah is forcing Israel to decide, Who is your god going to be? Which side are you On? Interestingly Elijah’s name actually declares that confession. “Jah” comes from Yahweh; “El” from Elohim. “The Lord, Yahweh, is Elohim”--that’s Elijah’s name. “The Lord is GOD.” That’s his name; that’s his mission.
1 Kings 18 The Story -PAGE 203-204 After a long time, in the third year, the word of the Lord came to Elijah: “Go and present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the land.” So Elijah went to present himself to Ahab. When he saw Elijah, he said to him, “Is that you, you troubler of Israel?”18 “I have not made trouble for Israel,” Elijah replied. “But you and your father’s family have. You have abandoned the Lord’s commands and have followed the Baals. 19 Now summon the people from all over Israel to meet me on Mount Carmel. And bring the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal and the four hundred prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.”20 So Ahab sent word throughout all Israel and assembled the prophets on Mount Carmel
.Elijah then tells Ahab to summon the people from all over Israel to meet me on Mount Carmel. And bring the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.’ Here’s the scene. On one side 850 prophets of idols with the king and all the power of his government, all the armies. On the other side is one man, one solitary prophet.
“Elijah went before the people and said, ‘How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.’” “You’ve got to choose.” Their response? “The people said nothing.” Elijah then has all he can stands and he can’t stands it no more and then he orders the showdown. Elijah orders two bulls for a sacrifice. One for Baal and one for God. You call on Baal then I will call on God. The god who answers by fire--he is God.’ Baal, was the god of nature with rain and fire and holding lightning in his hand. This was easy for Baal.
So the prophets of Baal call on Baal for hours and nothing happens. Elijah then calls on God and fire comes down from heaven and consumes the offering. Elijah calls for the prophets of Baal to be seized and killed. Jezebel hears about this and sends a message to Elijah saying ‘May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.’ A strange thing happens, this Elijah who defied a king, who defeated 450 prophets of Baal, 400 prophets of Asherah, who took on an entire nation single-handedly, this same Elijah runs away in fear at the threat of one queen.(Comb-Exhaust-If mo..
As high as he is in chapter 18, that’s how low he’s going to get in chapter 19. “When Elijah came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there”--verse 4--“while he himself went a day’s journey into the desert. He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed” what? He prayed “that he might die.” “’I have had enough, Lord,’ he said. It’s like he is saying ‘I’ve had all I can stands and I can’t’ stands it no more. I have had enough.” The same Elijah who prayed and fire came down from heaven to consume a sacrifice, who prayed for rain and a drought was ended, who prayed for strength and outran a chariot, he prays for one more thing: “God, let me die.” The good news is that in God’s love for us, he doesn’t answer all our prayers. Elijah lives and God sends an angel with a little “Happy Meal.” He eats and sleeps and the angel wakes him up again with another Happy meal.
Then Elijah travels 40 days and 40 nights to Mount Horeb-PIC 1
Why Here? Mount Horeb is also known as Mount Sinai--the mountain of God where it all began, where Moses received the Ten Commandments from God. PIC 2 Why here? Because that is known to be a good place to hear from God. It’s a remote place to hear from God. So here is a question for you and me? Where is our Mount Horeb? Where do we go to hear from God? Where is a quiet place where you can hear God speak?
Hopefully that happens to some degree in worship. A place where you can be still to focus on God, but we need more than that. Where is your Mount Horeb. A hike in woods, a drive, a camp?
Elijah goes into a cave and spends the night. The next morning
“The Lord said, ‘Go out and stand on mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’ Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. “After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. In the NRSV it says he hear the “Sound of Sheer Silence.”
Silence is a harder thing to come by these days? Anyone remember life before cell phones? Like many of you I can be alerted by a variety of sounds some indicating an email, a text, a voicemail and even a ring tone. There is little room for silence anymore. Father Richard Raohr – A catholic priest made this statement about our culture – “Toxically over stimulated people”
A while back is was about to switch phone companies from AT&T to Verizon because it gets a little better coverage but then I am thinking, I like the fact that when I go hiking around Sandia Peak that I am out of range – So I still have AT&T. Do you have times of Silence to hear the sound of your soul and God’s heart?
Silence, Solitude and Reflection is good and Elijah has this time but then what does God do next? The Story – PAGE 207-Middle
Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” 14 He answered, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.” 15 Then the Lord said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive…. Instructions-Work
God doesn’t answer his prayer to take his life instead Elijah finds a place of rest and restoration, a place to hear God, God feeds him and then says, time to get back to work, I have things that I need you to do. Here’s a new assignment.
“Go back to the way to you came.” God tells him. You’ve retreated, got some rest, you are re-oriented, now let’s get back to fulfilling your purpose. Elijah then rediscovered God’s purpose for his life. Do you know God’s purpose for your life because it will make the difference as to whether your life has life. If you were to talk to a clinical psychologist and ask one of the things you can do to address depression, one of the greatest things you can do is help other people. Find a purpose and an activity that takes you away from thinking of yourself and leads you to serve and help others.
Studies show a clear inverse relationship between depression and knowing your purpose in life. Studies show that people who have a clear purpose in life struggle less with depression and when you wake up in the morning if you know that there is something important for you to do, you will have more strength and endurance in facing the trials of life.
God points Elijah back to his purpose and his tasks left to do and in the end God does something with Elijah that only happened to one other person. God comes to him in the form of a Chariot of Fire and picks him up and takes him to heaven. Later Elijah joins Moses on the Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus as recorded in the New Testament. This to me is something amazing about the mercy of the Lord. God could have said to Elijah when he was worn out and tired and complaining… “Enough of your whining, I’m through with you, I’m leaving.” Instead God says, “Rest up, Heal up and now Look Up because I still have things for you to do, Let’s go and do them together and you will be thankful and rejoice” Will that be our story? Are we going to be encouraged and inspired by Elijah’s faithfulness? Elisha was…that’s another story.